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How Does a Washing Machine Work?

May 13, 2022

A person is reaching into a washing machine to pull out clothes.

Washing machines are one of the most essential appliances in a home, and it’s important to know how they work in order to troubleshoot them when they break down. In this article, we’ll take a look at how washing machines work and some common problems that can occur. Here at Acima Leasing we want to make sure you know how to take care of your appliances and where to go if you do happen to need or want a new one.

The Nuts and Bolts of a Washing Machine

A washing machine uses a motor to agitate the clothes in a soapy suds-and-water mixture, to remove any dirt or stains. After washing and rinsing, the water is then spun out of the clothes by the machine and then drained.

Parts of a Washing Machine

Water Pump

The water pump is the device that circulates water in a washing machine. It does the double duty of circulating water during the cycle as well as draining the water once the cycle is complete. Some washing machines may have two different pumps — one that just pumps water and one that drains.

Drain Hose

The drain hose is the component of a washing machine that carries away dirty water and suds. It’s usually located close to the drain pump, and it will rid all the dirty water from the tub after a load of laundry has been washed.

Water Inlet Valve

The water inlet valve is the component of a washing machine that allows water to flow into the machine. It’s located near the water inlet point, and it opens and closes depending on the size of the load and how much water needs to be dispensed for a wash cycle.


The drum is the cylindrical container in a washing machine that holds the clothes, water and soap during the washing cycle. It rotates the clothes around the agitator to clean them. The drum will usually have a perforated surface to allow the water and suds to circulate through the clothes.


The agitator is the component of a washing machine that helps move the clothes around the drum and remove dirt and stains. It’s located on the inside of the inner tub, and it is responsible for rotating the clothes to help clean the clothes. The agitator will usually have a perforated surface to allow the water and suds to circulate through the clothes.


The motor is the device that powers your agitator, discs and drum in your washing machine. It’s responsible for rotating the inner drum in order to clean them.

Circuit Board

The circuit board is the brains of the washing machine. It commands the control panel and wash cycles, as well as fires off the different electronic parts that are needed for your washer to do its job. The circuit board is also responsible for water levels, how much detergent is dispensed and some other special functions your washing machine may have.


The timer on a washing machine is the component that allows you to set the length of your wash cycles. It’s usually located on the control panel, and it will have a variety of different wash cycle times to choose from. The timer can also be set to run automatically, which will start the wash cycle at the time you’ve preset.

Control Panel

The control panel is the main interface on a washing machine. It’s where you set all of your wash cycles and controls. Usually the control panel is located on the top or front of the machine. It will have a variety of different buttons, knobs and indicators that allow you to control every aspect of your washer's performance.

Types of Washing Machines


As the name suggests, a front-loading washing machine loads laundry from the front. These machines are generally more expensive than top-loaders, but they use less water and energy. Front-loaders also tend to be gentler on clothes, making your clothes last longer.


A top-loading washing machine loads laundry from the top. These machines are generally less expensive than front-loaders, but they use more water and energy. Top-loaders also tend to be less gentle on clothes.

Washer/Dryer Combo

A washer/dryer combo is a type of machine that can both wash and dry your clothes. These machines are generally more expensive than regular washing machines, but they save you the time and effort of doing a wash and a dry load. Washer/dryer combos also use less energy than two separate machines.


A portable washing machine can be moved from one location to another. These machines are generally less expensive than regular washing machines, but they have some limitations. Portable washing machines cannot handle large loads, and they use more water and energy than non-portable machines.

How to Use a Washing Machine

To use a washing machine, you’ll need to add laundry detergent, fabric softener (optional) and the clothes you want to wash. Then select a cycle and start the machine. Most machines have various cycles to choose from, including delicate, normal and heavy-duty. Each cycle will have a different duration, so you’ll need to choose the one that best suits your needs.

Once you’ve selected a cycle, the machine will start filling up with water. Once the water has reached the desired level, the washing process will begin. Depending on the cycle you’ve chosen, the machine will wash, rinse and spin your clothes.

When the cycle is finished, the machine will notify you so that you can remove your clothes from the machine. You can then hang your clothes to dry, put them in a dryer or start the drying cycle for washer/dryer combos.

Three Common Problems with Washing Machines, and How to Solve Them

Most people take their washing machines for granted — until they stop working properly. At that point, it can be difficult to know how to fix them without the help of a professional. Here are three common problems with washing machines, and some proven tips on how to solve them.

Machine Doesn’t Start

If your washing machine does not start, the first thing you should check is the power supply. Make sure the machine is plugged in and that the outlet is working. If the problem persists, you may need to replace the timer or control panel.

Clothes Not Getting Clean

If your clothes aren’t getting clean, the first thing you should check is the detergent dispenser. Make sure the correct amount of detergent is being used. If the problem persists, you may need to clean the filters or lint trap.

Odd Odors

If your washing machine is producing odd odors, the first thing you should do is clean the tub. Add a cup of vinegar to the tub and run a cycle with hot water. If the problem persists, you may need to replace the gasket or seals.

Four Tips for Taking Care of Your Washing Machine

If you want your washing machine to last for years, it’s important to take care of it properly. Here are four tips that will help you keep your machine in good condition.

Use warm or hot water when washing your clothes.

Using warm or hot water to wash your clothes can help to remove stains and dirt more effectively. It also can help to kill bacteria and germs that might have made their way onto your clothing.

Don’t overload the machine.

Overloading your washing machine can cause the clothes to come out dirty, and it can damage the machine. It’s best to wash smaller loads of laundry so that each item gets properly cleaned.

Clean the filters and lint trap regularly.

Cleaning the filters and lint trap on your washing machine can help to improve its efficiency. It also can help to prevent fires from starting in the machine.

Add a cup of vinegar to the tub every few months.

Adding a cup of vinegar to your washing machine tub can help to clean it and remove any buildup that might have occurred. It also can help prevent odd odors from forming in the machine.

How Can Acima Leasing Help?

If you have a washing machine that needs to be replaced, or if you’re just in the market for a new one, Acima Leasing can help with our shopping guide covering the best washer and dryer sets. With the no credit option* at Acima Leasing, you can go shopping without using credit. We allow customers to get what they need or want now by making lease renewal payments* that can be flexible to fit your needs. You can also exercise the option to purchase it early at a discount. How you want to own is up to you! If you no longer need your washing machine, you can simply return it in good condition whenever you need to without further obligation. Learn more about what Acima Leasing has to offer here or on our FAQ page.

Common Questions About Washing Machines:

How does a washer spin?

The washer has a large drum that’s filled with water and clothes. The drum is connected to a motor that spins it. The spinning motion of the drum helps to clean the clothes by moving them around in the water.

Do I need to turn off the water to replace the washer?

Yes, you will need to turn off the water to your home before you can replace the washing machine. You will also need to disconnect the hoses from the machine.

Does a washing machine use a lot of electricity?

Yes, washing machines can use a lot of electricity. They use even more electricity if they’re old or not running properly. Newer washing machines tend to be more energy efficient.

What type of detergent is best for a washing machine?

The type of detergent you use in your washing machine depends on the type of machine you have. Front-loading machines typically use less detergent than top-loading machines. You should always follow the manufacturer's recommendations for the type and amount of detergent to use.