The Simple Trick To Avoid Overloading Your Washing Machine

It's laundry day and you've loaded all your dirty items in the washing machine, except for two grimy towels sitting at the bottom of the hamper. You don't want to spend extra time and money to run another load. Can you squeeze in the smelly towels without overloading the washer? Forget about reaching for a ruler or trying to eyeball the weight of your dirty clothes, the answer is at the end of your wrist. It's no joke — the simple trick to avoid overloading your washing machine is to insert your hand into the drum and wiggle your fingers.

As irritating as it may be to run multiple loads of laundry, even more annoying is dealing with the dangers of overloading your washing machine. You may think you are saving time and water by cramming a closet's worth of clothes in a single load but doing so can damage the machine and your wardrobe. When you pack soiled items into the washer like sardines, there's no room for them to agitate. Laundry needs space to freely mix and mingle with water and detergent in order to get cleaned properly. Moreover, stuffing a washer beyond capacity can harm its suspension and bearings, which over time, can lead to motor burnout.

About the one-hand rule

When loading your machine, you don't want it to resemble a clown car. Rather, you want to leave enough room in the drum to prevent fuzz balls from forming on your towels. The simplest way to accomplish this is by employing the one-hand rule. Simply load your clothes in the machine then stick your hand out horizontally — as though you were meeting a new acquaintance — and insert it into the washer's drum.

If your hand fits between your clothes and the wall of the drum, you have the ideal load size. However, if your hand does not fit into the drum without pressing up against dirty laundry, the machine is overloaded and you will need to remove some items.

The one-hand method works for both front-load and top-load washers with the goal being that your hand fits freely into the drum along with the dirty laundry. If your hand is smaller than average, consider wiggling your fingers to make sure there's ample space between your hand and the top of the drum. If you're concerned about variations in hand size, measure your hand.

Ideally, you want 6 inches of space between the drum and your dirty wash. Given that the average length of an adult male's hand is 7.6 inches while an average female's hand measures 6.8 inches, if you can easily place your hand in the drum without having to jam it in, the machine is not overloaded.

How to properly load a washing machine

Load capacities for washers vary according to make and model. To avoid exceeding your machine's volume, consider how you are loading it. For top-load washers where the agitator column sits in the center of the drum, place dirty laundry evenly around the edges of the drum. Do not pile items in the center of the machine assuming they will correctly disburse themselves in the wash cycle.

When filling front-load washers, it's important to place dirty items in one at a time rather than indiscriminately dumping in an entire basket's worth of soiled clothes at once. By doing so, you can avoid overloading the machine and prevent clothes from getting tangled once the machine is turned on.

If you are good at math, opt for visual number crunching when loading your washing machine. It's possible to manually calculate the size of a load to save yourself from overfilling the machine. You just need to stay focused during the loading process. Typically, a standard top-load washer can safely accommodate 12 pounds of laundry while an average front-load machine can wash up to 18 pounds of dirty garments.

If you consider that a large bath towel and an adult-size pair of jeans each weighs 1.6 pounds, a medium sweatshirt is roughly a pound, and an extra-large t-shirt tips the scales at about a half-pound, you can successfully estimate the size and volume of your load, then apply the one-hand trick at the end for good measure.