How Long Can You Safely Pause A Washing Machine For?

For the most part, once you’ve loaded the laundry into your washing machine, you immediately start the wash cycle. But there are occasions when for whatever reason, you need to pause the washing machine before starting it.

Which leads to the question: is it OK to pause a washing machine? And how long can you pause a washing machine? Keep reading to find out.

Can You Pause A Washing Machine?

Yes, you can pause a washing machine and most modern washers have a “pause” or “pause/start” button that’s designed to temporarily pause the wash cycle.

This can be handy especially if you want to;

  • Add more clothes to the drum
  • Remove a particular item from the drum
  • Adjust the settings

However it’s not a good idea to leave the machine on pause for too long.

How Long Can You Pause A Washing Machine?

There are a few things to consider when pausing a washing machine, one of the main concerns is the length of time you intend to pause the appliance. One of the main problems with pausing a washer is leaving damp clothes in the drum.

This can be a problem because damp clothes make the ideal breeding ground for mould, mildew and bacteria. Many experts agree that anywhere between 8 to 10 hours is long enough for the clothes to start to smell.

That smell is a sure sign of mould or bacterial growth, which can be difficult to remove. Which means it’s not a good idea to leave a washing machine full of clothes on pause for a long time.

The best way to tell how long you can leave your washer on pause is to consult your user manual. This should give you instructions on how to pause it, how to restart it and whether there are any time restrictions on leaving it paused.

Is It Safe To Leave A Washing Machine Paused?

Two people putting clothes in a laundry basket from the washer

It is generally considered to be safe to leave a washing machine paused for short periods. However, there are some important points to consider to keep your machine and your laundry safe. These include;

Pausing The Washer For A Short Period Is Generally Considered To Be Safe

It is generally considered to be safe to pause a washing machine for up to 2 to 3 hours. This can be handy if you need to get on with other tasks or you’re waiting for a family member to sort their dirty clothes.

Pausing The Washer Still Uses Energy

Although it might be considered safe to pause the washer, and it’s likely to use a minimal amount of electricity, it is still using some power. This means it’s not as environmentally friendly to pause the washer as it would be to switch it off.

Electrical Safety

Leaving any electrical appliance like a tumble dryer or washing machine switched on but unattended can increase safety concerns. For instance, there’s the potential risk of an electrical fault, overheating, shorting or even fire.

Even if the appliance has never been problematic in the past, there is always the risk of an issue developing. It is advisable that you don’t leave the appliance unattended especially if the appliance is getting on a bit.

Water Concerns

If your washer has a small insignificant water leak, possibly around the door seal or one of the hoses, pausing the appliance for long periods could potentially cause serious flooding risks.

Material Concerns

If you are washing delicate fabrics and they have been left on pause for a long period, it could cause wrinkles, creases or even damage. 

Just like you would remove delicate items from the drum as soon as the wash is finished, they shouldn’t be left sitting in the drum for too long before the wash starts.

Bad Smells

As we said earlier, leaving damp clothes in the washer for long periods can encourage mould, mildew and bacterial growth. All of which can lead to the clothes smelling.

These smells can be difficult to remove, so if you know that the machine is going to be left paused for a long while, you should leave the door of the machine open to encourage airflow and prevent dampness.

How Long Is Too Long?

leaving damp clothes in the washer for more than 8 hours can lead to mould and bacterial growth

Most experts agree that leaving washing in the machine on pause is OK for 2 to 3 hours. However, we would recommend not loading the machine until you’re ready to start the wash. Or switching the power off instead of pausing the appliance to save energy.

You should never leave damp clothes in the drum for more than 8 hours as this can lead to mould and bacterial growth. That old saying “better safe than sorry” was never more true than in this circumstance.

If you have any doubts as to whether it’s safe to leave the washer on pause for a long time, consult your user manual or contact the manufacturer directly.

Can You Pause The Washing Machine Overnight?

Washing Machine

It is not advisable to leave a washing machine paused overnight for a number of reasons. Firstly; there’s a strong possibility that the washing could start to smell mouldy as mould, mildew and bacterial growth develops in the fabric.

Secondly: it’s not a good idea to leave a washer switched on unattended from a safety point of view. So unless you plan sitting up with the paused washer all night, we recommend switching the appliance off and restarting it in the morning.

Thirdly: If the drum is full of water, the longer it sits there, the more the risk of a leak and subsequent flooding. Once again, we recommend draining the drum and switching the appliance off and starting again in the morning.

Is It OK To Pause & Open A Washer?

It is perfectly safe to pause a washer and open the door as long as the drum isn’t full of water. In fact, many machines have a “pause” button specifically to allow you to do this.

This function is handy for adding extra clothes or removing items that are not suitable for the cycle you have selected. You can then close the door and restart the washer to continue with the cycle.

Why Won’t The Door Of My Washer Open When The Machine Has Been Paused?

If you have pressed the “pause” button to add an extra garment to the wash and the door won’t open, it’s most likely because the drum is full of water. 

This is a safety feature designed to prevent you from flooding your home. Whilst there is water in the drum, the door will remain locked. You will need to allow the appliance to drain before the door lock will disengage and allow you to open the door.

This might explain why the door fails to open as soon as the “pause” button has been pressed. You can usually hear when the door lock has been deactivated or there will be some indication on the display panel. 

It can take upwards of 30 seconds for the machine to drain and the door lock to be disengaged. Try to be patient and not keep pressing buttons as this can cause the machine to malfunction.

SEE ALSO: How Long Do Washing Machines Take To Wash Clothes?

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you leave a washing machine on pause?

Whilst you can use the “pause” button to interrupt the wash cycle, it’s not recommended to pause the machine for long periods. This is because there is the risk of overheating, flooding or damage to the appliance or laundry.

Can you pause a washing machine and add clothes?

You can pause a washing machine to add clothes mid-cycle as long as your machine has a “pause” button. However, if the drum is full of water, you will have to wait for it to drain before the door will open.

Can you pause and restart the washing machine?

You can pause your washing machine by pressing the “pause” button, then remove or add an item or two before pressing the same button again to resume the cycle.

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