How To Find Items You Lost In The Washing Machine

It’s not uncommon for items to go missing in the washing machine. I used to think pairs of socks were made with one sock water soluble because one of a pair always seemed to disappear in the washing machine.

But it’s not just socks, all manner of items can end up getting lost in the washing machine. If you’re lucky the offending item might start rattling as it travels around the drum which makes it easy to locate.

However, in many cases the only way to find lost items is to start investigating deep within your washer. In this article I take you through all of the potential areas where lost items gather in the washing machine as well as offering the best way to retrieve those items.

What You WIll Need To Retrieve Lost Items From The Washing Machine

There are a few things that will help you retrieve items from the washer. These include;

  • A Pair Of Pliers
  • A Screwdriver
  • A Thin Piece Of WIre Or Pipe Cleaner
  • A Torch
  • Someone To Help lay The Washer On Its Side

Please Note: You should never start looking inside the washing machine or dismantling any of its parts before disconnecting it from the power supply first.

How Should Lost Items Be Removed From The Washing Machine

open washing machine door

Once you locate that elusive lost item, you need to use the most effective method to remove it. Some items can be easily removed using your hands while others need a tool to make the job easier. Let’s look at what to use and when.

Using Your Hands

Ensure the appliance is disconnected from the power supply and that the drum is empty. You might be able to retrieve small items that are trapped in the perforations of the drum using just your hands, but this might be difficult.

If the item is trapped between the drum and the tub, it might be possible to reach it with your fingers but you run the risk of leaving part of the item behind. Which means it might be time to use a small tool to help.

Using A Screwdriver


If the item is trapped between the drum and the tub you can use a screwdriver to widen the gap allowing you to get your hand in further. 

All you need to do is place the screwdriver between the drum and the tub and apply just enough pressure to widen the gap. You can then get your hand in and remove the item.

Using A Wire

If you are trying to retrieve a small item like a bracelet or necklace, you might need to use a wire to hook the item until you can get your hand on it.

Using Pliers

A pair of pliers allows you more grip than is often available to your fingers. This can be particularly useful when trying to retrieve small items like bracelets or necklaces.

As the pliers are not as large as your hand, you won’t need such a large gap between the tub and the drum when using pliers.

Using A Torch

The recesses of a washing machine can be dark. This makes it difficult to see small items that may be trapped. Using a torch can help you identify where the items are located.

For instance, shining a torch through the perforations of the drum can help you to locate small items that may have fallen through the holes. Plus when looking into the washing machine’s sump hose, a torch helps identify any lost items.

Getting A Helper

If you need to get at the sump hose, the easiest way to do it is by laying the washer on its side. Washing machines are heavy and trying to do this on your own can cause injury to yourself as well as damage to the appliance.

Getting a friend to help you with this task will prevent hurting yourself or damaging the appliance.

Where Can Lost Items Go In A Washing Machine?

buttons on a person's hand

There are several places that lost items could end up if they’ve been lost in the wash. These Places include;

In The Drain Filter

The very first place you should check if you know you’ve lost something small, is the drain filter. The drain filter is designed to trap small items like;

  • Coins
  • Buttons
  • Screws
  • Nails
  • Hair Clips
  • Children’s Socks

If you were to leave these items trapped in the drain filter, there’s a good chance the wastewater will back up in the machine and could cause a flood.

To solve this and find any lost treasure, you will need to locate the drain filter on your appliance. You should consult your user manual for the location on your appliance. The drain filter is typically found on the front of the appliance at the bottom behind a flap.

Before you open the filter, be sure to place a bowl or tray in front to catch any water that might be trapped inside the filter. The filter can then be removed by twisting in an anticlockwise direction and pulling from the housing.

Inspect the filter for any of the above items and then, whilst the filter is out, give it a wash under a fast running tap to remove any dirt, lint or other debris.

In The Drain Hose

washing machine drain hose

In some cases smaller items like coins, buttons, screws, nails or hair clips can find their way into the drain hose. This will also cause a blockage which has the potential to cause a flood if the water backs up high enough.

You should remove the drain hose from the waste pipe end and run a plumber’s snake through it to hook any blockage from the hose. Once clear, reconnect the drain hose to the waste pipe either by placing it in the standpipe ensuring it’s not pushed in more than 15 cm (6 inches), or reconnecting it to the sink’s waste pipe.

In The Door Seal

The rubber door seal or gasket on your washing machine ensures that no water escapes from the drum during the wash cycle. It’s possible that something could get caught in the middle of the rubber seal.

To inspect the drum seal all you need to do is open the washer’s door and place your fingers between the point where the rubber seal meets the drum and the front of the appliance.

It’s possible that you might find any number of items trapped in there. Items like those mentioned above which could have fallen from the pockets of your clothes in the washer as the drum turned.

Whilst inspecting the seal, you might as well give the area a good clean to remove any dirt, grime or detergent residue. You can wipe the door seal using a solution of white vinegar and warm water (50/50 mix). Then rinse using a clean cloth dipped in water to remove any vinegar residue.

In The Drum

washing machine drum

Small items like bra wires can get stuck protruding through the small holes in the drum. These can be removed using your fingers or if they’re stuck fast, you may need to use a pair of pliers to get a good grip on the item and remove it.

You might even see a chain or necklace stuck either in the drum or between the drum and the tub. You can often fish chains out using a screwdriver to prise the drum away from the door seal just enough to get a finger or two in to reach the chain and retrieve it.

Between The Drum And The Tub

Two people putting clothes in a laundry basket from the washer

It is possible for those odd socks and other items to somehow find their way between the drum and the tub. One of the signs that there’s something caught between the drum and the tub is if the drum doesn’t turn freely when turned by hand. 

Using a torch, you should be able to see if there’s anything trapped between the drum and the tub by looking through the holes in the drum.

However, finding the lost item and retrieving it are two different things. You might need to remove the rubber door seal to access the area between the tub and the drum.

But sometimes you may be able to hook the item through a hole in the drum using a thin wire hook or even a small screwdriver. You can then gently pull the item through the hole.

Around The Heater Element

Socks and other small items of clothing can often find their way into the heater area. To investigate here you’ll first need to remove the back panel of the washer.

The heater is typically located behind a panel below the drum motor. Open the panel to reveal the heater element which could be where the missing item is lodged. 

While you’re in this area, you should manually spin the drum and shine a torch to see if there are any items caught inside the heater housing. Be sure to replace the heater correctly before closing the panel and replacing the back panel of the washer.

In The Sump Hose

This is the most difficult place to investigate because it’s situated in a hard to reach place. The only real way to access the sump hose is by laying the washer on its side.

You will need help with this because washing machines are heavy and attempting to do this on your own could result in personal injury and damage to the machine.

Once the washer is laying on its side, remove the base plate and find the large hose connected to the tub of the washer. All you need to do is loosen the clip that attaches the hose to the tub and pull the hose free.

Then shine a torch into the hose and look for any trapped items. You can then carefully remove them through the sump hose. You can often locate any items caught below the drum by shining the torch through the perforations of the drum.

Any items spotted can then be pulled out through the sump hose.

Splitting The Tub

In some cases, the only way to remove items trapped between the drum and the tub is to split the tub. This isn’t always possible because some tubs are not able to be separated.

Even if the tub can be split, it’s not really a project for an amateur DIYer. If you believe the tub needs to be split to retrieve any trapped items, I recommend contacting a technician.

How To Prevent Losing Small Items In The Wash

red and blue socks

As with all things in life, prevention is better than cure. If you can stop smaller items from getting lost in the darkest recesses of your washing machine, you won’t need to find them or retrieve them.

There are a few small acts you can do that will save you time, energy and help prolong the life of your washer. These include;

Always Empty Pockets Before Washing Any Items

Before placing anything in the washing machine, always check the pockets. This is particularly necessary for children’s clothes but also applies to adults clothes as well.

It’s so easy to leave nails, screws, the odd coin or two, hair pins or even packets of chewing gum in the pockets of your clothes. These can all cause problems in the washing machine if they happen to fall out during the wash cycle.

Use A Mesh Bag When Washing Small Items

Smaller items like socks, children’s socks or other small items can easily slip between the drum and the tub. Placing these items in a mesh bag will keep them all in one place whilst still allowing them to get washed properly.

Using a mesh bag is also great for preventing bra wires from getting caught in the perforations of the drum.

SEE ALSO: How Often Should You Clean Your Washing Machine?

Frequently Asked Questions

Where can things get lost in the washing machine?

Things can get lost in the washing machine by falling between the drum and the tub, getting caught in the door seal, getting caught in the drain filter, getting trapped around the heater, caught in the sump hose or even caught in the drain hose.

How do I find something I lost in my washing machine?

You can find something lost in your washing machine by opening the folds in the rubber door seal, removing the drain filter, shining a torch through the perforations of the drum, removing the heater or removing the sump hose and/or drain hose.

What causes clothes to disappear in the washing machine?

When the washing machine drum spins at high speed, some of the smaller items can get sucked through the drainage holes and get caught in the drainage system of the machine. Items can also get trapped between the folds of the rubber door seal or even trapped around the heater element.

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