The Parts of a Washing Machine

We use washing machines all the time, but don't usually stop to think about what is inside them--unless something goes wrong. Here's an overview of the different parts of your average washer.

On the Outside

Whether you have a top-loader or a front-loader, the parts you can see when you are looking at the outside of the washer are basically the same.  Controls allow you to select water level, heat, cycle, timing, etc, and a door either on top or in the front allows you to access the inside of the machine. The door on a front-loading washer has extra seals that keep the water from leaking out during the wash cycle. 

Inside the Door

Opening the door of the washer reveals the double-layer wash basin.  The outer basin holds water, and the inner basin (what you actually see looking in the washer) is perforated to allow the clothes to be spun after the wash cycle. Spinning the clothes at high speed uses centrifugal force to squeeze excess water from the clothes, and saves time and money on drying. 


The spinning inner basin creates a great deal of vibration, and an off-balance washer can "walk" itself around a laundry room or even tip itself over.  The heaviest part of the washer is the electric motor that drives the movement of the inner basin and the agitator in top-loaders, and this is usually balanced with a counterweight such as a block of concrete, one on each end of a metal bar attached below the basin (a bit like a teeter-totter).

Cables and Pulleys

In order to further dampen the vibrations, the frame that holds the motor and counterweight is attached using a pulley system.  A cable, one end attached to each end of the frame, runs through two pulleys and allows the whole frame to move back and forth in response to vibrations and movement.


In order to get the water needed to run the washer, hoses run from your household hot and cold water to the washing machine, where the timing mechanism controls how much water, what temperature and when it is needed.  A special anti-siphon device prevents wash water from being pushed back into the household water system.