Sewer smell when washer drains


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Old 05-20-11, 10:23 AM
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Sewer smell when washer drains

I have a 20 year old house, have lived here 12 years and have had no problems with plumbing lines until recently. Have had an HE front loader washer for about 2 years. There are four of us and it is used several times a week. A couple of months ago, I started noticing a sewer smell from the wall drain area during the drain cycle. It has gotten progressively worse. Also, in the past month, there have been a few occasions where the washer didn't drain completely, or where I have opened it after not using it for a couple of days and the drum has standaing water in it (doesn't smell like sewer water). Other than those occasions it is operating fine. I don't know if the smell and the water issues are related, or what to do about either. I checked the drain hose and it is into the drain pipe only about 2 inches, so I didn't think siphoning is an issue. Does anyone have suggestions?
 
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Old 05-20-11, 12:38 PM
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It sounds more washer related than drain pipe issues at this point. Did you check your machine manual to see if there are any maintenance requirements that homeowners should do. I know our Samsung HE front load requires regular cleaning of a filter behind a door at the front. If there was a drain backup problem most likely the pressure from the machine water pump would cause the water to simply overflow onto the floor. Unrelated to this but it is also a good idea with front load machines to never completely close the load door after finishing, which then allows remaining traces of water to evaporate and eliminates any possibility of mold etc. The old top load style machines of course were never completely sealed.
 
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Old 05-20-11, 04:12 PM
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Cindy Ooooooooo:

Is the floor drain in your basement anywhere near where you thought the smell was coming from?

If so, take the steel cover off that floor drain and shine a flashlight down it. There is a p-trap at the bottom of that floor drain, so you should see water at the bottom of the drain. If you don't see any water, that may be where the sewer gas smell is coming from.

However, the only reason I can see that sewer gas would be pushed out of an empty floor drain is because the water level in the drain piping is rising, and that's normally due to a partially clogged main drain line from your house. What happens is that your washer pumps water into the drainage piping from your house faster than the water can drain through that partially clogged area. The result is that water backs up in your drain piping and pushes the sewer gas that was in that pipe out... into your house.

Typically, the clogs that form in the drain lines from houses are made up of solids from the kitchen sink. It's a good idea to have the main drain line from your house cleared every 10 years or so as a great deal of draining and plumbing issues of various kinds arise when the drainage piping doesn't work properly because it's partially clogged. So, if you haven't had the main drain line from your house cleared recently, I'd do that first and see if it corrects the problem. And, if you phone any of the drain companies that advertise on the radio or have full page ads in the yellow pages phone book, expect to pay top dollar to support their high advertising budget. You'll get just as good a job done for half the price if you phone a smaller drain clearing company where the CEO of the company is also the one who clears your drain.

The standing water in the washing machine is probably unrelated to your drainage problem. It's possible that water remaining in the drain hose at the end of a spin cycle might drain back into the machine, but normally the space under the clothes basket is sufficiently large to contain all that water. More likely the water in the machine is due to the failure of something called a "mixing valve".

Washing machines have mixing valves that use the water pressure of your supply piping to keep the valve closed so that no water flows through it. This is done by having a rubber diaphragm over a port that leads into the washing machine. Your city water pressure is applied to both sides of that rubber diaphragm, but the area exposed to water pressure is larger on one side than the other, resulting in a net force that keeps the rubber diaphragm tightly sealed over that port. There are two rubber diphragms; one for hot water and one for cold water. When you start a wash cycle, electric current flows through a solenoid and that solenoid retracts an iron pin that plugs a hole in the middle of the diaphragm over the port. That releases the pressure on the large area side allowing the city water pressure to push the rubber diphragm up and allow water flow into the machine. If you select a hot or cold water wash, only one or the other solenoid gets electricity. If you select a warm water wash, both solenoids get electricity.

Washer mixing valves don't last forever, and occasionally need to be replaced. It could just be that a piece of dirt or rust or something got caught under the diaphragm preventing it from closing tightly over the port, but if the problem persists and gets worse, then I'd replace the water mixing valve in your washing machine.
 
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Old 05-22-11, 08:31 AM
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As I mentioned before, your problem is very common with newer front load machines. I forgot to also mention that as well as regularly cleaning the pump filter, and leaving the door open between washes, also make sure you use the correct HE soap products, and keep the soap dispenser clean also. Even when your machine operates correctly it is a good idea on a regular basis to run a cleaning solution through front load machines. Some people find pure vinegar works well, other use CLR, others use bleach. Did you check you manual as I mentioned before around user maintenance requirements. Many people have never looked at theirs. Pump filters on front load machines will get clogged with all sorts of things coming out of clothes during a wash cycle, and many people who purchase these machines don't realize that there are requirements different than their former top load machines.
 
 

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