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Clothes Disappearing in Washing Machine: Why and What to do

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The idea of clothes disappearing in the washing machine has always been treated as an urban legend. However, losing small items like socks and underwear isn’t as far-fetched as you might think. 

Clothes disappear in washing machines due to overloading, high-spin speeds, and slits or holes in the inner drums of machines. When clothes disappear, they’re usually stuck in the agitator, heater housing, between the inner and outer drum, or the space under the rubber seal inside the machine door. 

In this article, I’ll discuss how and why clothes may get stuck or lost in a washing machine and discuss a few ways to prevent it from happening. I’ll also go over how to safely find items that have been lost in the washer. 

Can Clothes Go Missing in the Washing Machine?

Due to all the technological advances we’ve made, losing clothes in the washing machine might seem absurd. But the truth is, it happens more often than you think. 

Clothes can go missing in the washing machine and most often get stuck in the agitator, get sucked through the drainage at high spin speeds, or get stuck in the pump as a result of overloading. This most commonly happens with smaller items, such as socks, underwear, and bathing suits.

Clothes can also go missing if they get stuck within other garments or if they get stuck under the rubber seal on the inner side of the machine door. 

Why Does My Washing Machine Keep Eating My Clothes? 

If your washing machine has developed a taste for your socks or bras, it might indicate a bigger problem. 

A washing machine could be eating your clothes because there are holes or slits in the rubber gasket. When a front-loading machine is spinning at high speeds, small clothing items disappear through such holes. If you have a top-loading machine, it’s likely eating your clothes because of overloading. 

When you overload a top-loading machine, some items may wander off to the edges and slip into the space between the tub and outer walls of the machine. 

To fix the issue:

  • If your clothes have been disappearing a lot, check the rubber gasket for slits and holes. 
  • If you use a top-loading machine, reduce the load you put in and see if that solves the problem. 

I wrote a complete guide to washing machine care that may interest you.

Where To Look for Missing Clothes 

That sock you can’t find may be stuck just under the rubber seal on the inside of the machine door, where it would be easy to remove. However, it could also be stuck in harder-to-reach places, like the heater housing. 

Here’s a list of where to look for missing clothes in washing machines: 

  • Under the rubber seal
  • In the agitator 
  • Between the inner and outer drums
  • Under the outer drum 

The probable locations of missing items will depend on whether your washing machine is front-loading or top-loading. 

For example:

  • If a machine is front-loading, you should first look under the rubber seal and then between the inner and outer drum. 
  • If your machine is top-loading and uses an agitator, you should first look inside the hollow part of the agitator. 

If you don’t find the missing clothes in the above components, the next step is to open up the washer to access the inner parts. 

Let’s take a brief look at each of the probable locations where your missing clothes can be. 

Under the Rubber Seal

In front-loading machines, items such as socks can get stuck under the rubber seal along the machine’s opening. 

This will usually only happen when the machine is overloaded. As everything spins, a sock or two can become wedged against the door, and as everything tuns, it slowly makes its way under the rubber. 

In the Agitator 

If you have a top-loading machine, an agitator or impeller will be the primary cleaning component. 

An agitator is a horizontal, cylindrical, and hollow part that cleans clothes by forcing water through them. 

Small clothes can sometimes become stuck in the hollow part during the machine’s spinning. 

Between the Inner and Outer Drums 

When you overload your machine, you increase the chance of clothes getting into the space between the inner and outer drum in a top-loading machine. 

In a front-facing machine, slits or small holes in the inner drum can provide room for small clothes to get into the machine. This is more likely to occur during high-speed spins. 

Under the Outer Drum 

When your clothes end up in the inner parts of the machine, usually due to high-speed spins and overloading, they can slip underneath the outer drum. 

When that happens, accessing them becomes problematic. 

One of the places they can end up is the heater housing which you can only access by opening up the back of the washing machine. In this case, you might need a professional. 

Another place where small clothes can end up is the sump hose compartment. The sump hose is part of your machine’s drainage system, and, again, you’ll need to open the device to gain access. 

How To Find Lost Clothes in Washing Machines 

When a cloth gets stuck somewhere inside your washing machine, it might start to make noise. It could be that the fabric is restricting movement or damaging components inside as the appliance spins. 

So, to ensure your machine operates smoothly, you’ll want to find and free the item as soon as possible. 

Let’s take a look at how you can find lost clothes in washing machines: 

Check Under the Rubber Seal 

When looking for a lost sock or other items, the first thing you should do is run your finger under the rubber seal – you’re likely to find it there. 

You can make this a habit every time you do laundry to avoid losing socks in the future. 

It’s also important to check the condition of the seal. If it’s old, worn, and losing its elasticity, chances are you’ll lose far more clothes. This is because it won’t seal as well. 

Check in the Agitator 

In top-loading washers with agitators, the agitator is an excellent place to check for lost items. You can easily remove the agitator and check the base. Lost items are likely to be settled there. 

Watch the following video to see how to look for clothes in an agitator:

Why Do My Clothes Go Missing In My Washer?

Check Between the Inner and Outer Drums 

In a front-loading washer, after you’ve checked under the rubber seal, the next logical place is between the inner and outer drums. 

To check this space, pry the rubber seal open with your finger. This action will create a small gap for you to see through. You should then manually turn the drum, watching out for your missing items. 

Check Under the Bottom Panel of the Machine 

If you still haven’t found your missing piece, it has likely been drained into the inner parts of your machine. You can access these parts by removing the bottom panel and unscrewing the circular component you find. 

If any clothing has been sucked through, you should be able to spot it and remove it. 

Depending on the model of your washing machine, your clothing items could be stuck in the heating housing or sump hose compartment. Here’s an excellent video showing how you can access those parts:

How to Remove a Stuck item from a Washing Machine Drum


Clothes can easily disappear in the washing machine. However, if you ensure that your gasket doesn’t have holes and avoid overloading, it shouldn’t happen too often. 

To recover an item that has disappeared, systematically check parts of the machine. If there are some parts you can’t access, it may be prudent to ask for help from a professional. 

If you do find yourself taking apart your washing machine or even just opening some of its parts, ensure that you’ve disconnected it from power.

Next, you should check out my guide on what to do if your clothes have disappeared in the dryer.


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