Masks are wreaking havoc with the nation’s washing machines by getting jammed in the drain pumps. Repair firms have been experiencing a surge in breakdown call-outs from customers whose machines have stopped working.
“We have seen lots of masks getting caught in washing machine pumps,” said Mike Willner from Moston Lane Appliances in Manchester.
“It has been as good for business as when the new small 5p coin was introduced in 1990.”
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While those 5p coins were exactly the right size to fill the tube that leads out of the pump, so are facemasks.
He said the masks were small enough to get past the filter and other components, stopping the machine from working by blocking the flow of water out. “
The Covid deniers are usually particularly unhappy about paying for an unblock,” Willner said. “You’d be surprised what we find in washing machine pumps – condoms, thongs and a bullet once in Cheetham Hill. ‘That must be me husband’s, I told him to empty his pockets’, uttered his wife. We’ve seen it all, but masks are the new thing.”
Simon Barclay, an engineer from repair shop Droylsden Domestics in Manchester, told i he had also had “lots of callouts” from customers with masks damaging the drain pump badly enough that the part had to be replaced.
“If customers were lucky, the masks might get stuck in a filter which can be more easily removed, but they’re usually getting stuck in the pump which is more of a problem.”
Martin Hopkins from Wakefield was one of the customers whose mask got stuck in his washing machine. “Engineer has just been to fix the washing machine,” he wrote on Twitter. “How ironic the fault was a face mask stuck in the pump!”.
Lillian Smith in Cork had the same problem when her machine wouldn’t drain; “Washing machine repair man came. A mask stuck in it. Be warned.”
Don, owner of AWM Repairs in Cheshunt, Hertfordshire, said he’d had “an extra 20 call-outs” due to masks blocking the machines, and engineer Tommy Carney at First Appliance Repairs in Carlisle said he had six call-outs in the last two weeks where a mask had been the culprit.
“People should wash their masks in pillow cases,” he said, “that’s a way to stop all small items getting stuck.”
Barclay also advised that while it’s essential that face masks are washed correctly at 60C to remove germs, “they need to be placed inside some kind of mesh bag to avoid them becoming lost inside the drum.”
How masks get stuck
Masks, especially ones made from thin or flimsy material, can easily end up in the crucial parts of washing machines.
“What we have been finding is that masks have during a spin been slipping down the small gap between the steel inner drum and plastic outer drum,” said Barclay.
Most objects in a washing machine should be stopped from blocking the pump by filters, strainers or screens, but if it becomes so small during the wash that it gets sucked in the pump, this will stop the machine from spinning.