This post describes: removing a Bra Wire from a washing machine when it has come out of a bra and penetrated the inner drum of a front loader. These wires tend to come out of badly maintained bras while being washed. They don’t necessarily damage the machine immediately but always have the potential to do so. They are often noticed by the noise they make while the drum rotates.
“Oh no! I’ll have to spend the rest of the day removing a bra wire from my washing machine now!”
The exclamation above probably describes how you felt if you ever heard the “tick, tick, tick” when your washing machine rotates slowly followed by a loud rasping sound when it speeds up.
Here is the featured image for this post if you cannot see it.
It can be very expensive to pay someone to remove a bra wire from a washing machine. So you might choose to remove it yourself.
What Usually Happens
The inner drum which turns (usually made of stainless steel pierced with hundreds of holes) is mounted inside the outer drum. That can be made of plastic, enamelled steel or stainless steel. The outer drum holds the water and has the door seal mounted in it at the front.
The wire normally passes through a hole in the inner drum and gets caught under the heating element which is situated at the bottom of the outer drum below the water level.
The wire can lie dormant and not touch the inner drum, but if you know it’s in there then that’s worrying.
It can catch on the holes of the drum in such a way that it sticks through one. In that case it can probably be grabbed with pliers and pulled out. If it pops through a hole while it is whizzing around it could do serious damage to the parts it is caught on between the drums, or it could puncture the hose connecting the outer drum to the pump.
Removing a bra wire from a washing machine has happened twice for me over the years. I got one to poke through a hole so I could pull it out with pliers (see Method 1). With the other I used Method 2 to grab it.
How To Stop A Bra Wire Escaping Into A Washing Machine
Its best if you don’t let a bra wire escape from a bra in the first place. This is done by putting the bra in a zip-up net bag especially designed for the purpose. A quick search on the internet for: ‘net bag for bras in washing machine’ will show you the type of bag I mean.
Health & Safety Notice
- Use some form of eye protection. You will be working close up to sharp bits of wire if you follow methods 1 & 2.
- Ensure the washing machine is unplugged or turned off at the isolating switch (usually on the wall nearby) before working on it.
Locating The Bra Wire
When removing a bra wire from a washing machine it first has to be located. If a bra wire is catching on the drum as it goes around the sound may help you locate it. To see it you will need to look down through the holes in the drum while using a torch to light up the space between the drums. You will have to get your head in the drum and use a torch that will stand up on its glass so it shines through the holes. Gently turn the inner drum clockwise a few degrees, then anticlockwise a few degrees. This will rock it from side to side while you look through the holes. This action will make the holes blur together making the inner drum look transparent. Then you will get a better view of the outer drum and its contents.
You can’t rock the drum with one hand, hold the torch with the other and get your head in there all at the same time because the port-hole is not usually large enough. I had a torch which would stand on its glass without falling over too easily. You may need a small inspection or vanity mirror to help you look through the holes. (I had one suitable for sticking on the back of a car sun visor.) When you are able to see through the holes in the drum just rock the drum from side to side as described previously.
If you locate the bra wire you can then try one of the following four methods to remove it:
Method 1 – By Hooking The Bra Wire
When you locate the bra wire you may be able to poke a stiff wire, bent to have a hook on the end, through one of the holes in the drum so it can be used to hook around the bra wire and pull it up to make it align with a hole in the drum. Get it to catch on the edge of the hole so that as you turn the drum one particular way it gets forced up through the hole enabling you to grab it with pliers and pull it out.
Forming The Hooking Wire
The hooking wire must be bent into a hook so you can grapple with the bra wire. This can be difficult to do. Use a piece of solid copper wire from a short length of mains cable at least 20cm long but only half the diameter of the hole. Form a big loop in one end so that it can’t drop through a hole in the drum. (You won’t want another piece of wire in there.)
I used an old coil of enamelled wire. To get it through a hole in the drum bend the wire back on itself by about 1 or 2cm and crimp it tight with pliers so that it no longer looks like a hook and the wire touches itself, push it through a hole in the drum bent double like this and then pull the hook up against the edge of the hole to try to open it out into a V-shaped hook ready for use.
Method 2 – By Grabbing Hold of The Bra Wire
This method required at least 150mm of thin-walled PVC sleeving1 which was 4mm diameter on the outside. This was an exact fit through the drum holes. The length has to be long enough to grab hold of, and the outside diameter has to be as large as possible but small enough to go through a hole in the drum.
If you’re not familiar with using wire and electrical sleeving you may need to practice using it before you delve into you washing machine just to find out how hard it can be to thread the sleeving on wire when it isn’t a loose fit. Remember a bra wire is thin and flat and sleeving has a round hole. See where PVC sleeving1 can be obtained in the UK.
The method is to feed the sleeving through a hole in the drum near to the end of the bra wire so it can be pushed over the end of the bra wire. This works when the bra wire is wedged in place. You may have to wiggle the sleeving about and try various holes in the drum.
You may have to manipulate the end of the bra wire with a hooking wire as used in Method 1. If you can bring the two together push as much of the sleeving onto the bra wire as you can. The bra wire will be flat so the sleeving will go oval to fit over it. When the sleeving is on just pull the sleeving back through the hole in the drum and it will pull the bra wire through behind it. Rotate the inner drum as necessary. As the sleeving stretches it gets thinner and will grip better on the bra wire so it doesn’t come off.
If you have difficulty getting the bra wire to come free then do your best to get the end of it through a hole just enough to grip it with your pliers. Once you’re gripping it with your pliers pull hard. It doesn’t really matter if the sleeving is damaged in the act. You want that bra wire out. Any bits of sleeving left in the machine will be relatively harmless and probably collect in the filter or get pumped away.
You can see the sleeved bra wire poking through a hole in the picture below:
Method 3 – By Removing The Heater To Access The Bra Wire
Note: I have not tried this method which is one method I would expect from a professional washing machine engineer employed to get something out that was not able to come out any other way.
Always be prepared for water to come out when dismantling parts of washing machines. So have an old towel ready.
This method involves dismantling the washing machine to gain access to the bottom of the outer drum often at the back, but sometimes at the front, so that the heating element can be removed. The heating element is usually fixed in an oval hole in the outer drum. With the heating element removed it may be possible to pull other things out of the bottom of the outer drum with bent wire, long-nosed pliers or even fingers.
Here are a couple of videos showing how to replace a washing machine heating element. From these you can see how to remove the heater to gain some access to the inside of the outer drum:
VIDEO 1. “HOW TO REPLACE A WASHING MACHINE ELEMENT,” BY ESPARES
VIDEO 2. “HOW TO TEST & FIT A WASHING MACHINE HEATER,” BY UK WHITEGOODS.
Run it forward by 1:45 minutes if you just need to remove the heater.
NOTE: The seal for the element in this Hotpoint machine works as a seal because it is a rubber block compressed between two steel plates to make it swell sideways. As it swells it grips the edge of the hole it is mounted in, as well as the element tubes and the retaining bolt.
Method 4 – By Accessing The Drum Through The Pump Connection
Note: I have not tried this method which is another method I would expect from a professional washing machine engineer employed to get something out that was not able to come out any other way.
Always prepare for water to come out when dismantling parts of washing machines. So have an old towel ready.
This method involves dismantling the washing machine to gain access to the water outlet from the outer drum. A flexible pipe connects that outlet to the pump. The bra wire might be poking down into the flexible pipe. Then, when disconnected from the drum, it might be possible to find the wire and pull it out with pliers. It may have punctured the pipe. If so the pipe will need replacing.
Here is more information on doing this from:
Draining A Washing Machine Using The Drain Hose
Some washing machines have a thin drain hose accessible at the fluff filter. This is seen in some of the videos above. The water in the drum will just flow out when the bung is removed providing the pipe outlet is below the water level in the machine. To get all of the water out of the pump and pipes a large shallow dish is required. This is so that the whole pipe can get below the water level in the drum. Try a frying pan, grill pan or flan dish.
If there’s no thin drain hose at the front try lowering the main drain hose to the ground. It may be necessary to remove pipe clamps to get the hose down to ground level all along its length. The water will then flow out of that when it is below the water level in the drum. The pump doesn’t have to be working for water to pass through it. The pump is required to lift the water up to the normal drain pipe that the hose hooks into.
- PVC Sleeving is used in electrical/electronic work to cover and insulate what would otherwise be bare wire. It is available from electrical shops and electronic component suppliers, e.g. Screwfix, RS Components.