Pushing pause on washing machine

How Long Can You Pause a Washing Machine For?

You’ve tossed your dirty clothes into the washing machine, you’ve started the wash cycle, and then you remember that there is a shirt you didn’t add to the load!

Completing the cycle, and running a second cycle to wash the forgotten shirt is not the best for your machine, your pocket, or the environment. This is just one of many reasons you may need to pause the machine.

But can you pause a washing machine, and how long can you pause it for? Here you’ll find all answers to these questions and more.


How Long Can a Washing Machine Be Paused For?

Having your washing machine in pause mode means that there’ll be damp clothes left in it. Sadly, having damp clothes in a drum can quickly cause bacteria and mould to grow.

So, the question of how long a machine can be in pause mode reduces to how long will it take before damp clothes in a machine develop bacteria and mould?

According to experts, it takes 8-12 hours before damp clothes in a washing machine begin to have an odour, which is a sign of bacterial or mould growth. Therefore, you shouldn’t leave a washing machine paused for more than 8 hours.


Can You Pause a Washing Machine?

Pause button on washing machine

Yes, you can pause a washing machine mid cycle. In most washing machines, the start button is designed for also pausing the machine.

While the machine is on, pressing the “Start/Pause” button will cause it to slow down, stop, drain out the water in the drum, and then unlock the door.

Know that, for safety reasons, the door of a washing machine is automatically locked and cannot be opened when there is water in the machine. This is why it often won’t pause immediately.

It is only after the water in the drum drains out that the lock mechanism is released. Most machines give out a sound to signal that the door lock is released. Some make use of flashing indicators in the interface, while others combine sound and flashing light signals.

It is when the machine signals that the lock mechanism is disengaged that you can open the door.

From when you press the “Start/ Pause” button to when you can open the door will take about 30 seconds.

However, with some machines, you may have to wait a few minutes. At the very start of the cycle, it may be much quicker. Just be patient and don’t press the button again.


Why Would You Want to Pause a Washing Machine?

There are many reasons why people pause washing machines mid cycle. But some of the most common reasons include:

1. To add a garment to the wash load

How to Open a Washing Machine Door Mid Cycle

As mentioned, if you forget to add one to two pieces of clothing to the load, it may be best to pause the machine, add the items, and restart the cycle.

This is because, in terms of electricity bills, running another cycle to wash the forgotten garments will be costlier than pausing the original cycle to add the garment. It would also be very time-consuming.


2. To remove a garment from the wash load

It could also happen that a garment is in the wash load that shouldn’t be there.

There are some clothes that are not machine-friendly. These include suits, embellished clothes, swimming suits, and more.

Also, there are some clothes that’ll ruin your washing machine if you wash them with it. For example, the hooks of a bra can get stuck in the drum, while zippers can scratch the inside of the machine. You may also have accidentally put a bright red shirt in with the whites, for example.


3. To remove items forgotten in garments in the wash load

Sometimes we forget to empty our pockets before tossing garments into the washing machine.

If you remember that there are things in pockets that’ll damage your drum (like coins, jewellery, etc.), it’s best to pause the machine and remove these before continuing the washing.

Sometimes, the forgotten item may be things that cannot harm your machine but will be destroyed by the wash operation. This could be receipts or even a winning lottery ticket!


4. To change the wash cycle

A modern washing machine has many different programs (called cycles) that you can use when doing your laundry. Each of these programs come with varying times, speed, and temperature.

Some programs are best suited for particular garments. For example, a cold wash cycle is suitable for delicate clothes like wool, while a hot wash cycle is suitable for underwear, towels, and very dirty clothes.

Using the wrong wash cycle can damage your clothes or not wash them properly. If you realize that you’ve selected the wrong cycle for your wash, it is best to pause the machine and change the cycle to one that best suits your clothes.


Is it OK to Leave a Washing Machine on Pause?

It is absolutely okay to leave your washing machine on pause mode. However, this should be for a short time.

Complete the reason that made you pause the machine as soon as possible. Then close the lid and restart the cycle.

Know that when you pause a washing machine mid cycle, the soapy water in the drum drains out, but the clothes in the drum remain wet and soapy.

Leaving your clothes in that condition for a long time can cause them to start smelling, or to even develop moulds and bacteria.

The long exposure to detergents can also cause your clothes to wear out faster.


Dealing With a Paused Machine

As we’ve said, if you’ve paused your machine for one of the reasons above then solve the issue and put the machine back on straight away. If you need to pause your machine for another reason, then you may need to take a different approach.

Maybe you need to leave your house and don’t want the machine running, perhaps it’s making too much noise or you might have even spotted a leak. In these circumstances, those damp clothes may be sitting in your machine for a long time.

If they will be in there for longer than 8 hours, then it’s best to take them out and dry them, even if they are not clean. When the issue is resolved, you can put them back into the machine for a full cycle.



There are many reasons why you may want to pause a washing machine after you have started a wash cycle.

The good news is that pausing a washing machine is possible. By simply pressing the “start” button, the machine will slow down, drain out the water in the drum, and release the door lock. You can then open the lid.

It’s best not to leave it paused as damp clothes shouldn’t be left in the machine for more than 8 hours. If you do need to pause your machine for longer than this, it’s best to take them out and rewash them at a later time.