Front-loading washing machines have filters (sometimes called “coin traps”) to prevent solid objects from getting into, and possibly damaging, the pump that moves water out of the machine through the discharge hose. These filters need to be emptied and cleaned periodically. Some washing machines have a small door on the front that allows access to the filter. On some washers, the filter can be easily unscrewed and removed. On mine, the filter is inside a wide spot in a length of flexible hose leading to the pump near the front of the machine. But it’s behind a solid front panel (no door) and the only way to get to it is to remove the front panel. And the only way to remove the front panel is to loosen the top, move the control panel, and disconnect the door lock. Because my dryer is stacked on top of the washer, loosening the top requires moving the dryer. Just getting to the filter requires an absurd amount of time and effort, especially considering that the actual filter removal and cleaning takes only about 5 minutes. Very bad product design, in my opinion.*
Because it was a “previously owned” washer when I got it, I cleaned the filter when I first installed it in my basement. Since then, I’ve felt a little guilty about not having cleaned it for a long while, but I dreaded all the work required. Thinking it over, it seemed that cutting a “filter-access door” in the front panel would be quicker than removing the panel as described above. Not to mention all the work required to put it all back together. Once done, I could clean the filter whenever I liked without all of work that would otherwise be required.
Just to be sure I would be able to cut a hole in the front panel without damaging anything inside the machine (like hoses and wires), I unplugged the washer, moved it away from the wall, partially removed the back panel and looked inside. There was plenty of room, at least a few inches, between the filter and the front panel, enough to allow a drill or saw to penetrate without damaging any of the internal parts.
Using an electric drill, and being extra careful to penetrate as little as possible, I made 4 holes that would be the corners of my filter-access door, the dimensions of which would be about 6 inches tall and 10 inches wide. I used the holes as starting points to make cuts connecting one hole to another. First I used a hacksaw, but hacksawing was too slow so I switched to an electric jigsaw. I held the jigsaw at an angle, allowing the blade to penetrate inside the machine as little as possible. Using the jigsaw, I had the hole cut in about 5 minutes. The edges of the hole were quite jagged, so I covered them with duct tape. After all, I have to put my hands through it to reach the filter.
Removing the filter through my new filter-access door is still awkward work that requires lying on the floor and reaching into an area that’s difficult to see. All things considered though, it’s a lot easier to do it through a hole in the front panel than to disassemble the front of the machine.
After a few minutes, I had the filter assembly in my hand. Inside the coin trap (basically a plastic cup with several holes in it) I found a very corroded key, several coins, many bobby pins, and many other small bits of unidentifiable solid materials, plus lots of thread and lint. Undoubtedly this mess of a mass was slowing the flow of water into the pump and out the discharge hose. Also, it smelled bad and the smelly odors would have migrated up into my freshly laundered clothes as they sat in the machine after being washed. After cleaning the filter, I reinstalled it. Helpful hint: the hose assembly is easier to slide into place if it’s wet.
I did a load of laundry and ensured that nothing was leaking. This was easy to do by just looking through my new filter-access door. I can easily take a look at the machine’s insides anytime.
I used a piece of magnetic plastic whiteboard as a door cover. Its magnetic force wasn’t enough to prevent it from sliding down as the machine vibrated when it was running, so I used two magnets (taken out of an old computer hard-drive) to hold it in place.
Overall, if you’re unlucky enough to have a washer without one, a DIY filter-access door might be something you should consider. Of course, beaware that doing this probably voids your warranty (not an issue for me, because mine was an on-the-curb-first-come-first-served acquisition). Of course, anything you do is at your own risk. I assume no liability. You definitely shouldn’t do this if you have young children in your house. With a door like this, they could easily get into the machine’s moving parts and could hurt themselves or damage the machine.
* Seriously, take a look:
Final note: It might be possible to access the filter through the bottom of the machine (its bottom panel has a couple large holes, perhaps for maintenance access), but this would require removing the stacked dryer, disconnecting the water, moving the washer away from the wall and tilting it on its side. That’s almost as much work as removing the front panel. I still like my filter-access door.