Do you find your washing machine is running for longer than the timer? Here's why that is

You’re not imagining it - but should you be concerned?

White utility room with sleek black cabinetry
(Image credit: Future PLC)

Do you ever find that your washing machine is running for longer than the timer said it would be?

Look, we've all been there - you set the washing machine, or tumble dryer, to your preferred setting, make a note of the time, and go about the rest of your day. An hour and a half later, and you notice the machine is *still* running – even though you’re sure it said it would be finished in just an hour…

Don’t worry – you’re not imagining things, and you’re certainly not alone in noticing this odd occurrence. Laundry experts have explained that there is an explanation behind this phenomenon, and that actually, your machine may well be taking longer than originally stated – though it's probably not something you need to worry about.

Why exactly does this happen, then?

Why your washing machine is running for longer

So now we know it isn’t just our machines, why might a washing machine and/or a tumble dryer regularly run over the time it said in the first instance? It turns out that the appliance may well be adjusting to your specific load, in order to save as much time and save energy as possible.

'Washing machines are designed to save resources wherever possible, be it water, energy, or laundry detergent,' explains Vivien Fodor, laundry category manager at Hotpoint. 'So, there are a number of automated checks that a washing machine will do during its cycle. 

'These are there to tell the machine if it is taking more or less time than expected to fill, wash or spin. This automated function ensures your laundry is washed properly yet economically every time.'

'As a result, the machine will adjust the time to end at certain points of the cycle – sometimes sooner, sometimes later. The only difference is that people only notice when it’s the latter!'

white kitchen cabinets and wooden worktops in kitchen with washing machine

(Image credit: Future PLC / Colin Poole)

One of these checks includes how much washing you put in. 'Traditional washers have a set cycle time based on the setting you choose, while more modern machines operate by using sensors to detect the weight of the loads you put in,' says Matt Connelly, founder of on-demand laundry company ihateironing.

And in fact, overloading your appliance could very well cause it to run over its initial time. 'This can throw your sensors off balance, and can cause the control board to predict an incorrect estimate for your cycle’s run time,' Matt told us.

Tom Akers, Product Sales Trainer at Miele GB shared that there's an easy fix to combat this if it bothers you. 'For a more accurate time with minimal changes, washing and drying fabrics of a similar composition or thickness will reduce any timing changes.'

Washing machine and tumble dryer stacked in a cupboard in a white kitchen diner

(Image credit: Future PLC/David Merewether)

So what about our tumble dryers? Much like washing machines, newer dryers also tend to have those automatic sensors, which will ensure that your clothes aren’t dried for longer (or less time) than they need to be.

'The estimated time will be adjusted depending on how well spun the clothes were before drying, the size of the load, and the materials,' says Vivien from Hotpoint. 'For example, denim is denser, so takes longer to dry, whilst synthetics will be the quickest.'

Essentially, Matt from ihateironing explained that we shouldn’t rely too much on the time we see when we first put a load in either our dryers or washing machines, or washer/dryers. 'It’s important to point out that the cycle run times on your washer/dryer are just an estimate, usually calculated on a number of different factors.'

Laundry room with metro tiling, marble worktops and styled shelving

(Image credit: Future PLC/Rachael Smith)

There are a few caveats though, with Matt explaining that if your washing machine regularly runs over despite the size of your load, there may be an issue with its water pressure. 

'A clogged in-let valve won’t bring the right amount of water needed for your wash cycle, causing it to take longer for your machine to fill up with water and thus longer for it to proceed with the entire cleaning process,' he said. Knowing how to clean a washing machine will absolutely help here!

Similarly, if your tumble dryer also often runs over time and can't be explained by the above reasons, you may be dealing with a vent clogged with lint. 'With every load of clothes you dry, your lint trap fills with lint,' Matt said. 'If you leave it to build up over time, your machine can no longer get a proper air-flow of hot air, and will stop drying as efficiently. 

'Your dryer struggles to reach the appropriate temperature to heat your clothes and thus keeps adding more and more time. A quick solution to this issue is to make sure you continually keep your lint trap clean.'


 Amy Hunt is an experienced digital journalist and editor, now working in a freelance capacity specialising in homes and interiors, wellness, travel and careers. She was previously Lifestyle Editor at woman&home, overseeing the homes, books and features sections of the website. Having worked in the industry for over eight years, she has contributed to a range of publications including Ideal Home, Livingetc, T3,Goodto, Woman, Woman’s Own, and Red magazine