Is It OK to Leave the Washer and Dryer Running Overnight and Unattended?

We have all been there….

It is in the evening after a long and tiresome day, and you are ready for bed.

But the laundry hasn’t dried yet and you want them ready by morning.

Even worse, there’s laundry that needs to be cleaned at the same time.

First Off, Is It OK to Leave the Washer and Dryer Running Overnight and Unattended?

Yes, but risks are aplenty. You could argue that you tried it before and it worked out perfectly, but there are two to three things that can still go wrong and prove disastrous. Damp laundry left in the washer overnight — or even a bit longer during the day— may turn the compartment into a musty mess with a not-so-pleasant smell. You may also end up with mildew and mold on your laundry or even the dryer itself. You may not notice it easily but the musty scent will build up if it becomes a habit. There’s also a significant risk of fire.

Here’s why it’s never a good idea to leave the washer and dryer running and unattended:

1. Over-Drying, Burst Pipes, and Flooding

When a dryer is left to run for a long time unattended, there’s a good chance it will damage your clothes.

Prolonged exposure to heat causes clothes made from certain materials to shrink or warp (the collars).

The right way to dry laundry is to put them (except your line-dried dedicates and similar items) in the machine at low temperatures and remove them after the recommended time.

Leaving your washing machine running overnight means the washer’s valves have to remain open the entire time.

This, however, increases the chances of hose bursts. This is why experts suggest that you should shut them down when the washer is not in operation.

Cut-off sensors aren’t the most reliable type of sensors on the washer.

They are known to fail once in a while, especially when the machine is overloaded or turned on and off often.

A failure can be catastrophic, flooding your laundry room or kitchen/dining when you are fast asleep.

A flooded kitchen or laundry room is probably the second-worst thing that could happen in your home, second only to a home fire.

Water may end up underneath the baseboards and all the delicate items you have across several rooms.

If you are fortunate, you will hear a bang as the pipes burst or the chaos ensues.

Many washers nowadays come with more than one automatic feature, such as

  • soil sensors
  • automatic detergent dispensers
  • automatic time sensors
  • water level adaptation,
  • automatic load size sensors
  • and even energy-saving modes.

This means you can choose a washer that prevents leaks and related accidents.

2. Risk of Home Fires

Tumble dryers and washers are some of the top inducers of home fires, second to fridges/freezers with blocked breathing vents.

Lint is the main culprit here.

In the long run, lint will accumulate on the heating elements of the dryer and in other internal parts, causing it to start overheating – this increases the likelihood of a fire.

Often, a fire is started by a spark somewhere close to the heating element.

However, improper venting practices on the outside of the dryer can be a contributing factor in the process.

Fortunately, washer and dryer-induced home fires aren’t commonplace, but not as less frequent as you may think.

Many thousands of home fires are started by washers and dryers, leading to loss of lives.

Just How Long Should Wet Laundry Stay in Washer/Dryer?

For a washer, anything between 8 – 12 hours is enough.

And that’s according to the experts at Whirlpool Institute of Fabrics Science.

The danger comes from the long working hours of the washer, not the fact that the laundry overstayed in the machine.

Things are a little different when it comes to dryers.

Laundry can stay in the dryer for a long time – even weeks – as long as they are dried first.

Wet laundry, however, can only sit in the dryer for up to 7 hours beyond which signs of mildew and bad odors will start to show.

Cutting The Risks

Today, many people don’t have a lot of time to sit there and watch these machines complete their tasks.

You can take the precautions and measures to reduce accidents and still wake up to dry and clean laundry.

Firstly, you shouldn’t let weeks’ and months’ worth of fluff accumulate in your dryer.

Be sure to maintain the dryer as recommended by the manufacturer.

Of course, this includes opening the machine regularly to remove the dirt.

Since lint is the main cause of fires in tumble dryers, take your time to clean the lint filters (preferably after every drying cycle) to maintain good airflow.

Also, wipe the drum regularly with a damp piece of cloth, and check the condition of the hose and vent outlet.

For dryers with condensers, the heat exchanger needs to be washed about five times yearly, more often for frequent or heavy users.

Few models come with LED lights that alert you when the heat exchanger needs cleaning.

Meanwhile, most of today’s home appliances are run by intricate software designed to shut down the machine in the event of an anomaly, such as overheating.

You can even choose a washer equipped with devices that terminate the water supply in the event of a breakdown, cutting the risk of flooding your kitchen or laundry room.

Furthermore, ensure you have a working – and often tested – smoke alarms.

The Time-Delay Function

The only way you can leave your washer and dryer running and never feel nervous is if these devices are equipped with the time-delay function.

If you plan to leave the washer running overnight – for at least 7 hours, that is – remember to activate the time-delay feature.

Pressing the Time-Delay buttons repeatedly increases the time your washer will hold back before it starts to work on the laundry.

Once you have set your desired wait time, all you can do is press the button to start the countdown and head to bed (The program won’t start until the set time counts down).

If you change your mind or accidentally switch off the washer, the time delay countdown will be canceled.

Not all washers come with this feature, but if you can get yourself one, you won’t even need to hang in the neighborhood to turn on or monitor the machines.

So…it is OK to Leave the Washer and Dryer Running Overnight and Unattended, right?

In one word – “Yes.” Obviously, it’s impractical to babysit your appliances, but what if they pop open or flood your home while you are asleep?

As such, be mindful of the risks.

For example, ensure that your machines have the necessary safety functions that will shut down the system in event of a malfunction.

Some of these functions, like the Time-Delay feature, will only start the machine at a predetermined time, meaning you can set the washer and dryer to start at about 5:00 am and have everything ready by 6:00 am when you wake up.


While it’s risky to leave any appliance, not just washers and dryers, running unattended, it is a necessary gamble in today’s busy lifestyles.

Choose a product with safety features to cut the likelihood of the risks.

These aren’t just safety features, but energy savers as well.

Additional Laundry Topics
Do Mobile Homes Use Dryer Vents?
Can You Mix and Match the Washer and Dryer?
Can You Over Dry Your Clothes?
Can Overloading a Dryer Cause a Fire?
Can Dryer Lint Cause a Fire?
Should You Hang Your Laundry Outside During a Heatwave?
Is It OK to Leave the Washer and Dryer Running Overnight and Unattended?
Is It Ok To Dry Clothes Outside Overnight?
Why Do Clothes Dry Faster on Windy Days?
Can You Leave Towels in the Dryer Overnight?
Can You Dry Clothes in a Greenhouse?
Can You Dry Black and White Clothes Together?
Should You Air Dry Your Wet Clothes in the Bathroom?
Can You Hang Damp Clothes on Velvet Hangers?
Can You Hang Wet Clothes on Wooden Hangers?
What Happens If You Leave Your Clothes in the Dryer Overnight?
Do Clothes Dry Faster in Humid Weather?
Can You Dry Clothes in a Microwave Oven?
What Happens If You Leave Clothes in the Dryer Too Long?
Can You Do Laundry Without Detergent?
Do Clothes Dry Faster Inside or Outside at Night?
Should You Rewash Wet Clothes Accidentally Left in the Washer 24 Hours?
Can You Dry Clothes with an Air Conditioner?
Is It Better to Buy or Lease a Washer and Dryer for a Mobile Home?
How Can You Dry Clothes Outside Without a Clothesline?
Should You Put a Laundry Hamper in the Bathroom or Bedroom?
What Are the Pros and Cons of Putting a Washer and Dryer in the Bedroom Closet?
Should You Replace the Washer and Dryer at the Same Time?
Is It Better to Get a New or Used Washer and Dryer?
Is It Ok to Leave the Washer or Dryer on When You’re Not Home?
Should You Leave Your Washer or Dryer Door Open When Not in Use?
Why Does Your Washing Machine Stink So Bad?
Will The Washing Machine Work If The Water Heater Is Broken?