Why your washing machine lies to you – and why it’s actually a good thing

Although it is annoying, there are some very valid reasons for your washing machine timer being inaccurate

A laundry room with pink built-in cabinetry with a lifted washing machine and dryer
(Image credit: Armac Martin)

We have all set up a laundry load, made a mental note of the time remaining on the cycle, and come back later to find that the machine is still running. You’re not going mad – your washing machine is lying to you. 

Even the best washing machines sometimes get the timers wrong when starting a laundry cycle, and it can be infuriating at the best of times. 

We asked appliance and laundry experts to explain why this happens, and why it might actually be a good thing.

Why your washing machine lies to you

Although it can be annoying, there are several essential reasons why your washing machine timer is inaccurate most of the time. 

Miele washing machine in a stylish farmhouse modern laundry room with sage green cabinets, a sink full of flowers, and a decorative vase

(Image credit: Miele)

Most importantly, it is because modern washing machines are able to adapt to the fabrics, soil levels, and products you add to your machine, begins Rich Mullins, appliance expert at H2O Plumbing. This is massively beneficial to you as it means you don't have to do laundry over and over again for one lot of clean clothes.

‘Factors like the size of the load, the type of fabric, water temperature, and the level of soil on the clothes can significantly extend the cycle duration. This results in a 'lie’. These adjustments are designed to provide better cleaning and fabric care, but they can add extra time to the process.

‘For example, if your washing machine detects a heavy load, it may incorporate longer agitation or rinsing times to ensure proper cleaning.’

Rich Mullins

H2O Plumbing was established in 2003 by Richard M Mullins Jr.  They're equipped to handle many types of repairs and installations, and are skilled at working with up-to-date plumbing technology.

Industville Sleek Edison Wall Light - Brass image – a neutral laundry room with green and white wallpaper, and an entryway bench to the left

(Image credit: Industville)

Your washing machine may also have to add an additional function to the end of your chosen cycle to ensure your clothes are free from detergent, too, adds Barbara Stern, textiles expert at Ottoman Textiles. If you use too much detergent, for instance, your machine will have to run a longer rinse cycle to free your garments from suds, she explains. 

Although you can’t wash clothes without detergent, the best way to get as close to the originally advertised time is to be mindful of what products you use and how much of them, sticking to the manufacturer's instructions for the most accurate results.  

Miele washing machine in a chic farmhouse style laundry room with striped wallpaper and flowers in the sink

(Image credit: Miele)

All in all, however, there is often very little you can do to adjust the accuracy of your washing machine timer, Rich Mullins, appliance expert, continues:

‘Consumers can partially influence this by choosing the right settings and being mindful of the factors that affect cycle duration. Using the appropriate wash cycle for your load, avoiding overloading the machine, and pre-treating heavily soiled items can help optimize the process.

‘However, complete control over the timer accuracy may be challenging due to the automatic adjustments made by the machine's technology.’

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Why is my washing machine timer stuck for one minute?

Your washing machine may hold itself at the one-minute timer at the end of a laundry cycle as it runs some final checks on your laundry load. This can include ensuring all the soap and water have been drained away so that the door can be opened safely and your clothes removed.
It may also stick on for one minute if you have used certain settings on your machine, such as gentle or care cycle as the machine settles your clothes again, or runs a final anti-crease process.  

Do I need to replace my washing machine timer?

If your washing machine timer is a little inaccurate, within five or ten minutes, then it usually okay and you don't need to consider a replacement. If your timer is faulty, however, and your machine isn't starting, ends early, or lasts for over 30 minutes longer than it states, then you may need a repair.

To keep your timer as close to accurate as possible, it also helps to regularly clean your washing machine – this makes sure the built-in sensors are not making inaccurate readings, and your machine is not working harder to clean away dirt, extending the cycle length. This is not only beneficial for your time management, but it helps to cut energy bills, too.  

Chiana Dickson
Content Editor

Chiana has been at Homes & Gardens for two years, having started her journey in interior journalism as part of the graduate program. She spends most of her time producing content for the Solved section of the website, helping readers get the most out of their homes through clever decluttering, cleaning, and tidying tips – many of which she tests and reviews herself in her home in Lancaster to ensure they will consistently deliver for her readers and dabbles in the latest design trends. She also has a first-class degree in Literature from Lancaster University.