An unfamiliar thumping or other odd noise coming from your washing machine may be the result of an item stuck in the agitator. The agitator is the plastic part of the appliance that sticks straight up in the washer tub. The job of the agitator is to help move clothes through the water inside the wash. Because these agitators are constantly spinning, sometimes clothes and other objects can get twisted up in them.
Turn off the power for your washing machine by removing the plug. This will immediately stop the machine from running and also help prevent any more damage to the machine from the trapped item. If you cannot reach the plug safely, cut the power for the circuit at the main circuit breaker.
Freeing the Stuck Item
Before resorting to any kind of disassembly, see if the item can be pulled away from the agitator. Unwrap it as much as needed to extricate it from the agitator assembly. If this an item that can be replaced, such as an old towel or shirt, cut it away from the agitator with a sharp utility knife.
Remove the agitator cap by prying it off with a screwdriver. Some washing machines will have a fabric dispenser in place of the agitator cap. Unscrew these by turning counterclockwise. Unscrew the agitator bolt with a socket wrench. Use an extension on the socket wrench to reach recessed bolts. Pull the agitator straight up to slide it off the agitator shaft. Free the stuck item and replace the agitator.
Two-Part Agitator Removal
Some items can become stuck in the top level of a two-part agitator. These agitators will sometimes have fins on the outside to help propel the clothes inside through the wash water. Clothes can also stick onto these fins or ears. The top part of the agitator is removed in the same fashion as a whole agitator assembly: remove the agitator cap, loosen the bolt and then pull straight off. Use caution, however, as some agitators use agitator cams, also called dogs, to help rotate the top part of the agitator. These can slip out of the upper part of the agitator during removal.