Because dryers have increasingly efficient lint filters, many manufacturers don't include lint traps in contemporary washing machines, but they are common in older models. If your washing machine has one, it's important to clean it regularly because lint buildup not only affects cleaning performance, but it creates odors. The best way to locate the lint filter is to look in your owner's manual, which is available on the manufacturer's website if you don't have a hard copy. There are four possibilities for the location.
It's Around the Top of the Tub
If your top-loading machine has this type of filter, you'll feel it by running your finger along the top of the washing tub inside the machine. It's a mesh screen. Either pull lint off it or locate the hook holding it in place and pull it out to give it a more thorough cleaning.
It's Inside the Agitator
Some units have screen filters located inside the agitator. Check the manual for the proper procedure for removing the agitator -- some have a screw that must be loosened, and some simply pull off. The filter is either inside the agitator or fitted around a drain hole in the bottom of the tub. Pull it out, remove lint and clean the filter under running water.
It's Attached to the Drain Hose
Locate the end of the drain hose, which may be inside a standpipe or may simply be lying in a utility sink. This type of lint filter is clamped onto the end of the hose. Remove the clamp, using pliers or a screwdriver as needed, and pull lint and other debris from onside the screen.
It's on the Front Panel
Although dedicated lint filters are becoming obsolete, many manufacturers still include coin traps, which are designed to catch debris left in pockets that can clog the pumps and the drain. These filters -- which are common on front-loading models -- also catch lint and should be cleaned periodically. If your machine has one, you'll probably see a small door on the bottom of the front panel. Open the door, pull out the trap, clear it manually and rinse it under running water.
Make Your Own Lint Trap
If your washing machine doesn't have a lint filter, lint and other debris may be contaminating your septic system. You can buy a filter that attaches to the drainage hose or make your own, which is a better option if your washer empties into a standpipe. To make a simple filter, cut a 4-inch square from a piece of fiberglass screen, fold it over the end of the drain pipe and secure it with a clamp. Clean this filter every week or two to keep your washer from backing up.