See below for images of my Washing Machine valves. This is an older home but can't seem to get the water levers to budge. I don't want to apply too much force either way in fear of breaking something.

Can someone tell me which direction they should be turned? Do I need to loosen the screw in the middle first? How much pressure should be applied? etc.


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3 Answers 3


It isn't uncommon for this to happen. These valves are really only used when replacing your washer so they have a tendency to freeze up. get some CLR and brush it on the valves to get rid of the corrosion. If you clean off the black handles, you see an arrow that shows which way to turn the valve to shut it off(looks like clockwise). Removing the handles will allow you to get more CLR around the valve stem. Put everything back together and it's OK to apply moderate pressure to operate the valve


I had a valve lock up due to calcium deposits. I removed it to replace, then realized it just needed the calcium cleared out from inside. If you have hard water, this is a likely scenario given the age of the valves.

  1. Turn off the water main to the house.
  2. Disconnect the hoses.
  3. Look inside with a flashlight. You should be able to see white calcium deposits built up. Try to clean out as much as you can, but don't fret if you can't get much out.
  4. Turn the valve clockwise to close. You'll need to apply a lot of force. Use one large mouth wrench to hold the base steady, and another wrench to turn the handle. Apply force in opposite directions, with the handle turning clockwise.
  5. After the valve operates freely, flush out all the calcium so it doesn't gunk up your washer lines.

It's unlikely you'll damage the valve that way. If you do, the valve was already weak and needs replacement anyway. They're easy to replace, and any home improvement store will have replacement valves. Unscrew it from the pipe base using the two-wrench approach as described above. Use teflon tape or plumber's putty to ensure a watertight seal around the threads for the new valves.

  • 2
    If it's calcium deposits, chemical descalers (which typically contain e.g. citric acid) should also work well, especially after initial mechanical scraping. For the valves in OP's photo, they could maybe unscrew the mounting brackets from the wood plank (and remove the hoses) and then immerse the whole end of the pipe with the valve in a small plastic bucket or bag filled with descaling solution. Or just unscrew the valves from the pipes. Feb 26, 2022 at 8:35
  • Chemicals may help, but shouldn't be necessary. The calcium is much softer than the metal the valve is made from, so applying sufficient force will dislodge and crumble the calcium. Soaking the valve effectively would require removing it from the base, which isn't terribly difficult, but sounds like the OP doesn't have experience with plumbing and it'd help him/her to avoid extra steps.
    – pmont
    Feb 27, 2022 at 5:10

Those valves seem to have quite a bit stuff built up on them, maybe calcium/lime from hard water.

A few drops of light machine oil or a penetrating oil like PB blaster behind the black handles might help. Can also remove the small screw and pull the handles off and spray some oil inside.

Give the oil some time to work and try turning again, Valves seem marked with shutoff direction, looks to be to the right.

I am hoping these are in a warm section and the problem is not caused by frozen water inside the valves.

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