You can’t escape dirty laundry. A reliable washing machine that gently cleans clothes for years to come is what you need. Washers can cost anywhere from $400 to $1,900, depending on the type, capacities, and features. Here’s how to find the best washing machine for your needs.
Decide on Type
Do you prefer loading and unloading laundry from the top of a washing machine rather than bending to get into a front-loading washing machine? You can buy a pedestal that boosts a front-loader’s height—making it easier—but you’ll pay $250 or more for the convenience.
Top-Load Washing Machine
Agitator models cost less and are faster than top-loading washing machines without an agitator, known as high-efficiency (HE) washing machines. Most HE washers are better at cleaning, gentler on fabrics, use less water, and have larger capacities. They also spin faster, which removes more water and cuts dryer time, although the spinning can tangle clothes. Note that some are very deep. When shopping reach in and imagine grabbing that last sock. If you need tongs, move on.
Front-Load Washing Machine
Front-load washing machines are usually the more expensive option. The best front-loaders clean better and are gentler than the best HE top-loading washing machines while using less water. Front-loaders take longer than HE top-loaders, but spin faster, extracting more water and trimming dryer time. The high-spin speed, combined with the way they spin, can cause some washing machines to vibrate. Concrete floors absorb vibrations well, unlike wood-framed floors. Note that some front-load washing machines develop mold, in part, from water collecting in the folds of the rubber gasket on the machine opening. Check our tips for preventing mold.
Size Up Your Space
Bigger capacities often result in a washing machine that’s two or three inches wider than the usual 27 inches; same with dryers. Measure the space you have to work with and allow at least 6 inches behind the washing machine for water hookups, and about an inch between the washer and dryer. Measure the doors to your home to make sure a new washing machine can fit through them.
If you’re putting your machines near bedrooms or the family room, consider ones that scored very good or better in our noise tests. You’ll know they’re working but they shouldn’t disturb you. And while most manufacturers have reduced the vibrations of front-load washing machines, take a close look at vibration scores in Consumer Reports Washing Machine Ratings Charts.
Count the Towels in Your Basket
Not everybody needs a washing machine that holds 28 full-size bath towels, which is what a washer with a 6.2 cubic-foot capacity should hold. A washer with a capacity between 4.2 and 5.1 cubic feet should hold 17 to 21 bath towels. At 3.3 to 4.2 cubic feet, 14 to 17 bath towels should fit. We no longer include capacity in the overall score because it’s your call how important the capacity is.
Five Fabulous Features
The more features, the higher the price. Take steam. Many mid- and high-priced washing machines have a steam setting. Choose a high-performing washing machine in your budget, then features that add convenience or save time. Here are five to look for.
- Automatic Dispensers
Designed to dispense detergent, bleach, and fabric softener at the right time, some washing machines can even hold up to several months’ worth of detergent.
- Automatic Temperature Control
Rather than simply mixing hot and cold water in preset proportions, auto temperature control adjusts the water to the optimal temperature for the setting selected.
- Extra Rinse Cycle
Front-loaders and high-efficiency top-loaders use a lot less water than agitator washing machines. Using the extra rinse cycle can help get rid of pet hair and other stubborn messes. The extra rinse also helps if your skin is sensitive to detergent residue.
- Stainless Steel Tub
They can withstand higher spin speeds, extracting more water and cutting dryer time.
- End-of-Cycle Signal
A snappy tune or string of beeps alerts you that it’s time to move your clean laundry from the washing machine to the dryer.