Washing Machine Buying Guide

Picture of a washing machine with the soap drawer open
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When you’re in the market for a new washing machine you want to make sure you can get the best possible machine for the budget you have available. Depending on the amount you have to spend you may be able to get everything you want feature-wise or you might have to make compromises depending on what is most important. For example, there would be no point getting a great deal on price only to find the unit is so noisy it makes your life hell.

Below are a list of the key points we think you’ll want to consider whilst reading our best washing machine reviews on the following pages.

 

1. Capacity / Drum Size

The standard capacity for a washing machine is 6kg (although some are 5kg). This will be adequate for a small household but most of our best-selling machines have a larger capacity than this. A 7kg machine will probably be more suited to a small family and an 8kg to a larger family (4 people+). Having a larger capacity will bePicture of washing machine drum preferable for most people as you can get more washing in therefore you need to undertake the boring task of doing the laundry less frequently. The only possible downside could be that a model with a larger capacity would use more electricity and water so is less Eco-friendly for smaller loads so look out for units that also offer a half-load facility.

One other thing you need to bear in mind is, if you’re also considering buying a tumble dryer or already own one, you’ll ideally want to try to match the capacity. If your dryer can’t handle the same volume as your washer, you’ll either have to remove some clothes before drying (very tedious) or risk ending up with damp clothes at the end of the cycle (also very tedious).

2. Ease of Use

It goes without saying that you want your new appliance to be easy to use but that doesn’t necessarily mean it will be. If you, like me, have never actually looked at the instructions and simply ‘figure things out’ from looking at the dials and buttons, you really don’t want things to be too complex. The majority of machines we see nowadays have been designed with simplicity in mind but you do see one or two where existing buyers have commented on the complexity of the programmes and this is always a worry. Where possible we’ll always try to flag up whether we, or other buyers, have found a machine to be tricky to use.

3. Running Cost

Running cost is certainly an area most people are concerned about when they upgrade their appliances. It would be a false economy to save £10 on the original purchase price only to find out that you’ll pay an extra £30 a year in electricity. Where possible (and where the data is available from the manufacturer) we’ll always try to list the approximate annual usage cost of each machine. Most new, and fairly efficient, models will cost you between £25 – £50 to run per year. This obviously depends on how much you use the machine and quite how greedy your energy supplier is (on a scale from ‘Very’ to ‘Breathtakingly Croesus-like’). As a general guide though these figures should prove fairly accurate for the average household. Keep an eye out for the running cost rating as part of each review too.

4. Noise Level

Picture of a Use Hearing Protection warning signHow quiet a washer is is a big deal for many buyers. If you are lucky enough to live in a huge house you probably couldn’t care less but if you live in a small flat this will almost certainly be an issue. Washing machines tend to be at their noisiest during the spin cycle so this is the thing you need to look out for. We’ll try to always give you a figure for actual decibels if it’s available not that this will mean anything to you at all. As a very rough guide the quietest washing machine on spin will be something like 65 dB and anything up to 78 dB should be fairly quiet.

5. Number of Programmes / Functions

This is an area that tends to split buyers down the middle. Some (mostly men, admittedly) couldn’t care less about programmes as they always use the same ‘daily quick’ wash and have literally no idea what the others settings are even for. As long as you buy a half-decent machine then you won’t go too far wrong with this strategy (assuming your clothes aren’t heavily soiled).

For other buyers the amount and variety of options is critical. As a general rule you’ll find programmes that cater to cottons, synthetics, delicates and woollens. Cottons require the most intensive cleansing with the others all needing more delicate handling.

If this is an area that will be key to your purchasing decision we suggest, once you’ve got your shortlist of models selected, you check either the various manufacturers’ websites or that  of your chosen retailer to get the detailed specifications for each machine. We tend not to go into too much detail about programmes and functions as it can over-complicate our reviews for many readers who are looking for more of an overview.

6. Quality of Wash

This almost seems to obvious to mention but some machines do, of course, wash better than others. Having said that most modern machines, certainly the ones we tend to review, do a very good job when it comes to getting clothes clean. The key points to bear in mind are the temperature at which your wash runs and the length of the programme. Using hot water will always tend to deliver better results, especially when it comes to removing stains however using high temperatures uses more energy and therefore costs you more. Long programmes similarly will use more energy. Some machines, such as the Ecobubble range from Samsung, use clever technology to mimic the results of hot washes at much lower temperatures (as low as 15°) and these are well worth a look if your budget allows as they tend to be a little more expensive.

We would suggest, before you make your final decision, check the buyer reviews on your chosen retailer’s site to see if any existing owners complain about poor wash quality. For the most part, we think, you’ll not find any real problems or complaints.

7. Energy Efficiency

Picture of EU energy rating graphicMost white goods, including washing machines, are subject to the EU Energy Labelling scheme which is designed to give customers an idea of how energy efficient products are. As of 2010 this has been based on what is known as the energy efficiency index (EEI), and awards ratings ranging from A+++ (the most efficient) down to D. According to Wikipedia “The EEI is a measure of the annual electricity consumption, and includes energy consumed during power-off and standby modes, and the energy consumed in 220 washing cycles. For the washing cycles, a weighted mix consisting of 42% full-load cycles at 60 °C, 29% partial-load cycles at 60 °C, and 29% partial-load cycles at 40 °C.”  You can read more here.

Most washers these days are pretty efficient and the majority of the ones we review tend to have an A rating or above. We would say anything in this range should be fine to buy. If you’re particularly concerned about this you might want to consider one of our A+++ rated options.

8. LED / LCD Display

Picture of Samsung LED screenThis may sound like something you could care less about however we would recommend you should ideally choose a model that offers
an LED or LCD screen. The reason is these can provide useful info, for example, how long a programme still has to run. Sometimes you want to unload a clean wash before going out and it’s a pain if you can’t figure out how long it has to go. It’s not an essential feature but we would always say to have it if you can.

9. Spin Speed

Washing machine spin speeds vary between 1000 – 1600 RPM (revolutions per minute). The majority of the machines we review tend to have a max spin speed of 1200 or 1400 RPM.

Why is it important? Put simply, the faster the spin speed the more water will be extracted meaning clothes will be easier to dry, either on a line or in a tumble dryer. With the latter obviously ‘time = money’ so the less time you can have your dryer running the better for your wallet (and the environment of course).

Most machines will have at least 2 spin speeds and will select the most appropriate one based on the programme selected – cottons for example benefit from extra spinning to remove as much water as possible before drying. Synthetic materials wouldn’t require as much spinning to achieve a similar level or moisture reduction.

Picture of a washer dryerWasher Dryer Buying Guide

Thinking about maybe buying a combination machine instead? Check out this page to read our tips for buying a washer dryer as an alternative.

Picture of a Tumble DryerTumble Dryer Buying Guide

If you’re considering buying a tumble dryer to complement your shiny new washing machine take a look at this section for pointers and make sure you get the best model.

Picture of a built in washing machine

Thinking of buying built-in units? Read our Integrated Appliance Buying Guide here