Product Selection Guide

Washing Machines Buying Guide

Washing Machines
  • Getting Started

  • Just like any other appliance you would buy for your home, you need to take a number of things into consideration when choosing a washing machine. There are tons of options so the possibilities are endless.

  • Types

  • Top-loaders are the more traditional, less expensive route. While these can be your basic dials and two wash cycles, they can also be far more advanced, having touch screens and offering over ten wash cycles. Another plus is that they are easy to add forgotten items after the cycle has started and have faster regular wash and rinse cycles. Also, they require minimal routine care and cleaning and you load and unload from a standing position, with less bending and no kneeling. Some things to consider though, is top loaders use a lot of water and require longer dry times due to clothes retaining a good amount of water after the spin cycle. Also, they offer small capacities, usually about 4 cubic feet and more wear and tear on clothing due to the central agitator.

    Front-loaders became popular a few years ago, mostly because of their larger wash capacity. Washers moved from having an average of 3.6 cubic feet of space to anywhere between 3.9 to 5.1 cubic feet. That seems like a minor improvement. But in some cases, it meant that you no longer had to go to a laundromat to wash your comforters or large blankets. You could use the large-capacity washer in the comfort of your own home. Many top-loading washers have expanded capacity now, but most still don’t have the amount of space as front-loading machines. Front-loaders are sleek and boast much of the newest washing technology like steam and advanced settings. Some front-load washers are stackable, giving you all of the space you could need or want. These washers are energy efficient and use less water when compared to top loaders. Also, there is additional storage space underneath the machine if placed on a pedestal and optional steam sanitation feature for a deeper clean.

    High-efficiency top-loaders combine the utility-saving technologies of front-load washers with the familiar exterior design of a top-load machine. Although on the inside you won't see a large central agitator, you will find a dispenser for detergent and other agents. Most high-efficiency top-load washers position the settings on a raised panel behind the lid, but some models place them in a flat control panel in front of the lid for convenience. During the cycle, the wash tub doesn't fill entirely with water like a standard top-load machine would. Instead, sensors automatically determine the amount of water needed for that load (which will be shallow). Different brands then use different washing actions and a concentrated detergent solution to wash the clothes and high-pressure spray to rinse them for effective, water-efficient cleaning. These washers offer more capacity for your money than front-load washers and use less water than a standard top-load machine. They also have faster spin speeds which reduce time and energy spent drying clothes and have a greater capacity size than a standard top-load machine.They offer more gentle treatment of clothing than an agitator washer and you load and unload from a standing position, so no bending or kneeling. High-efficiency top-loaders have a higher initial purchase price than a standard top-load washer and may not be able to wash waterproof items, as they can cause the washer to unbalance (varies by brand). Also, high-efficiency detergent is required and some routine care and cleaning will be needed.

    High-efficiency front-loaders turned the washtub on its side and introduced a major change to washer design, and first enabled a host of new technology and water / energy saving advances. Inside, the drum features short paddles or fins perpendicular to the sides, and spins vertically, much like a dryer. The control panel is positioned on the front for easy access, as is a pull-out drawer containing the dispenser for detergent and other agents. As the washer begins the cycle, it automatically determines how much water is needed for that load — which can be half that used by a standard top-load washer — and mixes the detergent with water to create a concentrated solution. As the drum begins to spin, the clothes are lifted to the top of the drum by the fins, and then fall back into the water to loosen and drive out soils. These washers offer the greatest potential for utility savings,  less water usage than a standard top-load machine, faster spin speeds that reduce time and energy spent drying clothes, and greater capacity sizes than a standard top-load machine. Some other great things about these washers are they have the best cleaning capability, including bulky items and do the least wear and tear on clothing. Also, with the ability to stack the matching dryer, there will be tons of floor space saved. Although these washers do have tons of pluses, there are some negatives. Such as a higher initial purchase price than a standard top-load washer and high-efficiency detergent is required. Also, loading and unloading requires bending and/or kneeling, or the extra purchase of a pedestal to raise the washer up. Some routine care and cleaning is needed as well, more so than top-load washers.

    Laundry centers are most commonly found in apartments and condos where space is at a minimum. They have a smaller wash capacity, averaging at about 1.5 cubic feet, and are an excellent option for people who want to be able to clean their clothes in their homes but don’t have the space for a designated laundry room.

    Compact washers have small capacities and are designed mostly for those who have serious space limitations. They don't have the wide range of washing options that standard top-load washers do, but compact washers are utilitarian in that they will clean your clothes without taking up much space in your home. They can be stacked with some front-load compact dryers.

    Washer-dryer combinations are much more popular in Europe than they are in the United States, so you have probably not encountered them. The washer-dryer combination is an all-in-one machine that washes your clothes and then dries them as well. It's convenient and takes up about half of the space a set of separate washer and dryer would. One possible downside is that some consumers complain that clothes feel damp, even after being dried.

  • Features

  • Wash cycles- Most standard washers have just a few basic wash cycles, including normal, permanent press, heavy duty and delicate. More advanced washing machines offer an array of specialized cycles, such as prewash, wool, bedding, baby care, sports, towels, activewear, quick wash and others. These settings adjust water temperatures and spin speeds to suit a wide range of fabric types and soil levels.

    Water levels- Standard top-loaders offer a few options for water levels, leaving you to estimate the volume of water needed for a load (and rounding up to make sure it's enough). High-efficiency washers, however, will automatically adjust to use only the amount of water that’s necessary. The water level is based on the weight of clothing in the load and the cycle you have selected (some cycles such as bulky or heavy soil typically use more water than others).

    Automatic temperature control- Every washer will at least have cold, warm, and hot settings for the wash cycle, but most basic washing machines are limited to the temperatures coming from your water heater and your water main. To counter this, more and more washers feature automatic temperature control, in which an internal thermostat checks the water coming in and adjusts the appropriate valves as needed, ensuring it isn't too hot for your fabrics or too cold for the detergent to work properly. This technology is particularly useful for cold wash cycles in colder seasons and climates.

    Quiet settings- Many washers now include special sensors that will keep the wash load balanced as the drum spins at high speeds which makes the washer operate quietly. Some manufacturers even claim their washers are silent. This is a great feature for any home because no one likes noisy appliances.

    Antibacterial wash cycle- These use more advanced internal heating mechanisms to heat the water to the proper temperature to kill bacteria and then maintain that temperature throughout the wash cycle. They kill 99.9% of bacteria and are something to really consider because you can never be too clean.

    Steam- Many washers now come (standard) with steam-cleaning technology. The steam gently penetrates fabrics to remove, dirt, oil, odors, and wrinkles without damaging the clothing.

    Touch screens- Instead of the traditional dials or buttons, some newer washers come with touch screens. This isn’t hardly a standard option, but it is definitely on the rise. If you’re looking to fill your home with smart appliances, these washers should for sure be on your wish list.

    Advanced timers- Many washers now feature both speed-wash settings and delayed start settings. Most speed settings will wash clothes in less than 20  minutes. The delayed start is a cool option that allows you to preprogram what time your washer will start to cycle. So if you’re going to work all day but need to wash a load, you can set it to start right before you come home so you don’t have wet clothes sitting all day….gross.

  • Required Accessories

  • Water hoses- Not all washing machines include the necessary fill hoses, so be sure to reference the product detail page. If the hoses aren’t  included, or if only rubber hoses come with it, you should consider upgrading to braided stainless steel. Hoses contend with a great deal of water pressure, and steel is much more resistant and reliable, whereas rubber becomes susceptible to bursting as it ages (a common cause for water damage in homes). If you do use rubber hoses with your washer, they should be replaced every five years.

    High-efficiency detergent- If you are purchasing a high-efficiency washer, then high-efficiency detergent is a necessity. The high-efficiency version is low-sudsing to match the lower water levels used by high-efficiency washers. Regular detergent can actually prevent your clothes from getting clean, fail to rinse properly, overburden the washer's pump or damage the machine and it could even void the warranty. “HE” detergent also keeps soils and dyes suspended in the low water volume so they don't redeposit on your clothes.

  • Recommended accessories/services

  • Stacking kit- If you’re wanting to stack your laundry pair, then you will need a stacking kit to provide the necessary stability. Look for the kit that's compatible with your specific front-load washer and dryer models.

    Pedestals- A  pedestal raises your front-load washer or dryer off the floor to a much more convenient height, so you don’t have the chore of bending over. Most pedestals also include a storage drawer to make good use of the space. You will need to look for the pedestal that's compatible with your specific front-load washer or dryer model (and in the matching color).

    Washer cleaner- These products are made to remove odor-causing residues which can build up inside your washer. They're safe to use with all front-load and top-load wash.

  • Summary

  • A washer is one of the long-lasting appliances you’re gonna buy for your home, so be considerate of all the options when purchasing yours. There are ample options and finishes, so you can definitely find the best fit for you with the right guidance and patience.