- Washing Machines Buyers Guide
Washing Machines Buyers Guide
You can now buy washing machines with large capacity drums, so you won’t have to lug duvets to the launderette. But, if you don’t regularly do large wash loads, you’ll be wasting energy with a large capacity machine.
What type of washing machine should I go for?
Here we focus on washing machines (see below for information on washer dryers). Front loading, freestanding washing machines are the type most widely bought.
You can still find a few top loading models but there aren’t many around and they are awkward if your machine is stored beneath a work surface.
|front loading||top loading|
Built-in models are hidden behind a cabinet door as part of an integrated kitchen. But if hiding your washing machine is not important to you, go for a free standing model. Built-in models are smaller, cost around twice as much and there aren’t many to choose from.
What do the energy ratings on washing machines mean?
The energy rating scheme is supported by government and industry to highlight the most energy-efficient models. A-rated machines are the most efficient and G-rated models are the least efficient although now you are unlikely to find a model rated lower than a C. Always opt for an energy efficient washing machine (with an A+, A or a B rating) or look out for the Energy Saving Trust’s recommended logo
Not only will you be doing your bit for the environment but you will save yourself money on your electricity bill.
Should I opt for a large capacity machine?
Typically, most washing machines can wash a 6kg load of washing, which is ample for most people. But you can buy some with the capacity to wash loads of between 7 to 10kgs. This is useful if you want to wash duvets or curtains or if you have a large household as washing one large load is more energy efficient than doing two smaller loads. But remember, if you do not fill the machine up, you are wasting water and energy. When washing delicates, such as woollens, you are less likely to make use of the large capacity drum.
What are the most useful programs?
All machines offer standard wash programs like 30, 40 and 60 degree washes, which are most widely used. But some offer extra programs, like quick wash or freshen-up programs, hand-wash, delicates, extra rinse (see ‘Glossary’, below for explanations). These can be useful, for example, if someone in your family has an allergy to detergent, an extra rinse cycle will remove more detergent from your washing. However, an extra rinse uses more water, of course, so don’t use this program unless you really need to. If you think you will find any of these programs useful choose a model that has them. But don’t buy a machine with lots of programs if, like most people, you only use standard programs as you pay extra for them. Some models allow you to tailor programs to your wash type by adjusting the temperature, wash time and spin speed, which can have the same effect as special programs.
What maximum spin speed should I get?
Most models spin at 1,200rpm. Models with higher spin speeds of 1,600 or 1,800 rpm will produce dryer clothes but they will be more creased. This is an advantage if you use a tumble dryer as they will need less time in the dryer. But models with high spin speeds tend to cost more to buy and are noisier. Variable spin speed lets you change the spin speed for different washes, for example to protect delicates from damage. This is useful if your machine’s default spin speed is higher than 1,000rpm.
What features make using a washing machine easier?
Models with wide doors that open 180 degrees make it easier to load and unload your washing. And if bending down is tricky, the higher the door height the better. Also, make sure the detergent drawer is wide enough to easily poor in your washing powder or liquid.
Is there an advantage to having an electronic display or touch screen control?
These show what stage your washing is at and how long your wash program has left to run, which can be useful. Some machines have liquid crystal display (LCD) touch screens instead of dials and buttons. While they look more impressive, they aren’t necessarily easier to operate. It’s best to try them out first and decide whether you think they are worth paying for.
What is a noise level rating
Most machines are allocated a noise level rating which is measured in decibels (db) during the spin cycle. If you have an open plan house, choosing a quiet machine is a good idea – machines rated at around 50 db will be on the quieter side while those rated at around 70 db will be noisier.
Should I get a hot-fill or cold-fill washing machine?
Most washing machines are cold-fill only – where the water is heated to the appropriate temperature inside the machine rather than via the boiler. This is more energy efficient at temperatures below 50 degrees and helps to prevent clothes shrinkage. However, if you do a lot of washing at 60 or 90 degrees, it may be more economical to get a hot-fill machine.
I live in a hard water area. Should I use water softening tablets in my washing machine?
Yes, these help prevent the build-up of lime scale on the heating element and inside the machine. You can also use less detergent with water softening tablets as they make the water lather more.
What maintenance do washing machines need?
Filters need to be cleaned regularly. Make sure they are easy to find and to remove for cleaning. You also need to wash the detergent drawer regularly to prevent it from clogging up. Wipe around the rubber door seal ring with light bleach cleaners or sprays. Manufacturers recommend you do at least one high temperature wash at 60 degrees or above a month to help clean the machine and remove any bacteria or mould that may have built up.
Should I buy a washer dryer?
If you have enough space for a separate washing machine and a separate tumble dryer, then buy both instead of getting a washer dryer. Good washer dryers are expensive to buy and can cost more than buying a good washing machine and a good tumble dryer. The drying facility of a washer-dryer is awkward. This is because you can’t get a whole wash load into the dryer, so you have to take half of it out and do two separate dry loads. That is unless you only wash half a load. Added to that, reliability surveys carried out by consumer watchdog Which? show that washer dryers are one of the most unreliable household products, so the chances are, you will need a visit from a repairer which could be costly.
However, if you don’t have enough space for both machines, a washer dryer may be your only option. If so, spend as much as you can afford on one – ideally go for a really good make like a Miele. If you can’t quite stretch that far, make sure you get an extended warranty!
Anti-leak protection or aquastop: A device which cuts the water supply to the washing machine if it breaks down to help prevent flooding.
Child locks: These are useful if your kids can’t resist the temptation to press buttons or twist dials. But even if you don’t have children, it stops you accidentally rewashing a load by accidentally knocking the buttons.
Delayed start: This allows you to set the machine to come on at a later time, but you can also use a timer switch to do this if you don’t have a delayed start feature. However, remember that for safety reasons it is best to be at home when your machine is on and not asleep, unless you have a smoke alarm fitted close to the machine and an aquastop device.
Extra rinse program: This can be useful if for example you are washing lots of towels which absorb a lot of water, or if someone in your family as an allergy to detergent as the extra rinse will get rid of more detergent.
Hand wash/silk wash/ delicate wash: These are more gentle programs that wash at low temperatures with low spin speeds to protect delicate fabrics.
Quick wash or freshen-up programs: This is really for clothes that aren’t really dirty but just need a rinse to rid them of any odours. Using this program can save energy and is also useful if you need to wash something quickly.
Sensors: Some premium machines have automatic sensors that weigh the wash load and calculate the amount of water needed. Some can also detect the amount of detergent used and introduce an extra spin cycle if needed.
Variable spin speed:
This lets you vary the spin speed which is useful to protect delicate items, such as woollens, from damage. It is useful if the default spin speed on your machine is higher than 1,000rpm.