Unless you live next door to a launderette, then owning a washing machine is certain to keep your clothes clean without any hassle.
Whether you’re shopping for your first washing machine, replacing a broken one or searching for something more up-to-date, there are a few key questions you need to ask yourself.
In this Buyer’s Guide, we’ll run you through those questions and explain the key facts you must consider when buying a washing machine and we’ll simplify some of the complicated terms you might come across.
Why would I buy a washing machine rather than a washer-dryer?
This is an important question to answer from the off. If you’re limited on space, and want a drying function, then a standalone washer won’t meet your needs.
If you do have room for both though, despite the extra total cost, the options available to you will be greater and in general you’ll find separate machines will be more energy efficient and may last longer.
Those with a large family or young children may also appreciate the flexibility of being able to wash a load while drying another at the same time.
How big should my washing machine be?
Capacity is the first thing to consider. This can range from 5kg, large enough for a single person model right up to massive 12kg, ideal for larger families.
Generally, when you’re talking about machines with a drum size of between 5kg and 9kg, they will come in a standard size of 60cm wide and height of 85cm – but it is advisable to measure the space available first.
However, LG & Hotpoint do make washing machines with a capacity of 11kg that are exactly the same size as standard ones, they just squeeze in a larger drum.
What size you go for depends on how much washing you need to do. The larger the drum, the more clothes and fabrics it will fit, so large families should look upwards of 9kg.
A general rule of thumb is 1kg is the same as five men’s shirts while at 11kg, you’d have enough room for a thick king-size duvet.
Single people and couples without children can still take advantage of having the extra space for the future as many of today’s machines offer half-load options or have automatic load sensors to detect the weight of the laundry and adjust the length of the programme and water. This saves time, water and energy.
A bigger load will obviously save you water against doing lots of smaller loads and with an 11kg model versus 7kg, you’ll wash seven times less per month.
What speed should I be choosing?
Often also known as RPM, spin can go from 1000 to 1800 and will determine how dry your clothes come out. For every extra 200RPM the clothes come out approximately 14% drier.
If you go for a fast top speed, don’t worry about it being noisier than a lower one. Manufacturers are now reducing noise through extra quiet programs, anti-vibration and using different motors.
This can allow it to run through the night for example, and it won’t wake a child or your neighbours. Machines running at less than 50 decibels can run without disturbance. The decibel level is shown on your energy label.
Do not be put off buying a higher spin thinking it will damage your clothes, this is not the case, as special programs such as hand wash, woollens and delicates, will select the maximum speed for the cycle suitable for the fabric regardless of the machine’s top speed.
Can I set my machine to start at a certain time?
Research shows this is now the third most important thing people consider when buying a washing machine.
Being able to set it to come on later in the day is increasingly important, for those who want it washing while they’re at work ready for when they get home – or overnight when, for some households, electricity is cheaper. Some machines can have up to a 24-hour time delay.
How energy efficient is a washing machine?
Most machines are now A-rated doing as much as they can to save power and water. The highest machine is currently A+++, which is 30% more efficient than an A-rated machine.
You will find many machines have special programs to reduce the time and water needed for a wash.
Does the brand matter?
You will tend to get what you pay for. Brands like Miele are designed to last up to 20 years and that is why they cost far more. Cheaper models may not last as long.
What other settings/features should I look for?
The standard features such as economy, light load, hand wash, wool wash, super rinse, extra rinse, rinse and hold and variable temperatures will be common on all machines. Most will also beep when the washing is finished.
Here are a few of the other most popular and useful ones:
- Quick Wash - Designed for use if you have only worn something once, and just to refresh the clothes and save energy, usually at a reduced capacity.
- Sport - These will wash weatherproof jackets and other sporting items such as trainers.
- Denim - Some Miele machines have a special denim program to keep jeans looking new for longer.
- Reduced Creasing - If you hate ironing, this is handy. The machine will spin in such a way that the clothes will emerge less creased.
- Intensive - A program to get even the most soiled clothes clean.
- Memory Mode - Cleverly, this can remember your favourite cycle choices for the next time you use it.
Anything else to consider?
If you are in a hard water area, look to use tablets and liquids that can help descale the machine and keep it working properly for longer.
If you are looking for an integrated machine then this will narrow down your choice as they are specific to fit behind cupboard doors but most will have many of the features described here.
Child locks are crucial for people with young kids. These will prevent the door being opened while wider doors can make it easier for the elderly or disabled to load their machines.
Finally, some models will have a small screen display that can show you how long is left of a wash and what part of the cycle is running. Others will do this using lights. Alongside this is the type of controls you want from basic dials and buttons right up to a larger screen. That last one might sound complicated but actually it can be far easier and more intuitive to use than a dial.
What are steam washing machines?
A new technology, these are available from both LG, Hotpoint, AEG, Hoover and Whirpool and wash, as the name suggests, using steam.
Major benefits include less creased clothes so less ironing, excellent removal of stains, greater power to kill germs and sterilise clothes and quick refresh cycles that leave clothes ready to wear again in just 20 minutes.
- Spin Efficiency Grade – A specific spin rating to show how good it is with A the best and G the worst.
- Wash Grade – Similar to the spin one this again is based on an A-G scale.
- Energy Recommended – A washing machine the Energy Saving Trust deems as being good for the environment.