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A buyers' guide to washing machines

So you’re looking to invest in a brand new washing machine. You’ve begun to look online for your perfect make and model and narrow down your options.

But with the huge variety available, all with fandangled features and special selling points, you’re feeling a little, well, lost.

If this sounds like you, fear not – if you don't know a Bosch from a Miele, or a Hotpoint from an Indesit, we’re here to guide you through the comparison process. 

Once you start getting a better idea of which factors will influence your choice – from style to programs to special features – you’ll be ready to compare our great deals.

Types of washing machine

  • Front loader/front-loading: Front-loading washing machine styles will have a door on the front of the machine that opens outwards towards you. This is the most common style and is readily available online. If floor space is important to you, the front loading machine should be your go-to as you can stack a tumble dryer above to save space in your kitchen.
  • Top loader: Top loading models are far less common than they used to be, but can be great if you have back or knee problems as they don’t require you to stoop or kneel down to access the door. Top loaders are far less economical than front loaders as the drum has to be totally filled with water whereas a front loader only requires a third of the drum to be filled.
  • Integrated machine: Integrated models are fully covered by a door or covering which blends in with the rest of your appliances or kitchen units. When the door is close the machine will be completely hidden.
  • Semi-integrated machine: Semi-integrated machines are front loaders that blend in with the rest of your appliances or kitchen units with a door or cover covering the majority of the machine (controls are the only things still showing)
  • Washer dryer: This type of washing machine is ideal if you’re low on space and don’t have room for separate washer and dryer. They’re also ideal if you only do small washes and don’t want to invest in a full-size washing machine.

A washer dryer has all the functions of a washer but can take longer to dry clothes thanks to the restriction on load size and its smaller drum – you’ll often need to split a load in half to adequately dry it.

Washing machine features

Spin speed: Of course, the optimum spin speed is a high one; it’s more economical and will produce dryer clothes. This is an advantage particularly if you use a tumble dryer as the clothes will need less drying time after washing. The only downside to a high spin speed is that it’s often noisier and costs more, so consider your budget when you’re comparing spin speeds.

Most machines have a minimum of 2 spin speeds: 1000-1800 rpm (for cottons) or 400-800 rpm (for synthetics and delicates). A machine will usually select a spin speed based on the wash program you’ve selected but some will have a variable feature that you can select yourself.

Drum capacity: Drum capacity is an important feature to look out for, especially if you live in a busy household with lots of washing to do! Large drum sizes – up to 9kg – are brilliant for bulky items, such as curtains and towels, or family-sized loads.

Steam clean: A steam clean setting is perfect for those amongst us who hate picking up the iron after washing a load; this setting ensures fewer wrinkles or creases and a deeper clean for your clothes.

Size: It may sound obvious, but be sure to measure the space your new washing machine will need to fit into. You can find slim fit models for almost any space, so if you're designing a new kitchen space you may want to look at slim models first.

Washing machine temperature guide

  • 30 degrees: Currently the recommended temperature for energy efficient washing, using your washing machine at 30 degrees rather than 40 will save you money and help lower emissions from power stations. For optimum results use detergents that are designed to be used on lower temperature settings.
  • 40 degrees: The most common wash temperature, this is suitable for most everyday items: cotton, linen, viscose, acrylics, acetate and wool blends.
  • 50 degrees: The next setting up, this is suitable for polyester/cotton mixes, nylon, cotton and viscose. Most find a 40 degree wash adequate but if you have any clothes that are particularly stained or dirty, you may want to set your washing machine to 50.
  • 60 degrees: A 60 degree wash is suited to heavier items such as towels and bed linen, or heavily soiled items such as baby clothes.
  • 90 degrees: This is the hottest setting on conventional washing machines and is suitable for white cottons and linens.

Washing machine programmes

With such a huge selection of programs and features on modern day washing machines it’s easy to get confused about what they all do and just stick to one. However, this may mean that you’re not getting the optimum results from your washing machine. Here’s our lowdown on the most common settings you’ll find on both high-end and cheap washing machines:

In general terms, a wash can be split into four broad categories:

  • Cottons, which need a vigorous cycle
  • Synthetics, which should be washed on a gentler setting
  • Delicates, which are similar to synthetics but need a gentler wash
  • Woollens, which need lots of water and little friction

Quick wash: This handy setting is perfect if you’re in a rush. The wash usually lasts from 50-70 minutes and is best for clothes that aren’t too dirty. Some quick washes can take only 30 minutes but in this case you’d have to reduce your load size to around 1kg-3kg

Delicates/woollens: This is the setting best suited to silk or wool-blend clothing which often bobble on a normal setting. Wash any items labelled ‘pure new wool’, ‘washable’, ‘pre-shrunk’ or ‘non-matting’ on the woollen cycle. All other wool items should be cleaned on the handwash setting.

Handwash program: Use the handwash program for delicates such as angora, silk and cashmere to prevent damage or shrinkage.

Economy wash: An economy wash is brilliant if you only want to wash a few items and don’t want to put on a full load. It also saves money by using less water and electricity.

Quiet mode/silent: Looking for a silent wash to chug away while you sleep? There are some amazingly good quiet modes out there on the latest machines.

Energy efficiency

Washing machines have an EU-rated energy efficiency rating from A-G, A being the most economical and G being the least. 

Some retailers also have top of the range washing machines: A+, A++ and A+++, that are even more efficient than A-rated models.

  • A+ models achieve up to 10% reduction in energy consumption compared with A models.
  • A++ models can reduce this by up to 20%.
  • A+++ models can save you up to 30% compared with A models. 

Manufacturers grade their own products and Trading Standards monitor standardized tests across the industry. Sometimes the more expensive the model, the higher graded it will be in terms of energy efficiency and the more energy-saving features there’ll be, such as timed delays and temperature settings or technology to adjust settings during the spin cycle. 

This isn’t to say that a cheap washing machine won’t be energy efficient; many cheaper machines will feature a pressure switch to gauge the size of the load and vary the amount of water needed, or they’ll have a half load setting for smaller and shorter loads.

What next?

Having narrowed down your search for the perfect washing machine to suit your needs refine your search further on our shopping pages with the settings in the left column.

After clicking a deal you'll be transferred to your selected retailer's website, where you can click through to buy or simply check out the specs and compare prices.

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