Washing machine buying guide: Everything you need to know
Washing machine technology has developed considerably since it was first popularised. The modern washer comes in a range of shapes, sizes, and capabilities. If you’re in the market for one, making sense of the available options might seem difficult – read on and we’ll help you narrow things down.
What Size Washing Machine Do I need?
The size of your washing machine should be directly proportionate to the amount of clothes you need to wash. The size of a washing machine’s drum is measured in kilograms, with the smallest being around 5kg and the largest being around 12kg. This number is based on the quantity of dry laundry you can fit inside the machine.
Washing machines, contrary to popular belief, work best when the drum is filled to the set limit of the program. A drum that’s excessively large will cost more to buy and run – and if the drum is under-loaded then the weight won’t be evenly distributed, causing the clothes to either bang against the side of the drum as it spins, or causing the machine to refuse to spin altogether.
On the other hand, if you cram too much laundry into your machine, there’s a danger that the pressure of water might build to the extent that the door breaks open, putting the entire machine out of action (and possibly spraying glass fragments across the floor). Fortunately, this possibility is a remote one – and typically only results when heavy clothes are jammed in extremely tightly.
Is A Bigger Drum Size Always Better?
You might be tempted to buy a washing machine with a huge drum capacity, on the logic that it’s better to have a big drum just in case you need it. This isn’t necessarily the case. A bigger drummed washing machine isn’t just more expensive to buy, it is more expensive to run as well since even on its ‘half load’ cycle it will use a lot more water.
It will also require more electricity to run, so if you’re not filling the machine you’re wasting money each time you run it. Of course, if you do have to do a lot of washing, you would be better off with a bigger washing machine, since a smaller number of bigger loads will cost less to run than several smaller loads.
Is a Faster Spin Always better?
Another consideration is how quickly the washing machine is able to spin. Spin speeds are listed as maximums, and vary from 1,000rpm to 1,800rpm. This maximum speed is reached at the end of the wash program, in order to force the water out of your clothes. You’ll have to pay a premium for the higher speeds – and they’ll inevitably create more noise.
In terms of real-world performance, faster maximum spins don’t necessarily translate to superior performance – slower machines often outperform their faster counterparts, because a larger portion of the production costs have been poured into developing other parts of the machine. So, while it’s important to take note of a machine’s spin speed, it’s by no means the only thing you should be looking at.
What are the differences between integrated and freestanding washing machines?
Washing machines tend to come in one of two configurations; there are integrated washing machines and there are freestanding ones. If you’d like your washing machine to make minimal impact on your kitchen or utility room, then the integrated option might be best. These machines are made to sit behind a cupboard door, allowing them to blend seamlessly into their surroundings.
Freestanding washing machines, on the other hand, are designed to sit on their own. They tend to be a little bit larger than integrated washing machines, and can be installed anywhere there’s a plug socket and a suitable drain. Most washing machines installed in British homes are of the freestanding variety – there’s a greater range of drum sizes available, and the installation costs tend to be lower, too.
How Noisy Should a Washing Machine Be?
The volume of a washing machine will depend on a myriad of factors. Faster spins mean more noise, meaning that your washer will get louder during the spin cycle. If you’re concerned about noise, then consider placing your machine somewhere out of the way. Integrated washing machines tend to be quieter than freestanding one because there’s an extra layer of insulation in front of them – but if you’re moving your washing machine somewhere closer to where you spend your time, this is likely to be a net loss in terms of noise pollution.
Should You Buy a Washer Dryer Combo?
Washer dryer combos are one of the most efficient household appliances available today. When choosing between a washer dryer combo and a separate washing machine and tumble dryer, there are definitely some advantages and disadvantages of each that should be considered, depending on your living situation.
Advantages of Washer Dryer Combos
Energy efficient – combo machines use less electricity than separates.
Easy to use – what draws most people to buy a washer dryer is that they’re incredibly easy to use. Many are equipped with timers, allowing you to start a washing cycle whenever you choose. Another added benefit is there is no changeover from washer to dryer, meaning you can set it once and have a full load of washing complete from start to finish, in one go.
Range of options – despite being just one device, combo units come in many varieties and load capacities. Specific functions may vary depending on the model, which is why it’s important to consider your needs before purchasing one.
Saves space – since there’s only one unit, they take up half the space of separate washer dryers.
Common Washer Dryer Misconceptions
Washer dryer technology has come a long way since the machines were first launched in the early 1950s. A lot of problems that the units originally faced have disappeared since, but some misconceptions from this time remain.
Time-consuming – while it’s great that you can wash and dry your clothes in the same unit, when the combos were first introduced they notoriously took hours to dry a single load. Now, more modern units benefit from technology that allows them to dry laundry in as little as 45 minutes, depending on their capacity.
Uses up more energy – people assume that because there are typically more features on a washer dryer combo, they require more energy to run, but in fact the opposite is usually true.
Disadvantages of Washer Dryer Combos
Although there are many benefits to washer dryers, there are also some drawbacks that you should bear in mind before you make the decision to switch:
Wait time – if you’re looking to do more than one load of washing, you’ll have to wait for the first load to completely wash and dry before you wash another. This could lead to a longer wash time than your traditional washer and dryer system.
Small dry load – washer dryers have a smaller load capacity for drying than washing. It’s worth bearing this in mind since you’ll need to either remove some laundry before using the drying function, or wash a smaller load in the first place.
Water Usage – some models use more water for drying than for washing the clothes (up to 60 litres of water in a single wash). Some dryers don’t use any water in their drying function, but they come at a premium.
Should You Buy a Front Loading or Top Loading Washing Machine?
Both washing machine designs have their benefits. If you are replacing an existing machine then you may not have much choice because you will likely want a like-for-like design to match the layout of your kitchen or laundry room. If you’re buying for the first time and have the flexibility to build whatever layout you want, then you have more options. The narrower, lighter design of top loaders may appeal to you if you are making a specialist laundry room and want the convenience of not needing to kneel down or bend over to load the machine.
Top loading washing machines, traditionally, had bigger wash capacities, although this tends not to be the case these days as manufacturers are increasingly starting to offer front-loaders with capacities of 8kg or more.
Front loading washing machines are slightly bulkier, but they offer better washing performance using less water. They also use less energy and can achieve a better wash with less detergent. If energy efficiency is a priority for you, then a front loader is a good choice.
How energy efficient is a washing machine?
Washing machines, like many other modern appliances, are rated on a lettered scale, with D being the worst and A+++ being the best. If you’re buying a new machine today, you’ll find that the available options are typically rated A or above.
These ratings are arrived at based on a cotton cycle at 60°C with the machine’s maximum declared load, and calculated per kilogram of washing. You therefore won’t need to consider how much is being washed – because that’s already been considered for you.
In order to decrease the amount of water and electricity you’re using for your wash, be sure to use a full load every time. You’ll want to wash at a cooler temperature where possible – a wash at 30°C will use significantly less energy than a hotter wash. Special washing powders and detergents are available now which are designed to get the best from cold washes – and so if you find that some stains won’t budge without more heat, consider making the switch to these detergents.
A guide to washing machine spin speeds
Washing machines work by spraying detergent and hot water into a porous drum in which clothes are being continually rotated. This rotation ensures that your clothes are uniformly washed. When the wash cycle finishes, the spin cycle will follow. This is designed to remove as much water from the washed clothes as possible, so you’re removing damp rather than soaking wet items from the machine.
Washing machines generally spin at between 1200 and 1800rpm, but changes in the rotation speed will affect the washing cycle in several ways. Let’s take a look at the different spin speeds, and why they matter.
Advantages of higher spin speeds
Higher spin speeds mean your clothes will take less time to dry. All that motion releases moisture from the fabrics, which means faster speeds are useful to those with limited space in which to dry their clothes.
Not only that, but because your clothes will emerge dryer on a faster cycle, they won’t require as much time in the tumble dryer. This energy saving will more than offset the slightly elevated energy consumption of a drum with a quicker spin. In this sense, a faster washing machine will save you both time and energy in the long run.
Is a higher speed always better?
Different materials will benefit from slightly different spin speeds. It’s therefore worth taking a look at your wardrobe, and seeing which items will benefit from a higher spin speed. If you have a lot of durable cotton items (or a few cotton items which see a lot of use), then it’s worth investing in a faster machine.
Higher spin speeds also tend to produce more creases. This means if your wash includes a lot of shirts, you’ll want to use a lower speed, and save on ironing time!
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Will high spin speeds damage clothes?
One argument against higher spin speeds is that they’re supposedly more caustic, since they’re moving your items around the machine more violently. In the case of delicate items, like silk or items with lots of embellishment, this might be so. For cottons and bulky items like towels, however, this isn’t a problem.
If you’re in the slightest doubt, check the label of the item you’re washing. You’ll often find that labels on silk items recommend washing speeds of around 400rpm for a 6kg load. Those on cotton items, however, will likely suggest speeds up to four times that.
In some machines, particularly in older models that rely on belt-driven technology, a higher spin speed will generally mean a reduced lifespan for the machine.
Conclusion - which washing machine is right for you?
Before you examine the washing machines in your price range, you’ll want to first consider the weight of your weekly laundry when it’s dry, as well as the drying facilities you have available. Once you’ve got an idea of what you need, you’ll be able to shop accordingly – and in doing so you’ll likely make a more informed decision.