Washing machines are one of the hardest appliances to shop for. They're a pain to transport, the market is flooded with complex jargon and enticing "innovations" and, of course, there's the decision-making stress that comes with any large, expensive purchase.
The good news is that a high quality washing machine will last a very long time, so choose wisely and you'll have worry-free washing for many years to come.
What should I look for in a washing machine?
Capacities range from about 5kg to over 18kg, so you should have no problem finding the right sized machine for your household. While larger machines are great for big households or for washing bulky items such as bedding, you may not need as big a washing machine as you think. Most of us only fill our washing machines half full – about 3.5kg on average. Measure how much you wash in a typical load by jumping on your bathroom scales, then picking up your full basket of laundry and jumping back on. Calculate the difference and use this figure as a starting point to work out what capacity you really need.
Top loaders are generally faster than front loaders, partly because front loaders use less water. If you prefer a front loader, look for one with a "fast wash" cycle – but this may not be suitable for very full or heavily soiled loads, no matter how much of a hurry you are in to get the washing on the line. You should also factor in drying time. With a higher spin speed, front loaders extract more water so your drying time can be shorter, saving you money if you also use a dryer.
How much room do you have? Where will the machine go? How much space will you need in order to open the door or lid, load and unload the machine, move around with a full basket of wet washing and open and close any doors to the laundry space itself? Is access to necessary electricity, water or gas points restricted at all? If your new washing machine needs a hot water inlet, is one available in your laundry? Get the measuring tape out, write dimensions in a notebook (including the dimensions of your current machine) and have them with you when you shop.
If you're tight on laundry space then you may find a front loader is a better option, as you can more easily stack or wall-mount your dryer above it, or the top surface can double as a work space. The majority of front loaders are also designed to fit in a standard kitchen cabinet space, so they can also be installed under a benchtop.
As a general rule, front loaders are louder and higher pitched than top loaders due to their faster spin speed. If your laundry is close to your living area this can be a big deal, so consider this in your decision – you can compare noise levels in our washing machine reviews.
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