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The Ultimate Guide


Select the Best Washer for Your Laundry Room

Close-Up of a Towel in a Washing Machine, With the Washing Machine Door Open
Alex Wilson / Getty Images

Shopping for a washing machine isn't as simple as it once was. Our parents had only one option-top-loading and white. Today you'll find washers from dozens of brands that load from the top, load from the front, offer high-efficiency, have dozens of cycles and options or only a few choices, and stylish colors and finishes.

Before you even head to the appliance store, much less buy a washer, take some time to consider these five points to find the right washer for your household's laundry needs.

Types of Clothes Washers

There are three basic washer types:

High Efficiency Front-Load: HE front-load machines use less water and energy than top-loaders and usually offer more drum capacity so that larger loads can be washed. Front load washers feature automatic detergent, fabric softener and bleach dispensers. 

High Efficiency Top-Load: HE top-load machines also use less water and energy than a standard top load machine. Since they have no center agitator, there is more room in the wash basket for large items.

Standard Top-Load: Traditional machines are usually less expensive to purchase and still offer a wide range of sizes and features. However, standard washers use a much more water and have a higher operating cost per load (water costs) than high efficiency washers.

Washer Capacity

Have you ever weighed your laundry? A regular capacity washer (4.0 cubic feet) typically holds 12 to 16 pounds of laundry per load. Large capacity home washers (4.5 cubic feet) hold up to 20 pounds. Think of your routine and the size of your family. Typically, the larger the washer, the higher the cost. If you only need the large capacity for comforters and bulky items, a trip to the laundromat is much less expensive than buying a large washer for this occasional use. 

If you are purchasing a used washer that is missing its operating manual, here's how to determine the size/capacity of the washer drum.

Laundry Room Size and Location

If you have a small laundry space, look for compact washers or a prestacked all-in-one washer dryer unit. These units have a smaller washer drum capacity but are much more convenient than a trip to the laundromat. If you plan to stack your washer and dryer, a front-loading washer is the only option.

To make sure your current or new laundry space can accommodate the washer you select, get out that measuring tape before you go anywhere. Measure the laundry room space - height, width and depth - as well as the sizes of any appliances you plan to keep, measure the doorways and access areas, write it all down and take the tape measure with you when shopping.

It is important to know if washer doors will open completely without hitting walls or other appliances. Is there clearance room under cabinets for top-loading lids to open. Do front load lids open to the right or left? Is that convenient and is there room for you to stand in front of the door opening? Knowing this before you buy will make a big difference in your level of frustration while doing laundry.

Consider noise levels if the washer is near sleeping or living space. Front-loading machines are generally quieter than top-loading.

Cost of Operation

Most standard washing machines use 40 gallons of water. Models that have qualified for the U.S. Department of Energy's Energy Star rating like HE top-load and front-load washers use less than half that amount. Almost all washers made before 1999 don't meet current USDE usage guidelines. Buyers should consider the long-term operational costs and water usage restrictions in their area when selecting a model.

A list of Energy Star approved washers can be found on the U.S. Energy Star website. And before you send your old washer to the landfill, consider recycling it in creative ways.

Options and Special Features

Today's washers come in a rainbow of colors, offer automatic product dispensers, multiple cycles and even steam cleaning. Again, carefully consider your family's needs and how you do laundry. Do you need delayed start cycles? Touch pad controls? Dispensers for fabric softener that you don't typically use? Extra features are nice but you will be paying more on the bottom line for each one. Be sure it is something that you will actually use.

One final note, while a matching washer and dryer set is attractive; it is not crucial to laundry success to have a matching pair. Instead, select the best clothes dryer for your needs.