How to buy the best washing machine Water and energy efficiency

Which? can help you choose a more efficient washing machine that still gets your whites bright and your washing spotless, helping you to save energy, water, money – and the environment.

How Which? tests washing machine efficiency

Which? has tested hundreds of washing machines, and each one is scored on its energy and water use during a normal washing cycle. This gives you a good indication of overall washing machine efficiency.

To find a model with good washing machine efficiency, go to the compare features and prices page in this review – each washing machine has been awarded a star rating of one to five for its energy use and water use. You can also find out which models have earned our coveted Best Buy washing machine recommendation.

How washing machines compare on efficiency

Washing machine efficiency: energy

Washing machine energy efficiency has improved in recent years, but some washing machines swell your energy bills more than others. Our washing machine running costs page reveals how much each model of washing machine costs to run, giving you the inside track on how much your new washing machine will really cost you over its lifetime.

Save water with an efficient washing machine

You could save up to 36 baths' worth of water

Washing machine efficiency: water

The average washing machine uses 9.5 litres of water for every kilogram of cotton clothes it washes. But during our washing machine testing, we found water usage varied between models, ranging from one that used just 6.2 litres of water per kilogram to another that consumed 11.8 litres of water per kilogram.

Both these machines wash a maximum of five kilograms during a cotton load, so while the better performing washing machine used 31 litres of water, the less water efficient model used 59 litres.

To put those figures into perspective, if you did two 40ºC cotton washes a week for a year with the good machine instead of the bad machine, you'd use 2,912 litres less water – more than 36 baths of water.

Washing machine efficiency tips

  • Wash a full load 40ºC cotton washes are designed to take a full drum’s worth of laundry, so always try to wash the maximum amount in each load to get the most value from the water and energy you’re using. If you find you're not able to fill the drum of your 8kg washing machine on a regular basis, it might be worth considering a washing machine with a smaller drum size.
  • Avoid using extra rinse If you have very sensitive skin you may find it necessary to use the extra-rinse function on your washing machine to remove more detergent from laundered clothes. Try not to use this function unless it's absolutely necessary though, as it's another water waster.
  • Switch to 30ºC Washing at 30ºC instead of 40ºC can save you around £9 a year. Cleaning results for our designed for low temperatures during a 30ºC program were good, and helped use an average of 40% less electricity per wash. 
Energy grading label

You can't always trust energy labels

Energy labelling

The EU energy labelling scheme can help you choose a greener washing machine, but be aware that its washing machine labelling test is based on a 60ºC cotton cycle. Because of that, Which? has often found the energy label ratings on washing machines are inaccurate.

We use a different method from the energy labels to calculate energy efficiency in our tests. We test on 40ºC normal cotton and synthetic programs to reflect the way you use your washing machine. This helps us to collect more realistic washing machine energy and running costs data.

Washing machine reliability and environmental impact

Determining the 'tipping point' at which it's environmentally best to replace a working appliance with a more efficient new one isn't straightforward – particularly when taking into consideration the environmental cost in disposing of old appliances, the materials and energy that go into producing a new appliance, and the carbon emissions generated during transportation.

Choosing a reliable washing machine model can help you get the most out of your appliance as well as minimising the environmental impact of disposing of and replacing your washing machine. 

Cross reference our washing machine reliability survey results with our Best Buy washing machines to ensure you choose the optimum model for both efficiency and reliability. 

Recycle your washing machine

Recycle or reuse your old washing machine

How to recycle your old washing machine

Under the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (Weee) Directive, shops must help customers recycle old washing machines – along with a wide range of other electrical and white goods – either by paying towards washing machine recycling facilities at a council site, or by offering a recycling service themselves.

When you're shopping, ask if the store will take away your old machine when it delivers your new one. 

Alternatively, contact your council to find your nearest appliance recycling site, or to arrange for your old washing machine to be collected. Some councils offer free collection; others charge up to £30. Find out more about recycling in our essential recycling guide.

Or, if your washing machine still works, use a community recycling scheme such as Freecycle to offer it to someone else or consider selling it.

More on this...

  • Watch our video guide to using your machine more efficiently
  • Washing machine reviews - find the best washing machine
  • Expert advice on using your washing machine