Washer-dryer reviews: Features explained
What basic washer-dryer features should I take into consideration when choosing?
1. Washing programs
Standard washing programs will wash cottons, man-made and delicate fabrics at a range of different temperatures.
Most models have options such as pre-wash, spin, extra rinse and even cycles designed for hand-wash items.
2. Drum size
Washer-dryers appear identical from the outside, but their washing capacity varies between 4.5kg and 7kg, and they can dry 2.25kg to 5kg.
An extra kilogram equals around five T-shirts, or a large sheet.
If you wash or dry with a full load in a larger machine, you use less energy, water and time per item.
But if you don't fill the drum up, the larger washer-dryers can be less efficient, because they use so much water in each wash.
All washer-dryers have a filter, which catches some fluff whipped up when drying and bits of debris.
They need to be cleaned regularly, which is a pain because they are often close to the ground and can be fiddly to open.
The condenser in a washer-dryer cools moist, hot air inside the machine, producing water which pours down the drain.
This process uses a lot of water itself, making some washer-dryers a poor choice for people with a water meter.
Washer-dryers get ratings between A+ and G showing their energy efficiency. In practice you won't see new machines below C. For more on energy ratings, see Washer-dryer efficiency.
What are the most useful wash programmes to look for in a washer-dryer?
All washer dryers come with standard and high temperature washes for cottons and easy care loads. Some also offer additional choices for different types of loads - we've listed our favourites below.
Most machines have a quick cycle of 50 to 70 minutes (standard washes are usually nearer two hours) which work best for clothes that aren't too dirty.
This is a gentler program for cleaning wool-mixture clothes, which can become bobbly on normal programs.
Only items marked as 'pure new wool' and 'washable', 'pre-shrunk' or 'non-matting' should be washed using the wool program.
You should wash all other types of wool with a handwash program.
We've found that there can be little difference between a load washed on an easy-iron program and one washed on a standard cycle.
Using lower spin speeds can help to reduce creases.
This is intended for garments made of materials such as cashmere, angora and silk.
Like the delicates program it washes clothes more gently than the normal setting, so they don't snag, matt or shrink.
Fuzzy logic and other automatic wash systems
Many machines have fuzzy-logic sensors which automatically vary the wash program according to the load.
Bioprofile, biostage or protein eliminators are different names for stain-removing features.
Aquatronic wash, 3D AquaSpa, Showerwize, Power Jet and other similar terms refer to features that spray water to soak clothes and distribute detergent more effectively.
All these features vary in how effective they are. One fuzzy-logic system might be much more sophisticated than another. So the safest option is just to check out our washer-dryer reviews and ratings.
Are there any other helpful extra features to look for when buying a washer dryer?
There are several features to look for, depending on how you use your washer-dryer.
Many washer-dryers are poor at rinsing. An extra rinse might ensure greater removal of detergents from the laundry. This is useful for people with eczema, sensitive skin or allergies.
If you have a problem with undissolved detergents, consider switching to liquid detergents, particularly for quick-wash programs.
Variable spin speed
This lets you vary the spin speed of the machine to protect woollens, handwash-only clothes and delicate items from damage.
It's useful if the default spin speed for your machine is higher than 1,000rpm.
This allows you to set washing up to 24 hours later in the day or overnight, to take advantage of cheap electricity.
If you use delayed start at night, fit a smoke alarm nearby.
Lets you check which stage of washing or drying a program has reached and how long it has left to run.