Washing machine reviews: Features explained

Washing machine spin speed

Many washing machines boast a high 1400 revolutions per minute (rpm), 1600rpm or even 1800rpm spin speed rather than the more common 1200rpm, which helps save time on the line or energy use in the tumble dryer by removing more water. However you'll usually pay extra for this feature, and 1200rpm is generally adequate for most loads.

To find the best washing machine at the best price, head straight to our washing machine reviews where you can compare washing machine features and prices.

Washing machine capacity sizes

The amount of laundry you can fit into washing machines is going up. Manufacturers such as Hotpoint, LG, Samsung, Panasonic and Hoover are all producing washing machines with drums that can hold 10kg of laundry or more - but just how many clothes can you actually fit into a drum of this size? Find out below.

The biggest washing machines we've tested allow you to pack in 12kg of dirty laundry, which is huge. A 7kg washing machine is about average and will suit most households, though some of the bigger machines now come with special duvet programs which these smaller machines cannot offer.

Heavy users (who do more than five washes a week) are more likely to opt for a larger-capacity washing machines. See the table below to find out how much extra washing a bigger drum allows you to do.

Washing machines: What size drum do you need?
Size 6kg washing load 
6kg
 7kg load 
7kg
 8kg load 
8kg
 10kg washing load 
10kg
 12kg washing load 
12kg
Capacity2 pairs of adult's jeans
4 shirts
1 bed sheets
2 pillowcases
6 tea towels
3 small towels
2 pairs of adult's jeans
1 pair of children's jeans
3 shirts
2 bed sheets
2 pillowcases
3 tea towels
3 small towels
3 pairs of adult's jeans
3 shirts
2 bed sheets
3 pillowcases
4 tea towels
4 small towels
3 pairs of adult's jeans
4 shirts
3 bed sheets
6 pillowcases
3 tea towels
4 small towels
3 pairs of adult's jeans
2 pair of children's jeans
6 shirts
3 bed sheets
6 pillowcases
6 tea towels
5 small towels
VerdictA 6kg drum is often large enough for most small to medium households7kg provides an opportunity to squeeze in an extra pair of jeans or two8kg is on the large side, but could be suited to big households10kg is over double what a Which? member would do in one go1This is currently the largest drum size available in the UK

Table notes

  1. A typical Which? member washes 4.5kg of clothes in every load
  2. All loads are 80% of the maximum capacity - see below
  3. Examples of a single kilo of laundry include a large bed sheet or a pair of jeans and a shirt.

80% drum capacity

It is unrealistic to fill a drum to 100% of its maximum capacity, as you would need to fold the clothes beforehand. So to make sure we are testing washing machines the way you use them at home, we fill the drum to 80% of its maximum capacity when testing the cotton cycle.

The laundry loads listed above are 80% capacity loads. This means that the garments listed underneath the 6kg drum capacity, for instance, is actually 4.8kg worth of laundry.

We're reviewed and rated washing machines of all capacities - and the biggest aren't necessarily the best. Go to our Best Buy washing machines page to find the top machines that Which? recommends.

Water and energy use

Water and energy use per kilogram of washing are often lower for big washing machines – but only when you fill them up. Larger capacity machines can be very water-hungry. If you don't fill them up, you'll be wasting a lot of water.

If you wash with a full load, they use less energy and water per item washed than a smaller washing machine. So they're efficient if you have a large family, but not if there are fewer of you.

Washing machine convenience features

There are several extra washing machine features you may like to look out for, depending on how you use your washing machine. 

Extra rinse

This washing machine feature is useful for people with eczema, sensitive skin or allergies, as an extra rinse removes more detergent from the washing. 

If you find your clothes often show traces of detergent after washing, consider switching to liquid detergents, particularly for quick-wash programs. Our laundry detergent reviews reveal the best and worst cleaners you can find in your supermarket.

Variable spin speed

This feature lets you lower the spin speed of the washing machine to protect woollens, handwash-only clothes and delicate items from damage. It’s useful if the default spin speed for your washing machine is higher than 1,000rpm.

Delayed start

Some washing machines allow you to set washing to start later in the day. For example, you can set a load to wash overnight, to take advantage of cheap electricity. The exact amount of time a program can be delayed varies between one and 24 hours. If you use the delayed-start feature at night, fit a smoke alarm nearby.

Electronic display

This feature can be useful for checking which stage of washing a program has reached and how long it has left to run. Some new washing machines are fitted with LCD touchscreens.

These let you program a wash using a series of pop-up menus. This removes the need for the usual proliferation of dials and buttons. However, you'll have to pay more for fancy displays, and they don't always make the washing machine easier to use.

Overdosing

Some premium washing machine models include this feature to stop too much detergent being used in a wash. The washing machine will automatically add an extra rinse cycle if too much detergent has been taken into a wash.

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