How to buy the best washer-dryer

Washer-dryers

How to buy the best washer-dryer

By Matt Stevens

Expert advice on how to choose the best washer-dryer for you and your budget.

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This guide explains how to buy the best washer-dryer - and how to avoid ending up with a dud that lets you down. 

Read on to find out about the key washer-dryer features and specifications to look for, and uncover our insider buying tips, based on our years of experience testing washer-dryers.

Choose the best washer-dryer for you from our Best Buy washer-dryers.

Buying the best washer dryer for you

To help you start your journey to picking the ideal washer dryer, our dedicated interactive tool will walk you through the key features and buying decisions to consider.

How much do I need to spend to buy a decent washer-dryer?

While cheaper models are always tempting, our tests show it's worth stretching your budget to £300 if you can – or even towards £500 for a top-quality model that you can rely on to consistently wash, rinse and dry well. This may sound like a lot, but keep in mind you are getting two machines in one and that you don’t want to buy a washer-dryer that is unreliable, costs a fortune to run, or cannot wash and dry your clothes properly.

Take a look at our washer-dryer reviews to discover the models that topped our tests.

Freestanding or integrated washer-dryer?

You’ll need to decide between a freestanding or integrated washer-dryer.

Integrated washer-dryers

Also known as built-in washer dryers, integrated models have a large external door that covers the whole front of the machine. Your own door panel is then attached to the front when you install it, to help it blend in seamlessly with your kitchen. Integrated washer-dryers are best if you are looking for a model for a new built-in kitchen, or if you want to replace an existing built-in model. 

An integrated washer-dryer costs about twice as much to install as a freestanding one.

On the plus side, integrated models tend to be slightly quieter to run than freestanding models.  However, the typical installation cost for an integrated model is £80. That’s more than twice as expensive compared with installing freestanding models - and some retailers won’t install them at all.

Freestanding washer-dryers

These have the front of the machine showing, are available in a wide range of drum capacities, and some models come in different colours.

Freestanding washer-dryers have a wider choice of drum sizes, features and colours compared with integrated models but they won’t be hidden away as neatly as integrated models.

What size drum should I look for?

The capacity of the machine refers to how many kilograms of dry clothes you can fit into the drum. Washer-dryers always have two capacities: one for how much they can wash at a time, and one for how much they can dry. They can always wash a larger load than they can dry.

Bigger isn't necessarily better - buy a machine that's too large, and you'll risk wasting water and energy if you under-fill it. A machine that's too small means you'll have to do more washes. 

Washing capacities 

The amount a washer-dryer can clean in one go typically starts as little as 5kg (which is enough to wash 16 men's cotton shirts at once) and ranges up to 12kg, enough to wash an incredible 38 shirts at once.

A 7kg drum is average and is suitable for a medium-sized household. You could fit in 22 shirts - or a more typical load might comprise, for example, two pairs of men’s jeans, three pairs of children’s jeans, four men’s shirts, two bath towels, three small towels, three tea towels and two pillowcases.

Drying capacities 

These are always smaller than a machine's wash capacity, typically ranging from 2.5kg to 8kg.  That means that if you've filled the drum when washing, you should take out clothes before the drying starts, or the clothes may not dry very well.

Alhough the clothes you dry will be start off wet, the stated amount of clothes a washer-dryer can dry at once is always the dry weight of the clothes.

Just because two washer-dryers can wash the same amount of clothes doesn't mean they’ll be rated to dry the same amount of clothes. For example, a washer-dryer that can wash 7kg of wet clothes may be able to dry 5kg of laundry, or just 4kg. So make sure you check the drying capacity before you buy.

One kilogram less may not sound like much, but that’s equivalent to four shirts, or a pair of jeans with a shirt, or a bath towel with three hand towels. Generally, the more clothes you need to take out before drying, the less convenient you'll find the machine.

How much will it cost to run?

A typical washer-dryer that washes 7kg and dries 5kg will cost you about £106 per year. That’s £30 on the washing and £76 on the drying.

When we test washer-dryers, unlike the official energy label we base our annual energy running cost figures on the most commonly used wash program, 40°C cottons, and drying costs on energy consumption per kg of the cotton drying program.

As a result, we’ve found that some washer-dryers with a B rating for energy efficiency actually cost less to run than A-rated models. We publish estimates of annual running costs in each of our washer-dryer reviews.

Should I buy a washer-dryer with automatic drying?

Many washer-dryers have automatic drying programs, which means that rather than you setting the drying time yourself, the machine uses a sensor to determine when your clothes are dry and automatically stop drying. A good sensor will adjust drying times and keep you from wasting energy by over-drying laundry. It should also eliminate the risk of opening the door to find wet clothes.

However, at Which? we have seen some washer-dryers with this feature that reduce the amount of clothes you can wash at once if you use sensor drying. One washer-dryer we’ve tested allows you to wash 9kg and dry 6kg - but will only let you dry 3kg at once if you use the automatic drying program. So a full drum would have to be dried in three batches, unless you choose not to use the sensor and set the drying time yourself instead.

Each of our full washer-dryer reviews explains how much you can wash and dry at a time, and rates just how good a job the machine does.

Iron-dry programs should leave clothes slightly damp, as they will be easier to iron than completely dry clothes. But in our tests, 52% of washer-dryers were unable to leave clothes at an acceptable level of dampness, and typically over-dried clothes. If this is a program that is important to you, make sure you check our reviews before you buy. If it does not have a star rating for iron-dry, that washer-dryer failed our test.

What spin speed do I need?

After the wash cycle and before drying comes the rinse and spin cycles. The rinse should remove excess detergent from your clothes, and the spin should wring out water. A good spin can remove the majority of moisture from your clothes, which will reduce the amount of time the drying programs need to finish drying your laundry.

The fastest spin speed isn't necessarily the best at removing washing water from your clothes.

Spin speeds typically go from 1,000rpm to 1,600rpm, and you may have to pay more for a model with a higher spin speed. You might assume that the faster the spin speed, the dryer the clothes – but this isn’t always true. We’ve tested washer-dryers with 1,400rpm spin speeds that do a better job of removing moisture from clothes compared to a model with a 1,600rpm spin. So before paying extra money for a faster spin speed, check our washer-dryer reviews to see if it’s really worth it.

How do I ensure the washer-dryer I buy is reliable?

Washer-dryers are the least reliable of all types of white goods, so it's important to choose a washer-dryer from a brand with a good reputation for product reliability and performance.

But a household name doesn't guarantee you'll get a reliable product - particularly where washer-dryers are concerned. So which are the best washer-dryer brands?

Every year we contact thousands of members and get feedback to find out how reliable brands of washer-dryers are. If a brand does not get three stars or more, then we won’t award its high-scoring washer-dryers with Best Buy status – unless the model comes with a five-year warranty. Our washer-dryer reliability survey results reveal the best and worst brands.

How do I find a quiet washer-dryer?

When you’re in the shop, you won’t be able to tell how noisy different models are going to be. So for every washer-dryer we test, we monitor and rate the loudest part of the wash, spin and drying cycles.

If having a quiet appliance is your key buying concern, look for models that get at least a four-star rating from us.

How do I find a washer-dryer that doesn't use too much water?

Almost all washer-dryers use water when drying. Cold water is used to cool the hot air from the drying cycle, and the moisture removed from the air will be drained away, like water from the washing. On average, washer-dryers use 11.5 litres of water for every kilo of clothes washed, and another five litres for every kilo dried. That means a washer-dryer with a 7kg wash capacity and a 5kg dry capacity will use more than 18,000 litres of water over a year.

18,000The number of litres of water a typical washer-dryer can use in a year.

If your home has a water meter, check out our star rating for water use in each of our reviews. It’s based on both washing and drying, and the more stars it has, the more water efficient it is.

Buying tips – checks you can do in the shop

Here are some checks you can do in the shop to make sure you’re picking out a great washer-dryer.

  • Open the door: Does the handle pinch your fingers? Does it open and close easily? On freestanding models, see whether the door can open flat (or nearly flat) against the machine, and make sure it doesn’t try to swing itself closed, as that would be a pain when you’re taking clothes in and out of the drum.
  • Look at the drum opening: Is it wider than 30cm? If it’s narrower than the length of a piece of A4 paper, look for a model with a wider opening – this will make it easier to get your clothes in and out.
  • Look at the control panel: but do it from a standing perspective – the same way you’ll use the machine at home. Make sure you can read everything without having to bend down or strain your eyes to read the words. Make sure there are not lots of confusing symbols without text.
  • Get the features you want: Check for useful features, such as a time-remaining display and child locks to prevent youngsters from changing the program when you’re not looking. Quick-wash programs are popular and handy when you’re in a rush – but be aware they are usually designed for very small amounts of clothes, less than 2kg in some instances.

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