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Which washing machine?

How to buy the best washing machine

By Matt Stevens

Article 1 of 2

From drum size to spin speed, we explain what you need to know to buy the best washing machine for you.

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It's hard to tell the best washing machines from the worst when you're faced with lots of white boxes that look exactly the same.

You'd think they'd all make a decent job of washing and rinsing. But we've found plenty of machines that even fail on these basic tasks, so it pays to do your research before you buy. 

If you already know what you're looking for, head straight to our washing machine reviews

In this article 

Which washing machine is best for you? 

Use our interactive tool to suss out the features most important to you when you're weighing up which washing machine to buy.

Types of washing machines 

Freestanding washing machines are the most common type. They can be placed anywhere as long as they’re connected to a drain and a plug socket. They come in a range of sizes – from 3kg to 12kg capacities – and some models are available in different colours.

Pros: Wider range of drum capacities, features and colours than integrated models.

Cons: Do not blend into homes like integrated models do.

An integrated washing machine is designed to sit behind your own cupboard door so you don't see it when the cupboard door is closed. The bottom plinth panel of an integrated washing machine is recessed to allow for the fitting of a wooden kitchen plinth along the bottom of the washing machine. 

Don't try to use an integrated (aka built-in washing machine) outside of a kitchen unit. This is because they're generally are not as stable as they're designed to be held in place by your kitchen units. 

Pros: Integrated models tend to be quieter than freestanding, thanks to that extra door on the front buffering the sound slightly.

Cons: They cost more to be installed – typically around £80. That's over twice as much as freestanding models. Some retailers won't install integrated washing machines at all.

Our handy integrated washing machine buying guide will tell you everything you need to know. 

These machines are like integrated models but the furniture panel does not cover the controls at the top, so you don’t have to open the door to change the settings or read any displays. There are very few models of this type available.

These models are quite rare in the UK. Clothes are added through a lid on the top of the machine, as opposed to a door on the front.

They're narrower than normal washing machines (about two thirds the width) and they cannot be kept under a work surface due to the way they open – unless you want to pull them out each time you use them.

The spring-loaded inner doors tend to be awkward. The force of the spring makes them hard to open, and the doors don't automatically line up with the outer door when the wash finishes, so you have to turn the drum to get the washing out.

When we last tested top-loading washing machines, none were good enough to be Best Buys. They were noisy, awkward to use and vibrated too much.

You might consider a washer dryer combo if you're short on space. But it's hard to find a machine that does a great job of both washing and drying. And it's worth knowing that the drying capacity in a washer-dryer is always smaller than the washing capacity.

How much does a washing machine cost? 

We've found several Best Buy washing machines in the £200-£350 price bracket, including models from Bosch, Samsung and Beko, proving you don't need a big budget to have cleaner clothes. 

Spend more and you're generally get more choice of wash cycles, larger drum size, quieter machines.

 Adding in fancy features such as the Samsung Quick Drive (which claims to speed up wash times without sacrificing quality) will take costs up to around £900.

Can I get a great cheap washing machine?

Yes. Our top five best cheap washing machines include Bosch and Zanussi models for less than £350 that score better in our tests than some machines for five times the price.

But we've also found plenty of models in the same price bracket that are so bad at the basics we've labelled them Don't Buy washing machines. So it pays to do your research.

Washing machine drum sizes: 5kg - 12kg 

Washing machine drum sizes range from 5kg to 12kg. The most popular drum sizes (based on what's searched for on Google) are 9kg and 10kg washing machines.

Drum size is based on the number of kilos of dry clothing you can fit into the drum. 

However the maximum capacity quoted usually only refers to the main cotton programs – other programs have smaller capacities – sometimes less than half. You'll find details of the difference in capacities between the cottons and synthetics programs in the tech spec section of each of our washing machine reviews.

Most medium-sized households in the UK will find a 7kg capacity machine perfectly adequate. Swipe our graphic below to see what you can fit in each different drum size.

Five things to remember on drum size

  1. Bigger isn't always better. 
  2. Buy a washing machine with a drum you won’t struggle to fill. 
  3. Washing machines work best when you fill the drum to each program’s set limit. 
  4. The bigger the capacity, the more the washing machine will cost to buy and run. 
  5. Prefer to wash little and often? Go for a smaller drum size. Like to do all your washing in one go? Go for a bigger drum size.

What is the standard size of a washing machine? 

The standard dimensions of a front-loading washing machine are 850mm high, and 595 to 600mm wide. They are designed to fit into a space 600mm wide.

But there can be exceptions, so check the specifications before choosing a model.

The depth of a washing machine, however, can vary quite a bit, ranging from 40cm - 70cm. So check to make sure you don't end up with a machine that leaves no space to walk down your galley kitchen or sticks out from underneath work surfaces. Use our measurements below as a guide but always measure before you buy.

Washing machine depth measurements
Drum size Average depth Min depth Max depth
7kg 54cm 40cm 63.6cm
8kg 57cm 50cm 64.3cm
9kg 58cm 52cm 64.5cm
10kg 58cm 50.5cm 66cm
11kg 62cm 60cm 67cm
12kg 64cm 60cm 70cm
Table notes
1 Source GFK washing machine data 2016-2018

Three things to note when measuring

  1. Depth measurements might/might not include pipe and hoses. Be sure to check.
  2. Bulky door surrounds, buttons/controls that stick out and curved front casing are generally not included in dimension figures.
  3. Allow for around 70mm on top of the depth of your machine to make sure that you can safely accommodate your waste pipe and water inlet pipes.

How much does a washing machine cost to run? 

Working out which is the best value washing machine is more than just about the ticket price. You'll want to find out how much it costs to run and you won't find this out from the label. 

Our lifetime costs calculator will tell you how much your machine will cost you to run over the time you own it, including the purchase price and energy costs. And as not everyone owns a washing machine for the same length of time, you can see the total costs based on owning a machine from anywhere between three years and 12 years. 

What do washing machine energy ratings mean?

Energy ratings on washing machines are meant to help you choose a more energy-efficient model. They go from A+++ (the most efficient) to A. Before December 2013, D was the lowest rating – so it’s possible you may come across an older machine with a rating lower than A – but it’s unlikely. 

The official EU Energy Label is two-thirds based on the 60°C cotton program. When we test washing machines, we measure how much energy and water they use based on the 40°C cotton program, as this is the most commonly used wash program by Which? members. 

Is it worth paying for an A+++ energy-rated washing machine?

  • Energy running costs can vary from under £20 to more than £100 per year.
  • On average, a washing machine will add £34 to your bills.
  • Running costs are largely influenced by drum size.
  • Some of the most efficient machines we’ve tested do a bad job of cleaning.

We’ve found A+ machines that cost less to run than A+++ washing machines

If you're interested to know more about washing at lower temperatures, take a look at our guide that answers the question should I wash at 60°C?.  

Washing machine spin speeds and noise ratings 

The spin cycle removes water from your clothes at the end of the wash program. Here's how to find the best spinner for your needs:

  • Maximum spin speeds vary from 1,000rpm to 1,800rpm
  • Washing machine spin speeds of 1200rpm and 1400rpm are the most common
  • Faster spin speeds can add to the cost of the machine
  • A faster spin speed can be noisier
  • It’s not always worth paying more for a higher spin speed.

A machine with a good spin should remove the majority of water from your laundry, reducing how long your clothes will need to spend tumbling in a dryer or hanging out on a washing line.

Our washing machine tests have found you can’t always trust that a washing machine advertised with a high spin speed will actually be any better at spinning than a slower one. 

We’ve found washing machines with a 1200rpm spin speed that do a better job of removing water from clothes than some machines with a 1600rpm spin speed.

And some fast machines don’t spin at their top speeds for as long as slower models.


The best washing machine brands 

Don't waste your money on a machine that's not going to last. We survey thousands of washing machine owners every year to find out how satisfied they are with the brand they've bought and whether they'd recommend it to a friend. 

Buy from one of the top two most reliable washing machine brands and customers tell us nine-in-ten of their machines are still fault-free after nine years of ownership.

But you want be be wary of the brand that just 16% of previous owners said they'd buy another machine from.

Browse the Top washing machine brands to see which washing machines are your safest bet for a long life. 

Washing machine features and technology 

A basic washing machine will typically include a selection of washing programs, spin speeds and temperature settings. However, newer models are getting smarter. 

Some machines can now be controlled remotely using an app, while others have delay buttons so you can wake up to a fresh load of washing. 

Less technical, but equally helpful, features are also being added. Such as a hatch so you if you find any straggler socks on the floor once the wash has started you can throw it in. 

All of this will cost you more though, so make sure it's a novelty worth buying. 

Take a look at our guide to useful washing programs and smart machines to find out what features could really help you day-to-day.  

Want a black washing machine or silver washing machine? 

Manufacturers have started to introduce different colours and finishes to their collections. Silver, grey, red and black washing machines are all popular and also fairly common.

If you want a more unusual design, such as green, blue or even a metallic finish, you'll probably have to pay more or go for a lesser known brand.

Gone are the days of standardised box models too. Brands are adding larger portholes with coloured glass, sophisticated control panels and even contrasting colour door trims.

If you're opting for a built-in model then the above won't make much difference though – it will be hidden behind a unit.