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Home & garden.

2 September 2021

How to buy the best washing machine

You'd think all washing machines do a decent job of washing and rinsing, but our tests reveal plenty of machines that fail these basic tasks.
Aaron West
Coloured washing machines 474306

It really does pay to do your research before you buy. From drum size to spin speed, discover what you need to know to get the best washing machine.

Or if you need help choosing, answer these four quick questions to find the best washing machine for you.

If you already know what type and brand of washing machine is for you, head straight to our washing machine reviews. 

Video: how to buy the best washing machine

Only got four minutes to spare? Our video contains all the washing machine buying advice you need.

Washing machine features explained 

Use our interactive tool to suss out the features most important to you when deciding which washing machine to buy.

Types of washing machines

Discover the difference between freestanding washing machines (the standard type), integrated washing machines (built in behind cupboard doors), top-loading washing machines and washer-dryers.

Freestanding 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.

Integrated washing machines

An integrated washing machine is designed to sit behind a cupboard door, so you don't see it when the 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 (built-in) washing machine as a freestanding model. They're generally 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.

See popular integrated washing machines: Zanussi Z814W85BI, £579 | AEG L8FC8432BI, £749 or our integrated washing machine buying guide will tell you everything you need to know. 

Semi-integrated washing machines

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.

Top-loading washing machines

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.

Washer-dryers

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. See our washer-dryer reviews.

How much does a washing machine cost?

We've found several of the best 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'll generally get to choose between quieter machines as well as those with more wash cycles and larger drum sizes.

A machine with fancy features, such as the Samsung Quick Drive (which claims to speed up wash times without sacrificing quality), will cost 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

How much does a washing machine cost to run?

Working out which is the best value washing machine involves more than just looking at the initial cost. 

Washing machine running costs can vary from under £20 to more than £100 per year. On average, a washing machine will add £34 per year to your bills.

Running costs are largely influenced by drum size. And some of the most efficient machines we’ve tested are terrible at cleaning.

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 on new models. The energy rating is calculated mostly 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, so we can give a more realistic indication of energy use.

Because we test washing machines the way you use them, our energy tests reveal the A+++ rated machines cost more to run than A+ models.

Can you buy a sustainable washing machine?

A lot of a washing machine's environmental impact will come from using it, day-in and day-out. When replacing a faulty model, buying one that is efficient is a great way of reducing your environmental impact, and saving you money along the way.

Unfortunately, our testing shows those that use the least energy and water often fail to clean well.

That's why we've started recommending Eco Buy washing machines. These are models we've carefully chosen because they clean well and are energy and water efficient. 

To find the most sustainable models, read our washing machine reviews and filter for Eco Buys.

Consider repairing your current washing machine before buying a new one

All may not be lost just because your washing machine isn't draining or turning on. Many common problems can be fixed by yourself or with the help of a professional.

Read our full repair guides to find out if you can keep your current washing machine for longer.

Any repairs that require dismantling your washing machine or fiddling with the electrics should be carried out by a professional. Choose a Which? Trusted Trader to ensure you'll be dealing with a qualified repairer you can trust.

Repairing will not only save you money but will also save your dishwasher from the scrapheap, reducing the environmental cost of recycling and producing a new one.

How to dispose of a washing machine

When buying a new dishwasher, you may also need to sort out what to do with your old one. Fortunately there are plenty of options. Every item that has either a plug, a charger, batteries or carries a crossed-out wheelie bin logo can be recycled, and that includes washing machines. 

If your washing machine is still in working condition and you want or need a new one, you can sell it second-hand (more on that below).

Many retailers, including John Lewis, Currys and AO.com, offer to remove your current washing machine when installing a new one, although you will have to pay extra for this, typically around £20.

Another option (which may not cost anything) is council pick-up of large items. Many councils let you dispose of one large item per year for free, charging for any more in that year. Search your local council's website for large item collection.

If you've already disposed of a large item this year and want to avoid being charged for another item, you can take your washing machine to a local recycling centre yourself. Most of these will have an area especially for waste electronics. 

In some cases, you may need to obtain a permit before dropping off broken items, so check this on your local council's website before you travel anywhere.  Find your nearest recycling location (including stores and council sites) using Recycle Now’s electrical recycling locator.

Buying and selling second-hand washing machines

When buying second hand it's worth knowing the difference between key terms. Used will mean it's been in someone's home and hasn't undergone any kind of refurbishment. Ex-display or graded will mean that it comes from a store so will have been used minimally. Refurbished means it's been used but has undergone a full check and repair where necessary in order to be as 'like new' as possible.

In general, we recommend buying a washing machine new rather than second-hand as there is less risk of safety problems.

That's why when buying second-hand you need to ask whether a PAT test (Portable Appliance Test) has been carried out to ensure the appliance is safe for your home. Equally, if you are going to sell second-hand, make sure you get the washing machine PAT tested before selling.

Also check whether the seller offers a guarantee, particularly useful for third-party sellers and marketplaces, such as Amazon and eBay. This will give you more security in case the washing machine goes wrong quickly, or in case there is a safety problem with the product.

Buyers should also check if a product has been recalled before purchasing. You can use the Electrical Safety First website for this.

Washing machine drum sizes: 5kg - 12kg

Washing machine drum sizes range from 5kg to 12kg. The most popular drum sizes are 9kg and 10kg.

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

However, the number 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.

Washing machine loads

Five things to remember about 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.

Popular washing machines with different drum sizes

What is the standard size of a washing machine?

The standard dimensions of a front-loading washing machine are 85cm high, and 59.5cm to 60cm wide. They are designed to fit into a space 60cm wide.

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

Washing machine measurements to check before you install

Washing machine measurements

 

The depth of a washing machine can vary quite a bit, ranging from 40cm to 70cm. Don't forget to leave 7cm between the washing machine and the back wall for the pipes.

Check to make sure you don't end up with a machine that sticks out from underneath the work surface or takes up valuable space in a smaller kitchen.

Use our washing machine measurements table 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: Source GFK washing machine data 2016-2018

Three things to note when measuring a washing machine

  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 casings 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.

If you're thinking of moving your washing machine, tumble dryer or washer-dryer into its own space, read out top tips on designing a utility room before you get started.

Washing machine spin speeds

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.
Washing machine

A machine with a good spin should remove most water from your laundry, reducing how long your clothes will need to spend tumbling in a dryer or hanging 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. 

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

Popular washing machines with different spin speeds

The best washing machine brands

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. 

Customers of the top two most reliable washing machine brands tell us nine in 10 of their machines are still fault-free after nine years of ownership.

But customers of another brand aren't nearly as impressed - only 16% of previous owners said they'd buy another one if its machines.

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

Black and silver washing machines

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.

Popular washing machines in different colours