How to buy the best washing machine

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

You'd think all washing machines 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. 

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 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.

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.

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 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 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) costs up to around £900.

Can I get a great cheap washing machine?

Yes. Our top five best washing machine 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

 

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.

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.

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.