You can't escape dirty laundry. A reliable washing machine that gently cleans clothes for years to come is what you need. Washers can cost anywhere from $400 to $1,900, depending on the type, capacities, and features. Here’s how to find the best washing machine for your needs.
The perfect size of the appliance is very important
Look at the space you are planning on putting your new washer or dryer in
Make your measurements (allowing for 2 to 6 inches of extra space for air circulation)
Do you prefer loading and unloading laundry from the top of a washing machine rather than bending to get into a front-loading washing machine?
Top-Load Washing Machine
Agitator models cost less and are faster than top-loading washing machines without an agitator, known as high-efficiency (HE) washing machines. Most HE washers are better at cleaning, gentler on fabrics, use less water, and have larger capacities. They also spin faster, which removes more water and cuts dryer time, although the spinning can tangle clothes. Follow our tips for getting the most from your HE washing machine. And note that some are very deep. When shopping reach in and imagine grabbing that last sock. If you need tongs, move on.
Front-Load Washing Machine
Front-load washing machines are usually the more expensive option. The best front-loaders clean better and are gentler than the best HE top-loading washing machines while using less water. Front-loaders take longer than HE top-loaders, but spin faster, extracting more water and trimming dryer time. The high-spin speed can cause some washing machines to vibrate. Concrete floors absorb vibrations well, unlike wood-framed floors. Note that some front-load washing machines collect water around the rubber door gasket and can develop mold.
Bigger capacities often result in a washing machine that's two or three inches wider than the usual 27 inches; same with dryers. Measure the space you have to work with and allow at least 6 inches behind the washing machine for water hookups, and about an inch between the washer and dryer. Measure the doors to your home to make sure a new washing machine can fit through them. You can check washing machine dimensions in the Features & Specs tab in our Washing Machine Ratings, and note which front-loaders can be stacked with a matching dryer.
If you’re putting your machines near bedrooms or the family room, consider ones that scored very good or better in our noise tests. You’ll know they’re working but they shouldn’t disturb you. And while most manufacturers have reduced the vibrations of front-load washing machines.
Illustration: Chris Philpot