Large-capacity washers redefine a full load of wash

Today's big washing machines can handle up to 15 pairs of jeans

Published: June 12, 2014 01:00 PM

Samsung WF56H9100AG

Washer capacities keep getting larger, dryers too—so much so that we’re running out of superlatives. “Big” doesn’t nail it anymore. Not when a machine holds 25 pounds or more of laundry. That’s 12 to 15 pairs of men’s jeans. These jumbo capacities let you do more laundry at once, but you’ll pay extra for the added capacity. So how large a washer do you need? The laundry experts at Consumer Reports weigh in.
Increasing capacities meant it was time to update the capacity scores in our Ratings of washers and dryers. A machine now needs to hold about 25 or more pounds of laundry to earn an excellent capacity score. “Most families can get by with a machine that’s rated very good or even good in capacity,” says Emilio Gonzalez, an engineer who leads our tests of laundry appliances. Very good indicates that the washer fits about 20 to 24 pounds of our laundry. A model scoring good holds between 15 and 19 pounds of laundry. Among recommended top-loaders, the $950 Kenmore Elite 31412 scored very good in capacity, while the $600 LG WT1001CW, a CR Best Buy, scored good. It held about 16 pounds of our laundry. Both washers are high-efficiency (HE) models.

LG and Samsung lead this race of increasing size, and capacities are expected to get even bigger in the next year or so. Sure you can do more laundry less often, but wash times are much longer than they used to be. That’s because front-loaders and HE top-loaders use less water than top-loaders with center agitators. The best front-loaders we tested took 85 to 100 minutes, while the top top-loaders took 75 minutes, using the normal wash on heavy-soil setting.
And that brings us to the biggest capacities we’ve seen, so far. Among HE top-loaders, the Samsung WA56H9000AP had the largest and held about 28 pounds of our laundry.  And at $1,500, it’s the most expensive top-loader tested. It offers impressive washing, but wasn’t so gentle on fabrics—that’s true of most HE top-loaders we’ve tested. The top-rated LG WT5680HVA was better at washing and has a jumbo capacity too. It’s recommended and costs $1,200.
The Samsung WF56H9100AG, $1,520, had the largest capacity of the front-loaders tested, about 28 pounds, and was impressive at washing. It made our top picks. Even better was the top-rated LG WM8500HVA. This front-loader delivered excellent washing and was gentler on fabrics, and yes, the capacity is mega-sized and so is the price—$1,600. See all the details in our ratings of washers and dryers.

—Kimberly Janeway

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