Tougher federal standards kick in, requiring all washers made after March 6, 2015 to use even less water and energy. That means the newest Energy Star-qualified washing machines will use 25 percent less energy and 40 percent less water than washers not carrying the Energy Star, according to Energy Star. Our Ratings reveal big differences in water and energy efficiency and performance. Some washers were mediocre or worse at washing, tough on fabrics, or noisy. Here's how to find the right washing machine for you.
Consider location. Look at washers that score very good or better in our Ratings for noise and vibration if your laundry room is near bedrooms or the family room. Also pick washers that let you silence end-of-cycle signals. We note the features of each washer.
Size things up. Capacities of front-loaders and high-efficiency (HE) top-loaders keep increasing, with some washers handling up to 28 pounds of laundry. While most washers are 27 inches wide, some with large or jumbo capacities add an extra two or three inches. Pair a wider washer with its matching dryer and you'll need up to six more inches in width to fit the pair. Note that a washer needs to hold about 25 pounds of laundry or more to earn an excellent capacity score in our Ratings. Most families can get by with a machine that's rated very good or even good in capacity. Very good indicates that the washer fit about 20 to 24 pounds of our laundry. A good score means the washer held about 15 to 19 pounds.
Top or front-loader? Top-loaders with center-post agitators typically cost less and wash the fastest, but performance is often unimpressive. High-efficiency top-loaders hold more laundry, use less water, and extract more of it. That cuts drying time, saving energy and money. Front-loaders generally use the least water and spin the fastest, resulting in the most savings. But with front-loaders and HE top-loaders you may have to make a few changes in the way you do laundry.
Focus on features. Electronic controls let you quickly choose cycles and keep an eye on the remaining cycle time and status. Automatic detergent, bleach, and softener dispensers release the powder or liquid at the right time in the cycle. A stainless-steel or plastic tub won't rust if chipped, unlike a porcelain one. Steam settings on washers only slightly improve stain cleaning, however.