Consumer Reports continues to find huge differences in performance among the washing machines we test. Some models were mediocre or worse at washing, some were capable and efficient. Capacities of front-loaders and high-efficiency (HE) top-loaders continue to increase, with some models handling up to 28 pounds of laundry.
Improvements include mid-wash soaking and more aggressive agitation. You'll also find more programmable wash menus and even built-in USB ports that allow for future software upgrades. Here's how to choose 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 models that let you silence end-of-cycle signals.
Consider size. While most washers are 27 inches wide, some 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.
Top- or front-loader? Top-loaders with center-post agitators typically cost less and wash the fastest, but performance is unimpressive. High-efficiency top-loaders hold more laundry, use less water to wash, 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.
Know which features add convenience. 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.