Clothing in a dryer.

Consumer Reports’ tough tests continue to find that some laundry detergents clean only slightly better than water—and that some washers use lots of water yet leave clothes dirty and dingy. Some dryers have a tough time doing their job, too, taking longer than usual to completely dry a load.

Such unimpressive performance means that you'll be throwing money down the drain by doing extra loads or running up your energy bill.

Laundry appliances that don't stand the test of time will cost you, too. That’s why we incorporate lab test results, predicted reliability, and owner satisfaction into one Overall Score in our ratings of washers and dryers.  

Washing Machines

Front-Loaders
The Electrolux EFL317TlW, $600, is currently the lowest-rated model of the dozens of full-sized front-loaders we tested. It earns a Very Good rating in washing performance but is the roughest on fabrics, earning a Poor rating in gentleness. It's also the noisiest and vibrates more than many we've tested.

Among compact front-loading washers we've tested, the Whirlpool WFW5090GW, $1,035, is the worst at cleaning, rating only a Fair. And Whirlpool compact front-loaders earn a Poor rating in predicted brand reliability, so CR can't recommend them at this time. 

MORE ON LAUNDRY

High-Efficiency (HE) Top-Loaders
Many HE top-loaders, the type without an agitator, earn a Very Good rating in washing performance, their primary function. The Samsung WA45N3050AW, $480, however, earns only a Fair rating in cleaning, leaving many of the stains on our swatches. 

Agitator Top-Loaders
Many agitator top-loaders we test rate a Good in washing performance, meaning they do a decent job of cleaning, though they may have trouble with heavily stained items. (Pretreating will help.)

The GE GTW330ASKWW, $410, Fisher & Paykel WA3927G1, $800, and Speed Queen TR7000WN, $1,200, however, earn just a Fair rating in washing performance. They left much of the stains on our test fabrics. So did the Roper RTW4516FWAmana NTW4516FW, and Whirlpool WTW4616FW, despite using more water than a number of the other agitator machines. In fact, these three machines earn a Poor rating for water efficiency. All cost around $400. 

The Kenmore 20232, $400, earns a Good rating in washing but earns a Poor for both water efficiency and energy efficiency, which means, in part, that it extracts less water from laundry, so dryer time is longer. 

Clothes Dryers

Any dryer will get the job done—eventually. But a money-wasting dryer might take longer, use higher heat, or overdry laundry when you want clothes a bit damp.

All of this is harder on fabrics and uses more energy. The Whirlpool WHD862CHC, $1,800, is a hybrid heat pump dryer that saves energy but earns only a Fair rating in drying performance. That's because it takes much longer than most we've tested. 

The LG WM3997HWA, $1,820, and the Kenmore Elite 41002, $1,425, are even worse at drying, earning a Poor rating for the job. Both are all-in-one washer-ventless dryer machines. 

Even when a dryer performs well in our tests, consider the brand’s predicted reliability. Our member survey shows that full-sized Hotpoint and Fisher & Paykel electric dryers earn a Poor rating, and Samsung, Frigidaire, and Roper receive only a Fair rating. CR doesn’t recommend these five brands at present. 

Among gas dryers, we can't currently recommend Fisher & Paykel, Electrolux, Hotpoint, and GE gas dryers because they earn a subpar rating, a Fair, in brand reliability. Our dryer ratings offer all the details. 

Laundry Detergents

With laundry detergents, you can waste money a couple of ways. Now that detergent is concentrated, it's easy to use too much if you don’t measure it. This can also waste water, because a surplus of suds can cause the washer to extend the rinse cycle. 

And then there are detergents that are no match for common stains such as body oil or dirt, including Arm & Hammer for Sensitive SkinEra 3X Oxibooster, Gain Original, Purex Natural ElementsSun Triple Clean, and Tide Simply Clean & Fresh. You'll find much better options in our laundry detergent ratings.


Should You Wash Clothes in Hot Water?

Think your clothes come out cleaner with hot water? Consumer Reports' appliance expert, Emilio Gonzalez, explains to "Consumer 101" TV show host Jack Rico why it might not be necessary to wash clothes at a higher temperature.