A basket of dirty laundry, and laundry tips from Consumer Reports.

The average American family does roughly 300 loads of laundry a year, according to Energy Star. Any way you spin that, it’s a lot of time spent doing laundry. 

So how can you save time and still get fresh, clean clothes? Consumer Reports’ washer testers have some tried-and-true advice. After all, they’ve done hundreds of loads of laundry for our tests. 

One easy tip: Take your sorting up a notch. “Your washing machine is designed to clean certain types of clothing and soil levels differently,” says Rich Handel, who oversees our tests of laundry appliances. 

MORE ON WASHING MACHINES

“So for the best results and to avoid having to rewash some of the items, sort your laundry into piles according to color, soil level, and fabric type, and choose the most appropriate washer cycle and water temperature for each load,” Handel says.

For example, group especially dirty laundry together and use the heavy-soil setting, but wash delicates together with the help of the delicate cycle—the garment’s care label will guide you. New bath towels, flannel shirts, and fuzzy sweatshirts can shed lint during washing, which is why it’s best not to mix them in with other items. 

Read on for more time-saving tips, and a look at typical wash times for agitator top-loader, HE top-loader, and front-loader washers. CR members can see our reviews of six impressive washing machines that are among the fastest in their category. For more on washers, including large-capacity washers of 5 cubic feet or more that can help you save time doing laundry, see our washing machine ratings and buying guide.  

Ways to Save Time Doing Laundry

Treat stains immediately. To avoid washing and rewashing, treat stains before they set in, so they’ll be easier to remove in the wash. Just be sure the stain is gone before you put the clothing in the dryer, because the heat can set it the stain, making it harder to remove. 

Do full loads. You’ll spend less time doing laundry this way, and save water and energy, too. Your washer manual will guide you on load size. If you’re shopping for a new washer, check the capacities in our washing machine ratings, and choose the best size for your family.  

Use the fastest cycle for the job. The normal-wash/normal-soil setting should work for most loads, according to our testers, and is typically faster than the heavy-soil setting. (The cycle times in our washing machine ratings are based on the normal-wash/heavy-soil setting.) When your clothes aren’t that dirty, try the light-soil setting, or use a quick-wash cycle when the load is lightly soiled and small. 

Try additional wash options. Some washers have options that trim time. Kenmore’s Accela Wash, LG’s TurboWash, and Samsung’s Super Speed options do just that. And in CR’s tests of front-loaders, they cut the wash time of our loads by about 15 to 20 minutes without affecting cleaning performance.

Use the right amount of HE detergent. Too much and it can cause the washer to rinse repeatedly, extending wash time and wasting water. So be sure to follow the instructions on the detergent label for the type of load you’re doing.

Increase the drum’s spin speed. If your machine offers this option, do this to remove more water from the laundry, which shortens dryer time. Just don’t do this with delicates, because it might be too rough on them. The same goes for waterproof items in an HE top-loader, because water could get trapped in the clothing and cause the load to become unbalanced, resulting in excessive shaking.

Cut Time on the Dryer Side
• To keep the air flowing in your dryer so clothing dries faster, be sure to clean the lint filter before every load.
• Scrub the filter once a month if you use dryer sheets, because they can leave a film on the filter, reducing airflow.
• Remember to clean the dryer duct at least once a year to clear airflow and help prevent dryer fires

Washer Types & Cycle Times

Consumer Reports’ washer testers record how long each washer takes to do a load using the normal-wash/heavy-soil setting. Wash times in our current washing machine ratings vary from as little as 35 minutes to 120 minutes. While wash time doesn’t factor into a model’s Overall Score, it makes it easy for you to compare washers. 

Agitator top-loaders are usually your fastest option, taking 35 to 80 minutes to do a wash in our tests. But they often have a harder time removing difficult stains. They use the most water of these types and can be tough on fabrics. HE top-loaders, the type without an agitator, typically clock in between 60 and 85 minutes in our tests, and cleaning is often impressive, though they can be rough on fabrics. 

Front-loading washers usually take the longest to clean, from 70 to 120 minutes in our tests. There are pluses to front-loader, however. “As a group, they deliver the best cleaning, are gentle on fabrics, and extract much of the water, shortening dryer time,” Handel says.

CR members can read on for ratings and reviews six of the fastest washing machines—agitator top-loaders, HE top-loaders, and front-loaders—that deliver impressive performance in CR’s tests.

Fastest Agitator Top-Loaders

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Fastest HE Top-Loaders

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Fastest Front-Loaders

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