How to Make a Greener Choice for Your Laundry Room

25 washing machines in CR's ratings earn our Green Choice designation

The Consumer Reports Green Choice designation icon for next two the Kenmore Elite 41982 washing machine Graphic: Consumer Reports, Kenmore

You might have a water guzzler or an energy hog in your laundry room. When it’s time to replace your washing machine, we have a new way to assess the environmental impact of washing a load of laundry—down to the model level.

Consumer Reports’ Green Choice program will help you easily identify the most environmentally friendly machines as you shop. They’re marked by a green leaf icon in our washing machine ratings.

“Our Green Choice designation focuses only on the factors that impact the environment,” says Jim Nanni, CR associate director and appliance testing team leader. These aspects are water efficiency, energy efficiency, reliability, and how gentle the machine is on fabrics.

More on Washing Machines

Top-performing washing machines receive CR’s recommendation. Or, based on a combination of top-notch performance and a relatively low price, we name the washer a CR Best Buy. Green Choice, a separate designation, is reserved for the most environmentally friendly washing machines, across the entire product category.

And in this case, you can have it all: “Our tests show that Green Choice washers not only reduce one’s environmental footprint, they also tend to be better at cleaning clothes,” says James Dickerson, PhD, CR’s chief scientific officer. “That’s one of the big reasons why a majority of the Green Choice washers are also recommended by CR.”

Almost half of Americans (47 percent) say they would be willing to pay more money for products that are green, eco-friendly, or safe for the environment, according to an April 2021 Consumer Reports nationally representative survey of 2,288 U.S. adults (PDF). That translates to a 120 million-person climate wake-up call.

More good news: You don’t have to pay top dollar. Our current Green Choice washing machines retail for as little as $800.

CR first launched Green Choice for automobiles; we kicked things off this February, using the green leaf icon to identify the new cars, SUVs, and minivans with the lowest greenhouse gas and smog-forming emissions. “Every consumer should be able to buy products that help save money and reduce their environmental footprint,” says David Friedman, Consumer Reports’ vice president of advocacy. “If we’re going to do something about the huge cost that climate change and air pollution create for consumers, it can’t just be the consumer’s responsibility. Everyone needs to share in it. And that’s exactly what Green Choice is about—better information for consumers and an opportunity to encourage manufacturers to do better with their next products.”

Less efficient washers can use around 40 gallons of water per load. Considering the typical household launders 300 loads a year, according to Energy Star, that’s almost enough water to fill a 12x24-foot swimming pool with an average depth of 6 feet. And over a 30-year period, using more energy- and water-efficient washers could put two average-sized coal power plants out of business and save consumers up to $30 billion dollars, according to the Appliance Standards Awareness Project, citing information from the Department of Energy.

The DOE’s rules limiting a washer’s water and energy usage have gone a long way toward making washers more eco-friendly. But manufacturers are taking note. We reached out to a few major manufacturers to see how they’re prioritizing sustainability.

“By incorporating smart technology into our products, we allow for cutting down on water and energy consumption while providing users with a personalized laundry experience,” says a Samsung spokesperson. “We believe we share a responsibility to address climate change and preserve the planet for future generations.”

Amberdeep Singh Aurora, a Whirlpool senior product marketing manager, says, “The definition of environmentally friendly is evolving beyond the product to include a cradle-to-grave impact—how the products are manufactured, what materials are used, etc.” Aurora adds that the company has a global commitment to reach net-zero emissions in its plants and operations by 2030.

How a Washer Earns CR’s Green Choice Designation

CR’s new Green Choice designation—signified in our ratings by a green leaf icon—distinguishes eco-friendly washing machines from the rest. To be a Green Choice, a washer must earn top scores in four key assessments.  

  • Water efficiency: In this test, we measure a washer’s total water consumption (hot and cold), per pound of laundry. The most water-efficient washers in our ratings average about 10 gallons of water—75 percent less than older models.  
  • Energy efficiency: We calculate how much electricity is needed to run a washer, heat the water it uses, and dry clothes post-wash. Washers that extract more water while spinning the clothes allow the dryer to use less energy during a tumble-dry cycle, which earns the washer a higher score. But heating the water also consumes a fair amount of energy. That may be one reason for the introduction of cold-wash detergents. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that washing clothes in cold water can save you $40 a year. 
  • Brand reliability: Based on information from surveys of CR members who purchased a new machine over the past 10 years, this rating estimates the likelihood that a particular brand and type of washer will break or experience problems within the first five years of ownership. Washing machines that are less likely to break will likely need fewer repairs and may stay in use longer. This is better for the environment because it reduces waste and the environmental impacts of manufacturing replacements; they make for better investments, too.
  • Gentleness: We measure how rough a machine is on washed fabrics. After all, the longer your clothes last, the less likely you are to have to replace them. Global clothing consumption has doubled over the past 15 years, with the proportion of hard-to-recycle synthetic polyester in clothing doubling since 2000. That triggers microplastic pollution and waste that can harm marine microsystems and expose humans to fish and shellfish that have been contaminated by ingesting these potential toxins. And that’s not counting materials and carbon emissions used to make and replace clothes.

The Most Eco-Friendly Washers

Of the 115 washing machines in our ratings, 25 earn Green Choice status. At this time, all Green Choice washers are either full-sized or compact front-loaders, which are generally much more water-efficient than top-loaders. In fact, not a single top-loader—agitator or high-efficiency—earns a Green Choice designation. 

For the details on the most eco-friendly washers, see our round-up of the best eco-friendly washers. For more on washers, check out our washing machine buying guide, and for even more options, see our comprehensive washing machine ratings.

BW Headshot of Consumer Reports author Keith Flamer

Keith Flamer

As a kid in Delaware, I lived a few blocks from Bob Marley, who once said, "It is better to live on the house top than to live in a house full of confusion." At CR, I'm psyched to help readers navigate this cluttered, hyper-commercialized world we live in. I've covered luxury real estate, interior design, and culture—reporting on everything from smart home technology to racial hypocrisy at Thomas Jefferson's Monticello estate. Since the pandemic started, I cherish simplicity, covering accessible topics like decorating, cooking, and cleaning. Give me a smoothie blender over a mansion any day. Blenders are slightly easier to clean.