Best Large-Capacity Washing Machines of 2022

These front-loaders, agitator top-loaders, and HE top-loaders will help you keep up with laundry by tackling more clothes at once

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We’ve all jammed as big a pile as possible into our washing machines in an effort to get through mountains of laundry.

And that’s not completely a bad thing. Washing full loads is recommended to save water, energy, and money. And in fact, manufacturers have been increasing tub capacities for years as federal standards for water and energy efficiency become more stringent. But like a holiday meal, there’s a big difference between full and stuffed. A crammed machine can lead to tangled clothes, detergent-dusted fabrics, or damaged mechanisms that unleash an off-balance rumbler in your laundry room.

“Overloading definitely puts more load on the washer’s components, which can lead to an earlier demise,” says Rich Handel, the CR test engineer who runs our washer lab. “The other drawback is that your laundry does not get cleaned, because there is no room for the water and clothes to circulate.”

The trick is to leave enough room for the clothes to move about within the drum. Since the laundry keeps coming, a large-capacity washer can minimize your chore. Tub capacities of models in our washing machine ratings range from 3.2 to 5.8 cubic feet (though we’ve tested larger capacities in the past). Here’s what that means in practical terms.

  • Small tub (about 3.2 cubic feet): can wash up to 14 pounds of laundry, or roughly nine thick full-sized bath towels.
  • Medium tub (about 4.5 cubic feet): can wash up to 16 pounds of laundry, or 11 towels.
  • Large tub (5 cubic feet and more): can wash up to 18 to 25 pounds of laundry, or roughly 17 towels. It comes in handy with that winter ski wear or those oversized summer beach towels.

What to Know About Washer Capacities

Agitator top-loaders typically have the smallest tub capacities, as little as 3.2 cubic feet for a Speed Queen in our ratings. But some manufacturers now offer agitator top-loaders that have capacities of 5 cubic feet or more. Capacities for HE (high-efficiency) top-loaders (the type powered by an impeller, not a vertical spindle) and front-loaders range between 3.5 and 5.8 cubic feet. Check your manual for guidance on load sizes, so you can avoid overstuffing your machine or using too much detergent. This will also help you better agitate your clothes with minimal detergent, improve rinsing, and save energy by doing full loads. Here’s what else to consider.

MORE ON WASHING MACHINES

Comforters: Instead of lugging your king-size comforter to a laundromat, you can wash it in any washer with a claimed capacity of at least 4.5 cubic feet, according to our tests. It’s best washed by itself, for better agitation and rinsing. An extra rinse cycle might be also helpful for these bulky items.

Small loads: All the front-loaders and HE top-loaders in our washing machine ratings have a sensor that adjusts the amount of water based on the weight of the load. Most of the agitator washers do, too. So, yes, you can wash any size load in a large washer. 

Washer vs. dryer capacity: Matching washer and dryer sets remain popular, and when shopping you’ll notice that the claimed capacity of the two machines is different—the dryer’s is larger. Clothes expand as they dry and need the added space to tumble around.

Ease of use: Large-capacity washers have practical implications: The depth of the tub might not work for everyone. “There are only a few ways manufacturers can increase capacity,” Handel says. “You make the tub either deeper or wider—or both.” So when you’re shopping, he says, “reach all the way in to make sure you can pick laundry off the bottom.”

Space: High-capacity washers might be wider than the standard 27 inches, so factor that in as you measure the square footage you have to work with before choosing a model. (You’ll see the dimensions noted in our washing machine ratings.) Allow at least 6 inches behind the washer for plumbing hookups, and about an inch between the washer and dryer. Also measure your home’s doors and hallways en route to the laundry room—to ensure that a new machine will fit through them.

To learn more about the various types of washing machines, see our washing machine buying guide. CR members with digital access can read on for ratings and reviews of nine full-sized washers, three picks for each type, with capacities of at least 5 cubic feet. For more recommended large-capacity washing machines, see our comprehensive washing machine ratings, where you can filter by type, size, price, energy efficiency, noise level, and more.

Best Large-Capacity Front-Loaders

Best Large-Capacity HE Top-Loaders

Best Large-Capacity Agitator Top-Loaders


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.