Best Large-Capacity Washing Machines of 2022

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

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We’ve all jammed a washer with too many clothes in our haste to get through mountains of laundry.

After all, washing full loads is recommended to save water, energy and money. 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.”

So always leave enough room for clothes to agitate 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. Here’s what that means in practical terms:

  • Small tub (3.2 cubic feet): can wash 12 to 14 pounds of laundry, or roughly nine thick full-sized bath towels.
  • Medium tub (4.5 cubic feet): can wash 14 to 16 pounds of laundry, or 11 towels.
  • Large tub (5 to 6.2 cubic feet): can wash up to 20 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

Check your manual for guidance on load sizes so you can avoid: overstuffing your machine, using too much detergent, better agitate your clothes with minimal detergent, improve rinsing, and save energy by doing full loads. Here’s what else to consider:

Capacity varies by washer type. Agitator top-loaders typically have the smallest tub capacities, as little as 3.2 cubic feet for the Speed Queen models in our ratings. But some manufacturers now offer agitator top-loaders that have capacities of 5 cubic feet or more. Capacities for HE top-loaders, the type without an agitator, and front-loaders range between 4.5 to 6.2 cubic feet. 

MORE ON WASHING MACHINES

Cleaning 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. In fact, an extra rinse cycle might be helpful for these bulky items.

Large capacities, small loads. All of 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.

CR members with digital access can read on for ratings and reviews of nine full-sized washers, two picks for each type, with capacities of at least 5 cubic feet.

Manufacturers have been increasing capacities for years as federal standards for water and energy efficiency become more stringent and wash times get longer. (It takes more time to clean clothes with less water.) And these changes have other practical implications.

“There are only a few ways manufacturers can increase capacity,” says Handel. “You either make the tub deeper or wider—or both—and it may not be obvious when you’re shopping. You’ll want to reach all the way in to make sure you can pick laundry off the bottom.”

High-capacity washers might be wider than the standard 27 inches, so you’ll want to factor that in. Measure the space 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 a new machine fits through them.

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.