Washing machine buying guide: how to choose the best one for you

Battling with a brokenwashing machineor looking for an upgrade? Whatever the reason you’re shopping for a new one, you need to know the trusty cleaners will stand by you, and keep your clothes sparkling and stain-free.

To help with your research, the Good Housekeeping Institute has expertly tested the latest washing machines on the market and shared everything you need to know about shopping for your new kitchen addition.

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Types of washing machine explained

First up, you need to decide what sort of washing machine you’d like. There are four main types for you to choose from, and your choice will mainly come down to the space you have. Here are the different models available:

This is the most popular type. A freestanding machine isn’t built into your cupboards but is flexible enough to be used in different locations. The standard dimensions are built to fit under most kitchen worktops.

These machines are designed to be installed within a kitchen unit and hidden behind a door that matches your other cupboards. Integrated options can be pricier and slightly smaller than freestanding machines but they are usually quieter, as the cupboard door can muffle the noise.

These can also cost more than freestanding models. The control panel is visible, while the drum is hidden behind a door. You’ll need a door panel from your kitchen supplier to match your kitchen units.

Buying both a washing machine and a tumble dryer can be pricey and take up a lot of space. This is where washer-dryers come in handy. These two-in-one models can be a great solution if you’re looking for one machine to do it all.

The "washer" part works like any standard washing machine, while the "dryer" part works like a heat-pump tumble dryer.

On test, we’ve found that washer-dryers usually aren’t as good as a separate washing machine and tumble dryer. Furthermore, washer-dryers can have drying capacities that are nowhere near their washing capacity. This means that while you may be able to wash 10kg, you might only be able to dry 4kg in the same machine.

Best washing machines to buy in 2021

Best washing machineBosch Serie 6 WAU28R90GB£549.00SHOP NOW

Score: 79/100

Runner upAEG L9FEC966R 9000 Series£1,099.00SHOP NOW

Washing machine buying guide: how to choose the best one for you

Score: 76/100

Best budget buyHisense WFGE80141VM £349.99SHOP NOW

Score: 76/100

Largest capacityLG Inverter Direct Drive FH4G1BCS2£1,099.00SHOP NOW

Score: 75/100

Best for programme choiceSharp ES-NFH014CAC-EN£389.00SHOP NOW

Score: 75/100

Features of a good washing machine

Washing machines are more effective and energy efficient when full, so it's worth thinking about how much washing you'll be doing at one time. Drum capacities range from 3kg up to 12kg, with the weight referring to dry clothes that can fit in the drum. Many machines have 8kg to 10kg of space.

This is a great size for large families or those who like to do all their washing at once. How much you can put in will also depend on the programme you've selected.

The faster the spin, the more water is removed, and clothes don’t have to be in a tumble dryer or out on a washing line for as long. While speeds are worth considering, any machine with a range between 400 to 1,400rpm will do the job well. Some top-of-the-range models can spin up to 1,800rpm on a cotton programme, but faster spin speeds can be more costly and are usually noisier, too.

To see how economical and efficient your new washing machine will be, look at its energy rating. Every new machine will have one, with newer models tending to perform more efficiently than older ones.

The rating scale now goes from A to G – A being the most energy efficient – but it used to include A+++, A++ and A+. These were taken out to simplify the scale and to reflect increasingly economical technology. Now, most machines that were A+++ will have a B or C rating, leaving room for new developments and improvements.

Washing machine programmes explained

All washing machines should have the same standard programmes included but some brands will include extra cycles for specific washes. When choosing the programme, keep in mind the recommended temperatures and spin speeds for your different fabrics. Here are what some of the most common washes do:

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Washing machine features to look out for

If you’re buying from a reputable retailer that is also delivering the machine, they should be able to install it for you. They should also offer to collect and recycle your old one for free or for a small fee.

How we test washing machines

To put washing machines to the test, we wash an everyday load of bedding and towels on the cotton and synthetic programmes. We then score the results, judging the machine on the weight of the laundry before and after washing, the spin efficiency, how long it took, and how much water and energy it used. We also check how much clothes have creased.

We add stain strips to each wash to measure how well it removes stains on both the cotton and synthetic programmes. Throughout the entire test, we assess the design and ease of use, too.

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