Washing Machines

Find the best washer for your home

Purchasing a washing machine should never be an impulsive decision, as the quality of your washer affects your home utility expenses, as well as the long-term maintenance of your clothing. Instead of throwing your clothes into any old appliance, take the time to find a washer with the quality, capacity and features to suit your household needs.

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Choosing a Washing Machine

Your first step in purchasing any appliance is deciding on the size, style, budget and desired location in your home. Standard 27-inch washers can accommodate between 8 and 14 pounds of laundry depending on the model, while 24-inch compact washers hold 4 to 6 pounds and high-capacity washers can accommodate as much as 20 pounds of laundry.

Available styles of washing machine include traditional top load washers and the more streamlined front load washer. Both styles offer beneficial features and may be designed to meet Energy Star efficiency guidelines. With prices starting under $300, top load washers are initially less expensive, but they are far less efficient and expend twice the amount of water as their front load counterparts. A typical front load washer is at least $600 and requires special detergent, but these machines are usually quieter and gently handle your clothes to reduce wear. While top load units don't require frequent bending, options for installing them are limited. Regular front load washers can be fitted under a countertop and combination washer/dryers can be stacked and located out of the way in a laundry closet.

Washing Machine Features

When comparing washing machines, consider the number and variety of wash cycles available, as these factors could save you time and money. Some washers include economical settings that automatically adjust wash time, spin speed and water level for specific loads, or delay start time until low-cost, off-peak hours. Many newer LG, Kenmore and Whirlpool washing machines even incorporate a steam-cleaning feature that removes stains and wrinkles and offers additional sanitization.

If you're bothered by noisy appliances, look for models with anti-vibration or sound-buffering components. For durability, shop for washers with stainless steel or plastic tubs, and always buy products with warranties that cover all parts.

The largest washer manufacturers are Whirlpool and GE, both of which also produce the popular Sears Kenmore brand. GE washing machines are especially known for quality and efficiency at an affordable price, while other major brands are usually pricier. Along with reliability, high-end washers may offer more color choices, appealing aesthetics, customized settings and touchpad or touchscreen controls. However, the basic controls and settings of a standard washer have been perfected over time and broken parts are more easily repaired, so don't think you're missing out if you opt for something less expensive.

Portable Washing Machines

For small apartments, cottages or dormitories, manufacturers such as Haier, GE and Danby are producing miniature portable washing machines. They are usually electric or hand-powered units with an average 5-pound capacity. Some models hook up to a faucet, while others are manually filled with water. The popular Wonder Wash manual washer is as low as $40, while larger electric washers with various cycles and LED displays are as much as $350.

As with all appliances, the amount you spend depends on how carefully you shop. Never visit a store and automatically purchase the seller's "best brand." The key is to find the model that is best for you with an affordable price to match.