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Washing Machine Buying Guide

A comprehensive washing machine guide that will give you all the information you need to know when shopping for a new washing machine

Getting Started

Getting read to buy a washing machine might not feel more like a chore than fun bit of shopping, but your washing machine is probably one of the most used appliances in your home. Choosing the right model can can also make a huge difference when it comes to your energy bill. Before purchasing a washer it's important that you consider the many new and energy-efficient features washers have to offer. Also, consider which type and size washer best meets your needs.

Types of Washing Machine

Front Load Washer

Front Load Washers, as the name suggests, allow users to load their clothes through a door in the front. This comes in handy for those who are not able to have top load washing machines, due to space requirements and/or shelves/cabinets that are directly above the machines. Many people prefer front load washers because they are stackable and because they use less water, when compared to top load washers. Typically, front load washers are a bit more expensive then top load washers, however seeing as they use about 40% less water, your water bill will, over time, offset the price difference.

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Top Load Washer

Top Load Washers are washing machines that, as you could guess, are loaded through a door on the top of the machine. Top load washing machines are perfect for those who are less inclined to having to bend over to remove any articles of clothing, as well as for those who prefer a traditional washer style. These machines are less energy efficient because they use more water, when compared to front loading washing machines. When considering a top load washer, keep in mind that they are not stackable, and it is less common to find a top loading dryer. So, if you enjoy a matching esthetic, you may be more inclined to look for a front load washer.

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Stacked Washer Dryer Unit

Stacked Washer Dryer Units have a washing machine on the bottom and a dryer on the top. These units are connected in the middle and typically are smaller in capacity. Stacked washer dryer units come in both electric and gas, however they typically are only available in the color white. These machines are perfect for homes or apartments that have limited space available.

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Commercial Washer

Commercial Washers are commonly found in apartment building that have shared laundry rooms, as well as in Laundromats. They come in both top and front load styles; however they are typically have limited colors available. The main difference between commercial washers and top or front load washers is that commercial washers are coin operated, and come with a coin machine.

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Washer and Dryer Combo

Washer and Dryer Combos combine both washing and drying into one unit that's the same size as a normal washing machine. These machines are perfect for those who have limited space in their homes for two full sized machines. Combo units are only available through few manufacturers, which is why there is a limited selection. Keep in mind these units are not as powerful as standard washers and dryer, so when choosing a combo unit it is necessary to understand your specific needs prior to purchasing.

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Portable Washer

If space is tight in your condo, house, or apartment, a portable washing machine is a great option for keeping your clothes clean, without taking up much room. To operate a portable washing machine, hook-up the water-in line to a sink faucet and then place the drain hose in/near the sink's drain. After the water-in and draining hoses have been properly dealt with, follow the instructions on the display and choose the setting that best suits the laundry load. Be sure to note, a water source, as well as a place to drain is required for each cycle, so make this is available in your home before purchasing. Once you are finished, be sure the washer and hoses fully dry for mold prevention.

If you have never used a portable washer, there are a few things to be aware of. It is advised, that when in use, place the portable washer on uncarpeted, level ground. However, portable washers can be placed on carpet as long as the vents are not obstructed. Portable washers also require more energy than a permanent washer; however, they clean clothing much quicker, which in-time saves water and energy.

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Things To Consider


Most manufacturers will define the size of the washtub differently. Common terms are "extra large" or "super capacity." When comparing capacity it is best to use the cubic foot measurement to determine the actual size.

Tub Material

The three most commonly used tub materials are porcelain-coated, plastic, and stainless steel. Porcelain can deteriorate if it chips. Many of the higher-end models will use a plastic tub, which generally lasts the life of the machine. The very best models will use a stainless steel tub.

Water Levels

Washing machines have water level settings. Many of the higher end models will offer many more levels to control the amount of water in a machine. A washer using the ideal level of water will be more efficient. Manufacturers recommend using only enough water to cover the clothes.


There are many cycles available on a washing machine. Choose a machine that will offer all the cycles you will need. Choose from cycles such as permanent press, sanitize, delicate, and extra rinses. Make sure to get a unit with all the cycles your clothes will need. Different wash/spin speed combinations allow you to wash more types of clothing in ways that are safest for the fabric.

Steam Cycle

Some newer washers now offer a cycle that can remove wrinkles and odors from clothing without the use of detergent. It is similar to what a Dry Cleaner would do. This cycle can also be used for quick de-wrinkling.

Water temperature

Your garments will look better and last longer if you use the proper water temperature. Detergents, bleaches, and fabric softeners require specific water temperatures to work their best. Many washers will include several wash and rinse temperature options.

A washing machine with automatic temperature regulators will make sure that the water entering the machine will be the proper temperature. For example, on a frigid day in Chicago, the water entering a standard washer set to "warm" may not reach the temperature desired. Temperature regulators will add more hot water as needed to make sure the desired temperature is met.

To kill even the toughest germs, a machine will be required to run at an even higher temperature. Look for a washer that offers a temperature boost or sanitize cycle.

Energy Efficiency

If you have a big family, you know that you will be washing clothes often. You will want a machine that is not only big enough to do the job, but one that is advanced enough to wash your clothes while staying energy efficient. You will want to look into a washing machine that offers a variety of energy efficient features, Features like, automatic temperature control, or water levels will sense how many articles of clothing are in the washer and will use the resources needed. This will eliminate lengthy washing cycles, or using more water than required. These units may cost a little more at first, but they will save you money in the long run on your energy bills.

High Efficiency Detergent

High Efficiency (HE) detergent - Most modern washing machines do their best to conserve both water and electricity. The most effective of these are considered High Efficiency (HE) Washers. Because these machines use less water than a traditional washer, they also require a different kind of detergent (high efficiency detergent) that can effectively clean your clothes and rinse away using only the limited water that a HE washer requires. Using regular detergent in a HE washing machine can create excess suds that don’t have the opportunity to disperse in a normal cycle. By using HE detergents that are designed to create minimal suds and quickly wash away, you’ll be sure to get the most out of your HE washer every time. To identify high efficiency products, look for the (usually) blue and white h·e logo.

Noise Level

Is your washer going to be in your basement or in the garage? If so, you may not be concerned with noise level. If your washer is near a living area you may want a unit that has more insulation and reinforced frames to reduce operation noise.


While it's possible to stop a front-loading machine and add that missing sock, it does have an automatic lock feature on the unit that will prevent the door from opening while the drum is spinning.


Digital controls and displays will allow you to program different cycle settings. Just program your favorite settings and access them with the push of one button. For an easier wash process, choose a machine with a dial or push buttons.

Bleach and Fabric Softener Dispensers

The chemicals (detergent, bleach, fabric softener) you use are a key part of garment care. Dispensers will automatically disperse them at the correct time.

Energy Star rating

The Energy Star label - conferred by the U.S. Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency - indicates that a washing machine uses 35 percent to 50 percent less water and 50 percent less energy than a non-labeled machine. That makes the machine better for the environment and saves you money.