Washing machines are an essential part of the modern laundry. Whether it's a top loader, front loader or washer dryer combo, our guide explains different features so you can buy a washing machine to suit your needs, budget and lifestyle.
Types Of Washing Machines
Top Loaders There are two types of top-loading washing machines:
- Agitator: The most common type, where clothes are moved around by the agitator (a pole in the middle of the drum)
- Impeller: Looks like a propeller at the bottom of the washing machine and whips up the water to move clothes
The advantages of a top loader over a front loader are:
- Cheaper purchase price
- Large capacity
- Faster wash cycles
- Can open the machine at any time during the wash to add more clothes
Front Loaders As the name suggest, clothes are loaded into the front of the machine. In a front loader, clothes are moved around by a spinning drum.
The advantages of a front loader over a top loader are:
- Lower ongoing costs
- More water and energy efficient
- Gentler on clothes
- Faster spin speed extracts more water (therefore, shorter drying times)
- More program options
- Compact design suits small spaces
Why Capacity Matters
The most important consideration of a washing machine is its capacity, which is measured in kilograms.
- A medium-sized washing machine is 5.5kg to 7.5kg, enough for a family of four
- As a rough guide, an 8kg washing machine will take a load of approximately 40 shirts
- Your washing machine will last for years, so plan for the future and consider possible changes to the size of your family
Settings And Programs
Washing machines have adjustable wash and temperature settings, which let you safely wash more types of clothing. Buy a washer with a setting to suit your clothes.
- Selectable spin speed means you can choose higher spin for shorter drying times or slower speed for delicates
- An anti-crease function either uses a special cycle for easily creased fabrics, or doesn't spin after the final rinse
- Load sensing detects what type of clothing, how much of it and even how dirty it is, before creating a wash cycle to suit
How Fast Can It Wash?
If you're often rushing for time, research wash lengths before you buy. As a rule, a top-loader is quicker than a front-loader, which can take anywhere up to two hours, although many of the front-loaders offer a 'fast wash' setting.
Water And Energy Efficiency
WELS (Australia's Water Efficiency Labelling Scheme) rates washing machines – including washer dryer combos - depending on how much water they use.
- The label shows a zero to six star rating; the more stars, the more water efficient the product. It also displays the water consumption flow (litres per wash) of the product
- The Energy Star Rating label gives a star rating (out of 10) of the model's energy efficiency. It also states energy consumption (usually kilowatt hours per year) as an estimate of the annual energy consumption of the appliance
- Generally, a more efficient washing machine can be dearer initially, but there are significant savings to be made over its lifetime
Stay In Control
Make sure the controls on your washer are accessible and easy to understand.
- Budget-priced machines will most likely have mechanical knobs
- Pricier models will have one-touch digital buttons and display screens, which can be programmed to suit
What Drives It?
A washing machine's motor is connected to the drum via a gearbox and, commonly, a belt. Make sure you're buying a washing machine with a drive system that's been designed to handle heavy loads.
• Some washing machines now have direct drive systems, which connect the motor directly to the drum. This removes the belt transmission and any risk of it breaking
Check For Noise
Washing machines get louder as they spin faster. Think about how close the washer will be to living areas and how quiet it needs to be.
- Look for a machine that has a dampener system to cushion the drum from the outer casing
- Some newer models offer extra insulation and reinforced frames to reduce operating noise
Keep It Steady
Washing machines are very heavy and can vibrate, so their legs must be strong and wide enough to distribute the weight evenly.
- The machine must be level at all times for it to work properly
- As most laundry floors slope towards a drain, you should look for a washer that has adjustable legs
- Some washing machines have an out-of-balance correction feature that automatically detects and redistributes the load
Safety Is A Priority
Front loader machines, and some top loaders, have an automatic lock function that stops the door from opening while the drum is spinning.
Is Tub Material Important?
On cheaper washing machines, the tub is made of porcelain-coated steel, which can deteriorate if the porcelain chips. In higher-end models, look for a plastic tub that will last the life of the machine. The best models have stainless steel tubs.