How we test washing machines

Here's how we test the latest washing machines.

Row of washing machines

Our method of testing washing machines has changed. We used to test washing machines on a "full load".

So if a machine had a maximum capacity of 7kg, that’s how much we stuffed into it. As our past tests found, this wasn't always easy to do – and we also know this isn't what people do at home.

About our test

We now test washing machines using a smaller (3.5kg) load. Our research shows this is about in the middle of the range of amounts that most people wash, whatever the size of their machine.

We retested several machines from previous tests with a 3.5kg load. We found:

  • Increased water savings in machines (particularly front loaders) that have an auto-sensing water level feature.
  • Changes in dirt-removal performance (better for front loaders; worse for top loaders).
  • Better rinse performance in both front and top loaders.
  • Improved gentleness in top loaders (though not enough to make them as gentle as front loaders).
  • Shorter cycle times (and lower running costs) for many machines.

We've also revised our rating scale so that dirt removal is the most important part of the scoring. Dirt removal now accounts for 50% of the overall score (up from 40%). Rinsing accounts for 20%; and gentleness, water efficiency and spin efficiency are each worth 10%.

Our recommendations

We recommend front loaders that score at least 80% overall and 80% or better for dirt removal. If you prefer top loaders, we recommend those that score at least 65% overall and 70% or better for dirt removal.

How we test

Our test is based on the standard AS/NZS 2040:1998, and was completed using machines filled with 3.5kg loads.

Overall score is based on:

  • Dirt removal (50%): Calculated according to a formula in the standard, which reduces the score in proportion to the variability of dirt removal over a range of test swatches in the wash load.
  • Water efficiency (10%): Based on the amount of water used in the whole cycle, per kg of clothes.
  • Rinse performance (20%): Based on the amount of detergent residues after rinsing.
  • Spin efficiency (10%): Calculated from the amount of water remaining (per kg) in the damp clothes.
  • Gentleness (10%): Calculated from the amount of wear on easily frayed squares of cloth.

Ready to buy a washing machine? Check out our buying guide to find out what to look for, or see the best washing machines from our test.

Member comments

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Don A.
13 Feb 2020
Washing Machine Testing. Was Maytag tested?

Hi,
We have had a Maytag top loading washing machine and have had no problems over 20 years. Given our experience, I am surprised as it would seem Maytag was not in your test sample. Is this correct? If so I would appreciate the reason it was not included.

Consumer staff
13 Feb 2020
Re: Washing Machine Testing. Was Maytag tested?

Hi Don,

When we’re choosing which models to test, one of the factors we consider is distribution. Although we’ve tested Maytag washing machines in the past, the brand is, for the most part, pitched at commercial operations (laundromats, the hospitality industry, small hotels, etcetera). A few shops stock a tiny selection of machines suitable for a domestic situation, but Maytags aren’t widely available to the average consumer. Hope this helps.

Kind regards,
Julia - Consumer NZ staff

EDWARD R.
27 May 2020
maytag washing machines

ive had two over twenty years.Very reliable and any minor breakdown can be serviced on site.The latest model is not as good as the previous models.Best people to ask which machines are best are the service agents as they know if parts are available in NZ. Axial appliances who service all machines would be a good place for advice as to the good bad and ugly.Maytag are a commercial grade machine.
Eddie R.

Chris C.
11 Feb 2020
Justify your 'Top Brands' recommendation please

Commenting here, because is the closest place I can...

This Consumer Top Brands label is glowing recommendation for LG and Miele Front Load washers - as if they're the only brands one should buy, But where is the evidence on your site? A good review on a couple of specific models is all that I can find.

I'm looking for the user surveys, so I can see what people who've owned recent machines have to say and what models they've owned.

By contrast, there are a high ratio of bad reviews of machines from both of these brands in Australia ( e.g. https://www.productreview.com.au/listings/miele-w1?rating=1 ), with failures in too short a time, and bad responses from the support channel.

In NZ I expect the machines are likely the the same, so the common faults and failure rates should be similar surely? And support channels are likely to be the same too, until techs are despatched, anyway.

Sorry to be picky, but I need some quality information available to help me spend money wisely..

Suggestions: why not provide a service/support ranking across all the common brands and channels? This would be insightful. and common faults might be damn useful to know about too! Bonus points for typical time to fix/and cost of repair for common failures.

Staff C.
12 Feb 2020
Top Brand washing machines

Hi Chris,

We calculate the Top Brand award from the previous 12 months of product testing and our annual reliability and owner satisfaction survey. More details here: https://www.consumer.org.nz/articles/top-brands-in-2019

The 2019 data for washing machines included 41 tested products from 12 brands and almost 1700 members reporting the reliability and their satisfaction with washing machines they bought in the previous 5 years. Across all that data, Miele and LG performed consistently better than other brands, so while they may not be perfect, we think they are a good place to start looking.

I agree about your request for service and support rankings. That's something we're working on. It's important (essential, actually) to consider the entire life span of an appliance, not just its core test performance. Top Brand is a start towards this.

We show more reliability results, including the top reported faults, here: https://www.consumer.org.nz/articles/product-reliability-laundry-cleaning#washing-machines

The reliability reporting is at brand level, because we don't have the granularity of data to report by model, and because reliability data is historic (the new model you might see in store hasn't been in market long enough to generate good reliability data, but past performance of models from that brand is a good indication of how it is likely to last). Be careful of single reports of model failures on review sites - a handful of upset owners reporting a failure doesn't mean the model is junk - you may not be hearing of the thousands of owners having ho problems with it. In the last survey, 12% of washers had a fault. Miele had 4% and LG 6% reported with faults - so even the best brands have some samples. We try to stick with statistical data for reliability.

We are currently looking closer at appliance failure and repairability. Look out for content in that space. In future we'll integrate that into our test results.

cheers,
Paul (Head of Testing, Consumer NZ)

Richard S.
12 Oct 2019
Washing machines

We have a F&P top loader (about 10 years old) which at irregular intervals decides to clean itself out by pouring the dirt it has hidden away somewhere inside onto the whites you wanted cleaned. Sales people have, one assumes, been primed to deny that this is a design fault since they all deny it with the same words... offering rather to sell us special detergent to use in the machine in a hot but dummy run. Not exactly water saving. Is this DESIGN FAULT still a feature? There was no mention of this anywhere, although the special detergent is still being touted by sales.