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.

Price is from a May 2019 survey.

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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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.