Find the best washing machine for your home with our buying guide and test results.
We’ve tested the dirt removal, gentleness and efficiency of 43 top- and front-loading washing machines.
There are two main types of washing machine – top loaders and front loaders. Another option is a combination washing machine and dryer.
Top loaders usually get clothes clean by vigorously swirling them back and forth in the water. They’re faster than front loaders but can be tougher on your clothes.
If you just need a machine to get the dirt out of non-delicate clothes and fabrics, any of the top loaders in our test will do a good job.
Top-loading washing machines have 2 options for swirling the load: an agitator (central spindle), or an impeller (a small bump at the bottom of the bowl). Impellers spin and pulse to turn the washing over, rather than twisting it. Washing machines with impellers tend to be easier to load and unload, but their dirt removal isn't always as good as agitator models.
Front loaders remove dirt by gently turning the clothes over and over. They are more energy efficient and use less water than top loaders (but can produce stiff, rough or scratchy towels as a result).
If you have lots of delicate items in your wardrobe, a gentle front-loading machine with a cycle for hand-washable items will help your clothes last longer.
If you’re buying a washing machine, there’s more to consider than just type, size and price.
All machines have a range of cycle times to choose from.
If you're buying a front loader, a higher price generally means more features such as spin speeds and electronic controls.
If you're after a top loader, paying more should get you a machine that can adjust the wash to match the load size and maybe even the fabric. This can mean lower energy costs, lower water use and lower fabric wear. Be aware, though, that many top loaders aren’t gentle enough to wash “woollens” or “delicates”.
Tip: If there’s no "wool" or “delicate” cycle, you’ll have to adapt. You may need to use another wash cycle and shorten its wash time, lower the spin speed and/or set the water temperature to warm.
A spin speed of 1000rpm will remove a good amount of water. This cuts down on drying time, but could cause more creasing. Some models allow you to select a spin speed independently of the wash cycle.
Most laundry detergents are formulated to work in cold water (with a temperature between 15°C and 20°C). However, if you live in a cold climate, your machine may do a "controlled cold" wash where a small amount of hot water is used to lift the wash temperature to about 20°C. This helps the detergent dissolve properly.
If you have solar hot water, using it for warm and hot washes could save time (due to shorter wash times) and electricity. Most top loaders have tap connections for both hot and cold water. If you’d prefer a front loader, your options are limited: few front-loading models have dual connections. Even when they do, some draw in hot water only for a hot wash (60°C or hotter). For warm washes, they use their element to heat water.
Tip: Warmer water makes most detergents more effective – so for those really dirty loads, use a warm wash.
A downside of front loaders and water-efficient top loaders is that they can produce stiff, rough or scratchy towels. For towels to fluff up nicely, they need to be immersed in water.
Also, if too little water is used for rinsing, you may find detergent residue on your laundry.
We test washing machines using their “normal” cycle rather than their water-saving cycle, so our water-consumption figures will often be higher than those stated on the mandatory water-efficiency labels. Nevertheless, our test results can help you choose a machine that’s good at rinsing while still being water-efficient.
Machines without this feature will stop when laundry clumps excessively. Those with this feature gently agitate the load to re-arrange it – a valuable option if you put on a load overnight and want to ensure you’ll be able to hang it out before you go to work.
Figure out how much space you have before buying a washing machine. The dimensions (HxWxD) provided by the manufacturer are for the appliance itself, but you’ll need some wiggle room during installation. And don’t forget the plumbing: check how far the hoses, cords and plugs extend and add that measurement, plus a bit more for airflow, to the stated depth.
Washing machines tend to vibrate, especially during the spin cycle, so leave at least 5cm on each side to accommodate any movement.
Also consider potential obstructions. If you have a top loader, will you be able to open the lid fully and reach inside without banging your head on a cabinet or shelf? With a front loader, will wall mouldings, for example, prevent the door from opening properly?
To calculate what capacity washing machine you need, weigh the maximum load you wash. If you have a set of bathroom scales, hop on with an empty washing basket for the base reading, then fill the basket with the maximum amount you’d wash at one time. Get back on the scales with the full basket, then subtract the first measurement from the second to get your load weight. Now you know what capacity you need.
Washing machines often get heavy use - so if buying second hand, newer is better.
The Energy Rating Label has a scale of stars to show how energy efficient a model is, compared to other models the same size/capacity. More stars = more energy efficient.
The energy consumption figure is in kWh and can be used to compare with any other washing machine. You can use this figure and the kWh cost from your latest power bill to calculate how much this model will cost to run. The average cost of power for a kWh in New Zealand is 25¢. Lower kWh = cheaper to run.
The product’s annual energy consumption in kilowatt-hours (kWh) is based on standards testing. Check the key assumptions used in this testing to make sure they match how you will use the product. Annual energy consumption for washing machines assumes 365 uses a year. You should only compare star ratings of washing machines with the same or similar capacities.
For information on energy ratings and how to use them, see our Energy Rating Labels explained article.
Whether the fault is catastrophic or just annoying, we need your help. Take our two-minute survey to report what went wrong.