We’ve tested the dirt removal, gentleness and efficiency of a wide range of top- and front-loading washing machines. Use our test results to find the model and price that’s right for you.
Snapshot: The Electrolux EWF12753 front loader has a 7.5kg capacity and a cold connection. How well does it clean your clothes?
Snapshot: The Fisher & Paykel FabricSmart WH8560F1 front loader has a 8.5kg capacity and a cold connection. How well does it clean your clothes?
Snapshot: The Whirlpool FSCR10420 front loader has a 8.5 kg capacity and a cold connection. How well does it clean your clothes?
Snapshot: The Haier HWMSP60 top loader has a 6kg capacity and hot + cold connections. How well does it clean your clothes?
Snapshot: The Haier HWMSP70 top loader has a 7kg capacity and hot + cold connections. How well does it clean your clothes?
Snapshot: The Haier HWX8040DW1 TwinTasker dual-washer has a 8kg capacity and a cold connection. How well does it clean your clothes?
Snapshot: The Fisher & Paykel MW513 top loader has a 5.5kg capacity and hot + cold connections. How well does it clean your clothes?
Snapshot: The Panasonic NA-140VG4WAU front loader has a 10kg capacity and a cold connection. How well does it clean your clothes?
Snapshot: The Panasonic NA-148VG4WAU front loader has an 8kg capacity and a cold connection. How well does it clean your clothes?
Snapshot: The Panasonic NA-FS85G3WAU top loader has an 8.5kg capacity and hot + cold connections. How well does it clean your clothes?
Snapshot: The Simpson SWF12743 front loader has a 7kg capacity and a cold connection. How well does it clean your clothes?
Snapshot: The Simpson SWF12843 front loader has a 8kg capacity and a cold connection. How well does it clean your clothes?
Snapshot: The Simpson SWF14743 front loader has a 7kg capacity and a cold connection. How well does it clean your clothes?
Snapshot: The Simpson SWT5541 top loader has a 5.5kg capacity and hot + cold connections. How well does it clean your clothes?
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There are 2 main types of washing machine - top loaders and front loaders. These wash equally well – they just do it differently. 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.
A washer-dryer does the job of a washing machine and clothes dryer in a single appliance. Is one right for you?
We’ve tested washing machines of all sizes – from 5.5kg to 10kg – to help you find a model that’s the right size for your household. You’d expect a large-capacity machine that automatically adjusts its water level to match the size of the load to be just as good as a smaller-capacity machine. However, our tests have found water-level sensors don’t always accurately adjust the water level, so you’re better off buying a washing machine that’s the right size for your household.
Work it out
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 size you need.
Some washing machines are not as big as they claim. If you buy a washer and it doesn't wash a full load properly, or the clothes get clogged on the agitator, or it regularly goes out of balance during spin cycles, you should complain to the retailer.
The Consumer Guarantees Act says a product must be fit for its purpose. If your "8kg" machine washes only 6kg of clothes, you have the right to get it fixed or replaced, or to get your money back.
Most washing machines wash clothes well. But there can be big differences in the additional features they offer, and these affect the price. When you're looking at the price tags, remember: higher price does not always equal better performance.
If you're buying a top loader, the extra money should buy you a machine that will adjust the wash to match the load size and maybe even the fabric. This can mean lower energy costs, lower water use and even lower fabric wear, with the convenience of not having to worry about the cycle you choose.
With front-loading models, paying more generally means more features like spin speeds, electronic controls and the like.
Cycle time: Top-loading washing machines are generally much faster than front-loading machines on the normal cycle. But, all machines have a range of cycle times to choose from. Most front loaders have fast wash cycles that come close to matching the time taken by top loaders on the normal cycle.
Spin efficiency: Machines with a spin speed of 1000rpm will remove a good amount of water, cutting down on drying time. But faster spin speeds can mean more creasing (and possibly more ironing). Look for a model that allows you to select the spin speed independently from the wash cycle.
Cold washes: Cold washes are definitely good for the environment, and most laundry detergents are formulated to work in 15 to 20°C cold water. But some front-loading models can't do a genuine cold wash. Several models in our test could only do a 30°C wash when set on a "normal" or "cottons" wash cycle. That's very close to the "warm" setting on many machines.
Out of balance: Many models now have an out-of-balance correction function. If the load gets too unevenly distributed during the wash, the machine will stop, tumble or agitate gently to re-arrange the load, and start again. It's really valuable if you put on a load overnight and want to throw it on the line before you go to work.
Vibrating floorboards: Concrete floors cope best with the extra weight and vibrations of a front loader, but most manufacturers say that standing a front loader on a timber floor shouldn’t cause damage to the floor … provided the floor is in good condition, is level, and can hold the machine’s weight … and provided the machine’s feet are adjusted properly and stabilise automatically. To prevent scratches on polished timber flooring, you might want to put a non-slip mat under the machine.
Woollens wash cycles: Almost all washing machines have a wash cycle that is suitable for washing woollen items labelled as machine washable. It may be called a "wool" cycle or you may have to adapt another wash cycle such as “delicates” by shortening the wash time, lowering the spin speed and/or setting the water temperature to warm.
Available space: There’s no point buying the perfect washer if it doesn’t fit in its allocated place. The dimensions (H X W X D) provided by the manufacturer are for the appliance itself. When you’re figuring out how much space your dream machine will take up, those numbers are your starting point. But you’ll need some wiggle room during installation. Not only that, 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? And what about plumbing? Check how far the hoses, cords and plugs extend and add that measurement, plus a bit more for air flow, to the stated depth.
Looking after your washing machine will maximise its life and performance. Our survey of manufacturers says you should get at least seven years from a top loader and 12 from a front loader.
Keys and coins kill washing machines. Check pockets before washing, and look for dirt and objects left in the drum, or hidden in the rubber seals after each wash.
Many washing machines have a pump filter, the last line of defence against foreign objects. Look for a small hatch low down on the outside of your machine. Check this monthly and clear anything that shouldn’t be in there — use a towel or tray to catch the water when you open it up. If your machine isn’t draining, this is the first thing to check before calling for a repair.
Keep the spin speed to 1200rpm, even if your machine goes up to 1400 or even 1600rpm. Higher speeds reduce the life of belts, drum bearings and door seals, without removing much more water.
Don’t use fabric softener with laundry detergent. They react to create a waxy residue called “scrud”. No one wants “scrud”.
Regularly clean the detergent dispenser. Check the manual to see how to remove it, and wash it thoroughly in warm soapy water.
Run a hot wash each month with no laundry and a little detergent. Many machines have a specific “service” or “cleaning” cycle. It helps your machine smell fresh, prevents detergent build-up, and keeps it cleaning at its best.
The Consumer Advice Line is available to all our members for support on any consumer-related issue. Our expert advisers can explain your rights and help you resolve problems with a retailer. Become a member now from just $12 and let us help you get a resolution.
There's official recognition that water supplies are increasingly stretched: mandatory water-efficiency labelling (WELS) came into effect in April 2011 for washing machines and dishwashers.
If you need to conserve water, you can see which machines are best from the WELS labels. Or you could just check out our ratings.
We've been rating water efficiency for many years, and we don't use special water-saving programmes when we test. We just use the normal wash (on high-efficiency machines this will be a water-saving programme). But because we use a "normal" wash our water-consumption figures will often be higher than those from WELS.
Water efficiency means that many manufacturers have scaled back the amount of water their washing machines use. But this has sacrificed rinsing performance – especially in front loaders. Adequate rinsing removes detergent residue which otherwise can leave white marks on dark washing (so you have to re-wash) and can irritate sensitive skin.
You can improve inadequate rinsing performance by adding an extra rinse to the wash cycle or increasing the water level – although this increases the wash’s cycle-time and decreases water efficiency. Warmer washes and rinses can also help. As we've found with our new test method, washing smaller loads also improves rinsing.
If you want adequate rinsing, use our test results to choose a model with a rinsing score of 8 or more.
Members with solar hot-water have asked us about using their excess hot water in a washing machine.
Using solar hot water for warm and hot washes should be able to save time (because of shorter wash times) and electricity.
Finding a top loader to do this is easy, because most top loaders have tap connections for both hot and cold water. You can check whether your top loader’s able to use your solar hot water efficiently: run the hot-water tap in your laundry and use a bucket to measure how much cold water flows through before you get hot water.
If you 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.
Lint often collects on the washing, especially in top loaders. Top loaders that use less water can also cause deposits of detergent, which look a lot like lint. If you have these problems:
Wash smaller loads of same colour items, selecting full rinses (not spray rinses) to help remove lint and deposits in folds. On some machines you'll have to choose a cycle that has a full rinse.
Make sure you use enough detergent – it helps carry the lint away. But don't overdose: excess suds could stop the machine or make white deposits worse.
If feasible, don't use water-saving programmes for your wash. Low water-use is often related to deposit problems.
Use liquid detergent or pre-dissolve powders to ensure detergent particles don't deposit on to the clothes.
Fisher & Paykel Smart Drive owners: If you want to see the lint that comes out of the wash, F&P offer a filter option. Call the F&P Customer Call Centre on 0800 372 273, and ask them to send you a filter.
Greasy deposits called “scrud” can result from a reaction between fabric softener and detergent residues. Scrud is waxy and greasy, and clings to unseen parts of the machine, such as under the agitator. Blobs can break free and deposit on to clothes.
When mould grows on the seals or in the drum, you can get bad smells. These can make your clothing smell too.
To avoid mould problems:
Lint, scrud or small objects can all block the pump inlet or the object trap.
One of the downsides of front loaders (and water-efficient top loaders) is that they can produce stiff, rough or scratchy towels. That’s because the towels are generally tumbling through just a little water rather than floating through lots like in an older-style top loader. And to get the fibres nicely fluffed up, towels need to be immersed in water.
Another reason could be that your front loader is in fact too water-efficient, using too little water for the rinse and leaving detergent residues in the wash. Our test results can help you choose a machine that’s good at rinsing while still being water-efficient.
Short of drying your towels for hours in an energy-guzzling clothes dryer to get them soft, you can try the following to help reduce the ‘scratchy, flat’ effect:
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.
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:
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%.
We recommend front loaders that score at least 80% overall and 8.0 or better for dirt removal. If you prefer top loaders, we recommend those that score at least 65% overall and 7.0 or better for dirt removal.
We don't recommend brands that rate "below average" in our reliability survey. That’s why some well-performing models are "worth considering" rather than recommended.
Our 2016 appliance reliability survey found Asko, Panasonic and Samsung washing machines were the least reliable. However, we make an exception for Samsung front loaders. Samsung top loaders were subject to a major recall in 2013, which dragged down Samsung’s overall reliability rating, but our data showed the reliability issues were limited to top loaders only.
Check out more of our tests, articles, news and surveys in our Appliances section.
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