1. Home

Washers - How to Find the Best Washer

Washers 101 - From Buying to Caring for a Washer


A washer is an essential laundry appliance and depending on the style and amount of fabric care features, this home appliance can require a substantial investment. Because a major appliance such as a washer has a long expected lifecycle, you should ensure that your new washing machine not only meets your current needs, but will be sufficient for the long term.  

1. Types of Washers

Given the range of models, styles and sizes of washers, there are many things to consider when shopping for a washer to ensure this laundry appliance will be adequate for your family's needs. Costs and installation requirements are also of prime importance with this buying decision.  If you're considering a high efficiency washer, expect a learning curve; this type of washer departs from the traditional and familiar way of doing laundry. 

Once you've confirmed the type of washer installation possible in your home, your first decision is deciding on a type of washer.  There are mainly five types of washers:  Front loading, top loading, portable, combination washer/dryer and wringer washers.  But there are many variations including size, capacity, portability, stackable or stand alone options.  Washing operation can be very different with some types of washers and this may affect your washer buying decision.  Learn how different these washers are and review their pros and cons.

Front Loading High-Efficiency (HE) Washer

  • Pros:  Energy saver; low water use; gentle on clothes; enhanced fabric care features; no agitator
  • Cons: Higher priced; needs HE detergent; longer wash cycles; special washer care; new washing style   

Top Loading High-Efficiency (HE) Washer

  • Pros:  Energy saver; low water use; gentle on clothes; enhanced fabric care features; no agitator
  • Cons: Higher priced; needs HE detergent; longer wash cycles; special washer care; new washing style

Top Loading Washer (Traditional)

  • Pros:  Lower price range; familiar operation with agitator; choice of water levels; shorter cycles
  • Cons: Uses more energy and water than HE models

Compact Portable Washer

  • Pros:  Mobile with temporary faucet hook-up; easy to store; economical; best for small residences
  • Cons: Small capacity; limited fabric care features; limited cycles

Stacked Washer Dryer Unit

  • Pros:  Space saving style - dryer is on top of the washer in one tall unit
  • Cons: Units cannot be separated when one needs repair or replacement; tall unit

 Washer Dryer Combo Unit

  • Pros:  One appliance for both functions saves space; ease of installation; best for RV's, condos
  • Cons:  Small capacity; limited cycles and features; pricey

Wringer Washer

  • Pros:  Portable; choice of water levels, temperature and length of cycle; economical
  • Cons: Requires monitoring; manual operation; time consuming and labor intensive; difficult to store

2. Important Washer Features

Traditional agitator-style top loading washers have fewer washing cycles and features, shorter wash times and generally deliver a clean wash. Front-load models have shown better performance, are gentler on clothes (no agitator), but washing cycles are usually much longer. They are also quieter than regular top-loaders, making them ideal if located close to the main part of the home. These features will vary depending on the type of washer and are the most important:

  • Capacities vary from 2 - 7 cu. ft.  Choose an appropriate capacity.
  • At least 3 wash cycles: Long, timed or short and permanent press (low spin)
  • Choice of spin: Regular, low
  • Choice of water temperature for washing and rinsing (cold is a must)
  • More than one water level (traditional top loading washer) or the ability to do small, mid and large size loads
  • Fabric softener and bleach dispenser
  • Self-levelling washer feet
  • Add a Washer Fan to your new washer to prevent washer odor, mold

      3. Bells and Whistles

      While some features may be considered essential to some homeowners, others may never use these frills.  As features will influence the price of your new washer, choose them carefully to ensure you're not paying for frills you'll never use.  That being said, you may not use steam with every wash load, but when you need it, it's there.

      • Temperature sensor - reheats the water to maintain the proper temperature
      • Water level sensor
      • What a Washer Steam Feature Does
      • Delay wash
      • Stainless steel wash tub - rust-resistant, gentler on clothes
      • Presoak cycle
      • Extra rinse cycle
      • Delicates or handwash cycle
      • Spin only cycle
      • Rinse and spin cycle

      4. Energy Efficiency - A Must to Save Money

      Front-load high-efficiency washers lead the pack when it comes to saving electricity and water, but all washers generally have better energy ratings than they used to. For best energy efficiency, buy an Energy Star rated washing machine and when you're choosing between models, take a few minutes to compare the estimated energy use as shown on the Energy Guide labels.  The CEE Tier is also an important rating when it comes to choosing a low energy washer. If you struggle with the idea of the higher expense for an HE front-load washer, you can still save energy with a traditional top load washer.

      5. What Not to Buy

      A high-efficiency (HE) washer requires lots of care to keep it operating properly but it also requires preventative maintenance steps to avoid mold and mildew problems.  If you're not prepared to give this type of washer the care needed, this style of washing machine may not be a good choice for your home.

      Colored appliances may look great in the showroom but once in the home, may not look as delightful.  Colors can also date appliances.  If you're the type that tires quickly of color schemes, buying a brightly-colored appliance may not be wise; choose instead a neutral finish or color.

      Avoid capacities that do not meet your washing needs, unless you're prepared to wash smaller loads more often.  Some homeowners prefer an extra large capacity washer, which enables them to combine some small loads, to save laundry time and energy.  Choose washer capacity carefully.

      Along with capacity considerations comes the need to choose a size of washer that will easily fit into your laundry area.  Avoid oversize machines if a smaller washer and dryer with stacking option, would more readily fit that space.  Measure the laundry area and ensure there is adequate space for the size of washer and dryer you want, along with proper clearances for  door swing, before buying.

      6. Price Ranges and Compare Prices

      Traditional top loading washers though not as energy efficient as HE models, are the most economical to buy when it comes to an installed washing machine.  HE washers with the steam feature are the most expensive.  Prices range from around $500 to $2000 a washer.  Compact portable washers though not suitable for every home, are the cheapest to buy. 

      When comparing prices of washers, keep in mind that certain set-up costs for delivery, set-up and plumbing hook-up may be required to get your new washer ready to use. And depending on your purchase cost, you may also want to consider buying an extended service contract for your new washer.  If you're replacing a washer, you may need to look at appliance disposal or donation options.

      While you're shopping for a washer, this may be a good time to consider buying a companion dryer for your washer.  Consumers can often find good price deals for a matched laundry appliance pair. 

      Compare Prices

      7. Washer Reviews

      Along with comparing washer prices, you should read washer reviews.  Some consumers will include important care and use tips in their appliance reviews, along with information on durability, reliability and washer performance. This information is valuable to those shopping for a washer.

      To help others make their buying decisions, consider writing a review on your current or past washing machine.

      8. Washer Care, Use and FAQ's

      A washer requires a certain amount of care and maintenance to keep it in good operating condition.  But when it comes to an HE washing machine, being proactive with maintenance is essential.  Learn how to use and care for your new washer and what must-have accessories to get.

      9. About Laundry and Detergents

      When it comes to a high-efficiency (HE) washing machine, using the right kind of laundry detergent is extremely important.  Learn about HE detergent, how to use it and where to find it.  Find tips on doing laundry, sorting and washing certain fabrics.

      10. Related Appliance - Dryer

      This may also be a good time to buy a dryer since retailers sometimes offer discounts on a pair of laundry appliances.  It certainly is not necessary to have a matching dryer for your new washer, but when it comes to front load laundry teams, a matched set looks the best.  Older dryers are also not as energy efficient as newer models and dryers now have much better fabric care features as well as convenience features.

      Compare Prices

      11. General Appliance Tips

      What to do if your appliance has been recalled or you've upgrade to a new model.  And there are reasons why it's a good idea to inform manufacturers of problems or areas where appliances could be improved.  Remember to review your product manual and keep it handy - it has lots of use information, as well as key tips on how to properly care for your new appliance.



      Promotional Feature: View this video series to learn how to take good care of your house.

      ©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.