Selecting a Washer

How to select the best washing machine for your laundry room.


The first step in making the right purchase for a washer and dryer is a little advanced planning. Know your needs. For example, how much time do you spend doing laundry? Do you have a large family requiring daily clothes laundering, or are you a single person or a couple with no children?

It's also important to consider where your laundry room or washer and dryer will be located. If you are an apartment dweller, available space is probably an issue.

If you have a multilevel home, space is probably still an issue, but more from a sense of location within your home and how far you have to go to change a load. Do you need to consider wheelchair accessibility or other health needs?

Thinking about when and how you do your laundry will help you decide what size of washer or dryer to purchase and what cycle options are important to your family's needs. If you are energy-conscious (or are trying to become so) there are several options and models available to meet this requirement.

In any case, the main points for consideration on any washer and dryer include size and style, capacity, cycles, temperatures, controls, and energy efficiency.

  • Washers and dryers measure from about 24 to 33 inches wide.
  • For loading and unloading, allow 36 inches in front of a washer, 42 inches for a dryer.
  • Measurements differ for front-loading models; front-loaders are more accessible to wheelchair users.
  • Stacked units usually occupy less than 33 square inches of floor space and may be more accessible to people who have difficulty bending or stooping.
  • Installing a washer and dryer about 15 inches off the floor will make loading and unloading more comfortable. Look for sturdy pedestal bases specifically made for your models of laundry appliances.
  • Washer-Dryer Combinations: These efficient appliances, designed for small spaces, are available in stacked, side-by-side, or all-in-one units. Before selecting one of these styles, consider where the combo will be located, such as in a closet or in an upstairs bedroom or bath. Selection criteria are the same as for standard washers and dryers.

Capacity: When selecting a washer, consider both capacity and loading type. Capacity depends on the size of the wash basket.

Families with children and several loads daily may like the convenience of a large-capacity washer. Smaller-capacity models, which use less water and energy, can be economical for singles and couples. Front-load washers use less water, making them energy efficient and environmentally friendly.

Here is a list of typical washer capacities:

Compact: 1.7 to 2.3 cubic feet

Medium: 2.1 to 2.5 cubic feet

Large: 2.7 to 3 cubic feet

Extra-large: 3.1 or more cubic feet

Enlarge Image Maytag's Neptune Drying Center
  • Basic washers have between one and four agitation and spin speeds. Some top-of-the-line models offer additional options.
  • Preset wash cycles combine differing speeds, temperatures, and levels of agitation to clean specific types of clothing. An average washer may have regular, permanent press, and delicate cycles.
  • High-end models may offer additional cycles, such as a heavy-duty cycle for work clothes, jeans, and towels, as well as presoak and prewash cycles for dealing with difficult stains.
  • Water-saver options recycle water from lightly soiled loads.
  • Water temperature options usually include hot/cold, warm/cold, and cold/cold. Some more expensive models may feature additional temperature combinations to suit more fabrics.
  • Controls can be mechanical, with rotary knobs and push buttons, or electronic with features such as digital displays and more custom cycles.

High-efficiency (water- and energy-saving) washers save energy and extend the life of your clothes and linens.

Look for Energy Star horizontal-axis, front-loading washers or top-loading washers, which tumble clothes instead of twisting or rubbing them. These models, which don't have agitators, use less water and energy than top-loaders of the same size.

Some machines may use a special High Efficiency detergent. The amount of detergent needed depends on the load size, not on the amount of water used, so check manufacturer's instructions.

Learn more about washer features below.

Features to Look For
  • Front-loading washers are ideal for washing linens without going out of balance.
  • Delay-starts, common on dishwashers, allow you to turn on the washing machine when utility rates are lower.
  • Automatic water level control selects the right amount of water for each load to prevent overfilling.
  • Internal water heaters reduce demand on your home water heater. The heater also improves cleaning performance.
  • Polypropylene and stainless-steel washtubs don't chip or rust as enameled steel can. Smooth interior surfaces are easier on clothes.
  • Selectable spin speeds of 700 to 1,600 revolutions per minute mean that clothes are almost dry when they leave the washer. Drying gets done in less time and at lower temperatures.

Selecting a Dryer

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