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Find the Best Washer and Dryers

by ConsumerAffairs Research Team

It’s crucial to assess your needs before heading to the store to purchase a new washer or dryer. Use our guide to research the best washer and dryer brand for you. We explain what to look for when comparing energy efficiency and noise reduction features. You don’t want to waste money on extra features you won’t use or come home with an appliance that doesn’t have everything you need.

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What to look for in a washer and dryer set

Washing ability

One of the most basic features consumers look for in a washer is its ability to properly wash clothing, including effective removal of stains, odors and other debris. At the same time, it's important to have a washer that reduces wear and tear on fabrics to keep clothing in good condition over time.

  • Steam washing: Some newer washing machines offer steam cleaning settings that can help penetrate tough stains while being gentle on fabrics.
  • Quick wash: A quick wash feature is great washer feature for when you want to save time on your wash cycles. This feature often saves energy as well.
  • Gentle wash cycles: While removing dirt, stains and debris from clothing is important, a gentle wash cycle option allows for less pressure and stress on fabric to keep clothes looking great longer. Certain washers also feature a wool cycle setting, allowing users to wash wool without damaging or shrinking the fabric.
  • Automatic dispensing: Washers with automatic dispensers can be filled up for many cycles and then automatically dispense an exact amount of detergent for a more efficient use of detergent. It can also ensure you have the right amount of detergent to get out stains and leave clothing clean afterward.

Drying ability

While all dryers usually have no problem drying clothes, there are some instances where a dryer can over-dry clothing. Consumers want a dryer that can leave their clothes in excellent condition after a drying cycle, keep in enough moisture to ensure the clothes aren't damaged, and have different drying settings for extra speed or handling different fabrics.

  • Moisture sensor: A dryer with a moisture feature is important to look for. This sensor is designed to ensure clothes are dried just right, and then tells the machine to shutdown.
  • Fabric types: Dryers often include different settings for different fabric types, including regular settings for cotton clothing and permanent press for delicates. The right settings can help get clothing dry without damaging fabrics.
  • Speed dry: A speed dry setting allows a user to quickly dry a small amount of clothing with minimal energy output, typically completing drying in a 15-minute cycle.
  • Extended tumble: Extended tumble keeps the clothing tumbling after the drying cycle, typically with no extra heat. This is designed to get wrinkles out of clothing.

Energy efficiency

Energy efficiency is a major feature that consumers now look for when purchasing a washing machine or dryer. Water efficiency is also important for washers as well. For washing machines, there are new federal standards that require all washing machines made after March 6, 2015 to use less energy and water.

  • Energy Star for washing machines: If you purchase an Energy Star washing machine after March 6, 2015, you can expect the washing machine to use 25 percent less energy and 40 percent less water than a standard washer. New efficient washers tend to use much less water and require less detergent that traditional washing machines.
  • Energy Star for dryers: Energy Star dryers use 20 percent less energy than standard dryers. Energy Star recommends consumers purchase dryers with a moisture sensor, and consider a gas-powered dryer instead of an electric one for better energy savings.
  • Spin speed: Most washing machines have a spin speed ranging between 1,000 and 1,600 revolutions per minute (RPM). Models with higher spin speeds tend to get clothing drier faster, meaning less energy is used later for the drying process later.
  • Low heat Setting: Dryers that offer a low heat setting usually provide better energy savings. This setting dries clothing over a long period of time at lower heat.

Capacity

Consumers should ensure they have the right capacity for their washer and dryer. Capacity impacts how much clothing can fit in a cycle, the washing and drying ability of a machine and even has an impact on energy consumption and the environment.

  • Capacity increasing: For both washers and dryers, the trend seems to be an increase in capacity. For washers, expect to see capacities ranging from 12 to 28 pounds depending on whether the washing machine is a top-loading or front-loading washer. For dryers, you can expect to see sizes of large, super and even super-plus on some models. Increased capacity allows consumers to fit more clothing in during a cycle and reduce the frequency they need to wash and dry clothing.
  • Width considerations: Standard washers and dryers are around 27 inches wide, but for larger models you can expect three extra inches to each machine. That means larger models paired together might require an extra six inches.
  • Average capacity needs: Most families can meet their needs with washers that can fit 15 to 24 pounds of laundry. However, larger families and consumers who do laundry more often may need larger capacities. For dryers, larger capacity machines can also dry clothing more quickly, helping save on energy costs.

Noise reduction

In some cases, washing machines and dryers can be quite loud, an important factor if bedrooms or other important rooms are close to the laundry room. However, some newer models are extremely quiet, depending on the brand and type of machine you purchase.

  • Washing machine noise: Top-loading washing machines tend to be noisier than front-loading washing machines. Front-loading washing machines usually have a tighter seal, and due to their design, are less likely to be unbalanced during the washing cycle.
  • Mechanical transmission: Top-loading washing machines tend to use a mechanical transmission, which usually produces more noise than a front-loading machine.
  • Dryer noise: Newer dryers tend to produce less noise than traditional dryers. Consumers often also look for an option to turn off end-of-cycle sounds to reduce noise disturbances.

Reliability

Consumers should look for washing machines and dryers that offer long-term quality and endurance. There are a number of factors that can impact maintenance, durability and ease of use.

  • Washing machine differences: Top-loading washing machines tend to require less maintenance than front-loading washing machines. Front-loading washing machines may need to have the door seal replaced from time to time, and some older models may also be more prone to leakage than top-loading machines. Top-loading machines may also require a freshening cycle to clean the door seal.
  • Dryer differences: In terms of repair and maintenance, dryers with a top-mounted lint collector and a lint sensor are excellent features that reduce breakdowns, decrease fire hazards and improve efficiency.
  • Warranties: Some companies are so sure of their design, they offer 20-year warranties on their washers. Normally, consumers can expect one to five year warranties that will cover mechanical breakdowns.

Types of washers and dryers

Top-loading washers and dryers
  • Energy-efficient models available
  • Cheapest type of washer and dryer
  • Faster washing time but slower drying time
Front-loading washers and dryers
  • Faster drying time but slower washing time
  • More expensive than top-loading appliances
  • Quieter than top-loading washers and dryers
Compact washers and dryers
  • Ideal for small spaces like closets
  • Can be stacked on top of each other

Washer and dryer FAQ

Are washer dryers any good?
Washer and dryer combos are all-in-one laundry appliances. There are pros and cons. The washer can be quiet and energy- and water-efficient and perform just as well as a stand-alone machine, but the dryer usually has a small capacity and takes significantly longer than a stand-alone dryer to finish. Unless your living space is extremely limited, consider separate appliances or a stackable combo.
Do all front-load washers have mold problems?
No. Improvements in washer design and consumers following several easy tips have made mold growth in front-load washers far less common. To prevent mold in your washing machine:
  • Dry the inside of the door and rubber gasket around the opening after doing your last load.
  • Keep the door open a bit between loads (but keep young children away).
  • Run an occasional hot wash with bleach or use the self-cleaning feature.
Do ventless dryers work well?
Ventless dryers take about twice as long to dry clothes as vented dryers. Compared with vented dryers, they are easier to maintain, more energy-efficient and gentler on clothes but have less capacity and higher upfront costs.
Are front-load washers reliable?
Front-load washers are no more or less reliable than top-load washers. The front-load washers on the market today clean clothes very well and are more energy- and water-efficient than top-load washers. Some users experience problems with mold, but there are steps you can take to prevent mold growth, including drying the inside of the door and the surrounding rubber gasket after you’ve finished using the machine.
What is the smallest full-size washer and dryer?
The smallest available full-size washer is about 34 inches high and 24 inches wide and has a capacity of at least 3 cubic feet. The smallest full-size dryer has roughly the same dimensions and a capacity of around 6 cubic feet.
Which is better, top load or front load?
Top-load and front-load washers each have their advantages and disadvantages. Top-loaders are typically less expensive and have shorter cycle times. Front-loading washers are gentler on clothes, use less water and can be stacked with dryers to save space. Choose an appliance based on type, size, capacity, features, reviews and your budget.
How many years does a dryer last?
A dryer should last 10 to 15 years. You can help your dryer last as long as possible by cleaning the lint trap and keeping the dryer duct clear. To protect yourself from expensive out-of-pocket repair costs, consider a home warranty.
Do steam dryers really work?
Steam dryers soften clothes, reduce wrinkles and have a deodorizing effect. Owners of steam dryers use the steam function at the end of a drying cycle or quickly throw their clothes in the dryer before putting them on. Steam dryers are more expensive than conventional dryers.
How much is a washer and dryer set?
Washer and dryer sets generally range from $800 to $2,500. Before you buy, be sure to look for special promotions, rebates and financing offers. Delivery and installation may be included or come with an extra charge.
Can stackable washer and dryer be unstacked?
Whether a washer and dryer can be unstacked depends on the particular model. You shouldn’t attempt to separate a stackable washer and dryer without first consulting the appliance user manual.
Are high-efficiency washers worth it?
High-efficiency washers use less water, energy and detergent than regular washers, but they take significantly longer to wash clothes — their typical cycle time is between 60 and 100 minutes. High-efficiency washers have higher initial costs but lower operating costs than conventional washing machines.

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    by ConsumerAffairs Research Team

    The ConsumerAffairs Research Team believes everyone deserves to make smart decisions. We aim to provide readers with the most up-to-date information available about today's consumer products and services.

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