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Front-loading washing machine buying guide

How to choose a front-loading washing machine that makes doing laundry less of a chore.

Quick facts about front-loading washing machines

  • Front-loading washing machines are cheaper to operate as well as more energy and water efficient than top-loaders.
  • However, they cost more upfront than top-loaders.

Front-loading vs top-loading washing machines

There are two options to choose from when buying a washing machine: front-loaders and top-loaders. The obvious difference between the two is where you load and unload your clothes, but they also differ in how they wash.

While top-loaders move clothes around using an agitator or impeller, front-loading washing machines use a spinning drum to create a tumbling motion. As a result, front-loaders take up less floor space, are more energy and water efficient, and provide improved washing performance.

The downsides are that they cost more upfront, they have longer wash cycles and you often can’t add items to the wash in the middle of a cycle.

Can’t decide whether you need a front-loading washing machine or a top-loading washing machine? Check out our comparison of the two below:

ProsCons
Front-loader
  • More energy efficient
  • Uses less water
  • Gentler on clothing
  • Takes up less floor space
  • Doesn’t need as much detergent
  • More expensive
  • Many machines won’t allow you to add an item to the wash mid-cycle
  • Heavier
  • Makes more noise than a top-loader
Top-loader
  • Cheaper
  • Quieter
  • Lighter
  • Has shorter wash cycles
  • Can add items mid-cycle
  • Not as energy or water efficient
  • Not as gentle on clothing
  • Takes up more floor space
  • Requires more detergent

How to compare front-loading washing machines

Consider the following factors to find the best washing machine for your needs:

Capacity

The main way to distinguish between front-loading washing machines is on their capacity. This generally ranges from 5-16kg. While a 5kg machine is usually adequate for singles and couples, large families should look for a capacity of 7.5kg or more.

The capacity of the drum in your washing machine is measured in kilograms, so weigh a full basket of dirty laundry to get a better idea of your average wash size. If you’d prefer to do fewer loads during the week, choose a model with a larger capacity.

Size

Check the dimensions of any machine you’re considering buying to make sure it will fit in your laundry. Most models are designed to be small enough to fit under a bench.

Also, don’t forget to check whether there is sufficient space in your laundry to open the door and to load and unload your clothes.

Programs and functions

Check how many wash programs are available and whether they suit your regular washing needs. For example, do you need a setting designed to hygienically clean baby clothes or to wash your clothes with minimal wrinkles? Some high-end machines come with sensors that choose a wash program automatically based on the size of your load and how dirty it is.

It’s also worth checking how quick the “fast wash” function is for when you want to get a load done in a hurry.

Ease of use

Spend some time examining a machine in-store to find out how practical it is to use. Are all controls clearly labelled and easy to reach? What do you need to do to add detergent and fabric softener? Is it easy to open the door and to load and unload clothes?

Spin speed

Check the maximum spin speed (measured in RPM) before you buy. A faster speed means the clothes come out of the machine drier, but it may also mean extra noise.

Warranty

Check the length of the manufacturer’s warranty and exactly what it covers before you buy.

Additional features to look for

The following are a handful of other features that can come with a front-loading washer:

  • Child locks
  • The ability to pause mid-cycle and add an item to the load
  • Delayed start timer so you can run the machine at specific times if you want to take advantage of off-peak electricity rates
  • Automatic detergent dosing based on the size of your load
  • Automatic cleaning function so you don’t have to clean your machine manually
  • Wi-Fi connectivity so you can monitor wash progress on your smartphone

3 things to consider

Before buying a front-loading washing machine, don’t forget to consider these four important factors:

  1. Weight. Front-loading washing machines are heavier than top-loaders – as an example, 8kg capacity machines commonly weigh somewhere in the 70-85kg range. Keep this in mind when deciding whether you need delivery and installation, and also if you’ll likely be moving house frequently in the future.
  2. Noise. If you need to wash at odd hours of the day, or if you just want to do a load without it disrupting your TV viewing, noise may be a concern. Due to their faster spin speeds, front-loading washing machines are noisier than top-loaders.
  3. Hot and cold water taps. Most front-loading washing machines come with an internal water heater. This means they only need a cold-water connection but still allow you to wash with warm or hot water. However, if you have solar hot water, it’s usually more efficient to use the warm water from your solar system, so look for a machine with hot and cold water connections.

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