Thanks for taking your time to read our detailed and extensive washing machine buying guide, that is written specifically for readers in the United Kingdom. This is a long and detailed guide, but we believe that if you have all the knowledge, then you can make a much better buying decision.
We have broken this guide into easy to read sections to make your reading experience a little bit easier.
Which Brands Make Washing Machines?
The main household names make most of the washing machines that are currently available on the UK marketplace. These include:
There are s a few lesser known brands such as:
- LG Electronics
- White Knight
All of the major brands have wide ranges of washing machines of different sizes and ratings. The better ones will offer 2 year warranties such as Hotpoint and Whirlpool. They will also have a UK based customer service team who can be reached using a local UK telephone number. Spare parts are also easier to get.
Various Types of Washing Machines
Front Loader vs Top Loaders vs Washer/Dryers
There are three distinct type of washing machine that you can buy in the United Kingdom. You can buy a front loader which is where the clothes are put in through a circular hole in the front of the machine. There is also a top loader, where clothes can be put in by dropping them in from a top entrance.
The third option is a washer/dryer which is a combination in a single unit of a washing machine and a clothes dryer.
There are also integrated washing machines and semi-integrated washing machines.
An integrated washing machine sits behind a cupboard door so you don't see it. The bottom panel of the machine is recessed to allow for the fitting of a wooden kitchen plinth. They are designed to be held in place by your kitchen units.
Semi Integrated Machines
These are rare in the UK, and with these you can change the controls without opening the door.
Integrated washing machines are usually built in by kitchen designers, and it is not advised to do this on your own. In this buying guide we will concentrate on the other main types.
Top Loader Washing Machines
It is also interesting that in the USA and Canada, front loaders are by far the most popular. In the UK, the opposite is the case. People in the UK buy front loaders mainly because their washing machines tend to be under a worktop, and that would be useless for a top loading machine.
In the USA or Canada, most homes have a utility room so they are not restricted by counter tops. They also seem to prefer top loading machines for their ease of use.
Some people in the UK prefer to use a top loader though. When we were doing our research we found that people who have trouble bending down, or have some type of back or knee injury, prefer to use top loaders. There were a few buyers who simply preferred the convenience of a front loader, and has the room in their home (or garage) to place one of these.
Top loaders are actually a much better choice for anyone who struggles to stoop or bend over. That is because you can drop the clothes in to the top of the machine. You don't need to bend or crouch to load the machine.
Front Loading Machines
In the UK, about 90% of all washing machine sales are front loading machines. We will all be familiar with the circular door on the front of the machine. These are made to fit under counter tops without leaving any gaps, so as they look neat and tidy.
Some UK buyers prefer the idea of a washer and dryer combination. These are more expensive than a standard washing machine. They are however cheaper than buying a separate washing machine and tumble dryer.
As a general rule these appliances tend to better at cleaning and rinsing. Washing machines tend to be better at spin drying. This will of course vary depending on the quality of each machine, so these are general observations rather then strict rules.
Free Standing and Built-In
You will also find that washing machines are referred to as free standing or built in. Free standing simply means that they can be placed anywhere in a home, though that is usually under a counter top, in a utility room, or located in a garage or shed.
Built in refers to the integrated appliances we have explained above.
The majority of homes in the UK will have a free standing machine.
How Much do Washing Machines Cost
At the cheaper end you can find a few washing machines for around the £169 -£199 price point range. At the higher end these can average out at around £1,000 for one with all the features and a very high quality build.
The average cost that you should expect to pay though is around £300 for a good quality machine with reliable and consistently good buyer satisfaction ratings.
40 years ago you would have roughly paid the same amount for a washing machine. If you allow for natural inflation and the increase in the cost of living, that £300 back then, would be closer to £1,000 now.
It is interesting to understand why the price has remained at around £300 on average.
The main reason is that manufacturers have improved their processes in making and producing these. They have also removed many of the metal parts and replaced those with other materials such as hard plastic. Electronics have also improved and in days gone past mechanical timers, which were expensive to make, have now been replaced with electronic timers.
If you are willing to, or can afford to spend more than the average £300, then you will be able to get a wider choice of wash cycles, the larger drum capacity sizes, quieter machines and those machines with lots of extra features, which we include later in this guide.
Key Features of Washing Machines
Many of the brands advertise their irons in certain ways which can lead to some confusion. Just below we have identified those key features that you should pay attention to.
Washing Machine Sizes
In the next section we discuss capacity size, but in this section we are simply going to talk about the physical size and weigh of washing machines.
The standard sizes of a typical front-loading washing machine are 85 cm high, and 60 cm wide. (33.5 x 23.6 inches) They are designed to fit into a space 60 cm wide.
This is mainly because UK buyers want them to fit under their worktops. Standard worktop heights in a kitchen will be fitted at 34-36". So a standard washing machine will slide under a typical worktop without leaving a big gap at the top or at the sides.
Most appliances like fridges, dishwashers and dryers are all 60 cm wide, which is the standard width of a kitchen cupboard.
It is always worth checking the space you have, especially in older homes, to make sure any machine you buy will fit in.
This is often forgotten about and it is a very important consideration. This is very important for narrow, galley or smaller kitchens. The depth of a machine can vary a lot. (anything between 40-70cm depending on the model)
Washing machines also need to be plumbed in of course, so you need to allow space for that at the rear of the machine.. Allow for between 7-10 cm to be able to fit the pipes in.
Make sure to measure your available depth, and then check that any machine you buy, will be able to fit into the space without the washing machine sticking out.
Washing Drum Capacity - Dry Weight
All washing machines will have one thing in common. It is their capacity and manufacturers use this weight measurement to describe the drum capacity of their machines.
This measurement (kg) refers to the dry weight of clothes that the machine can handle. The weights range from 5-12 kg.
The average household in the UK will need either a 7 kg or an 8 kg drum capacity in the ideal situation.
Someone living on their own will of course be better off with a smaller drum size.
It also depends on how you like to do your washing. It depends on your lifestyle and available time. Some will stick a wash on every couple of days, and others will leave it to the weekend for a bigger wash.
If doing a bigger wash, then go for a bigger drum capacity.
The Running Cost of a Washing Machine
The average cost of using a washing machine is about £35 a year. Most modern washing machine use about 218 kilowatt hours a year. That will vary a little depending on the energy efficiency of your machine.
Electricity is measured in a unit known as a Kilowatt Hour (Kwh) A Kilowatt hour is classed as one unit of electricity. It is based on an appliance using 1,000 watts of power for one hour.
The average cost of a unit of electricity in the UK is about 14p. (Rates vary quite a lot)
This 218 average kwh average annual energy times 14 p a unit work out at around £30 a year.
Electricity prices do vary quite a lot and depend on what deal you have, and what supplier you use. The important thing to understand that the average monthly cost to run a washing machine is about £3 a month.
Rotational Spin Speed (RPM) - Why that is Important?
The rotational speed on washing machines varies between 1,000 to 1,600 RPM. Why is that an important measurement? The RPM of a washing machine is the number that shows how many spins the drum makes per minute.
It is worth knowing that, the higher the number of spins, then the drier your clothes will be, at the end of the spin cycle.
The higher end machines will usually have much higher spin speeds of around 1600 rpm.
This makes a difference to how wet the clothes will come out of your washing machine, once the spin cycle has finished. That can be a very important decision to make.
Energy Consumption Efficiency Class
This refers to the amount of electricity your washing machine will use when it is running. In days gone by a washing machine was a very expensive appliance to run.
That has changed quite a lot, and manufacturers of larger appliances are now committed to help improve the environment. One way of doing that is to improve the energy efficiency of washing machines.
All new washing machines now have to carry an energy label. Government regulations and standards apply to certain electrical appliances such as washing machines, tumble dryers, dishwashers, ovens etc.
Since 2014, to comply with EU regulations, all washing machines are rated from A to A+++. These labels used to be measured on a scale from A-G. However that has changed and almost all models are now at least ‘A’ rated. This does not mean that they are all the same. Models can be A+, A++ rated or even A+++ — each of which means quite a big leap in energy efficiency.
Appliance labels on washing machines should give three separate bits of information:
- The energy rating, from A up to A+++
- The energy consumption of a standard cycle – example - 165 kWh per year, based on 220 standard washing cycles
- The estimated annual water consumption for washing and spinning – say 10,686 litres per year, based on 220 standard washing cycles.
The energy label is standard across the UK and must include:
- the model number of the product and name of its manufacturer
- the amount of energy it uses in a year, calculated in kWh / year
- specific data according to its type, in pictogram format
- its energy efficiency class, from best to worst, depending on the relevant scale for the product, with corresponding colour-coded arrows
If we use "A" as the standard, then
- A+ is equal to 10% more energy efficient
- A++ is equal to 20% more energy efficient
- A+++ is equal to 30% more energy efficient
Washing Machine Programs, Cycles and Settings
Programs for washing machines can get extremely complex. The newest washing machines have lots of programs, ranging from the basic wash and rinse cycles to the high-tech. When buying a machine, you’ll need to work out which cycles you need to have, those you are willing to pay a little bit extra for, and which ones you don’t need.
You will find different programs on different brands of machines. They are also called slightly different names.
Most machines will have a range of fabric settings for wool, cotton, delicate etc
Wool, Delicate and Hand Wash programs
There is normally a program for delicate fabrics that need to be washed at a certain temperature, for a certain period of time and they will also have a particular rinse speed. There can be a number of slightly different program lengths for these.
Sports Washing Machine Programs
Sports wear is made from different material than most clothes. On the better machines, there will usually be a specific setting for those type of fabrics including Lycra.
Quick Wash Settings
These are popular on many machines and are called fast wash or quick wash programs. Some manufacturers call them eco-wash. They are designed to give clothes a quick wash. These are usually on a low temperature and that helps reduce the amount of power that is used to run the machine.
There are usually a couple of rinse programs on most machines.
The temperature programs are what allow you to change the temperature of water that your clothes are washed in. Hotter water is required to help with tougher stains and lower temperatures to reduce bills. Washing your clothes as low as 20 degrees Celsius can reduce your costs by up to 66%.
The reality is that a wash at a low temperature is likely to remove less stains than a wash at 40 degrees Celsius.
If you have heard a washing machine then you will know there is some noise associated with it. This is usually at its highest when the spin/rinse cycle is being used.
Plumbing in a Washing Machine
Washing machines need power, water and a waste pipe to get them working. Ideally they should be placed on a level floor, and you should take time to make sure it is as level as possible. That will help to reduce excess vibration, which is important especially when the washing machine is on a rinse spin.
All washing machines need to be connected to your water supply. Most machines use both the hot and cold supply, but just be aware that some machines use a cold supply only. Check your manual to be certain which option your machine has.
When cold water comes into your home it is supplied at what is called main's pressure. This is usually in and around where the kitchen taps are.
The hot water supply is usually supplied from one of two sources:
- Fed from a gravity pressure from a heated cylinder
- Or, fed from mains pressure if you have a combination boiler in your home
If you are getting a plumber to do this, then they will be able to quickly figure this out. If you are replacing an existing machine, then the plumbing will be already done, and it is simply a matter of connecting the hoses of the machine to the existing connections.
Washing machines need to be plugged into a standard socket. The simplest way of doing this is to have an unswitched socket underneath the worktop.
Then run a cable from this socket to a switched fused connection unit above your work surface. This type of connection will have a neon light to show when the machine is switched on.
If your plumber is doing this then they will know exactly what to do.
Waste Pipe Connection
Washing machines come with a flexible water hose. This hose is used to remove the waste water from your machine. This is usually hooked into a pipe (a stand pipe) that goes outside and into the drain. If changing out a machine then it is simply a matter of removing the old hose and hooking in the new one.
The air gap at the top of the standpipe will stop any dirty water coming back into the machine. Some manufacturers recommend a standpipe, and some water companies insist on it.