Guide to buying a washing machine

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A guide to buying a new washing machine
A new washing machine isn’t something most of us get terribly excited about and, for most, they’re a distress purchase made when an old one breaks down. This makes it more important than ever to choose the right model, as you’ll have the one you choose for at least five years, if not longer. David Ludlow, editor of Expert Reviews, takes you through all of the important specifications to help find the one that suits your needs.
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Washing machines generally come in a standard size
Size and type
Washing machines are designed to be a specific size, so you should be able to fit any machine into the space your old one occupied. However, measure carefully before you buy to make sure you’ll have clearance for the washing machine you’ve chosen.

Most washing machines are under-counter models, designed so that you can clearly see them. Some kitchens take built-in washing machines, which are hidden behind a cupboard door. These are built to specific sizes and are specially designed so that the kitchen plinth doesn’t block the door. Make sure you buy the right type for your kitchen.
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Drum size
Drum size
While washing machines are generally a fixed size, the one spec that will make a real difference to you is the drum size. Quoted in ’kg’, this tells you the weight of dry washing that you can fit in.

A typical household is fine with a 6kg machine, but look for 8kg or larger if you do a lot of washing, or  want to wash larger items like duvets or sofa covers. Typically speaking, a larger-capacity machine is cheaper to run per kilogram of washing, requiring less water and power to wash your clothes.
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Energy consumption
Energy consumption
Running costs are one of the most important factors when choosing a washing machine. Each machine has an EU Energy Label attached to it, which tells you everything that you need to know. First, there’s a guide to efficiency, quoted as a rating, grading from A+++ downwards. The higher the grade, the more efficient the machine.

Each label also quotes annual power and water consumption figures. Power is quoted in kWh and water consumption in litres. Unfortunately, you can’t just compare these figures across machines, as they’re calculated using full loads, and a washing machine with a 12kg drum will use more resources than one with a 6kg drum — although it’s probably more efficient per kg of washing.

Instead, use these figures to compare like-sized washing machines to give you a better sense of each machine. Don’t get too carried away with these figures, though. Spending a lot up front for cheaper running costs could taking decades of use to reclaim.
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Check out if there are any special features
Spin speed
A washing machine’s spin speed tells you how fast the drum spins in revolutions per minute (RPM). The faster the speed, the more water is expelled from your clothes and dryer they come out, letting you pack them away more quickly. Budget models will generally spin at around 1,100rpm, but look for a 1,400rpm or 1,600rpm machine for the best performance.
 
Special features
Look out for special modes, which can make a machine easier to use or more efficient. For example, Samsung’s Ecobubble technology uses water and air to dissolve detergent to clean clothes using a 15-degree centigrade wash, which saves a lot of money. Some new machines also let you control them via a smartphone, letting you start a wash when it suits you.
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Ensure the controls are easy to use
Wash modes
Washing modes are very important, depending on they types of garments you want to wash. A silk wash is great for delicate items, while a special wool and hand wash setting can save you both time and trips to the dry cleaner. To get clothes nice and soft, or revive musty items that have been packed away for too long, look for a washing machine with a steam mode. Anti-creasing or easy-ironing modes can also be a lifesaver, making shirts and other items easier and quicker to iron.
 
Display and ease of use
As machines get more complicated and have more features, it’s essential to have easy-to-use controls. A washing machine with an LCD screen is a must, as it lets you see what wash you’ve got selected and how long it will take. Look out for clearly labelled controls, too.
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