Washer and Dryer
Features That Matter

At this year’s CES show we saw appliances with lots of high tech features like touchscreens and Internet connectivity. We’re not sure these features will help get your clothes cleaner but they will make doing the laundry more fun. Whether you’re shopping for a new washer or dryer or just want to stay up-to-date on what’s important to consider before buying one, our resident gadget expert Andrew Eisner who also knows a thing or two about washers and dryers offers this guide to the features that matter.

GE 5.0 cu. ft. High-Efficiency Top Load Washer with Steam in Metallic Carbon, ENERGY STAR GE Adora 7.8 cu. ft. Gas Dryer with Steam in Metallic Carbon LG SteamWasher 36 Cu Ft 9-Cycle High-Efficiency Steam Front-Loading Washer - White LG 71 Cu Ft 7 Cycle Extra Large Capacity Electric Dryer White
Hidden Costs of Less Expensive Washing Machines Hidden Costs of Less Expensive Washing Machines

Washing machines range in price from around $500 all the way up to, well over $1,000. On the low end of the price range you’ll find top loading washers with spindle agitators and porcelain tubs. On the higher end you’ll find front loading, energy efficient machines with touch screen displays and extra features. One thing to consider from the start is how much it will cost you to run your washing machine. More affordable washing machine models can cost as much as $50 more per year to run than the more costly higher efficiency models. Over the life of the washer, this could make up for some of the cost difference. Add another $100 - $200 of energy rebates and the difference is even closer, not to mention benefits to the environment by the water and energy you’ll be saving.

Top Load vs. Front Load Washers

Top loading or front loading will be one of the first decisions you’ll want to make when deciding which washer to buy. Front loaders have clear advantages against lower-end top loaders like water and energy efficiency, clothes handling, and cleaning ability however, some of the newer top loaders now offer auto-load sensing with water level adjustment and other features that can make them a reasonable alternative to front loaders.

GE High-Efficiency Top Load Washer Samsung 4.5 cu. ft. King-Size Capacity High-Efficiency Top Load Washer
High Efficiency Top Loaders

The latest generation of top loading washing machines has come a long way and are now competitive with front loading machines. Here’s a list of some high efficiency top loader pros and cons:

High-Efficiency Toploaders: Loaded with Advantages Source: GE
  • No agitator (spindle) means more capacity for more or larger items.
  • Can reduce water levels for smaller loads using auto-sensing feature or manual load size selection.
  • High spin rates extract more water which means less work for dryer.
  • Can add clothes after wash cycle has started.
  • Can be easier to load and unload.
  • Less efficient models use more water and can be rough on clothes.
  • Agitators (on lower-end models) and impellers can create more mechanical wear.
  • Impellers (bumps in bottom of tub) that create turbulence to swirl clothes around may not clean as well as top loaders with agitators and front loaders.
  • Can be noisier than front loaders.
  • Some models require HE (high efficiency) detergent.
Shop For Top-Rated Top Loader Washing Machines
Maytag Performance Series MHWE201Y Whirlpool WFW97HEXW Whirlpool Energy Star Duet 5.0 Cu. Ft. Front Load Washer - White
Front Loaders

As good as high efficiency top loaders are getting, front loaders may still have the edge especially as manufacturers continue to add new features like Samsung’s “ecobubble” that uses a bubble generator to help dissolve detergent. Here’s our list of front loader pros and cons:

Kenmore 3.7 cu. ft. Front-Load Washing Machine - White Electrolux Iq-touch 8.0 Cu. Ft. Electric Steam Capacity Dryer - Mediterranean Blue
  • Use very little water.
  • Use less detergent although you need to use HE detergent.
  • Paddles that move clothes inside drum can be gentler on clothes.
  • Sealed door means quieter operation.
  • High spin rates extract more water which means less work for dryer .
  • Can be stacked with dryer to save space.
  • Tend to be more expensive.
  • Typically take longer to wash clothes than top loaders but shorter cycles can be selected.
  • High speed spin cycles can be noisy.
  • Requires HE detergent.
Shop For Top-Rated Front Loader Washing Machines
Washing Machine Features That Matter
Whirlpool Cabrio Platinum Top Load Washer WTW8800YW LG - 5.1 Cu. Ft. 14-Cycle Mega Capacity High-Efficiency Steam Front-Loading Washer - Graphite Steel LG 47 Cu Ft 14-Cycle Ultra-Large Capacity High-Efficiency Top-Loading Washer - Graphite Steel

Larger capacity doesn’t necessarily mean more water used, with top load washing machines that sense the size of the load and adjust water levels or front load machines that use much less water to begin with. High efficiency top load washing machines can run from around 3.6 cu. ft. up to 5 cu. ft., like the GE HE Topload. Front load washers also range from 3.6 cu. ft. to 5.1 cu. ft. like the LG 5.1 Megacapacity TurboWash Washer. Dryers typically have larger capacities with some running as high as 7 cu. ft.

Spin Rate

The higher the spin speed the more water will be extracted from the clothes creating less work for the dryer. Look for a machine with a spin rate of at least 1000 – 1200 RPM. Many machines can do 1600 RPM while some of the higher-end machines can reach 2000 RPM. Lower-end top loaders rarely exceed 650 RPM. The tradeoffs that may come with high spin speeds can be more wrinkles in clothes and noisier spin cycles.

Stainless Steel Drum

Most higher-end washing machines have stainless steel tubs that don’t chip and rust like porcelain tubs can. Plastic tubs won’t chip and rust either but we still prefer stainless steel as they are be able to withstand higher spin speeds and are less likely to absorb odors or become discolored. Stainless steel tubs also become smoother as they age and are less likely to snag clothing.

Steam and Allergien Cycles

It’s a wonder how germaphobes managed to get their clothes clean before the advent of washing machines with sanitizing cycles. Some modern washers have heaters that raise water temperature to levels hot enough to kill dust mites, germs, bacteria, allergens, and other living organisms that might affect people sensitive to them. Steam can also be helpful to loosen grease and other stains as well as kill microorganisms. Some washers that offer sanitary cycles may only reach temperatures in the 130 – 160 degree range which can be effective for killing many organisms but steam is, by nature the hottest at 212 degrees. Some washers that offer steam cleaning also add a freshening cycle that can be used to release odors from clothes, comforters, sleeping bags and other items.

Maytag Performance Series MHWE201Y Source: Samsung
Jet Spray, Foam Mode and Bubble Generators

New features we are seeing that look interesting are foam and spray mode. Samsung has introduced “PowerFoam” on some of their washers that is designed to mix detergent with water and air to create a foam that they claim penetrates better and is very effective at cleaning bulky items like down comforters. Samsung also offers a similar feature they call ecobubbles that helps dissolve detergent. LG offers a top load washer LG WT5170 that includes a “SmartRinse” feature which they claim offers a better more efficient rinse cycle.

Other Washing Machine Features to Consider
  • Direct drive mechanisms mean no belts to wear out.
  • Friendly touchscreen controls can be easier to use.
  • Controls that group settings with names like “casual” clothes can simplify operation
  • Appliances now can connect to the Internet and let you use apps to monitor and control your washer and dryer.
  • Automatic detergent, bleach, and softener dispensers can keep the guess work out of measuring. Some dispensers like GE’s “smartsense” can hold up to two months-worth of detergent and fabric softener dispensing them based on load level and cycle type.
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Dryer Features That Matter
LG SteamDryer DLEX2650W 27 LG 7.3 cu. ft. Ultra Large Capacity Front Load Electric SteamDryer Whirlpool WED8800YC He Electric Dryer with Steam

Dryers are much less complicated than washers. Most experts agree that the biggest decision you’ll have to make on a dryer is whether you want a gas or electric one. Furthermore, we suspect you’ll most likely select the washing machine first and then buy the matching dryer however there are some features to consider.

Noise Level

Believe it or not one common complaint about dryers is excessive noise level in fact, Consumer Reports says that out of a batch of 100 dryers, 53 were “relatively noisy or worse.” One high-end dryer the $1,300 Whirlpool Duet WED96HEAW, in Consumer Report’s tests was “quieter than most.” If your dryer is close to a living area, you might want to look for one with extra sound-dampening.


Although steam might be useful in washing machines for stain removal and sanitizing, reviewers say it doesn’t help much to get the wrinkles out in a dryer. Some dryers like the LG 7.3 cu. ft. Ultra-Large Capacity Steamdryer™ offer a steam cycle that you can use to sanitize items that can’t be washed.

Moisture Sensor

Although it’s hard to find a dryer today that doesn’t offer both timed drying and sensor drying, it’s still a good idea to make sure the dryer you are considering has a good quality moisture sensor that turns off the dryer when the clothes are as dry as you want them to be.

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