Washing machine buying guide

Buying a washing machine can pose a dilemma. With the bewildering array of features and functions, all aimed at making the washing process more effective and energy efficient, which one do you choose? Here are some key points to consider before you buy so you can make an informed choice. We can even connect your new machine and dispose of your old one. Find out more and view our range of washing machines.

Watch our videos on John Lewis and Hotpoint washing machines.

What type of washing machine?

First, think about where your washing machine is going to go. If it's under a counter top, then you'll need a front loader.

Freestanding washing machines can be front loaded and are uncovered. Many freestanding machines have large capacities and excellent energy ratings which makes them perfect for coping with the family demands.

An integrated machine is a front loader covered by a door panel that matches the rest of your kitchen units. When closed, the machine will be completely hidden.

semi-integrated machine is a front loader covered mostly by a door panel that matches the rest of your kitchen units. When closed, the machine will be completely hidden except the controls.

If your machine is going under a worktop or into a confined space, remember to measure the available space before ordering, and don't forget to measure areas of access too!

Cold fill

Most machines are now cold fill only, which is gentler on fabrics and better for stain removal. It's also more energy-efficient - in fact energy ratings are determined on cold fill only. 

The hot water valve was initially removed from washing machines because it saves on production costs. But there’s more to it than just this. It's more economical – for the consumer – to heat the small amount of water up inside the washing machine than to run off the inefficient hot water systems in the home. What’s more, a cold water fill means that you can effectively use biological washing powder on low temperatures.

There are a few hot and cold fill machines around - useful if you receive free hot water from solar panels.

Wash programmes

The number of programmes will vary according to the sophistication of the machine, but broadly they will break down into:

  • Cottons (need the most rigorous washing action)
  • Synthetics or easy care (need gentler action)
  • Delicates (similar to synthetics programme, but gentler)
  • Woollens (need lots of water and very little agitation)

The latest machines have handwash programmes for fabrics such as fine wools or silk, and these are actually even gentler and more effective at protecting your clothes than washing by hand.

Some will also have mixed wash programmes (low temperature), and most will also have pre-wash programmes to remove surface dirt from heavily soiled fabrics before the main wash cycle, which is usually set to follow straight on.

Some washing machines have variable temperature control, so you can opt to select a lower temperature for a load which is perhaps not particularly soiled, e.g. reducing easy care fabrics from 60º to 40ºC, but the length of the wash cycle will be the same. However, it won't let you do this the other way round so you can't inadvertently select too high a temperature.

Many machines have an economy setting which will automatically reduce the washing temperature but again maintain the length of the washing cycle.

With some machines you can select a short wash programme to speed things up, or a quick wash - but both are best suited to lightly soiled items.

Most machines have a rinse hold facility which holds the washing in the final clean rinse water prior to spinning in case you're not there to remove the clothes as soon as they've spun, reducing the risk of creasing.

All machines have the facility to drain out water without spinning in case there are clothes you want to drip dry, or you need to retrieve something from the machine such as a pen left in a pocket or a red sock in with your fresh whites! Some machines have an extra rinse facility which is useful in soft water areas or if anyone in the household has particularly sensitive skin.

Washing symbol Machine Hand wash Suitable for
wash in cotton cycle   White cotton and linen articles without special finishes.
maximum wash in cotton cycle Spin or wring Cotton, linen or viscose without special finishes where colours are fast at 60°C.
medium wash in synthetic cycle Hand hot.
Cold rinse, short spin or damp dry.
Polyester/cotton mixtures, nylon, polyester, cotton and viscose with special finishes.
maximum wash in cotton cycle Warm.
Spin or hand wring.
Cotton, linen or viscose where colours are fast at 40°C but not at 60°C.
medium wash in synthetic cycle Warm.
Cold rinse.
Short spin.
Do not hand wring.
Acrylics and acetate, including mixtures with wool, polyester/wool blends.
minimum wash in wool cycle Warm.
Do not rub.
Short spin.
Do not hand wring.
Wool, wool mixed with other fibres, silk.
Hand wash only
Do not machine or hand wash
May be chlorine bleached
Do not chlorine bleach

Always check clothes labels for instructions on how to wash them. Use this handy table as your guide:

Spin speeds

Most machines have a minimum of two spin speeds:

  • 1000 - 1800 rpm: a higher speed for cottons
  • 400 - 800 rpm: a lower speed for synthetics and delicates

Usually a machine will auto select the spin speed based on the programme used, but some will also have a variable spin speed function so you can select it yourself.

If you're intending to use a tumble dryer, it's worth choosing a machine with a good high spin speed as it's more economical to extract water from spinning than from tumble drying.

Top-of-the-range machines will have a long spin cycle for cottons for more efficient water extraction, and an interval spin for synthetics to reduce creasing.

All machines will try to balance a laundry load before the main spin cycle begins, and if it can't achieve even distribution, it will automatically select a slower spin speed for safety.

Energy efficiency and the environment

All machines will have an energy efficiency and a performance grading A - G, with A being the most economical. Standardised tests, monitored by Trading Standards, are carried out across the industry and manufacturers are responsible for grading their own machines.

Performance is based on washing performance and spin efficiency. You'll generally find that the more expensive the machine, the higher its grading as it'll include a number of energy saving features, eg. a timer delay that lets you use cheaper overnight electricity; or variable temperature controls, so you can use a lower temperature for lightly soiled loads.

Most machines incorporate a pressure switch mechanism and automatically use the correct amount of water for the load; others will have a half load facility for small quantities of laundry.

Top-of-the-range machine use advanced electronic technology to monitor conditions during the wash and make any adjustments required to get optimum cleaning performance using minimum water and energy; it can influence the main wash, water intake, temperature settings, wash time, rinse performance and spin speed.

Find out more about energy efficiency ratings.

Installation, recycling and disposal service

If you're buying a laundry appliance from us, as long as it's being delivered to you by our green van crew, we can install it for you, and you'll be able to arrange for collection and recycling of your old appliance (at a cost of £9) so that we can dispose of it safely. Find out more.

Book and pay for installation and disposal when you place your order; you'll be offered the option on the product page if it's available to you. You'll need to disconnect your old appliance before the delivery crew arrives, and once we've taken it away, your old machine is deemed to be of no value and we won't be able to return it to you.

We're unable to offer installation or disposal if the item is being delivered directly to you from the manufacturer, or if you live out of our delivery area and have the appliance delivered by a courier.

You can also take your old appliance to a local recycling centre to be recycled free of charge (visit Recycle More to find your nearest site).

Installing your machine yourself

Before installation the transit straps must be removed, usually accessible from the back of the machine. The machine should be levelled if necessary by adjusting the feet underneath.

Bear in mind that if you have a tongue and groove or suspended floor, because of the vibration of the machine during the spin cycle, the movement of the floor will not only be noisy but also detrimental to the life of the machine. To resolve this, it's best to mount the machine on a piece of ¾ in. blockboard cut to fit the width and depth of the machine and screwed to the floor (checking, of course, for pipework beneath).

Your machine will come with full installation instructions, but bear in mind that it's best to place all the plumbing to the side of the site for the machine so that it's accessible in case of emergency, and ensures the machine can be located up to the wall. The hoses must not be kinked or twisted as the machine is pushed back into place.

Trouble with your machine? Watch our troubleshooting video.

Washer dryers

Washer dryers

These provide a really practical space-saving solution if you don't have room for both a washing machine and tumble dryer, and are also useful for small households where the amount of laundry done doesn't warrant a full-sized drying machine.

Washer dryers have all the usual functions of a washing machine, but they can be more limited in their tumble drying function because of the size of the drum, which with some (but not all) models will restrict you to drying only half a wash load at a time.

Of course you'll also only be able to wash or dry at one time, so for larger households or large wash loads, this can be impractical.

The washing machine element of a washer dryer will be just as sophisticated or basic as a separate machine, and the more you pay, the more features you get, most of which help to save you energy.

Take a look at our tumble dryers buying guide for further information too.

View our washer dryers

A great solution if you don't have space for a washing machine and a tumble dryer.

Indesit IWDD7123 Washer Dryer, 7kg Wash/5kg Dry Load, B Energy Rating, 1200rpm Spin, White