Washing machines come in 2 different forms - top loading or front loading. While these two forms largely do the same thing, there are some small advantages and differences between them:
These washing machines tend to be older, and don’t have quite as much power, but because of this they are quieter and cheaper. Clothes are loaded into a hatch in the top of the machine - because of this they require less bending to load, which may be a boon for elderly people or those with back problems. The top-loading means that it can’t be stacked under other white goods, since you’ll need access to the top of the machine.
These comprise of the majority of washing machines. Clothes are loaded into a hole in the front of the machine. These machines generally are newer and have more power than top loading machines, though are also more expensive. This extra power comes with increased noise and vibration, which may be detrimental depending on where you’re going to be installing the machine. Finally, some brands of front loading machines can be stacked on top of each other, saving valuable space in flats and smaller utility rooms.
Additionally, some washing machines come as integrated - meaning they are altered to look like a cupboard or part of the work surface. These types of machines generally cost more than a standalone model, but may be worth the expense to gain a more streamlined and design-focussed kitchen.
Spin Speed, Noise & Vibration
Most modern washing machines will have a spin cycle that can run at the end of the wash, to remove excess water and mean the clothes dry faster. Higher spin speeds mean the clothes dry faster and more efficiently, but there is a tradeoff: higher spin speeds mean more noise and vibration from the machine while it is running.
Noise levels for washing machines are measures in Db - most washing machines fall between 60-70Db, which is generally equivalent to the noise of a vacuum cleaner running.
Vibration is harder to measure, but generally speaking the faster the spin speed, the more the machine will move around when you use it. Newer models have special technology to reduce the amount of vibration given off by the spin cycle - look for these machines if you want quieter washing cycles.
Capacity & Size Of Machine
The capacity of the drum in your washing machine will determine how many clothes you can fit in a single wash. Drum capacity is measured in Kg, with a single Kg being equivalent to a single outfit. Bigger washing machines have bigger capacities, which may be necessary for families - single people and couples may find it far cheaper and more energy efficient to buy a smaller machine.
Modern washing machines come with a variety of different programs to handle different types of clothing, levels of dirt, etc. Most machines will include programs for white and coloured washing, as well as delicates and quick cycles. More advanced machines may also have more specialist programs, with cycles catering specifically to the safe washing of woollen jumpers, pillows, jeans and even shoes. While not all of these programs may be necessary, more programs is generally a good sign of a higher-end and more capable washing machine.
All washing machines are graded on their energy efficiency. The higher the grade, the less energy will be used per wash, and the cheaper the washing machine will be to run. Look for a machine graded at A++ or above for the best efficiency in daily use.