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Washing Machines Buying Guide - Sainsbury's
Let Sainsbury's help

This helpful guide takes you through washers and dryers - and their different features. 

It also makes suggestions about accessories, such as ironing boards, washing lines, indoor dryers and laundry baskets - to make wash-day blues a thing of the past.

What types are there?
How do I measure capacity?
What about programmes and spin speeds?
How do I measure noise?
Explain energy efficiency
What do energy ratings mean?
What are the actual savings?
Is a tumble dryer for me?
Vented or condenser?
Explain drying programmes
What is energy efficiency?
What accessories are there?
Shop washing machines & dryers

What types are there?

Front load: these freestanding or integrated machines will fit under a standard height work surface and have front loading doors. They have a flat top and a tumble dryer can be stood directly on top, though use of a stacking device is recommended. Depending on the model, a front load machine can accommodate approximately 6-8kg of laundry.

Front loader

Top load: washing is loaded in the top of these freestanding machines, the drum capacity on top loaders is often bigger than front loaders, but the machines require more room.

Washer/dryers: a washer and tumble dryer combined, these save space but you lose the option to wash and dry simultaneously. Usually washer dryers are less energy efficient than separate units and the drying capacity tends to be less than a stand-alone tumble dryer.

Top loader
Washer dryer
All about washing machines
How do I measure capacity?

Although washing machines come in standard sizes, different makes and models have different drum sizes and can handle different loads.  

Washer capacity table

What about programmes and spin speeds?

Most models can wash at different temperatures and include programmes for cottons, synthetics, delicates, woollens and a quick wash. More expensive models will come with hand wash, pre-wash and half load options.

The faster a machine spins, the more water is removed from the washing and the quicker it'll dry. As a general rule, machines spin at 400 – 800rpm for synthetics and delicates and at 1000 – 1800rpm for cottons.

How do I measure noise?

Manufacturers aren't obliged to provide information on noise. The operating noise levels will be stated in decibels (dB), with different cycles graded separately. The lower the number of decibels, the quieter the appliance.

What is energy efficiency?

Using less energy reduces your carbon footprint and will also reduce domestic bills. Saving energy by selecting more efficient models is particularly important when buying products that are used frequently for many years. Here, even a small energy saving can make a huge impact when the life of the product is taken into account.

What do energy ratings mean?

Many domestic appliances must now meet strict criteria on energy efficiency. To make it easy to choose these, Trading Standards has developed a set of standardised tests and a grading system to highlight a product’s efficiency. Products are graded A to G, with A the most energy efficient and G the least. Some products feature an A+ rating - because they're super efficient.

Washing machines can be awarded a triple AAA rating where energy, wash quality and spin are all independently rated for efficiency. To achieve an AAA rating a machine will typically have technology that monitors and adjusts the amount of water per load depending on the amount of soiling. Additionally, a timer delay allowing the use of cheaper overnight electricity supplies can also save money.

As a general rule with washing machines, the more expensive the model, the more efficient it is.  Grades on a washing machine are measured against:

Energy and efficiency: the amount of water and electricity a machine uses.

Wash performance: a machine’s effectiveness at cleaning and removing stubborn stains.

Spin speed: the faster the rotations, the more water is extracted and so the drying time speeds up.

Most machines are now cold fill only. To reduce running costs, the coolest temperature should be used - as most of a washing machine’s energy consumption comes from heating the water.

What are the actual savings?

Choosing energy efficient products will save money but actual savings will depend on how the equipment is operated and how much you pay for your electricity. You can save money by only using equipment when you have a full load, using economy and low temperature settings and installing fridges and freezers well away from cookers.

In addition to receiving an efficiency rating, products that have been tested and graded are also awarded the blue and white ‘Energy Saving Recommended’ logo.

All about tumble dryers
Is a tumble dryer for me?

Having a tumble dryer is useful if you have no outdoor space, or need dry clothes fast. 

Full sized dryers are the same size as washing machines, so it is possible to stack them to save space, but if you’re going to stack it’s a good idea to measure your ceiling height prior to purchase.

Vented or condenser?

Vented: these discharge damp air via a hose that can be vented through an open window or an external wall, using a ducting kit that must be purchased separately. Vented driers are cheaper than condensers but their need for external access can be limiting. 

Vented dryer

Condenser: these dryers can be positioned anywhere. They do not require ducting as the water is collected in an internal reservoir that will need to be emptied regularly.

Condenser dryer
Explain drying programmes

The amount of drying time can be selected on all models.  Most have two heat settings, one for cottons and one for synthetics, but premier models may offer further options for delicates.

A cool air setting can be used to air fabrics that have been stored away for some time.

Some models have reverse tumble features that roll the drum both ways, pausing between changes of directions. This promotes faster and more even drying and prevents clothes getting too tangled and creased during the cycle.

Intermittent tumble options will spin the drum occasionally after a cycle is finished if clothes aren’t removed from the machine. This keeps them aired and prevents extra creasing and tangling.

During the final stages of drying, most machines will switch off their heating elements and just allow the clothes to spin through the gradually cooling air. This is energy efficient and prevents static shock when unloading clothes.

What is energy efficiency?

The same energy efficiency rules for washing machines apply to dryers, but dryers cannot be rated above an A.

Running costs are higher for dryers than washing machines, but costs can be kept to a minimum by not overloading the machine, drying similar fabrics together and putting wet clothes on a high spin cycle in the washing machine before transferring them to the dryer.

What accessories are there?

The main features of your laundry room will be a reliable washing machine, in some cases a tumble dryer, and an iron (see our Iron Buying Guide). Alongside these, ironing boards, washing lines, indoor airers, laundry baskets and wet washing holders can all play a helpful role.

Ironing boards: available in a variety of designs and styles to suit your taste, our ironing boards fold away and are height adjustable. All our covers are heat resistant.

Washing lines: whether you have a large garden or a tiny patio we have a range of washing lines, from ground-fix, rotating airers to retractable lines.

Indoor dryers: these portable drying racks come in a variety of shapes and sizes and fold for easy storage.

Laundry baskets: baskets for storing dirty laundry prior to washing come in wicker, plastic and soft fabrics. Soft fabric bags can be zipped shut and are useful if you need to carry your washing some distance. Wicker and plastic baskets and boxes come with a lid to keep any odours inside.