The Best Washer and Dryer
There are other washers and dryers that can wash this quickly, but the 41472 has the distinction of washing both quickly and well. And it does it without using a lot of water or electricity.
The Kenmore Elite 41472 washer has earned plaudits as the Best of the Year and Editors Choice from Reviewed.com, and a Recommended rating from Consumer Reports—the two best appliance review publications in the world. Importantly for those who hate washing clothes, it is quick: the Accel-Wash feature means it completed a normal load in 38 minutes.There are other washers that wash just as quickly, but the Elite 41472 has the important distinction of still doing a good job in this short wash time. It’s also a couple of hundred dollars less expensive than many of its competition, while still being a great washer.
The dryer we like, the Kenmore Elite 81472, has a very accurate moisture detection system that doesn’t over dry your clothes and steam. It won the best of the year award from WasherDryerInfo.com, and is one of their Editor’s Choice products.
What to Look for When Buying a Washer and Dryer
There are literally hundreds of models of washers and dryers available, and we know that our picks may not be right for everyone, or may not be available. So here are our tips for helping you make the right choice.
Washers and dryers can cost anything from $400 to about $2000 each, and this range of prices means a huge range of features and performance.
If you already have an older washer and dryer, you might be considering upgrading. This makes sense if your current washer is very inefficient; the sort of 10 to 15-year old top loader that you find lurking in the basement can use a huge amount of water (40 gallons is not unusual) and electricity. Replacing this with an efficient front loader that uses about 12-13 gallons per normal wash could mean a saving of 25 to 30 gallons of water per wash. Consider that the typical family does about 400 washes a year (according to the California Energy Commission), that could mean a saving of 10,000 gallons of water a year. In addition to helping to save water (a vital thing in drought-hit regions), this could save up to $113 a year (based on the NY City water rate for 2013 of $8.71 per 100 cubic feet, or 1.1134 cents per gallon). And with water rates constantly rising, that makes sense.
Front or Top Loader?
For most users, a front loader is the way to go as if offers better clothes washing and using much less water and electricity. Top loader washing machines used to be the king of the hill; your parents used one, and they were pretty much the only ones available. That changed in the 1980s and 1990s when the US government brought in limits on how much power and water they could use, and the manufacturers scrambled to comply with them. This meant that most of their research switched from the power-hungry and water-guzzling top loaders to the more efficient front loaders, which use less of both. They use less water because the water is more agitated inside the washing drum, and less electricity because the drum is smaller, lighter and easier to turn.
And although modern top loaders are getting better, they still struggle to match their front-loading cousins for washing performance, efficiency, and how gentle they are on clothes. The top loaders tested by Consumer Reports consistently earn lower scores. There, the top-scoring top loader (the LG WT1101CW) for 2014 earns a score of 77 out of 100, while their top scoring front loader (the Maytag Maxima XL MHW8000AG) gets an overall score of 86: a significant difference in tests where a fraction of a point can be the difference between being number 1 and number 10 on their chart. “The best front loaders wash better than the best top loaders” says Emilio Gonzalez, the Senior Program Leader for washer testing at Consumer Reports. “Even though you have some good top loaders, front loaders just seem to do a better job.”
Front load washers also tend to be gentler on your clothes. All washers damage clothes while washing them, but front loaders tend to do less damage than top loaders. The less damage the washing machine does, the longer your clothes will last.
Front loader washing machines also allow you to stack the washer and dryer, putting the dryer on top of the washer to save precious floor space. Top loaders do offer the advantage of easier loading, but at the price of space, more water and electricity. For the best overall performance and economy today, front loaders beat out top loaders.
How Much Capacity?
Washing machines come in a range of sizes, from portable models with one cubic foot drums to monstrous models with 5 cubic feet drums that could hold a mountain of washing. For most users, the ideal will be about 4 cubic feet capacity. That’s enough to wash 12 to 15 pounds of laundry, which is a good sized basket of laundry.
You’ll need a larger washer for big items like comforters, (About.com laundry guide Mary Marlowe Leverette says that a 4.6 cubic feet drum should be enough to hold a king-sized comforter), but consider how often you need to wash these before you spend the extra; if you only wash these occasionally, an occasional visit to the super large capacity commercial washers at your local launderette may be a better option. Gonzalez says that most people don’t need a bigger capacity washer. “We run all our tests on an 8 pound load, which is an average sized load… Most people never wash 20 pounds of laundry. Even with a machine that can hold it, I don’t think most people would really use it. I wouldn’t use that as a key buying decision unless I had a very large family or other unusual situation.” Big families with more than 3 children may want to look at a model like the biggest front loader currently available, the LG WM8000HVA, which has a truly humongous 5.1 cubic feet drum. If you are drowning in a sea of grubby kids’ clothing, a bigger washer means fewer washes, which saves time and money. “Given that some cycle times are longer than they used to be, maybe having that larger capacity means one big wash instead of two small ones” says Gonzalez.
Awash in a Sea of Cycles: What Wash Cycles do you Need?
However many cycles you think you may or may not need, one essential feature is the ability to customize the cycle by controlling the water level and temperature. If you have a few pairs of particularly grubby cotton socks, for instance, you might want to do a smaller, but very hot wash. Being able to customize the wash for this saves money over having to use a cycle that may use more water than needed.
Once the clothes are washed, the water needs to be removed. Washers do this by spinning the clothes, and the better this process is, the quicker the clothes will dry afterwards. Barry rates a fast spin cycle as one of the most essential features of a washer. “As far as essential features are concerned, I’d recommend a high efficiency machine (the water savings are tremendous), plus a high-speed spin cycle (it’ll save you time and money in the dryer).”
However, a fast spin cycle can also damage delicate clothes, so a good washer should offer a range of spin cycles, from fast for everyday to slow for delicates.
What do greater numbers of cycle types do for you? Not much.
Some washers offer more programs and controls than a space shuttle, but you aren’t going into orbit.
Makers also are picking up on this trend. Keith Barry of Reviewed.com says that most manufacturers are moving away from offering a huge range of cycles to focusing on the core ones. “There’s a trend towards moving away from the polyester-specific cycles, like permanent press,” he told the Wirecutter, “Cycles like normal and cottons are fairly straightforward, and they’ll always get used. I think the 20-cycle machine fad is done, and we’re starting to see newer models with pared down choices.”
One cycle that many people look for is a sterilize cycle, which uses very hot water to kill germs. But Leverette says that this is not essential, recommending instead the use of disinfectants: “Some users worry about disinfecting clothes but there are other methods for disinfecting that don’t require hot water.” She recommends the use of sterilizing disinfectants that can be added to the wash, rather than the hot water of sterilizing cycles. Specifically, she says that Pinesol and Lysol can be safely used in a load that needs disinfecting , which is cheaper and easier than using high temperatures.
Manufacturers are constantly coming up with new ways to sell you a washer by adding new features, but most of these add little or no benefit. Steam was all the fashion a couple of years ago, with lots of washers adding a burst of steam to the start of the wash that, they claimed, help to move stubborn stains. However, this showed little improvement when Consumer Reports tested washing performance with and without steam: “past tests showed that steam settings cleaned stains slightly better, but these machines cleaned very well even without the steam.”
One feature that definitely makes a difference is the Turbo Wash feature from LG. This is also present on some Kenmore washers (which are actually made by LG) under the name Acell-Wash. This involves squirting jets of water and detergent into the wash, which improves the water flow around the clothes and accelerates the action of the detergent. This didn’t seem to cause much damage to clothing: Consumer Reports rated its gentleness excellent (subscription required), meaning that it caused minimal wear and tear on clothes. This translates to quicker wash cycles that are tested to clean just as effectively as their non-Turbo Wash cousins.
Dryers are much simpler beasts than washers, using hot air to dry your clothes while tumbling them in a horizontal drum. As a general rule, you need about double the size of washer drum to give adequate space for the clothing to move around in the warm air and dry quickly. There are two power sources for the head: gas and electric. Most people favor electric for safety reasons, but gas might be cheaper in your area, so it is worth considering if you have a gas pipe nearby. Check with your local utility for the current costs, then run the numbers through the calculator from Michael Blue Jay (AKA Mr Electricity).
Most electric dryers run off a 220V outlet, which uses a different style of plug than standard sockets. This will be already installed in the basement or laundry space of most modern houses, but if not, it’s something an electrician can typically quickly install. There are models available that run off standard 110V sockets, but these are less common; Sears lists 7 of these, but has a much wider selection of 220V models: 124 in all.
However you power the dryer, all that hot air has to go somewhere, and most use a vent that leads outside the house. This vent provides an easy path for the hot, moist air, that comes from the clothes. If you don’t have a vent and aren’t able to drill a hole in the wall, then a non-vented is your only option. These are less common than their vented brethren, because dealing with the hot, moist air makes the dryer slower and less efficient. So go with a vented dryer if at all possible for the fastest and most efficient drying.
Unlike in washing machines, steam in the dryer seems to be a new feature that can actually be useful.
The reliability of a washing machine is also important, as, when they fail, they have a nasty habit of spilling water everywhere. “You want a model from a brand that’s going to be reliable,” says Gonzalez. “It’s a big investment, and these things are going to last you 10 to 12 years. The warranty on these things is a year, and out of warranty, they are very expensive to fix.” Consumer Reports has studied the reliability of washing machines and has published their findings here: LG and Samsung are the most reliable, with Kenmore in third place. JD Power & Associates also publishes similar data from their surveys of users, and that is available here.
Washers and dryers are amongst the biggest users of water and energy in your home, and can contribute a lot to your bills. Getting a more efficient model can save you a lot of money in the long run. Front loader washers are the most efficient, using less of both water and electricity. The variations between different front loaders are less significant, though: Reviewed.com has a range of running costs of between $30 and $45. The biggest cost can be the water use, and this can be a major cost if you live in an area where water is expensive. “Those that get poor or fair on our scale, the older top-loaders, you are typically looking at maybe 35-45 gallons for a typical wash cycle,” says Gonzalez. “When you are looking at a front loader, you are maybe talking 10 to 15 gallons. If you extrapolate that over the course of a year, that’s a lot of gallons of water.” Over the course of a year, that could mean a saving of about 10,000 gallons of water, which could save upwards of $113 in a place like New York where water is quite expensive.
The amount of noise that a washer or dryer produces can also be an important factor, especially if you have to place it near a bedroom or living room. “Related to noise could be vibration, as well,” says Gonzalez. “Some of the front loaders spin very fast in the final spin cycle, and that may be annoying to some.”
How We Chose Our Picks
We looked at the range of washers and dryers available at every major retailer, read hundreds of reviews and spoke to those who review these products at all of the leading publications. We built the testing used on washers and dryers at Reviewed.com (one of the leading publications that tests consumer products), so I know what makes a good washing machine—that is, performance, price, economy, features, and ease of use.
We looked at every washer and dryer we could find, considering factors such as the washing performance, how much power and water they used, and how well they were built. We initially eliminated those that did a poor job of washing clothes, or those that used excess amounts of water and energy to wash and dry. When we looked at the ones that remained, we considered which ones offered the best performance at the best price. There is no one washer and dryer that is right for everyone, though. The washer and dryer are parts of your house where it doesn’t make sense to skimp. Your clothes are not cheap, and washing and drying them can damage them more than months of wear. That’s why it makes sense to spend more on a washing machine that is going to make your clothes last longer.
The washer that offered the best balance of performance, price, and features was the Kenmore Elite 41472 . It costs $900 new, but offers performance that is better than much more expensive washers. It won the Best of the Year and Editors Choice awards from Reviewed.com, and a “recommended” rating from Consumer Reports. As I said earlier, it is quick—the Accel-Wash feature means it completed a normal load in 38 minutes.
Like all Kenmore products, this washer is manufactured by another company. In this case, that is LG, and the Elite 41472 is a rebadged and tweaked LG WM 3470HA. Kenmore (Sears’ own house brand) made some important changes, though, according to Barry. “There are significant performance differences between the two. In this case, it looks like slightly more water usage and a little more heat helps to remove stains,” he said. LG created the Accel-Wash feature (they call it Turbo Wash), but Kenmore made one tweak that made their version our pick: the Elite 41472 is cheaper than the LG, which usually costs about $1,100.
To accompany this washer, we recommend the $900 Kenmore Elite 81472 dryer . Although it might seem odd to spend more on the dryer than the washer, the 81472 offers a number of features that make it worth the extra cash, like a very accurate moisture detection system that doesn’t over dry your clothes, and a steam option. This feature can be useful in a dryer, leading to fewer creases, easier ironing and less odor.
There are cheaper options out there: the combination of the Kenmore 4137 washer and the LG DLE 2250W dryer costs about $1,540, but this combination doesn’t offer steam in the dryer or the fast-but-still-clean performance of the more expensive LG, which are both features that justify the extra cost. You could also spend more for models like the well-reviewed Samsung WF455ARGS washer and the matching dryer, the Samsung DV457EVGS, a combination that costs over $3,000. That extra would get you Samsung’s Smart Control system, which allows you to control and monitor both devices from your cell phone, so you know exactly when the wash and dry is complete. But, seeing as most people aren’t hovering over their washer waiting for it to finish, this feature just isn’t worth the extra.
Who Else Likes Them?
There are really only two august sources of major appliance reviewers: Reviewed.com and Consumer Reports. Both are very thorough, so it’s a good thing they agree that the Kenmore 41472 is among the best. In fact, Reviewed.com gave the Kenmore a 10 out of 10 score (meaning it is their highest scoring washer at the moment) and proclaimed it was “a good looking washer with excellent stain removal performance.” Consumer Reports gave it a score of 81 out of 100 (the top scorer got an 87) citing that it “offers superb wash performance and gentleness, top energy and water efficiency, and a large capacity.”
User reviews mostly backed up these positive verdicts, with Dan the handyman on Consumer Reports giving it 4 out of 5 stars. He says his unit is “quiet, efficient, it doesn’t rattle in high speeds… We had on a second floor and it doesn’t shake the house even with full quilt/blanket loads.” However, other users did identify one possible point of concern: because this model is actually made by LG, Sears apparently does not carry spare parts, so they have to be specially ordered, which means that repairs take time.
If this combination is a bit too much for your bank balance, you could consider the Kenmore 4137 washer and the LG DLE 2250W dryer. These add up to about $1,540, but this combination doesn’t offer steam in the dryer or the fast-but-still-clean performance of the more expensive Kenmore. So, we would suggest that you lay out the extra unless you are really strapped for cash.
If you don’t mind a bit of extra work, buying refurbished or returned washers and dryers can save you a big chunk of change. Many people buy a washing machine, decide they don’t like the color and return it to the store. This can mean a bargain for the smart buyer, so it makes sense to ask your local dealer if they have any returns that they are selling. For our picks, the best place to look is the Sears Outlet, where they sell their returned and refurbished items.
A legitimate alternative
Like the Kenmore, steam washing is also offered, although many reviewers found that this feature did not offer much real-world improvement in washing performance. There are also options for up to 8 hours of pre-soaking and a 6-hour tumble setting, where the washer will tumble the clothes occasionally after washing to keep them fresh.
Consumer Reports tested it and found that it has excellent performance, with a score of 83 out of 100 in its 2014 rankings. This was thanks to excellent performance in their tests for washing performance, efficiency and capacity. It scored a little lower in gentleness then the Kenmore, getting only a Very Good score, presumably due to the higher agitation used in the shorter cycle. However, this still rates higher for gentleness than most washers, so it is unlikely to be an issue.
The WGD88HEAW dryer is the electric model that complements the WFW88HEAW. This also offers plenty of capacity (7.4 cu. ft) and a 15-minute steam cycle which refreshes stale clothes with steam. Whirlpool also touts their Advanced Moisture Sensing, which uses three separate sensors to monitor the humidity to determine when the clothes are dry, so the cycle ends quickly. I would have liked to cite reviews for this model, but I could not find any, yet.
The main drawback to the Whirlpool washer and dryers above is that they’re not easily found in big appliance shops like Sears or Home Depot. Luckily it has some close relatives with nearly identical specs, the the WFW94HEAW washer and WED94HEAW dryer, which Consumer Reports rated 81 and a 77, respectively. (Those links lead to Sears but here’s the washer and dryer on Home Depot.) They each cost about $100 more than the 88-series, with a few minor additions, like a “Wash & Dry” cycle on the washer and a “Static Reduce” option in the dryer, which uses a steam mist and light tumble after clothes are dry to reduce status.
For Bigger Washes, Step Up to a Bigger Drum
If you do a lot of washing or often need to wash large items like comforters, the LG WM8000HVA is our pick. This washer is a little more expensive (at about $1250), but the extra money gets you a 5.1 cu. ft. drum, which is significantly larger than the 4.1 of the Kenmore or the 4.3 of the Whirlpool. This gives it the extra room to handle larger loads (Consumer Reports says it could hold up to 24 lbs of laundry), or big heavy items like sheets and comforters. Consumer Reports also rated this model highly, giving it an overall score of 83, with excellent scores for washing performance, water efficiency, and capacity.
There are a lot of washing machines and dryers available, so we dredged through as many reviews as we could find to determine our picks. Here are a few of the ones we considered on the way, and why they didn’t get our nod. Firstly, we eliminated conventional top load washers: although models like the Hotpoint HSWP1000MW are cheap (priced at about $390), they are also very uneconomical, using much more water and electricity than their more expensive cousins. They also put much more wear and tear on your clothes, because the central agitator constantly batters the clothes to circulate the water. “Generally speaking, a pole agitator is worse on clothes,” says Barry of Reviewed.com. The new breed of High Efficiency (HE) top loaders like the LG WT480 (subscription required), which use a wash plate rather than an agitator, are better, but they still use more water and electricity than front-loaders and don’t wash as well. So we decided on a front-loader washer.
That still left plenty of competition—Sears, for example, lists 69 front-loader washers. So we turned to the experts, looking at reviews from places like WasherDryerInfo.com (part of Reviewed.com) and Consumer Reports. Both companies do excellent testing that looks at the performance, economy and usability of washers and dryers. There were several strong contenders that came out of this analysis, but a number of them had problems that removed them from the list.
The Samsung WF457ARGS was well reviewed by both Consumer Reports (subscription required) and Reviewed.com, both of whom praised the low noise and fancy LCD control panel, as well as the Smart Control feature that can start and monitor the washer from your cell phone. But this latter feature adds to the already considerable cost of $1,400, and the washer didn’t perform as well as others. Reviewed.com described it as something that “Jane Jetson would buy at her local Mooning Dales, but don’t get too excited… We’ve seen less expensive machines perform just as well or better than this one in terms of stain removal, water retention, and annual cost.”
Similarly, cost was the downfall of the LG WM8000H, which cost a hefty $1,345. Plus, Consumer Reports found that it “offers superb overall performance, but wash time is 100 minutes—among the longest of the recommended front-loaders.” The Whirlpool Duet WFV96HEA had a similarly high cost ($1,200), as did the $1,300 Electrolux EWFLS70JIW, which Reviewed.com said “wowed us with its stain removal power, speed, and efficiency, but confused us with an aggravating door and a user interface seemingly designed by Will Shortz.”
Caring for Your Washer
As some readers have noted, some front-loading washers can develop mold. We found these handy tips in Consumer Reports that should help to keep mildewy build-up at bay: run an empty hot wash cycle with chlorine bleach; wash loads with warm or hot water as often as you can; wipe down the door gasket and glass after use; clean out the detergent dispenser once or twice a month; use a dehumidifier if your laundry room tends to stay damp; and leave the washer door open between loads to let it air out — but lock your laundry room door if you have small children.
Wrapping it Up
Although $1,800 might seem like a lot to spend on a washer and dryer, our picks of the is the $900 Kenmore Elite 41472 washer and the $900 Kenmore 81472 dryer represent a real bargain; they provide the best washing and drying performance out there, saving time, electricity, water and hassle. And when you are dealing with a task as tedious as washing and drying, that means a lot.
Before You Buy a Clothers Washer, About.com,"About.com laundry guide Mary Marlowe Leverette says that a 4.6 cubic feet drum should be enough to hold a king-sized comforter"
Kenmore Elite 41472 Review, Reviewed.com Laundry, June 7, 2012,
When to wash Women's Clothes, About.com,
When to Wash Men's Clothes, About.com,
Kenmore Elite 41472, Consumer Reports (sub. required)
Washing Machine Buying Guide, Consumer Reports
Originally published: May 6, 2013