Best washing machine 2016 - top picks and buying guide
We help you choose the right washing machine for your budget, thanks to our in-depth tests and running costs calculations
How we test washing machines
When it comes to testing washing machines there are two key factors to look at: how clean it gets your clothes and how much it will cost you a year. The first is obvious, but the second point is one that bears a lot of thought. Simply put, the more efficient your machine is in terms of electricity and water consumption, the less it will cost you to run and the more money you'll save every year.
With that in mind, our tests are designed to give both points a thorough workout and help you distinguish the good machines from the bad. You can see all of our results in our best washing machine guide.
Washing machine tests
Our washing machine tests use a 3kg load, which has a representative mix of clothing including underwear, jeans, a towel, a bed-sheet, a jumper, a shirt and a t-shirt.
We'll run at least three test cycles on each machine: 30C cotton load wash for economy, easy-care 40C and 40C cotton.
We believe that these are the most common settings for today's washing machines and let us get a decent baseline comparison we can use across all machines. We'll test individual and special wash cycles for each machine, as well, such as the 15C wash on Samsung Ecobubble washing machines.
For each wash cycle we'll use a specially-prepared stain strip with the most common types of stain on it:
* Cotton soiled with carbon black/olive oil
* Cotton soiled with blood
* Cotton soiled with cocoa
* Cotton soiled with blood/milk/ink
* Cotton soiled with red wine
The strip will be put into the machine along with a standard wash load that includes t-shirts, sheets and towels. This strip will be scanned using a high-resolution scanner before and after the wash in order to accurately compare wash power. We use a standard supermarket brand detergent on each machine.
We'll weigh the clothes before and after the wash cycle to find out how efficient the spin cycle is and how much water the wash load has retained. The less water that's retained, the quicker the clothes will dry.
For each wash cycle we'll record the total power usage and the amount of water consumed. This will tell us how efficient each machine is and, more importantly, how much it will cost to run a year in an average household.
We also calculate running costs using the manufacturer-provided EU Energy Label figures. This figure gives a total yearly amount of energy and water used per year by the machine. It assumes a full-load, so a 12kg machine will most likely use more energy and water than a 6kg machine. We work out a running cost based on washing the same amount of clothes per year, assuming full washing machine loads: in other words, a 12kg machine requires less wash cycles per year than a 6kg machine. Our running costs, therefore present a level playing field.
All costs are based on the UK average energy costs in kW/h. Water costs are worked out based on the UK average cost per cubic metre, and also include waste water costs. It assumes a water meter is installed. Actual running costs will vary depending on your tariff.
Our tester will rank each machine for noise: both how loud and how invasive it is. This is particularly important if you plan to site your washing machine in a commonly-used area, such as a kitchen-diner.
Ease of use
We'll test each machine to find out how easy it is to load, how accessible the detergent drawer is, plus how simple the control panel is to use.