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The best washing machines in 2021

Derek Adams
29 Nov 2021
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Find the right washing machine for you with our bite-sized reviews and handy buying guide

Unless you have a penchant for laundrettes, investing in the best washing machine you can afford is a wise decision. It's not the most glamorous purchase you'll ever make, but choose wisely today and you'll have a machine which will tackle the toughest stains, pamper your clothes, and last for years to come. 

Whether you walk into a showroom or peruse your preferred online retailer, you'll find yourself faced with a daunting array of bland white boxes, each adorned with specs and buzzwords. Make no mistake, though: it's impossible to choose the best washing machine by looks or specifications alone.

That's why we've put together a buying guide explaining all the key things you should consider, followed by a shortlist of the best budget, mid-range and high-end washing machines that we've discovered with own in-depth testing, extensive research and feedback from industry experts. 

READ NEXT: The best washing machine deals available right now


The best washing machines: At a glance

  • The best under £450: Bosch Serie 4 WAN28281GB | Buy now
  • The best under £700: Bosch Serie 6 WAU28PH9GB | Buy now
  • The best under £1,000: AEG L9FEC966R | Buy now

How to buy the best washing machine for you

How much should you spend?

If you're working under the assumption that spending more on a machine will guarantee improved washing performance, then you'll probably be rather pleased to hear that you're wrong. Our tests of a wide range of machines have showed that in many cases, pricier machines simply increase wash capacity or add extra features - such as automatic dosing and Wi-Fi control - rather than offering improved stain-tackling prowess.

That's not to say that you should buy the very cheapest machine you can. Many of the big-name budget brands we've tested have failed to impress, and once you drop too far below the £400 mark, you'll often find that key features such as pre-wash programmes, emergency drain-down features and accessible filters (for removing those coins and buttons which have blocked up the machine) start to disappear. Do away with those features, and you'll struggle to clean nappies or children's soiled clothes effectively, and may end up incurring expensive engineer call-out charges every time you forget to empty your pockets. 

For reference, the best affordable machine we've tested over the last few years is Bosch's relatively basic Serie 4 machine. Indeed, if your household can make do with a modest 7kg load capacity, then a ~£400 model from a big-brand manufacturer may be the best value option. 

If, however, you need the biggest drum capacity possible to cope with a larger household, then you have two choice: spend more on a premium brand model, or settle for a big-capacity model from one of the more affordable brand names. 

What features should I look out for when buying a washing machine?

1. Energy consumption

Energy consumption and water use are the two factors that determine how much your washing machine will cost to run per year. As of 21 March 2021, the old and mildly confusing EU Energy Label system which graded appliances from A+++ down to A has come to an end. It has been replaced with a new energy rating scheme that rates efficiency from A to G, with A being the most efficient. As before, an A-rated washing machine may be slightly more efficient than another A-rated machine, but the differences between similarly labelled appliances are negligible.

Each label also contains a figure for the washing machine's power consumption rated at kWh per 100 washes (this used to be an annual consumption figure), and the water consumption used per cycle (this used be measured in litres per year). Ther sticker now shows the duration of a full load wash cycle, and each machine's load capacity for the now mandatory Eco 40-60 wash is also stated clearly.

The energy rating changes are refreshingly sensible, and it's now easier to compare models via the energy rating stickers and estimate energy usage for your household.

2. Drum size

Drum size is quoted as the total weight of dry washing that can be loaded into the machine. For a typical household, a 6kg drum will suffice, but a larger 8 or 10kg drum can be very useful. Not only does it let you wash more clothes in one go, it means you can wash larger items, such as duvets.

A larger drum will also tend to be more efficient, requiring less water and detergent to wash the same amount of clothes as a machine with a smaller drum.

3. Spin speed

The spin speed tells you how fast the drum is capable of spinning in revolutions per minute (rpm). Generally speaking, the faster the spin speed, the drier your washing will be when the machine has finished. Budget washing machines may spin at around 1,100rpm, but look for a 1,400rpm or 1,600rpm machine for the best performance.

All washing machines come with adjustable feet, and it's important to ensure that the machine is level when you install it. A wobbly machine will rattle about and make a racket, and other vibration-related problems could develop further down the line.

4. Wash modes

Pay careful attention to the special wash cycles on a washing machine. A Woolmark-certified machine can wash woollen garments, while some machines have special silk modes. If you frequently wear delicate items, a hand-wash mode can save you a lot of manual labour. Some machines have anti-creasing and easy-iron settings, which will make it easier to care for those items you need to iron at the end of a wash.

Is it worth buying a Wi-Fi connected machine? 

It's not essential, but it can be rather handy. Many machines these days partner Wi-Fi control with automatic dosing features, and these two features are a match made in laundry heaven. Simply throw washing in the drum, shut the door and you can set a wash going from anywhere in or outside the home. 

The automatic dosing concept is quite brilliant, too. These machines have built-in tanks for detergent and softener  which can be topped up every week or two depending on your usage. A further benefit here is that the machine can then use the optimal amount of detergent and softener for the load. Many of us tend to use too much detergent in the hope of improving wash performance, when it's actually more likely to reduce performance and simply clog up the machine. 

What are the best brands to buy?

It's difficult to generalise here, as we've seen good, bad and middling machines from a wide range of manufacturers. One useful thing to note whilst you're shopping, however, is that many brands are owned by a single parent company. For instance, Bosch, Siemens and Neff are all owned by BSH, with Bosch products generally pitched at the mid-price market, while Siemens and Neff are aimed more towards the high-end buyer. 

As a result, we wouldn't set too much store on a particular brand - the only way to be accurately gauge a machine's performance is to test it thoroughly, and it's almost impossible to get a good understanding of a machine's reliability by reading reviews of any kind. Your best protection is to look for a lengthy warranty with no hidden call-out charges. In our review, we always dismantle any machines we test to see how repairable the parts are in the event of a problem. Most machines are built to be disposable these days, but some are markedly less disposable than others. 


The best washing machines to buy

1. Bosch Serie 4 WAN28281GB: The best washing machine under £450 

Price: £419 | Buy now from Hughes

Contrary to expectations, the previous generation of Bosch's affordable Serie 4 machine blew us away by delivering top-notch washing performance for not much cash. The previous model we tested, the WAN28201GB (read our full review), sailed through our recent Expert Reviews test, winning itself a coveted five stars and a Best Buy award for both price and efficiency. Our testers were blown away by how well it performed, especially on the 40˚C and 60˚C cycles. In fact, it achieved better results than some machines at twice the price.

Sadly, the supplies of the WAN28201GB seem to have finally run dry, and now the similar-sounding WAN28281GB has taken the reins. The specs are all consistent with the previous model, with an ample 8kg drum capacity and 1,400rpm spin speed, but a closer inspection of the product images on Bosch's site suggests that the drum design is now closer to the fancier type previously only found on Bosch's higher-end machines. 

We're currently waiting on the full complement of test results from our review unit, but it looks like Bosch is onto another winner here. If you're looking for great cleaning performance, and don't mind a slightly noisier and less power efficient model than the pricier Serie 6 Bosch below, then you can't go wrong here. 

Key specs – Drum size: 8kg; Max spin speed: 1,380rpm; Rated efficiency: C; Wool wash: Yes; Delicate Wash: Yes; Hand wash: Yes

Buy now from Hughes


2. Bosch Serie 6 WAU28PH9GB: The best mid-priced washing machine

Price: £679 | Buy now from AO.com

If you're wondering why this list has so many Bosch models on it, then the simple answer is that they're really rather good. The Serie 6 WAU28PH9GB is Bosch's newest mid-ranger and takes over where our previous favourite, the Serie 6 WAT286H0GB (read our full review), left off. Just as we found with its predecessor, we doubt it will provide dramatic improvements in washing performance over its cheaper Serie 4 cousin above, but it does trump it in other areas.

It has a slightly larger 9kg wash capacity, and this combines with the ingenious i-Dos feature and Wi-Fi remote control. Fill the i-Dos tanks with liquid detergent and softener, and it'll tackle around 15 full loads before you have to fill them again. This combines with the remote control functions to mean that you can sling clothes in the washer and set the wash programme going from wherever you happen to be – regardless of whether you're in or out of the house. 

Another big plus point is how quiet it is. The previous Serie 6 model was noticeably quieter than the Serie 4 model above, so it shouldn't draw attention to itself during its spin cycle. Factor in the full complement of safety features – emergency drain down, user-accessible filter and so forth – and this new model should deliver everything we've come to expect from Bosch. 

Key specs – Drum size: 9kg; Max spin speed: 1,400rpm; Rated efficiency: C; Wool wash: Yes; Silk wash: Yes; Hand wash: Yes

Buy now from AO.com


3. AEG L9FEC966R: The best high-end washing machine

Price: £1,049 | Buy now from John Lewis


As the L9FEC966R is a fully paid-up member of AEG's top-of-the-line 9000 Series, you won't be surprised to hear that it's really a very, very good washing machine. It has a 9kg load capacity, 1,600rpm spin speed and it gets the top-dog A rating for energy efficiency in the all-new post-Brexit energy rating scheme - and this makes it a good deal more efficient than the cheaper C-rated models you'll find above.

AEG makes big claims for the L9FEC966R with the aid of various Scandinavian-sounding marketing buzzwords, but the long and short of it is that it's simply very good at what it does. There are no fripperies such as Wi-Fi, and instead you get a stylish-looking machine that churns out largely brilliant wash performance while using less energy than even Bosch's top-line Serie 8 machine. Even the 20-minute 3kg quick wash is unusually competent, with stain-destroying performance that leaves rivals in the dust. 

If we had to pick holes, we'd moan that the stain-tackling prowess of the 40℃ wash could be better. But, given the sterling results from the 30℃, 60℃ and quick-wash tests, we're not inclined to make a big deal of it. This is a superb machine - and as you can currently pick it up at a generous discount, it's well worth snapping up.

Read our full AEG L9FEC966R review

Key specsDrum size: 9kg; Spin speed: 1,600rpm; Rated efficiency: A; Wool wash: Yes; Silk wash: Yes; Hand wash: Yes

Buy now from AO.com


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