The lowdown on must-have features for washing machines
Top-loading washing machines offer a wide range of upgrades and special features. But which are the best for you and your household? It depends on your family's laundry needs: if you live alone or with a significant other and only need to do laundry once a week, you won't need the same features as a family of five, tackling grass stains on the uniforms for three kids on three different sports teams.
How to decide what laundry features you need
A washing machine is a large purchase! Before you blow your budget on features you might not need, it's important to take stock of your family's routines and clothing needs. By asking yourself a few easy questions, you'll be able to pick the custom features that make laundry day a complete breeze.
- How often do I need to do laundry?
- When I do laundry, how many pounds of clothes will I need to wash?
- Do I have any items that need "deep cleaning," like sports uniforms, work clothes, or baby clothes?
- Do I have any items that need delicate handling, like some types of undergarments, luxury items, or items with fragile designs?
- How often do I need to wash bulky items, like towels or blankets?
The answers to these questions will help you get a better idea of what you need — and what you don't — in your home's laundry system, and help you choose whether you want a top-loading model over a front-loading one. Now, let's take a look at some of the most common laundry features and upgrades you may want to consider.
Washing machine features and upgrades
- High capacity: For big families, high capacity is a must. Washing machines run the gamut from small, portable versions to stackable sizes that live in closets, all the way to the gargantuan high-capacity machines you might find in a laundromat. How big do you expect each load of laundry to be? This should help you decide how much capacity you need.
- Stainless steel tub: Especially in high-capacity washers, a stainless steel tub is less likely to rust over time. It can also keep up with more intense cycles, pulling more water out of your clothes while protecting them from snags and tears.
- Load monitoring: When a washing machine comes with load monitoring, this means it includes specialty sensors that track the weight distribution of the clothes you load into it. From there, the washer can use the exact right amount of water to clean your clothes. This cuts down on waste, your water bill, and energy usage all at once!
- Economy mode: Some energy-efficient washers can clean your clothes with less energy and water. This "economy mode" is good for washing a light load of clothes that were only worn once or twice, but isn't a good option if you need to get grime out of very soiled clothes. It's a good option if you are trying to be more eco-friendly.
- Extra rinse cycle: Sometimes, for bulky items or certain types of detergent, an extra rinse can wash residue from clothes, like soap or pet hair.
- Quick wash: Similar to economy mode, a "quick wash" cycle is meant for a couple of items that you need to wash quickly without washing an entire load of laundry, like work or school uniforms.
- Anti-allergy: This is a newer specialty cycle, which washes clothes at the highest temperature settings to remove allergens like mold, pet dander, and grass. This is especially useful for babies or for people who suffer from seasonal allergies, since pollen can't stick to clothes!
- Delicate cycles: Cycles like "permanent press" and "delicate" keep fragile clothes safe from snags and tears.
- Bulk cycles: Washing machines with "bulk" settings know to use less water and spin for longer to remove water from heavy items like towels and blankets.
- Deep clean cycles: Helpful for families with babies, athletes, or workers whose careers create dirty uniforms, a deep clean cycle can remove stubborn stains with ease.
- End-of-cycle signal: If you have a habit of starting laundry and completely forgetting about it as soon as you close the lid, this feature is for you. A beeper or buzzer will go off when a cycle is complete, reminding you that it's time to move your clothes to the dryer.
- Quiet operation: For small spaces, like apartments or shared homes, quiet washers are a luxury. Machines that are designed to operate at a lower volume allow you to start a load of laundry at any time, without worrying about waking up your roommates.
- Laundry pedestals: You can use these add-ons to raise your washer to a more comfortable height, making it easier to load and unload.
- Automatic dispenser: Gone are the days of measuring out detergent yourself! These dispensers hold a large amount of detergent or fabric softener, and automatically measure out the right amount to include in each load.
- Automatic temperature control: Instead of struggling through decoding your clothes' temperature symbols, a washer with automatic temperature control will set its internal temperatures to match the cycle you chose.
- Digital display and touchpad controls: The future is here! Some washers offer LED screens with touchpads, so you can choose cycles, pre-set temperatures and other considerations with the touch of a button.
- Smart machines: Did you know your washer can connect to WiFi? It's true! Some washing machines have built-in WiFi receptors so they can connect to a website or smartphone, and send alerts when a cycle has finished.
- Remote or app control: Remote and app control take smart machines one step further, giving you control over your cycle selections from the palm of your hand. You can choose cycles, add an extra rinse, or set end-of-cycle reminders on connected smartphone apps.