Unless you have no other choice, an all-in-one, single-drum, washer-dryer combo is almost never the best way to do your laundry. We spent 10 hours looking into 13 models, and couldn’t find a model that works anywhere near as quickly as a separate washer and dryer. However, if a combo unit truly is your only option for washing and drying clothes in your small home, the LG WM3488HW is your safest bet.
It’s the only compact, ventless, 120-volt model made by a brand with a reputation for keeping replacement parts available for more than a few years. Owners seem to be pretty happy with it, and it has better washing and drying features than any of its competitors. If you can install a dishwasher at home, you can install this all-in-one washer-dryer.
Since 2013 I’ve covered appliances for The Sweethome, and have put in hundreds of hours of research into washers and dryers, including interviews with repair technicians from around the country, representatives from all the major washer brands, a major detergent company, and another review website. I’ve also read most of the reviews at Consumer Reports, Reviewed.com, and CNET, and countless emails, comments, tweets, message board posts, and user reviews from our readers and pretty much anyone else who cared enough to weigh in on laundry machines.
If single-drum washer-dryer combos worked well, they’d be the ultimate laundry appliances. They take up half the space of separate machines, and you don’t have to transfer clothes between them.
But brand after brand has tried to make all-in-one laundry happen, yet decades later, the machines are still not popular. The washing aspect works fine, but drying takes a couple hours longer than a separate machine would, and that’s if you’ve loaded the machine to only half capacity. You can’t wash new loads while you wait for the dryer, either, so laundry day slows to a crawl. All-in-ones also have high repair rates and aren’t much cheaper to buy than separate machines, so they’ll almost always cost you more in the long run.
Steve Sheinkopf, owner and CEO of Yale Appliance + Lighting in Boston and one of the industry’s most prolific bloggers put it bluntly: “I hate these things,” he told us. “It’s really a product that should not be on the market. We do everything in our power not to sell them.”
The problem, Sheinkopf said, is that the repair rate is sky high—over 70 percent within the first year, according to his service department’s records. “They seem to be the most repair-prone products we sell.”
Chaim Shanet, a repair technician for Mr. Appliance of Park Slope in Brooklyn, services an area with many small apartments in mid-rise and high-rise buildings—a neighborhood where all-in-one combo units actually make sense in a lot of homes. He said that even among his space-constrained clients “people either love them or hate them. …There’s no middle ground.” (He also could not confirm the repair rate that Sheinkopf mentioned.)
All that said, the user reviews for all-in-ones tend to be pretty good. Most of the reviews we read seemed to be written by people with little space but plenty of patience. Donna Smallin Kuper, a professional organizer and cleaning expert, uses an all-in-one model in her RV and told us that she’s happy with it, and that most of her friends in the RV community own one and like it, too. We’ve also read a couple dozen user reviews from people who live in small homes and don’t mind the long dry times of an all-in-one, because they find it easier than hang-drying.
If you have no other practical choice for washing and drying your laundry, you could consider getting an all-in-one washer-dryer combo.
Or, if you’re in a very small home with very little space and you wouldn’t consider hang-drying your clothes, an all-in-one combo might be a good choice.
But if you have the space for a separate washer and dryer—even a compact pair—skip the combo unit. It might seem like a clever way to save space and maybe even some stress on laundry day. But as far as we can tell, the downsides aren’t worth it for most people who can avoid it.
We’ve put in hundreds of hours researching all types of washers and dryers, including full-size and compact models. For single-drum washer-dryer combos in particular, we did about 10 hours of targeted research into 13 models. However, we did not test any of them (Reviewed.com is the only major source that has, and even it tested only two models). So this advice is all based on research and interviews.
Because our experts warned us that you should get a combo only if you have no other choice, we narrowed our focus to models that required the least space and the fewest special connections. The criteria include:
This left us with a handful of finalists, including the LG WM3488HW, Haier HLC1700AXW, Midea USFC70DS12DSH, Deco DC4400CV (a convertible vented-ventless model also sold under the Pinnacle and Equator labels, according to Reviewed.com), Summit SPWD2201SS, EdgeStar CWD1550, and Magic Chef MCSCWD20W3 (the last three of which appear to be relabeled versions of the same machine, though we can’t be sure).
The LG WM3488HW seems like the safest bet for an all-in-one washer-dryer combo, if that’s your only practical choice for washing and drying laundry at home. It has better features than other models, and though we can’t be sure it’s more reliable, it should at least be easier to find parts to fix it in a few years.
LG is the best-known brand that makes a compact, ventless, 120-volt model, and its regular washers and dryers are some of the most reliable, according to Consumer Reports (subscription required), Yale Appliance, and J.D. Power. Several repair technicians have told us that LG reliably keeps old parts available, so you should be able to fix this thing as needed for several years. Shanet, the repair technician from Brooklyn, specifically recommended LG combos above other brands for this reason.
The WM3488HW also has a maximum spin-dry speed of 1,400 rpm, the highest of any combo. That helps wick the water out of clothes at the end of a wash cycle, so they may not need to spend as much time in the dryer. Our other finalists maxed out at 1,200 rpm.
At 2.3 cubic feet, the WM3488HW also has a slightly larger capacity than its peers, which are all 2 cubic feet or smaller. That’s enough space to add an extra T-shirt or two per load.
It also has more washing options than other compact combos, including a few useful ones like an extra-hot wash temperature and a steam-cleaning option. You won’t use them often, but they’re handy when you need to sanitize items. No other finalists have the internal water heater that’s required for those features.
As of early July 2017, the WM3488HW has an average user rating of 4.2 stars (out of five) based on 100 reviews across a few retailers—that’s a solid score, especially in a category that’s supposedly bad. The consensus is that it washes well and is a surprisingly good dryer for a ventless, 120-volt model, though it still takes many hours to finish a load. The unit hasn’t been out long enough to know how reliable it will be over time, but so far so good.
The LG WM3488HW costs hundreds of dollars more than any of its closest competitors. As unsure as we are of the LG, we’re even less confident about recommending the cheaper models from the other brands—we think spending more to get a decent experience is worth doing.
The other problems with the WM3488HW are the problems with any all-in-one washer-dryer combo. That is, you’re limited to washing and drying small loads, and they’re going to take a long time to finish.
It’ll take around 3½ hours, maybe longer, to wash and dry a small load of two cotton bath towels and hand towels, or maybe two days’ worth of summertime street clothes. By comparison, a standard front-load washer and vented dryer can clean and dry about 20 towels in 2½ hours with the right settings selected.
There are a few reasons why the loads are so small yet so lengthy. First, as a 120-volt appliance, it just can’t crank out as much heat as a typical 240-volt dryer. Second, it’s ventless, and ventless dryers always take longer than vented ones. Third, although the drum capacity is about the same as any other 24-inch washing machine, it’s only half the volume of a typical 24-inch dryer. Dryers need bigger drums so that clothes can tumble freely. In a drum this small, a full washer load is an overstuffed dryer load, and clothes will dry even more slowly. The WM3488HW’s manual says that you can stuff the drum if you’re just washing the clothes, but should fill it only halfway if you intend to wash and dry in the same load.
Heated tumble-drying is not the only way to dry your clothes. Before you buy a combo, think about whether you could be comfortable with a compact washing machine and a great drying rack. You’ll save hundreds of dollars, and you probably won’t lose much time relative to a combo.
We dismissed our other compact, ventless, 120-volt finalists: The Haier HLC1700AXW, Midea USFC70DS12DSH, Summit SPWD2201SS, EdgeStar CWD1550S, and Magic Chef MCSCWD20W3 (again, the last three of which appear to be the same machine with a different label). We also dismissed the Deco DC4400CV, the convertible vented-ventless model (also sold under the Equator or Pinnacle brands). As Shanet warned, you may not be able to find replacement parts from these brands after a few years. They tend to have mediocre user ratings and limited availability compared with our pick, too.
Kuper, the cleaning expert and RV-dweller, told us the Splendide WD2100XC might be your best choice if your home rolls or floats. We didn’t consider it for our main pick because it’s a vented model, but that doesn’t seem to be a problem in RVs or on boats. The marketing materials specifically note that the Splendide is built with “heavy-duty springs and shock absorbers” for RV travel.
LG also makes a full-size, ventless, 120-volt all-in-one combo, the WM3997HWA. It has a 4.3-cubic-foot drum, an accelerated wash cycle, and several hundred decent user ratings, averaging four stars out of five. Our stance is that you should get a combo only if you have no other choice, and if you can fit a full-size model in your home, you can probably fit two compact models, which will let you do more laundry faster, and will probably be more reliable. But if you’re the exception to our assumption, and think that the WM3997HWA is your best bet, we think it’s probably an okay bet—it has a lot in common with the smaller WM3488HW.
When some people hear the term “washer-dryer combo,” they think of the old-school, one-piece stacks, also known as laundry centers. They have a smallish top-load washer on the bottom, and a smallish vented dryer up top. Decades ago, they were the option for vertically stacked laundry in the US.
But then front-loaders arrived and solved that problem, so we don’t think there’s a strong case for laundry centers anymore. The cheaper models are all agitator-style top-loaders, which use much more water and energy, are rougher on clothes, and don’t clean as thoroughly as high-efficiency (HE) washers. A few HE top-load laundry centers are out there, but they’re barely any cheaper than stacking a basic front-loader and dryer. They all need dryer ventilation, and they’re much harder to move in and out of your home, because they’re so huge.
A few exciting new models are on the horizon. They have the potential to change the category for the better, though we’ll have to wait and see if they can work reliably.
LG just released the Signature LUWM101HWA a couple of weeks before we published this guide. It costs nearly $2,900, making it one of the most expensive options for getting a washer and dryer. But the specs are amazing and it has the potential to reshape the category if it works well. It’s the only combo with a heat-pump dryer (rather than condenser dryer), a 2.8-cubic-foot capacity, and a 1,600 rpm spin speed in a 24-inch, ventless, 120-volt machine. Let’s hope it works, and that the price drops eventually.
Marathon Laundry announced its all-in-one combo at CES 2016, and began shipping some units in May 2017, according to the company’s Facebook page. The marketing materials make a big deal out of how smart the machine is, but we’re mostly interested because it’s a 240-volt model, so the dryer should be relatively fast compared with other all-in-ones. It is a vented model, though, so it’s unlikely to be a pick of choice for small homes. We have not heard any real-world feedback yet, and we think it pays to be cautious with new appliance companies until they can establish a track record for reliability and customer service. Marathon is also still working through a backlog of preorders, so you probably wouldn’t be able to get one until late 2017 or early 2018 anyway, even if you wanted to plunk down the $1,600 it’s asking. Still, new faces in the industry are always a good thing for buyers, and we hope to hear good things.
Whirlpool also plans to release the vented, 240-volt SmartCare All-in-One combo for $1,500 in “late 2017.”
(Photos by LG.)
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