After more than 100 hours of research, we think that the LG WM3770HWA washer is the best front-loading washer for most people.
*At the time of publishing, the price was $980.
This machine checks off all the boxes: It’s an excellent stain remover, versatile enough to clean almost any load of laundry and gently handle different fabrics. It’s efficient enough to usually qualify for utility rebates. Some nice features help avoid odor and mold problems, and it seems to be one of the more reliable full-size front-loaders you can buy right now. The noise and vibrations are low, the wash capacity is high, and even gimmicky-sounding features like TurboWash and a built-in water heater are useful.
If you want a matching dryer for stacking or just aesthetics, the LG DLEX3370W electric dryer (also available in gas) is a solid companion. It earns an Energy Star efficiency badge—not too many dryers do—and a steam feature can de-wrinkle and deodorize clothes in a hurry.
If you can’t get our main picks, the Electrolux EFLS617SIW is the next-best choice—among full-size washers (and maybe all washers), it’s the best cleaner you can get. It’s also exceptionally efficient, and one of just a few models to earn a Tier 3 CEE ranking. On the downside, some tests show that it might be rougher on fabrics than other front-loaders, and Electrolux washers do not have as great a reputation for reliability as LG. If you need the matching, stackable dryer, get the Electrolux EFME617SIW, an Energy Star-qualified model with a wrinkle-releasing steam option and an anti-allergen cycle.
*At the time of publishing, the price was $547.
If our main picks are unaffordable, check out the Samsung WF42H5000AW, usually the cheapest stackable, full-size washer available. It’s exceptionally efficient, with excellent cleaning performance and strong user reviews. It’s missing some of the high-temperature, high-speed options that our favorite front-loaders have, but otherwise will do a similar job. The matching DV42H5000EW dryer is a no-nonsense machine that just works.
Top-loaders don’t clean as thoroughly as front-loaders, and they use significantly more water and energy. But there are still some good reasons to buy a top-loader, and the one we’d get is the Maytag MVWB755DW. This affordable, effective washer has a bunch of useful, user-friendly features that improve performance and give it a bit of an old-school feel that some people prefer. Maytag has a great reputation for making sturdy top-loaders, and this model (just barely) meets Energy Star efficiency standards. If you want the matching dryer, get the Maytag MEDB755DW.
If you’re looking for a stand-alone dryer, the Samsung DV45K7600EW has an Energy Star badge, as well a steam generator for quick de-wrinkling, deodorizing cycles—but it costs less than other dryers with those specs. If you don’t need to stack your machines, and you don’t care if your washer and dryer match, you could pair this machine with our favorite washer and save a little cash.
I started writing about appliances in 2011 for Reviewed.com. Since 2013, I’ve covered appliances for The Sweethome, and have put in way more than 100 hours of research on washers and dryers over the past two years. This update covers the new washers released since mid-2015, and makes some other general improvements.
For research, I talked to about a dozen experts in the laundry industry, including repair technicians from Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Washington, South Carolina, and Michigan. I interviewed representatives from LG, Samsung, GE, Whirlpool, and Electrolux—all the major washer brands, basically, as well as representatives from P&G, maker of Tide and other detergents. I talked to an editor from Reviewed.com, a major editorial appliance testing house, and listened to as many of our readers as I could, through comments, emails, Twitter exchanges, message-board posts, and a reader survey with more than 750 responses. I combed through ratings and reviews for hundreds of products at expert editorial outlets, including Consumer Reports, Reviewed.com, and CNET, as well as user reviews on retailers’ websites.
I wish we could’ve tested the washers and dryers in this guide. Ideally, we’d run stress tests and loads of all different sizes with different kinds of clothes to try to re-create real-world conditions. Someday, we’ll be able to do that. In the meantime, we think Reviewed.com is the best at standardized lab testing of washing machines, followed by Consumer Reports. (Full disclosure: I used to work for Reviewed.com.) When it’s appropriate, we cite their findings—but to briefly summarize points I made in “For Product Reviews, Tests Aren’t Everything”: Lab testing seems foolproof but often says little about how a product performs in the real world, and if it meets your personal priorities. That’s where we think our reporting can help.
If you’re deciding between a front-loader and a top-loader, here’s the takeaway: Both can work, but front-loaders have the edge on performance and efficiency. So our search for the best overall washer boiled down to finding a front-loader with strong cleaning performance, useful features, and a reasonable expectation for reliability.
The pros and cons on buying a front-loader washer.
For price, the sweet spot is $800 to $900 (for the washer alone). Cheaper models can work great, too, but the washers in our target price range come with life-improving features like extra-hot wash options and faster wash cycles. Higher-end models usually don’t offer any practical advantages, unless you’re willing to spend about twice as much as our target range.
Here are the defining features we looked for in our washer picks:
Quiet operation. About 27 percent of respondents to a Sweethome reader survey said that noise, including the sound from vibration, was a top priority for a new machine. It matters if it’s waking your kids, drowning out a TV, or reverberating through the home in the spin cycle. We read Consumer Reports’s noise and vibration ratings, as well as user reviews to help choose. Caveat: It’s hard to predict exactly how a washer will sound in your home.
Reliability. This is impossible to predict, actually. But we’ve made an educated guess by factoring in historic brand reputation, wisdom from repair technicians, and user reviews, especially by watching for patterns in negative reviews.
A built-in water heater. The highest washer temperature is usually limited to your home’s water-heater setting (usually 120 °F), but some washers’ built-in heaters can boost the temps even higher. These very-hot temps can clean truly filthy items, get whites really white, help eliminate mold and mildew odors in a dirty washer, and even kill dust mites or sanitize clothes. For people with allergies or suppressed immune systems, superhot wash temps can be a major life improvement. (However, with a potentially negative impact on some fabrics and your utility bills, it’s not a feature that most people will use often.)
Accelerated wash options. Front-loaders typically take 80 or 90 minutes for a normal cycle, but some can cut the wash time in half by spraying clothes with a high-pressure detergent-water mix and by combining the rinse and spin cycles. Some washers’ test results show that the accelerated cycles clean just as well as a normal cycle.
And some less significant details. We downplayed some other specs when choosing a washer. Efficiency, for example, is a priority for a lot of people, including 59 percent of our reader-survey respondents. However, the difference between the most and least efficient front-loader is pretty modest. More capacity was a priority for 36 percent of our survey respondents, but the average washer is already enormous compared with the model it’s probably replacing, and you’re unlikely to gain much by spending extra on a roomier machine.
After sifting through roughly 65 different front-load washers, we settled on a handful of finalists. They include the LG WM3770HWA (and other models in the 3000 series), the Electrolux EFLS617SIW, the Whirlpool Duet WFW90HEFW, the Maytag MHW5500FW, and the Samsung WF45K6500AW.
|LG WM3770HWA||Electrolux EFLS617SIW||Samsung WF42H5000AW||Maytag MVWB755D|
|Rank||Our pick||Runner-up||Budget||Decent top-loader|
|Efficiency||CEE Tier 2, very efficient||CEE Tier 3, the most efficient||CEE Tier 3, the most efficient||Energy Star, sort of efficient|
|Capacity||Seriously, they’re all big enough||Seriously, they’re all big enough||Seriously, they’re all big enough||Seriously, they’re all big enough|
|Best feature||Built-in water heater, accelerated wash mode, SmartDiagnosis||Built-in water heater, SmartBoost detergent system||Effective and efficient for a low price||Less maintenance required|
|Warranty||One-year full, 10-year motor, lifetime drum||One-year full, 10-year motor||One-year full, three-year drum, 10-year motor||One-year full, 10-year motor and basket|
Most dryers are similar, and they usually weren’t a deciding factor for these picks. “It’s all about the washer,” said Steve Sheinkopf, CEO of Yale Appliance & Lighting in Boston and one of the industry’s most prolific bloggers, “The dryer is almost like a toss-in.” Apart from one stand-alone dryer we pick toward the end of this guide, most of these dryer picks are simply the matching companions to our favorite washers. People tend to buy in pairs for aesthetic reasons, and it guarantees you’ll be able to stack the machines. But matched pairs don’t magically work any better together, so don’t feel pressured to buy both machines.You can often save money by stacking a lower-end dryer on top of a nicer washer, as long as they’re from the same brand at the same width. Occasionally, a particular dryer has useful extra features, like a steam-freshen option, and some qualify for the Energy Star badge, which is still pretty uncommon among dryers. Our dryer picks are in this upper tier, so if you go with a matched pair, you’re getting two very good machines.
*At the time of publishing, the price was $980.
The LG WM3770HWA is the washer that we’d buy—it’s full-featured, efficient, effective, quiet, reliable, and affordable. A handful of other front-loaders at this price are great machines, too, but we like the WM3770 a little bit more for a few reasons.
Reliability is a major factor that sets apart LG washing machines. That gets a little tricky with the WM3770, because it’s a new washer. But it’s so similar to our previous recommendation, the WM3570, that we’re comfortable sliding it into the top spot (and we still think the WM3570 is a great buy if you find it in stock). A couple years’ worth of user reviews and reader feedback on the older models suggest that apart from a couple of known issues, LG makes a reliable product. Treated properly, these will last eight to 12 years, or about as long as similar models from most other brands. Several Sweethome and Wirecutter staff members bought the older WM3570 after we recommended it, and are still happy with it more than a year later.
As a brand, LG is ranked by Consumer Reports’s reader survey (subscription required) as the least likely to need a repair in a five-year period, and J.D. Power ranks LG as the second-most reliable brand. Most (but not all) of the technicians we spoke with think LG makes good machines, and one even said he thinks it’s the best brand of washers overall. If a problem arises, a feature LG has (that is rare among washers) called SmartDiagnosis can read out an error code so a repair technician can plan to bring the right replacement parts. The warranty is a little better than most, with the typical one-year full coverage, and 10-year coverage on the direct-drive motor.
As a clothes cleaner, the WM3770 can thoroughly wash pretty much any load of laundry. The feature set is broad, and might even seem a little bloated if you’re upgrading from an older washer—but a handful of the options are actually very helpful. One of the things we like the most about the WM3770, and helps it stand out from some of its close competitors, is that it can wash with really, really hot water. Plenty of modern washers have built-in water heaters, but only a few can crank up the heat like this one, hitting wash temps as high as 158 °F according to LG (some competitors top out at 120 °F). That’s hot enough to meet the chemical-free sanitization standards set by the NSF and the anti-allergen standards set by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA). A couple other washers in this price range (including our runner-up) also hit the NSF and AAFA thresholds.
Another helpful feature is TurboWash, which can cut regular wash times in half, from roughly 85 minutes down to about 40 minutes (depending on the size of the load). Angela Smith, a brand manager at LG, told us the TurboWash feature combines the spin and rinse cycles. First, twin nozzles at the front of the washer spray a concentrated detergent solution directly onto the clothes. “A high-pressure nozzle above the drum sprays tiny water particles through the clothes during high spin cycles,” she said. In tests of older washers with this feature, Reviewed.com found that TurboWash is just as effective at removing stains as the regular-length normal cycle. Some other brands have similar features (Samsung calls its version SpeedWash), but this is more than just a typical “quick wash” cycle that you’d find on cheaper machines.
In terms of everyday set-it-forget-it normal washing, most pro reviews of older versions of the WM3770 found that the washing performance is excellent. Reviewed.com gives the WM3575CV an overall rating of 8.6 out of 10 and an Editor’s Choice award, based in part on the strength of its cleaning performance. Consumer Reports rates the cleaning performance of the WM3570 and WM3370 as Excellent (subscription required).
The WM3770’s capacity is listed at 4.5 cubic feet, which is enough to hold a king-size comforter or about 25 pounds of laundry. Consumer Reports rates older models’ gentleness as Very Good. It has a delicates cycle, a cold-wash option designed to be gentler on typical cotton clothes than a regular normal cycle, plus the option to lower the wash temperature or reduce the spin speed for most cycles. The only obvious shortcoming is no soak option, though it does have a prewash option, and the superior cleaning ability should be able to pick up the slack.
In general, a new front-loader will be a little louder than a new top-loader, but the WM3770 should be no louder than its typical competitors. Consumer Reports rated the older WM3570 and WM3370 as Very Good for both noise and vibration. Several Sweethome and Wirecutter staff members who own the previous model, the WM3570, barely notice the washer when it’s running, and they’re able to do laundry at night without fear that the noise will wake their sleeping kids.
On efficiency, the WM3770 stands out as very conservative in both water and energy use. That’s even when compared with other front loaders, among which not a single model lacks an Energy Star badge (and most even qualify for a “bonus” rating from the Consortium for Energy Efficiency, or CEE). According to Energy Star, assuming “normal” usage patterns, the WM3770 should use about 10.8 gallons of water per normal wash cycle, which is typical for front-loaders at this price and capacity. It also has the second-best overall Integrated Modified Energy Factor (IMEF) of any washer in the Energy Star product database (in a 12-way tie). Its high score comes in part from its speedy 1,300 rpm spin cycle, which is as fast as we’ve seen on a current washer and helps remove extra water from garments, so they don’t need to roast in the dryer for quite as long. If your local utility company offers rebates for buying super-efficient machines, this model will almost certainly qualify you for the cash back.
The WM3770 has a bunch of extra features that add up to a pretty agreeable user experience. If you forget to unload your clothes at the end of a cycle, Fresh Care will automatically rotate the drum a couple of times per hour for 12 hours to prevent creases or mildew (a common feature in washers at this price). The door frame also has a magnet that props the door open between uses, so the drum gets a chance to dry out a bit even if you prefer to keep the door mostly closed. Most washers don’t have this feature, but it can really help prevent mold and mildew from stinking up your washer. And when a cycle is done, the washer plays a little song, which a bunch of user reviewers point out as a really nice feature.
If you’re looking for the matching dryer, you’ll be happy to know the DLEX3370W electric dryer (or DLGX3371W gas dryer) is better than average dryer. It’s an Energy Star-qualified model, which actually means something—most dryers do not qualify for this badge, and because most dryers suck up a ton of energy, you might actually notice some savings. It also has a steam feature, which can come in handy as an effective way of quickly de-wrinkling and deodorizing a garment. Like the washers, LG dryers are consistently ranked as some of the most reliable out there.
*Note: The DLEX3370 dryer is not an exact match for the WM3770 washer—the trim around the door is a different color. The DLEX3570 dryer matches the appearance of the WM3770 more closely, though it does not have Energy Star certification. Either dryer model will stack on top of the WM3770 the same way.
If you want to stack the machines, be sure to pick up the KSTK1 stacking kit. If you want pedestals, that’s the WDP4W. And for those of you who are interested, yes, the WM3770 works with the Twin Wash mini pedestal washer.
Because the WM3770HWA washer is so new, there’s basically no user feedback about it yet. However, it’s also very, very similar to our previous pick, the WM3570HWA, so the issues with that machine may apply. We will update this guide as we learn more about the new model.
The majority of negative reviews for the older WM3570—and front-loading washers in general—seem to come from people who had a tough time transitioning from an older washer to the new design. Any user review that complains about oversudsing, soapy clothes, damage to delicate garments, or a mildewy smell usually indicates that the owner wasn’t able to follow the directions for best use. You do need to put extra care into these machines to help them work properly. If you’re not interested in dealing with that—that’s fair!—you’re better off with a top-loader.
After reading a few hundred user reviews of the WM3570, we dug up only a few problems that seem like they’re particular to that washer, rather than to front-loaders in general. They may also apply to the new WM3770.
One common problem with the older model was “water hammer,” a banging sound in your pipes that can happen when the washer’s inlet valves shut suddenly (as they’re designed to do). LG reps told us in interviews that the company has “adjusted the water supply algorithm” to prevent the issue in the new model, and also “adjusted the valve structure in the washer to reduce noise” just in case the water hammer effect does happen.
Another issue is the interface, which has not changed much on the new model. Some people kind of hate this control panel, which is a little busy, and slightly less intuitive than the interfaces by Whirlpool and Electrolux.
One of the more common beefs with the UI is that it’s not totally customizable. For example, the WM3570 and WM3770 won’t let you run a delicates cycle with hot water and a high spin speed, because that’ll damage your delicates. The washers are trying to protect your garments, but some people don’t like it when the robots take control. Other washers from other brands have those same built-in restrictions.
The WM3570 also seemed like it was more prone to minor leaks than other washers, but we’re not sure if that’s really the case. We asked LG to respond about those problems, and it told us that a lot of the time, you can fix leaks with simple adjustments, like using less detergent, or washing the detergent tray and door gasket.
Less commonly, we’ve heard about new units that end their spin cycles early, or in an extreme case, a unit that damages clothes. These are cases where you should call customer service and demand a resolution, preferably a replacement unit.
If you do need service under warranty, good luck, because LG customer service can be hit or miss. As Steve Sheinkopf of Yale Appliance writes, “I have always liked the product. However, their product support is the problem.” Some owners say that phone reps are too quick to brush off problems as user error, and suggest that owners watch an educational video as a solution to the problem. Another recurring complaint is that manufacturer-provided service can take a week or more to arrive, and won’t always fix the problem on the first try. One of the repair technicians we spoke with said that LG has sent him parts in nothing but a bubble mailer (rather than a cardboard box), risking damage to the part during shipping.
But we’ve also heard the opposite of those complaints: Customer service is able to get a tech out right away, and the tech diagnoses and repairs the problem in one visit. Another technician, Kevin Harner from the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, area, said that LG has proven to be the easiest company to work with (and that their laundry machines are built well). So, your mileage may vary.
We asked LG for a comment about its service reputation, and a rep replied, “LG is proud to hold the number one spot in a customer satisfaction survey among home appliance brands, according to a report just released by the American Customer Satisfaction Index,” followed by the kind of “we take this seriously” speech you’d expect from corporate PR.
A few other flaws in our pick are common to front-loaders in general. The fast spin speed on the WM3770 at its maximum setting (1,300 rpm) removes a whole hell of a lot of water from your clothes, so they’ll dry quicker. But one of the repair techs we spoke with said that the superfast speed can be hard on the washer’s suspension and bearings if you wash big loads of clothes, and can potentially lead to mechanical failures. And if you line-dry your clothes, certain garments can feel pretty rough if they were spin-dried at the fastest setting. Solution: Notch the spin speed down one or two settings.
Like other washers, the LG WM3770 has a drain trap, to prevent coins and other objects you forgot to take out of your pockets from getting jammed in the drain hose or your plumbing. If it’s anything like the WM3570, when you empty the drain trap (at least once a year, more often if you know you leave dimes in your pockets), up to a quart of water could flow out. That’s more than you’re probably expecting, and more than other washers. Position a little bucket or absorbent cloth next to the trap when you open it, to catch the drain water (it will be mostly clean).
As reliable as LG washers seem to be relative to other front-loaders, they’re probably not going to last as long as old-school top-loaders—expect to get between eight and 12 years, said Chris Zeisler at Repair Clinic. That’s probably disappointing if you’re replacing a 20-year-old Maytag. Unless you shell out the big dough for something like a high-end Speed Queen or Miele front-loader (which might not actually save you money long-term), or compromise deeply on performance and efficiency with a Speed Queen top-loader, there’s not much you can do to avoid this.
If the prices shift or availability is limited, or if something about our main pick doesn’t sit right with you, we think the next-best washing machine is the Electrolux EFLS617SIW.
The EFLS617SIW has the best set of features and cleaning options you’ll find in a washing machine right now, hands down. Tests have shown that compared with other full-size front-loaders, it’s the single best clothes cleaner available. It’s also one of the most efficient washers you can buy.
However, Consumer Reports raised a concern that it’s rougher on fabrics than many other washers. Also, Electrolux’s reputation isn’t as solid as LG’s for laundry, and this particular model has been out for only a couple of months (at the time of this writing), so we don’t have as much information about defects, performance problems, and general owner satisfaction.
By all accounts, the EFLS617SIW is a fantastic cleaner. The people at Reviewed.com ran tests and declared that the EFLS617SIW was the best stain remover they’d ever seen. In CNET’s tests, the washer removed 60 percent of stains on the test strip, “a huge leap” over competing models. Consumer Reports also rated the machine’s wash performance as Excellent. Although we’re a little skeptical of lab-test results, these are all good signs. This model is also a favorite with some of the laundry obsessives at the GardenWeb.com forums (one of the best sources of real-world wisdom for washing machines).
Its better cleaning can probably be attributed to the SmartBoost feature. Using an extra water pump, the washer premixes detergent (or fabric softener) with the wash water (or rinse water), then sprays it throughout the wash tub. Because the solution is homogenized and evenly distributed, every garment should get cleaned (or fabric-softened) evenly. Most front-load washers do premix water and detergent (or fabric softener) to some degree, but it’s not entirely homogenized, and the wash solution just kind of dribbles onto clothes. So certain garments get more action, others get less. We were a little skeptical that SmartBoost would achieve much in the real world, but Reviewed.com and CNET rave about it and think it had a lot to do with the cleaning results. The EFLS617SIW is the only mainstream, full-size washer with this particular type of premixing function.
Other life-improving wash features in the EFLS617SIW include a super-hot sanitize option (it hits north of 150 °F on some cycles, similar to our main pick), and a related steam-clean function. StainSoak, a time-saving substitute for prewashing or soaking options, seems to work well, according to a forum post at GardenWeb. Other washers have a similar option, though not our main pick. An auto-tumbling feature periodically rotates the drum every few minutes for a few hours after a cycle ends, to prevent the mildew smell that develops if you leave your clothes in the washer for a few hours after running a load. This is a pretty typical feature in this price range. And for really small, barely dirty loads, the fastest cycle can finish in just 15 minutes—the quickest we’ve seen, although it’s not comparable to anything like the accelerated normal washes in some models, like our main pick.
The reversible door is another distinctive feature. Most washers open only one way, but you can set up the EFLS617SIW to open to the left or right, depending on your preference or your laundry room’s layout. The matching dryer also has this feature, as do a couple of other Electrolux models, and we don’t think any other widely available front-loaders have it.
According to some customers, the EFLS617SIW is a much sturdier machine than previous Electrolux washers. Reviewer Buildersboy at AJMadison.com writes, “The cheap feel of the [previous-generation] 60 series is gone, very well built machine.” So though Electrolux’s reliability ratings are in the middle of the pack at Consumer Reports and J.D. Power, this newer model may prove to be more dependable—but we don’t really know. We don’t have enough hands-on experience to compare the build quality with that of similarly priced washers from other brands.
Electrolux backs the machine with a one-year comprehensive warranty, which is standard for the industry, plus 10-year coverage on the motor and drum, which is the longest-term coverage that we know of.
Though all front-loaders are very efficient, the EFLS617SIW stands a cut above most of its competitors. The CEE gave it a Tier 3 rating, essentially the best rating a mainstream appliance can get, and one tier above our main pick. It blows way past the baseline requirements for Energy Star certification. (If you use high-temperature cycles or options, energy efficiency falls off quite a bit, but the normal cycles are very efficient.) According to Energy Star’s measurements, its total water usage is on a par with that of other current front-loaders at this capacity, roughly 10 gallons on the normal setting. But it uses about 15 percent less energy than many front-loaders, including our main pick. Some local governments and utility companies offer rebates for purchasing efficient appliances, and the EFLS617SIW will likely qualify.
Reviews of the EFLS617SIW are strong. It received an overall mark of 9.7 out of 10 at Reviewed.com, good enough to rank as that site’s second-best washer. CNET awarded it an overall score of 8.1 out of 10, including a 9 out of 10 for performance. Neither score rates reliability, but these are strong hints that the EFLS617SIW is satisfying. And at AJ Madison, its average customer rating is 4.8 out of five, across about 150 reviews. Scores tend to be higher at that site than at other retailers—we’re not sure why—but by any measure this is very strong owner feedback. (This model isn’t carried at some major big-box stores, such as Home Depot, so we don’t have as many owner reviews to draw from as we might with other brands’ models.)
We can still think of a few reasons to be a little hesitant about the EFLS617SIW. Consumer Reports rated it (subscription required) as just Fair for gentleness, which is like getting a D on a test, and that grade drags down its overall score significantly. Only a handful of front-loaders have had such a low score in CR’s rankings, and most of them are other Electrolux models. CNET also found that it was rougher than some other front-loaders. Reviewed.com did not comment on gentleness in its review. We can only guess why the machine scored poorly in this regard; the result may have something to do with the test procedure, which uses, essentially, predamaged garments to see how much more damaged they get. We have yet to stumble across any owner testimonials saying that this washer damaged clothing.
Also, Electrolux has a weaker track record for reliability than the brand that makes our top pick, LG. Consumer Reports (subscription required) and J.D. Power put Electrolux in the middle of the pack against all other major brands. None of the repair techs we spoke with mentioned Electrolux as one of their preferred brands. Now, all of this is essentially historical data, and it doesn’t necessarily apply to the latest Electrolux machines. But we think it pays to be a little skeptical.
Not everyone is a fan of the interface on the EFLS617SIW. As with our main pick and most other washers, a few owners write that they find it irritating that the washer won’t let them fully customize their wash cycles. For instance, if you select the delicates cycle, the machine prevents you from also selecting a hot wash temperature and a very fast spin cycle, because those settings can damage delicates. These restrictions are supposed to protect garments against damage resulting from their owners’ errors, and are common across most brands’ machines.
In contrast to our main pick, the door on the EFLS617SIW doesn’t stay propped open between uses (meant as an odor-preventing feature). However, we haven’t heard specific complaints about odors in this model yet. Plus, the big door gasket, which is a main source of stenches in most washers, is easier to clean behind than the gaskets on other washers. You should still probably follow the best practices for care, but we don’t think this washer is any more prone to smelling than other current front-loaders.
The 617 is also available in a “titanium” finish, as the EFLS617STT, for $100 extra. If you need a matching dryer, grab the electric EFME617Sxx or gas-powered EFMG617Sxx (identical except for the power source and price). The dryer has a 10-minute wrinkle-releasing and odor-killing steam feature, which can come in handy if, say, you need to freshen up a shirt before work. (You’ll need to hook up the dryer to a water line to use the steam feature.) It also has an anti-allergen cycle, which essentially cooks dust mites dead, as well as a 15-minute quick-dry setting, which we assume cooks the threads on your clothes dead, too. Don’t forget the STACKIT7X stacking kit if you need it. And if you want to pedestal-mount your new laundry set, grab a pair of the (expensive) EPWD157Sxx, which raises the washer or dryer by about 15 inches and doubles as storage.
Within our target price tier, we came across a few other front-load washers that were serious contenders for our recommendation.
LG makes a few other washers with specs that are similar to those of our main pick. The WM3570HWA is the direct predecessor, and was the top pick in this here guide for about a year and a half. It’s a very similar machine, so if you can find it for cheaper than our current pick, go for it. The WM3575CW is also quite similar, though it can’t reach temperatures quite as hot as our main pick, so we like it a little less. The WM3670HWA and its predecessor, the WM3370HWA, do not have TurboWash, but are otherwise pretty much the same machine for a little less money—if you don’t need an accelerated wash cycle, it’s a fine option.
The LG WM4370HWA and the older WM4270HWA are also very similar to the 3000-series models that we like. They run slightly more efficiently, have a tweaked interface and door design, and have a few more wash options (nothing important). They tend to cost a little more, but if you prefer this over our pick, go for it.
We should also mention the Kenmore 41382. LG makes most front-loading washers for the Kenmore brand (sold only at Sears). This particular model is the closest match to our main pick (although it’s actually more like the WM3670HWA, without TurboWash). Kenmore products often go on sale for deep discounts, so you might be able to get a fantastic deal on this washer.
The Whirlpool WFW90HEFW was a near-miss for our runner-up recommendation. Whirlpool has a great reputation for reliability among our technician sources, and its machines score well at the test labs. Among current Whirlpool front-loaders, the WFW90HEFW has the set of specs that most closely matched our ideals, including very-hot wash temps. However, evidence suggests that Whirlpool’s quality has declined. Consumer Reports has the brand in the middle of the pack for estimated failure rates, a downgrade from prior years’ results. J.D. Power gives the brand just three (of five) stars for expected reliability. The WFW90 is new and has few user ratings, but the similar (though older) WFW87HEDW and (current) WFW92HEFW models seem to have issues with their control boards—that’s a brutally expensive repair, and something other brands don’t usually have trouble with these days. Plus, the WFW90 still doesn’t have a superhot, NSF-certified sanitize cycle (it runs around 120°F, not hot enough on its own to kill bacteria or allergens) or an accelerated-wash option. Those aren’t necessarily dealbreakers, but you can do a little better for your money.
Maytag washers are essentially repackaged Whirlpool machines (they are both made by Whirlpool Corp.), so we passed on the Maytag MHW5500FW for the same reasons as Whirlpool front-loaders. Yes, Maytag washers are backed by a slightly better warranty, including a 10-year coverage for the motor and drum in addition to the one-year complete warranty. But that’s not quite enough for us to put it in the top level of contention.
We also considered the Samsung WF45K6500AV. The feature set is great, it’s one of the top-rated washers at Consumer Reports, and the data shows that Samsung is one of the more reliable brands of front-loaders these days. (For what it’s worth, that little AddWash door is a gimmick, so don’t buy this washer for that feature.) Ditto for the older Samsung WF42H5200AW. However, we’ve heard more complaints from our readers and user reviewers about Samsung’s customer service than any other brand’s, including a frustrating approach to resolving issues with in-warranty products that’s well-documented and applies across multiple categories.
Plenty of other front-loaders are out there—we counted 69 current models, not counting all the different color variants. That’s too many for us to cover individually. If you don’t see a specific model here, we dismissed it from contention for one of the following reasons:
We axed two brands—GE and Frigidaire—outright because of mediocre all-around reputations for front-loaders. None of the experts we spoke with recommended them and they rank at the bottom of reliability ratings at Consumer Reports and J.D. Power. GE machines are very efficient, which is great, and they seem to perform fine—but there’s nothing special to draw your attention away from other brands and from its mediocre reputation for reliability. Frigidaire washers seem to be disappearing entirely, perhaps because its parent company is focused on revitalizing the Electrolux front-load line.
We also excluded any compact front-loaders, which are just 24 inches wide and usually have just 2 cubic feet of capacity. We’ll cover those models in another guide.
Within our prime price range, a bunch of models from good brands fall in a sort of no-man’s-land. They’re similar to the models we really like, but missing some defining features, and too expensive to be one of our budget picks (less than $700). Some examples are the LG WM3270CW, which has no boost heater like most of the other LG 3000-series washers, or the Electrolux EFLS517SIW, which does not have the SmartBoost feature like the EFLS617SIW.
We dismissed any front-loader that cost more than $1,000 (not counting certain color variants). This was not just some arbitrary cutoff. We looked closely at some of these washers and figured that for most people, the benefits aren’t worth the extra cost.
Many people are tempted to spend more on a washer for extra capacity. Models like the Samsung WF50K7500AW and WF56H9100AW, or LG WM8000HWA and WM9100HWA, have capacities of 5 cubic feet or larger. That might seem useful, but we think it’s overkill. The most basic full-size front-loader today has a capacity of 4.3 cubic feet. That’s enough room to fit a king-size comforter, or the combined total of about 10 T-shirts, four pairs of jeans, eight pairs of socks, three towels, 12 pairs of underwear, three sweatshirts, two sweaters, and one pillowcase.
That kind of capacity was almost totally unheard of outside of commercial machines 10 years ago—and that’s the minimum capacity you can get now. Beyond that, several experts we spoke to for this guide have doubts that your clothes get very clean in those mega-loads. Smaller, well-sorted loads also put your clothes (and possibly the washer) at a lower risk for damage.
Other reasons to stick in the $800 to $900 range: Cleaning performance doesn’t improve when you get above our target price. You don’t even get many extra features, let alone useful ones.
One exception is the Speed Queen AFNE9RSP113TW01. This is a $1,500 front-loader with a smaller capacity than most other mainstream washers and none of the useful features we like to see (water heater, post-wash tumble, accelerated wash). However, it’s probably going to last longer than others because it’s built from sturdier components—more metal than plastic, better suspension. It’s essentially the same machine that Speed Queen manufactures for commercial laundromats, minus the coin slot. If you don’t care about modern features or huge capacities, and above all want something that’s going to last, this is something to consider.
*At the time of publishing, the price was $547.
With a cheaper front-loader, you’ll miss out on a few useful cycles, options, and features that help remove stains, care for garments, cut down wash times, and maybe even prevent mold and mildew growth. Otherwise, you’ll still get a pretty excellent washing machine, and with fewer parts that can break compared with higher-end washers.
If you’re sold on the advantages of a front-loader but can’t quite afford our main pick or runner-up, check out the Samsung WF42H5000AW. It’s usually the cheapest stackable, full-size washer available. It’s exceptionally efficient. Consumer Reports rates its wash performance as Excellent. User reviews are strong compared with other front-load washers.
Downsides: It doesn’t have an internal water heater, so it can’t reach very hot wash temperatures. This won’t matter most of the time, but if you need to sanitize linens, or wash out any burgeoning mold or mildew in the drum, you’ll need to rely on bleach rather than high temperatures. It also runs a little slower than our main pick, with no option for an accelerated normal cycle. As a company, Samsung has a strong reputation for reliability, but a poor reputation for customer service on home appliances and most other product categories. For such an affordable front-loader, you might be willing to take the risk.
We regularly see the WF42H5000AW selling for $500 these days, but it’s still a great deal even at $600. It’s an older model, but Samsung hasn’t discontinued it, so it should still be readily available.
If you’re looking for the matching dryer for stacking, it’s the DV42H5000EW electric dryer (or the DV42H5000GW for gas). Like all good dryers, it has a moisture sensor and an automatic cycle, which prevent it from overdrying your clothes. It has no steam generator, though, so you won’t be able to run wrinkle- and odor-smoothing refresh cycles. That’s not a surprise at this price, though.
We also looked at the following models for this budget pick, but decided to pass on them:
Our pick for this type of washer is the Maytag MVWB755DW. The Maytag brand has enjoyed a solid reliability track record for top-loading washers in recent years, and the MVWB755DW hits the sweet spot for value, packing in useful wash features such as a soak option, a deep-water fill, and a built-in heater for a lower price than most washers. It’s efficient (for a top-loader), and holds more laundry than most people will do—the 4.8-cubic-foot tub holds close to 30 pounds of laundry (roughly 30 bath towels). It’s a very popular model, with tons of owner reviews and a strong average rating.
The MVWB755DW has the best features for the price within the company’s lineup. The built-in water heater is particularly useful for deep cleaning, and it also enables a steam-spray function, as well as a sanitize cycle, though Maytag promises that it’ll kill bacteria only if you also use oxygenated bleach (such as OxiClean). We also like the soak option, which is handy if you want to let certain garments sit for a while to loosen stains. And if you like, you can use its deep-water option, which works sort of like an old-school washer.
Like just about all high-efficiency washers, the MVWB755DW has the Energy Star badge. But it uses about 15 percent more water and energy than the least-efficient front-loaders sold today, and it may not qualify for local utility rebates.
Neither of the major testing houses has reviewed the MVWB755DW, but similar models from Maytag and parent-company Whirlpool, such as the MVWB835DW and WTW8000DW (subscription required), have received strong scores for washing performance and quiet operation.
Customer reviews for the MVWB755DW are among the strongest you find on any washer, averaging 4.4 stars (out of five) across more than 1,100 ratings at Home Depot (which also include reviews posted at Maytag.com), and 4.7 stars (out of five) across more than 1,000 ratings at AJ Madison. Reviews tend to cite the mammoth capacity, the cleaning performance, and garment care as the best parts. People who haven’t upgraded in a while tend to be impressed by how much smarter and more responsive new washers have become.
As best we can tell, we think the MVWB755DW should be reliable. Nobody can actually predict reliability, and not all of the data is in Maytag’s favor in this regard, but here’s what we’re basing this conclusion on: A Consumer Reports reader survey (subscription required) estimates Maytag HE top-loaders are less likely than other brands’ HE top-loaders to need a repair in the first five years. This model has been out long enough for obvious design or build-quality problems to start popping up, but no patterns have emerged in several years of customer reviews. (J.D. Power ranks Maytag top-loaders’ reliability in the middle of the pack, but its evaluations lump HE and agitator top-loaders into the same group—companies such as LG and Samsung make only HE models, which could drag down Maytag’s rating in comparison.)
One of the more irksome problems that some owners say they run into is that the detergent and bleach don’t always mix in with the wash water very well, and that can damage clothes. We’re not sure why this happens to some people and not to others.
If you’re looking for a matching dryer, that’s the electric MEDB755DW or gas MGDB755DW. The dryer has a wrinkle-smoothing, odor-mitigating steam feature, as well as an auto-tumble feature to prevent wrinkles if you forget to unload your clothes when a cycle finishes.
There is only one logically sound reason to buy a Speed Queen top-loader: You have decided that you are absolutely never going to adjust your decades-old laundry habits, not for no one, never. You want a familiar setup, that’s that.
But let’s lay out a few facts:
Agitator washers like this Speed Queen are not very good at cleaning. The twisting motion is rough on clothes, so the cycles have to be short. Because they don’t spend much time agitating the clothes, they stink at removing stains compared with high-efficiency machines. That’s what Reviewed.com and Consumer Reports (subscription required) both found in their tests, and almost every expert we spoke to agrees.
Agitator washers like this Speed Queen are comically inefficient by modern standards. Even on the Eco Normal mode, which Speed Queen implemented (PDF) so that this washer could just eke by the minimum efficiency standards set by the Department of Energy, it uses more than double the amount of water per cycle than our favorite front-loader. Most of that extra water is used during the wash portion of the cycle. That means you’ll burn through loads more energy in order to heat all that extra water—and you will need to use warm or hot water more often if you want cleanish clothes, because the wash motion is so crappy. At the end of every cycle, your clothes will still be pretty soggy because the Speed Queen can spin only half as fast as the best front-loaders, and less than two-thirds as fast as most HE top-loaders. That means your dryer will have to work much harder, too. That’s tons of extra water and energy, every time you do your laundry.
Agitator washers like this Speed Queen are not immune from mechanical breakdowns, either. Even though it’s built from lots of sturdy, well-engineered metal components designed to last for 10,000 cycles, you’ll still need to replace parts from time to time.
In summary: This washer costs as much as the best front-loaders, but doesn’t clean clothes nearly as well, and can easily cost more than twice as much to operate. Yes, it will last for a while, but we’re not convinced you’re going to save much money in the long term.
We found that there are about 50 HE top-loaders available now, and another 10 agitator-style top-loaders. Here’s what we think about most of them, in brief:
Many Kenmore top-loaders are rebadged versions of Whirlpool and Maytag models. The Kenmore 27132 is basically the same washer as our affordable top-loader pick, the Maytag MVWB755DW. The nice thing about Kenmore products is that they often go on sale for deep discounts, so you may be able to pick this up for a song.
We considered a handful of other affordable top-loaders before settling on the Maytag MVWB755DW. If you’re not convinced by our recommendation, these are the models we’d suggest you start looking at next.
The Whirlpool Cabrio WTW7000DW shares may of its specs with and costs about the same as our preferred pick, but the Whirlpool brand comes with a more limited warranty than Maytag (no extended coverage for the motor or tub), and the WTW7000DW doesn’t have an option for very hot washes.
LG has a strong reputation for making reliable, well-liked HE top-loaders, and our previous recommendation for a top-loader was an LG model. The current top-loader in LG’s lineup that most closely matches our targets for price and specs is the WT1301CW, but it has no water heater and not many reviews yet. We’ll keep an eye on it and update with any news.
The Samsung WA45K7600AW looked like a solid washer with the right specs for the right price. But Samsung had to recall the line—along with several other top-loader models—as excessive vibrations could cause the top to detach from the washer’s chassis. When we first looked at this model, we saw Consumer Reports ranked Samsung HE top-loaders at the back of the pack for estimated failure rates. Its immediate predecessor (the J7700) also has middling user reviews. We liked that it was one of a few models with an ActiveWash ribbed sink built into its lid, so you could pretreat stains right on the washer. And based on reviews of older, similar Samsung models, we thought it was probably a decent clothes cleaner. But we decided not to recommend it then, and certainly cannot do so post-recall.
The GE GTW680BSJWS comes highly recommended from Reviewed.com, mostly because it’s the modern HE top-loader that comes closest to mimicking the old-school feel—short wash cycles, plenty of water if you want it, and the option for a warm-water rinse. However, it has mediocre user ratings wherever it’s sold, and Consumer Reports is not particularly impressed with its cleaning ability, fabric handling, or noise.
Dozens of other top-loaders are available, too many to cover individually. If you don’t see it listed in this guide, we dismissed it for one of the following reasons:
A bunch of models in the $500 to $700 range are all really similar, and we chose to focus on a single model from each brand that most closely represents what we’re looking for in a top-loader. Most of the time, the comments above apply to any washer from a particular brand within this price range. Below the $500 mark, there’s a slew of even cheaper washers to choose from. The capacities are small by modern standards (roughly 8 to 12 pounds per load), they lack some helpful features, and the have generally mediocre reviews. Some of them aren’t HE models, so they’ll use more water and energy and won’t even clean your clothes very well.
We don’t see a great reason to buy a pricier top loader, either. Based on test results and reviews, they don’t clean any better than more-affordable models (and none of them clean as well as most front-loaders, either). The enormous capacities are not necessarily useful, because they may not clean well when they’re stuffed to the brim. You’d pay more than $1,000 to get a top-loader with features equivalent to an $800 front-loader’s—and even then, the top-loader still isn’t likely to clean as effectively.
Speed Queen makes a few other top-load models as well. They use electronic controls and a few sensors, so there’s a theoretical risk that they’re more prone to breakdowns than the all-mechanical model we mentioned earlier, though Speed Queen extends the warranty out to five years for these models.
The other higher-end top-load brand is Fisher & Paykel, most famous for their drawer-style dishwashers, as well as the high breakdown rate on all their appliances.
However, if you just need a dryer and don’t care if it matches with or stacks onto your washer, check out the Samsung DV45K7600EW. We like it because it’s one of the most affordable Energy Star-qualified dryers out there, and it has a steam-freshen feature, which is a really handy way to quickly knock down mild odors and smooth out wrinkles—not something you’d typically find at this price, especially on an Energy Star model.
That said, if you find a different Energy Star certified dryer for a really good price, it’ll probably work fine. Get a dryer with an advertised capacity of 7 cubic feet and you’ll be able to dry a full-size wash load in one go.
And if possible, consider line-drying your clothes. Dryers are a major energy hog—by some estimates, electric dryers use more energy than all the other major appliances in your home combined (not including any HVAC equipment), and something like 2 percent of all the electricity generated in the US.
We’ve written this guide under the assumption that, like most people living in America and Canada, you can fit a 27-inch-wide washer and dryer somewhere in your home, and that you have some way to run an exhaust line for your dryer out a window or into an HVAC stack.
But those machines don’t fit into everyone’s homes. If you’re looking for any kind of alternative laundry equipment—compact washers and dryers, unitized washer/dryers, ventless dryers, integrated washer/dryer combos, even portable washers, we plan to cover them in a separate guide soon.
This topic deserves its own article, so we wrote one: How to care for your washer and dryer.
The short version is that there are techniques and practices you can do to prevent common problems in HE washing machines:
Yes, it takes a little more work to keep modern washers (particularly front-loaders) running at their peak compared to old-school machines, but doing so should stave off most problems you’ll run into with your machines. Expect that they’ll need service at some point, though—it’s an open secret in the industry that modern appliances simply do not last as long as they used to. Your new washer should last eight to 12 years, give or take, depending on how well you treat it, and how lucky you get.
Our readers frequently ask whether we have an all-in-one washer/dryer combo-unit pick, but we haven’t recommended one yet because up until now they’ve all been terrible at drying clothes. The Whirlpool Smart All-In-One Care Combo, announced at CES 2017, acts more like a regular stand-alone dryer, because it needs a 240 V outlet to work. That extra voltage means it should dry clothes faster than the typical 120 V combo machines, which can take three or four hours to dry a modest load of laundry. Like most combos, it’s pretty compact, at about 2.3 cubic feet of capacity. The upside of that small chassis and ventless design is that it can fit under a kitchen counter, into a closet, or wherever you can make the space.
The projected retail price is about $1,500—less than a separate washer and matching dryer with similar specs. It also has Wi-Fi connectivity and a touchscreen interface, and it works with Alexa, so you can check how much time is left in a load using just your voice. If you can’t fit full-size laundry appliances into your home, this model could be the compact workaround you’ve been waiting for.
LG also showed off a full-power compact washer and heat-pump dryer combo at CES 2017. But unlike the Whirlpool model, it needs ventilation for the exhaust, limiting its appeal for the kind of buyers who typically need compact laundry machines. It’s also part of the high-end LG Signature line, and while LG couldn’t confirm an exact price, we’d expect it to cost much more than the Whirlpool.
Originally published: October 25, 2016
3 a.m. milkshakes.