Every month in Good Housekeeping magazine a double page spread is devoted to the latest appliances tested by the GHI. In February 2011, 13 washing machines were put through their paces.
How we test
Each machine is double tested using 40°C cotton and 40° synthetics programmes, as these are the most commonly used. Each is loaded with towels and sheets to the recommended capacity and included in the wash is a special square of cotton or poly-cotton which is stained with common, hard to remove stains such as blackcurrant, tea, coffee, make-up, chocolate, mayonnaise, mud and grass. After washing, the stains are analysed using a colour spectrometer which compares each stain with a clean, white one. Readings for energy, water and noise are also taken during each test and the machines given an overall score out of 100 for performance, ease of use, design and instructions.
The following models came out top:
AEG Lavamat 84950 A3
This machine scored the highest for performance of all the machines tested. Achieving high marks for its low water consumption, the AEG used 40 litres less water than the worst performer. It scored full marks for its efficient spin and with a clear digital display it rated highly for ease of use. Just one negative comment – too many specialist programmes.
Zanussi ZWF16581 W
Scoring high marks for its low energy consumption (9.4p for a standard 40° cotton wash), this machine offers a logical control panel and easy to use programmes. It scored well for spin efficiency and cleaning ability but actual, practical drum capacity was more like 4kg, rather than the 8kg claimed.
This is the best machine for cleaning performance and scored high marks for energy consumption (9p for a standard 40° cotton wash). It has a useful crease reducing feature; the drum keeps turning until it is unloaded. Testers felt the display could be larger and that it was less intuitive to operate than some other models tested.
This was the most energy efficient machine on test (7.6p for a standard 40° cotton wash). In addition it used the least amount of water (on average 54 litres for a standard wash). Our only gripe was the lack of countdown timer or programme length indicator. The actual drum size was more like 4.2kg rather than the 6kg claimed.
Washing less frequently with larger loads is hugely appealing to most consumers and as a result, manufacturers are producing machines with increasingly bigger drum sizes, some even claiming to cram in as much as 11kg. Our tests have shown that in reality it is nearly impossible to fit in the amount the majority suggest without inducing a hernia. From experience, the best cleaning results are achieved by filling the machine enough so you can fit your hand comfortably between the top of the load and the drum.
The good news is that washing machines rated A for energy are now a dime a dozen, the bad news is that in an attempt to differentiate them, the EU labelling system was revised last year, awarding some models A+, A++ and A+++ and further confusing consumers. These ratings are based on a 60° wash, but we found there is little difference in energy usage between an A and A+++ rated machine. We think a fairer system should be introduced which takes into account all commonly used programmes.