Our report will save you money for years to come, and goes beyond the sales hype to reveal:
# Newly tested models.
How we test
How do we choose the models we test?
We get details from manufacturers about their models, then use marketing information listing the most popular sellers to help us make our selection. Most of our washing machine tests are also done for our sister organisation in New Zealand, so models that are available in both countries are often chosen. Our buyers then go out to stores and buy them.
How do we choose the program we run to test the machine?
Over the years we've received many member responses to our product use surveys, which ask about what programs you use. Because of your feedback, CHOICE uses a set of testing criteria that generally involves a normal, cold wash. When this doesn't exist on a machine, we use the closest approximation to a normal, cold wash. Because of this selection, you'll sometimes see differences between what the energy and water labels say on the machine and our results. This is because manufacturers try to get as good an energy and water label as possible, because the more stars they have, the better the chance a consumer will buy their product. Unfortunately, often this means the program the manufacturer selects is not what consumers will choose at home.
How do we test washing machines?
Our lab testers subject all washing machines to the same round of rigorous scientific tests. First, using a normal cold-water wash cycle, they test each machine to see how it shifts tough stains from specially prepared cloths that have been attached to a standard wash-set of linen. After the wash cycle has finished, the testers use a special machine to examine each cloth to see how much light is reflected from each stain, which allows them to calculate how much dirt has been removed. This machine is more sensitive than the human eye: differences of 6% or more in the dirt removal scores are visible.
What makes up the overall score?
- Dirt removal (40%)
- Rinse performance (20%)
- Water efficiency (15%)
- Spin efficiency (10%)
- Gentleness (15%)
Since most Australians wash in cold water, we apply a small penalty in our overall score to models that can’t do a proper cold wash (at about 20ºC) on their "normal" cycle. While the higher wash temperature might slightly increase a machine’s scores for dirt removal and rinse effectiveness, it also means it’s using more electricity than it would if it were able to do a true "cold" wash: our penalty compensates for this. We still connect both hot and cold connections if they are available.
What we measure
- Rinse performance This is a measure of how well the machines keep the dirt suspended in the water rather than depositing it back on the clothes, and how well they rinse out the detergent — our testers add a marker chemical to the wash. At the end, they take a sample of the water remaining in the clothes to determine the amount of chemical that’s left — the less there is, the better the rinse.
- Water efficiency Water flow meters are connected to each machine to measure water use. To compare efficiency between different-sized machines, we calculate the amount of water used per kilogram of the test load of washing. The lower the water consumption per kilogram of clothing, the higher the efficiency score.
- Spin efficiency The test load is weighed before and after each wash. The higher the score, the more water is removed, which means the washing takes less time (and energy, if you use a dryer) to dry. We use the maximum spin speed (some machines let you vary the speed).
- Gentleness To check for fabric wear, we attach swatches of easily frayed fabric to the garments in each load. The area of the swatch is measured before and after the wash – the less fraying, the gentler the machine is assessed to be and the higher the score it’s given.
- Noise levels The maximum noise level is recorded during the spin cycle and is measured one metre away from the machine and one metre above the ground. Typically, the noise level of these machines is similar to that of a normal conversation (about 65dB). It’s not an absolute noise measurement – the acoustics of your home will determine exactly how a machine sounds in use – but it’s a good comparative measure.
- Energy efficiency According to 2008 data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 74% of Australians use cold water in their washing machines, and CHOICE’s own 2010 survey similarly found that 51% of subscribers use a cold-wash program in their homes. So we test with cold water to better reflect consumer habits.
- A major effect of washing in cold water is that the machines use a lot less energy, as they don’t have to heat the water (or your hot water system doesn’t have to do it for them). So energy efficiency is no longer considered in the overall score.
- Durability Durability testing is a very long and costly process, so by the time we get results for a model, it probably won’t be on the market. Instead, we ask our readers whether they’ve had any problems with their washers, and whether they’d buy the same brand again. To see which brands fared best, go to the appliance reliability article.
How do you estimate the running costs?
This is an estimate of how much it will cost you over 10 years (the average life of a washing machine) for water and electricity, if you wash the equivalent of one load every day using a normal cycle. The calculations are based on 26c per kWh for electricity and $2 per 1000L for water. For simplicity, we’ve excluded depreciation, interest costs (if you borrow to buy the machine), and the cost of detergent – people use different amounts and the price varies considerably between brands.
What’s a ‘recommended retail price’?
This is supplied by the manufacturer and is what they recommend stores charge. You can often get a better price than this by shopping around or using CHOICE Shopper or the Compare Prices next to each tested model in the results table.
For more information and for similar product reviews, see Washing and drying - part of our Laundry and cleaning section.