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How to choose the best washing machine for big families

What you need to consider when choosing a washing machine for a large family.

large pile of clothes in washing basket
Last updated: 05 December 2019

If you've got a Brady Bunch-sized brood, then choosing the right washing machine is paramount, what with the mountains of laundry you're likely to do. 

And you'll want a washer that's 'set and forget', so you can spend the rest of your time making lunches, shopping for groceries, helping with homework, and reading bedtime stories – while still logging long hours at work to cover the cost. 

So what should you consider when choosing a washer for your big family?

two siblings playing with a hose in the mud

Washing clothes is one thing. Washing children is another. Good luck.

Consider a washer's capacity

A big family means big loads of laundry, so you need an appliance with ample capacity. Luckily, 10kg-plus machines are now commonplace – you can even find a few with a truly cavernous 18kg capacity! 

While size definitely matters, you might not need as much capacity as you think. Most of us only wash about 3.5kg of laundry (about a full laundry basket) at a time, irrespective of our washer's capacity. So you might be OK with a smaller washer – just pack more in it. 

But if you're looking at a Leviathan-sized machine, then make sure it'll actually fit in your laundry. Top-loader dimensions vary wildly so measure the space first, and check if cupboards or other overhead obstructions will prevent it from opening. 

Front-loader dimensions are relatively standard, so they'll fit under a bench and into cabinetry. But high-capacity front loaders may come in the larger 'America' form factor, so check this before you buy.

Reliability matters 

Unlike your bachelor(ette) days, when weeks could pass and you still wouldn't have enough dirty laundry to justify a wash cycle, a household that's groaning at the seams will see laundry pile up instantly if you don't stay on top of it. 

So if you can't get by without a washing machine, then an unreliable one is a huge problem. It's worth paying a premium for one that'll provide years of hassle-free washing, so look for well-known brands, and check the brand reliability scores in our washing machine reviews to see which ones go the distance.

front loader and top loader washing machines side by side

Top loaders (right) can be a better option for a big family.

Top loader or front loader?

In general, we prefer front loaders for their superior performance, gentleness and water efficiency. 

But all that water efficiency comes at the cost of longer cycle times, taking several hours for a full capacity load. 

So if you've got multiple loads to do, then time is a luxury you don't have, so a top loader might be a better option for big families. With their higher water consumption, top loaders tend to have much faster programs, so you can power through whites, coloureds, delicates and duvets – and get them all on the line with enough daylight to dry thoroughly. 

Still prefer a front loader? Fine. Just load it at night and use the delayed start function so it's done at dawn if you've got multiple loads to get through. Then start the second cycle early for the best chance of same-day drying.

We prefer front loaders … But all that water efficiency comes at the cost of longer cycle times

Considering a combo? 

Think a washer-dryer combo is a good option for a full house? Think again. 

Two appliances in one is a space saver, but their drying capability isn't suitable for large quantities of laundry. 

This is because their drying capacity is typically only half their washing capacity, so a full load means taking half out and drying in two lots, and drying also take ages – up to six and a half hours. 

You're better off with standalone appliances. 

Detergent dilemmas 

You might think electricity is the biggest ongoing cost of washing, but it's actually your detergent, so if you're washing in bulk it could be costing you a fortune. 

The good news is, we've found that some low-cost detergents perform just as well as the expensive, premium brands. So check our laundry detergent reviews and start saving. 

While we're on the subject, we've also found you can get great performance using a fraction of the recommended dose, so you can cut costs without sacrificing cleaning power. 

Happy washing!

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Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.