Consumer Reports: The new spin on washers and dryers

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There's no escaping dirty laundry, says Consumer Reports. The average family does around 300 loads per year.

Manufacturers get that your life is hectic and offer ways to take the pain out of the laundry routine — for a price. A large-capacity washer and dryer let you do more laundry at once.

The biggest models that Consumer Reports tested hold about 28 pounds of laundry, or about 20 full-sized bath towels, and the smallest hold only about 12 pounds, or nine towels. Options that trim wash time by 15 to 20 minutes without sacrificing cleaning ability also prevent pileups. And a dryer with a moisture sensor rather than a thermostat will recognize more quickly when laundry is dry, allowing you to get back to your life outside the laundry room.

Give it a boost

Consumer Reports provides this update on washers:

• Give your washer a lift. Pedestals boost the height of front-loaders to make them more convenient and comfortable to use — you don't have to bend as much to reach inside. Now LG has turned the space, formerly a storage drawer, into a 1-cubic-foot washer for cleaning a few items. And to keep things speeding along, the $700 miniwasher can be used while the frontloader is running.

Together they're known as Twin Wash, and they tap into the same water supply. The miniwasher can be paired with any LG front-loader made from 2009 on and has six cycles; it allows warm and cold wash temps and an extra rinse. Consumer Reports' tests of 2-and 4-pound loads found that the miniwasher doesn't offer the cleaning power of a front-loader. But it took only 40 minutes using the normal cycle. It's intended for lightly soiled items.

• Washboards 2.0. Open the lid of certain new Samsung high-efficiency top-loaders, and you'll see a water jet and a built-in sink with ridges, a feature known as Activewash. It's on the top-scoring Samsung WA52J8700AP, $1,000.

Soaking a shirt or blouse helps to remove stains, and so do the ridges on the built-in sink. Rub the fabric for a minute or two against the ridges, working detergent or pretreatment solution into grubby stains. You don't have to be too aggressive because the garment then goes straight into the washer. The owner's manual warns that only clothes can be prewashed in the built-in sink -- it's not meant to clean shoes, food or animals. Good to know.

Do's and don'ts

Keep these tips in mind when having a new washer or dryer delivered:

• Do check all dimensions. Even washers and dryers that are 27 inches wide can be taller or deeper than your old machines. That's important if there are cabinets or shelves over the washer or dryer, or if it needs to fit in a closet or behind doors. Many large- and jumbo-capacity machines are 2 to 3 inches wider, which could add an additional 6 inches for the pair.

• Do leave room behind machines. When measuring the space you have to work with, allow room behind the dryer for the vent and behind the washer for the water-line connections.

• Do measure all doorways. The machines will need to fit through the front (or back) door into the house and any doorways or stairwells on the way to the laundry room.

• Don't forget the pedestal. Tally the height of the machine plus pedestal, especially if you plan to install your appliances below cabinets or shelves.

• Don't assume all washers and dryers can be stacked. Though most front-loaders Consumer Reports tests can be stacked with a dryer, the actual height of the combined units can vary slightly depending on how the dryer attaches to the washer. So check with the salesperson or look online at the models' specs. With that height in mind, will you be able to reach the dryer controls and inside the drum?

For more information, visit ConsumerReports.org.


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