If you’re a freshly minted parent or have a child on the way, you’ll be washing a lot of clothes sooner or later. It's probably a good time to upgrade your washer and dryer. So what are the most important features you should consider?
Sanitizing It You’ll definitely want to get a washing machine with a sanitize mode, especially if you plan to wash cloth diapers at home. The washer will need to hit and sustain temperatures of at least 155 degrees—most machines over $800 will get the job done.
Battling Stains Kids are like stain magnets from birth up through high school. You'll want something with stain-fighting power. For under $800 the GE GFWN1100LWW is a workhorse at removing stains. A myriad of cycles lets you effectively remove food related stains, oils, blood, and dirt. It doesn't always work quickly, but it's a fair trade for how well it clears up clothes.
Finishing Quickly If you’re as busy as most parents these days and need to wash multiple loads in short time frames, the LG WM3470HVA (also known as the TurboWash) may be a good option. It finishes a normal cycle in about 39 minutes, and some of the more intensive cycles finish as much as 20 minutes faster than most other washers.
Saving Money If you’re pinching pennies (or smashing nickels?) to save for college, investing in an energy-efficient machine may be wise, especially if you have several kids and will be doing a lot of laundry. The Frigidaire FRFW3700LW will lower your bills, costing just about $25 per year to run. And at $600, it's one of the more affordable washers to begin with.
Warming Up Blankets On a cold evening, your little one will sleep better if you warm up his or her favorite blanket. The Electrolux EWMED70JIW has a plethora of settings to heat up clothes and blankets quickly, and can also dry stuffed animals that may have taken a tumble in the mud.
Drying Clothes the First Time If you have a lot of laundry, you won’t want to be putting clothes in to dry a second time. In our tests it’s been difficult to identify a washer that gets things 100 percent dry the first time across all settings, but the GE GFDN110ELWW comes pretty close. It evaporated nearly all moisture in all of our tests, completely drying the entire load on Bulky mode. All these cycles finish in less than an hour, though. The Whirlpool Duet WED9151YW will get the job done thoroughly on your normal loads at 45 minutes, but you’d have to put your bulky items in for a second dry.
Finishing Quickly If the kids just got their good clothes dirty and you need to get them clean before a formal dinner, speed is of the essence. The LG washing machine above will clean them the quickest, and the Kenmore Elite 81472 can dry smaller loads in about 25 minutes on its quick cycle. There are other machines with cycles as short as 13 minutes, but you'll have to run two cycles to actually get them dry, anyway. The Kenmore gets rid of 90 percent of the moisture in one quick cycle.