Washer dryers combine the cleaning capabilities of a washing machine and the drying power of a tumble dyer in a single, space-saving appliance. A washer dryer is ideal for smaller households with limited floor space or those whose laundry needs don’t justify a separate washing machine and tumble dryer.
Buying a washer dryer can be a big investment, so it’s important to carefully choose the right model for your needs. The perfect washer-dryer will offer superior cleaning power, effective spinning, fast and thorough drying along with cheap running costs and reliability.
What to consider when buying a washer dryer
Free standing or integrated Unlike tumble dryers, there’s no need to vent washer dryers or empty any water containers. All the water removed during drying flows away through the waste water pipe, making a washer dryer easy to position in the home.
Freestanding washer dryers come in a wide ranges of drum sizes and prices, and some models are available in different colours. They are easy to install and most can fit easily under a standard height worktop.
Built-in/integrated washer dryers are hidden behind a kitchen cupboard door so you can achieve a streamlined kitchen design. They tend to be quieter in operation than freestanding models but there’s less choice available and they cost more to install.
Drum capacity This refers to the weight of dry clothes that you can fit into the drum and is given in kilograms. Bigger drums mean you can wash and dry more clothes at once. However, washer dryers work best when the drum is about 80 per cent full, so a smaller drum size may be more suitable if you’ve less laundry or prefer to wash little and often.
Washer dryers have different drum capacities for washing and drying. The amount they can dry at any one time is always less than the amount they can wash. Washer dryer capacities range from models with a 5kg wash and 2.5kg drying capacity to huge machines capable of washing 12kg and drying 8kg at any one time. A washer dryer with a 7kg wash capability is suitable for an average family, and able to clean the equivalent of 35 shirts in a single load.
Spin speed This refers to how quickly the drum spins in terms of rotations per minute (rpm). The higher the spin, the more water is removed from clothes after they’re washed, so the quicker they’ll dry. Most models have spin speeds between 1,100 and 1,600rpm.
Wash functions Look for a washer dryer with a good range of programmes. All offer standard washing programmes for cottons, synthetics and delicate fabrics at different temperatures settings. Premium models have additional options such as sportwear, pre-wash, anti-crease and allergy-friendly cycles. Eco programmes that use less water and energy can help reduce utility bills.
Energy efficiency Washer dryers’ energy efficiency ratings typically range from A to A+++ and models with the highest ratings save water and electricity, helping to keep utility bills low. Washer dryers use a significant amount of water to dry clothes, so water efficiency may be an important factor if your household has a water meter.
Reliability It’s likely you’ll use your washer dryer twice as much as you would two separate machines, so it pays to invest in a reliable washer dryer from a trusted brand. Look for a model that comes with a parts and labour guarantee.
What washer dryer features to look for
Don’t spend longer than necessary doing the laundry, choose a washer dryer with all the features necessary for your family’s needs.
Capacity This can vary from 5kg to 12kg of laundry, with drying capacities ranging from 2.25kg to 8kg. This refers to the dry weight of clothes with one kilogram equal to one full outfit of trousers, top and underwear or one large sheet or bath towel.
Electronic display Provides feedback on the status of the current wash or drying programme, showing how much time it has left to run.
Timer delay With this feature you can set the washer dryer to start automatically at a later time - anything from a few hours up to 24 hours depending on the model. This means you can take advantage of cheap off-peak electricity tariffs or to have your laundry ready when you get home from work.
Variable spin speed This useful feature lets you change your washer dryer’s spin speed to protect delicate fabrics such as wool, silk and linen.
Extra rinse This helps remove more detergent from your laundry – useful if a family member suffers with sensitive skin, eczema or allergies.
Quick-wash Many washer dryers offer speed washes lasting 15 or 30 minutes which are designed for small amounts of laundry that isn’t too dirty. As a comparison, a typical standard wash usually takes around two hours.
Anti-crease/easy-iron This programme uses lower spin speeds that can help reduce creasing, saving time later when ironing.
Wash and dry mode Allows you to wash and dry a small load in one go. The drying cycle starts as soon as the wash cycle has finished so you need only load and unload the machine once.
Automatic sensor programmes Many washer dryers have built-in sensors to automate much of the wash and dry cycles. By monitoring how heavy or dirty your washing load is, the machine automatically adjusts temperature, water levels, spin speeds and drying settings.
Noise Washer dryers can be noisy in operation, which may be an issue if the appliance is in an open plan kitchen and living area. All machines should have a noise rating given in decibels, typically ranging from 45 dB (A) to 61 dB (A). The lower the figure, the quieter its performance.
Child lock Safety features that lock the washer dryer’s controls and/or drum door to help keep children protected.
Tips for using your new washer dryer
Do I really need to clean out the dryer filter after every use?
Yes. Get into the habit of cleaning the filter of fluff, lint and any other debris after every use; not only does leaving it pose a fire risk, but the machine will have to work harder to dry the clothes, using up more money, and taking more time.
For condensing dryers you also need to clean the condenser at intervals.
Can I leave my washing machine and tumble dryer on at night?
Local fire services advise people to avoid leaving a dryer, washing machine or dishwasher running unattended or overnight.
While it is extremely unlikely that anything will go wrong, if it’s going to worry you, don’t do it.
You can check on registermyappliance.org.uk/products/recall-list/ to see if your appliances are due a safety repair.
Can I leave clothes in dryer when the cycle finishes?
Ideally, items should be removed from the dryer immediately after the end of the cycle, as if they're hung up immediately, wrinkles will fall out, making the clothes much easier to iron.
Can I open dryer mid-cycle to see if laundry is dry?
No, it’s very important that you don’t do this, as the programme finishes with a cooling cycle designed to reduce both the temperature and the amount of creasing. More modern machines will not release the door lock until the machine has cooled down but older machines may not have this function.