Laundry Buying Guide - Best Buy

Today's washers and dryers are keeping pace and reflecting the important role they play in our ever-evolving, day-to-day needs. Current laundry appliances range from time-tested workhorses to energy-saving machines with the latest in technology and convenience. With so many choices, you'll be able to find the right mix of performance and features for your household.

Shopping to Fit Your Laundry Space

Many factors will come into play as you shop for a new washer and dryer — including choosing models that will ultimately fit where they need to go. Whether you're dealing with a dedicated laundry room, a closet or an open basement space, some laundry configurations may suit your arrangement better than others.

  • Full-size washers and dryers

  • Side-by-side: This common layout works equally well for all washer and dryer types. Most often, the washing machine is on the left with the dryer to the right for one simple reason — door hinges. The typical dryer is hinged on the right, so by positioning it on that side, the door opens out of your way as you transfer wet clothes from the washer. (If you prefer to flip this around, many dryers do offer reversible hinges. For the washer half, though, you will most likely need to choose a top-load design, as few front-load models feature reversible or right-side hinges.)

  • Stacked: Many front-load washers let you stack the matching dryer on top by using a stacking kit (sold separately). By going vertical, you can save floor space without sacrificing capacity. Keep in mind, though — the dryer's elevated height could make the control panel hard to reach.

  • Space-saving washers and dryers

  • Stacked units: Also called laundry centers, these towers feature a dryer suspended above a top-load washer in one connected unit. Capacity is on the small side, as they are not as deep as full-size washers and dryers. Because of this, it's easier for them to fit into compact vertical spaces like laundry closets.

  • Compact models: Some separate washer and dryer appliances are designed to fit into tight spaces as well. These can be placed side by side or arranged vertically with the use of a compatible stand.

  • Washer-dryer combos: More common in Europe than the US, combo machines (or all-in-ones) both wash and dry within the one appliance, creating an innovative solution for a space-challenged apartment, condo or cabin. Capacity is limited and load times can be lengthy, but the one-appliance, one-step process is very convenient.

  • Replace one or buy a laundry pair?

  • If you're starting your search with the intention of replacing just the washing machine or dryer, it's worth considering a matching laundry pair instead — and not just for looks.

  • A matched washer and dryer will take the guesswork out of capacity compatibility because they're designed to work together. An old dryer may not be large enough to manage the amount of clothes held by the new washer. Similarly, if you're lining up a new high-capacity dryer alongside an old small-capacity washer, you'll regularly waste energy heating the extra space in the drum.

  • In addition, select washers and dryers offer extra savings up front when you buy them together. And if both appliances are ENERGY STAR-certified, your laundry pair will team up to save you even more energy and money on utilities than a single ENERGY STAR appliance on its own. Factored in, these savings also help to make an overall laundry upgrade more affordable.

  • Measure twice, deliver once

  • Be sure to take careful measurements of your designated space, taking into account any trim such as baseboards and door frames. In addition, you'll need to leave some free space around your new appliances, so factor this into your calculations when figuring out what will fit into your space.

  • Width — Leave 1"–3" on the sides and between appliances so air can circulate.

  • Depth — Leave 4"–6" at the back to accommodate vents, hookups and cords (round vents will require more space than periscope-style vents). Front-load washers and dryers typically need 21"–25" to swing the door open.

  • Height — For top-load washers, allow at least 20" for door clearance. If front-load models will be installed under a counter, leave 1" of wiggle room so they're easier to remove when necessary. (Note: Unlike pedestals, stacking kits do not add to height.)

  • You'll also want to take note of your utility installations — the water hookup and power outlet for the washer, the outlet (or gas hookup and outlet) and exhaust vent for the dryer — and where they are, to make sure they align with your plans.

  • One more caution — walk the path your washer and dryer will take to reach your laundry area. Look out for any narrow doorways, tight corners or jutting banisters that may stand between you and the mega-capacity washer and dryer on your wish list.

Types of Washers

  • Standard top-load washers

  • Conventional top-load washers have been the mainstay design for decades. Inside the washer, an agitator forms a central spindle the height of the washtub. During each wash load, the tub fills completely with water twice over (wash and rinse) and the agitator moves the submerged items through the water.

Advantages of a standard top-load washing machine:

  • Typically lower initial purchase price

  • Easy to add forgotten items after the cycle has started

  • Faster regular wash and rinse cycles

  • Minimal routine care and cleaning needed

  • You load and unload from a standing position, with less bending and no kneeling


  • A lot of water usage

  • Longer dry times, as clothes retain a fair amount of water after the spin cycle

  • Smaller capacities, typically less than 4.0 cu. ft.

  • More wear and tear on clothing due to the central agitator

  • High-efficiency top-load washers

  • These washing machines combine the utility-saving technologies of front-load washers with the familiar exterior design of a top-load machine. On the inside, however, you won't see a large central agitator, although you will find a dispenser for detergent and other agents. Most high-efficiency top-load washers position the settings on a raised panel behind the lid, but some models place them in a flat control panel in front of the lid for convenience.

    During the cycle, the washtub doesn't fill entirely with water like a standard top-load machine would. Instead, sensors automatically determine the amount of water needed for that load (which will be shallow). Different brands then use different washing actions and a concentrated detergent solution to wash the clothes and high-pressure spray to rinse them, for effective, water-efficient cleaning.

Advantages of a high-efficiency top-load washer:

  • More capacity for your money than front-load washers

  • Less water usage than a standard top-load machine

  • Faster spin speeds that reduce time and energy spent drying clothes

  • Greater capacity sizes than a standard top-load machine

  • Gentler treatment of clothing than an agitator washer

  • You load and unload from a standing position, with less bending and no kneeling


  • Higher initial purchase price than a standard top-load washer

  • May not be able to wash waterproof items, as they can cause the washer to unbalance (varies by brand)

  • HE (high-efficiency) detergent required

  • Higher capacity tubs may be hard to reach inside due to extra depth

  • Some routine care and cleaning needed

  • High-efficiency front-load washers

  • Turning the washtub on its side introduced a major change to washer design, and first enabled a host of new technology and water- and energy-saving advances. Inside, the drum features short paddles or fins perpendicular to the sides, and spins vertically like a dryer. The control panel is positioned on the front for easy access, as is a pull-out drawer containing the dispenser for detergent and other agents.

    As the washer begins the cycle, it automatically determines how much water is needed for that load — which can be half that used by a standard top-load washer — and mixes the detergent with water to create a concentrated solution. As the drum begins to spin, the clothes are lifted to the top of the drum by the fins, and then fall back into the water to loosen and drive out soils.

Advantages of a high-efficiency front-load washer:

  • Greatest potential for utility savings

  • Less water usage than a standard top-load machine

  • Faster spin speeds that reduce time and energy spent drying clothes

  • Greater capacity sizes than a standard top-load machine

  • Best cleaning capability, including bulky items

  • Least wear and tear on clothing

  • Ability to stack the matching dryer on top to save floor space


  • Higher initial purchase price than a standard top-load washer

  • HE (high-efficiency) detergent required

  • Loading and unloading require bending and/or kneeling, or the extra purchase of a pedestal to raise the washer up

  • Some routine care and cleaning needed, more so than top-load washers

Types of Dryers

Dryers fall into two camps based on how heat is generated — with electricity or by natural gas. (As such, this decision may be made for you, depending on what utility access is currently installed in your laundry area.)

  • Electric dryers

  • These dryers require a dedicated three- or four-prong, 240-volt outlet. Electric dryers cost less than gas models up front, but they typically cost more to operate (although utility rates vary by region). These models also tend to dry slower than their gas counterparts.

  • Nearly all electric dryers also require an external vent, but for areas where this isn't possible, there is an option — ventless condensation dryers. These models still pass heated air through the drum but then direct the moist air through a heat exchanger to cool and condense the water vapor, instead of sending it out through an exhaust vent. Condensation dryers may take longer to dry your clothes and will transfer heat into the surrounding room, but they provide a solution for places where standard vented dryers can't be used.

  • Gas dryers

  • These dryers hook up to your natural gas connection for heat, plug into a three-prong, 110-volt electrical outlet for overall operation, and require an external exhaust vent. The purchase cost of a gas dryer will be higher than its electric counterpart — typically by about $50 to $100 — but they usually cost less to operate. This is based in part on average utility rates (although yours may vary), but gas models also heat up faster and dry your clothes faster than electric dryers, adding to their cost-effectiveness.

  • Some gas dryers can be converted to liquid propane (LP) with the additional purchase of a conversion kit compatible with that model.

Washer and Dryer Capacity

  • Capacity is an extremely important factor to consider, whether you're purchasing as a single professional, a young couple or a family of five. And because a washer and dryer are long-term investments, you should think not only about how much laundry you currently do today, but also whether that will change in the future. If you're constantly doing endless piles of laundry or plan to add to your family in the future, a larger-capacity washer and dryer are a worthwhile investment.

  • Different brands often use their own "super" and "extra" terms for various capacities, but these aren't standardized. For a true comparison, look for the numeric cubic feet value, which is based on Department of Energy (DOE) standards.

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DOE Defined

The debut of front-load washers created a challenge for customers trying to compare capacity across washer types, since front-load washers don't have an agitator and can be packed more tightly than standard top-load washing machines. To address this, certain brands determined front-load capacity using an IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission) rating, which indicated the overall capacity that a top-load washer would need in order to be comparable in size.

However, due to an agreement among appliance manufacturers, the "IEC equivalent" capacity ratings previously used have been discontinued. As of April 30, 2011, all washers sold at Best Buy are measured for drum capacity using uniform standards defined by the US Department of Energy (DOE). This standard provides an accurate, uniform and repeatable measurement of drum volume for all types of washing machines.

  • Washer capacity

  • It's not easy to picture your laundry in terms of cubic feet, but a common benchmark used is pounds of laundry. Weight is more objective than a number of towels or baskets (thick towels? what size basket?), and you can use your bathroom scale to gauge the weight of an average load in your household.

    A regular-capacity washer between 3.1 and 4.0 cubic feet will let you load in 12 to 16 pounds of laundry, while a larger-capacity model between 4.2 and 4.5 cubic feet can hold up to 20 pounds or more. Some washers have extra-large capacities of 5.0 cubic feet and up, making them ideal for big families where laundry seems never-ending.

    Then there are bulky items. To properly wash a queen-size comforter, you'll need a high-efficiency washing machine (no agitator) with 3.5 cubic feet or more, depending on its fluffy factor (it should fit snugly but without cramming). Jumping up to 5.2 cubic feet will let you wash a king-size comforter and the sheet set all in one load.

    • Dryer capacity

    • The capacity of your dryer is determined in relation to the capacity of the washer. The dryer's drum needs to be large enough to allow a full wash load to tumble freely, with enough space left over for hot air to circulate so your clothes dry in good time.

      If you're buying a matching washer and dryer pair, the appliances will already be balanced to work with each other. However, if you're buying a replacement dryer only, the easiest rule of thumb is to choose a dryer with twice the capacity of the washer. A ratio of 1:2 is on the safe side, so you may end up with a dryer that's a bit larger than strictly necessary, but you also won't end up with a wet comforter that doesn't fit in or refuses to dry out.

Key Features

Check out these noteworthy features and consider how they can ease pain points in your own laundry routines.

  • Features for washers

    Wash cycles
    Most standard washers have a few basic wash cycles, including normal, permanent press, heavy duty and delicate. More sophisticated washing machines offer an array of specialized cycles, such as prewash, wool, bedding, baby care, sports, towels, active wear, quick wash and others. These settings adjust water temperatures and spin speeds (and agitation, if applicable) to suit a wide range of fabric types and soil levels.

  • Water levels
    Standard top-load washers offer a few options for water levels, leaving you to estimate the volume of water needed for a load (and rounding up to make sure it's enough). High-efficiency washers, however, automatically adjust to use only the amount of water necessary. The water level is based on the weight of clothing in the load and the cycle you have selected (some cycles such as bulky or heavy soil typically use more water than others).

  • Automatic temperature control
    Every washer will have at least cold, warm and hot settings for the wash cycle, but basic washing machines are limited to the temperatures coming from your water heater and from your water main. To counter this, more and more washers feature automatic temperature control (ATC). An internal thermostat checks the water coming in and adjusts the appropriate valves as needed, ensuring it isn't too hot for your fabrics or too cold for the detergent to work properly (65°F minimum). This technology is particularly useful for cold wash cycles in colder seasons and climates.

  • Internal water heater
    Built-in heating elements enable your wash water to consistently reach higher temperatures than your household water heater can deliver. This feature usually comes into play with sanitize or allergy cycles, but some models may also put it to use for other settings such as extra-hot or whitest whites (varies by brand).

    • Hand-washable cycle
      Agitator-free washers with a hand wash setting are gentle enough to let you skip the sink for your more delicate items.

      • Quick-wash options
        If that coordinating top or school uniform got overlooked on washday, you can use a quick wash setting to clean a small number of lightly soiled items in a hurry. Some washers may also let you speed up a large load.

        • Pause/interrupt cycle
          Even though high-efficiency front-load and top-load washers will lock after the cycle has started, a model with a pause option will still let you toss in that last sock. If necessary, a front-load design will drain the water so your floor stays dry when you open the door.

          • Maintenance and mold prevention
            Today's front-load washers have taken steps to avoid the pitfalls of early models, such as drainage systems in the door gasket to allow water to escape. If your washer is in a high-traffic area (or somewhere young children or pets may think to climb inside), look for a model with a magnetic door plunger or similar mechanism that will keep the door slightly open but still secure. Furthermore, many high-efficiency washers — both front-load and top-load designs — now offer dedicated self-clean cycles. Your new appliance's user manual will outline the maintenance features and recommendations for your specific model.

            • Built-in sink
              Samsung's activewash machines feature a built-in sink with scrubbing board and integrated water jet so you can easily pretreat and hand wash your laundry. The sink drops down from the lid for soaking and scrubbing, tilts back to pour clothes and water directly into the washer's tub, and collapses out of the way with the lid. You can then start the cycle from there or drain the pretreatment water first to start fresh.

  • Features for both washers and dryers

  • ENERGY STAR certified
    All appliances include an Energy Guide label to show the estimated yearly operating cost (based on the national averages for utility rates), using standard test procedures developed by the US Department of Energy so you can easily compare across brands. Clothes washers and dryers with the ENERGY STAR symbol on the label meet requirements set for energy-efficiency — using less water and energy than models that do not meet certification standards, and saving you money while protecting the environment.

  • ENERGY STAR-certified washers use about 25% less energy and 40% less water than regular washing machines, which can save you $40 a year on your utility bills compared to a standard model. ENERGY STAR-certified dryers use 20% less energy than conventional models, thanks to energy-saving technologies such as moisture sensors. Clothes washers and dryers that have earned the ENERGY STAR certification work best when paired. The final spin cycle on these washers forces out as much water as possible, which makes it easier for these dryers to operate using less heat, resulting in energy savings and reduced wear and tear on your clothes caused by overdrying.

    • Steam
      A popular feature now found in many mid-range and high-end washers and dryers. In a washer, steam penetrates fibers better than water to release stains, odors and ground-in dirt. In the dryer, steam relaxes stubborn wrinkles and reduces static. Some dryers include a refresh setting for clothes that are clean but wrinkled or perhaps smelling a bit stale from a long stint in a closet, drawer or storage bin. Other dryer models offer a steam clean option for non-washable items such as pillows and stuffed animals.

    • Steam dryers access the necessary water in one of two ways — either through a Y-connector and inlet hose that draws directly from the water supply (similar to a washing machine), or through a reservoir you fill manually at the sink. (For the first, the Y-connector and hose may or may not be included with the dryer.)

      • Sanitization or allergy settings
        When you select one of these options, your washer or dryer will increase the temperature or use steam to reduce germs, bacteria and irritants in your clothing and bedding. An allergy setting will be kinder to your clothes than the sanitize feature, which involves heat of 160°F or more, but it's a good idea to test a few garments first to see how they fare.

        The "NSF Certified" label indicates a washing machine or dryer has been approved by the independent National Sanitation Foundation. This means its sanitize setting is long enough and/or hot enough to kill 99.9% of microorganisms with no significant carryover of bacteria into future loads. A washer's allergy setting must eliminate at least 95% of dust mite allergens and feline dander; wash water must reach and maintain 131°F for three minutes; and the washer itself must be easy to clean, resist corrosion, and avoid accumulation of dirt and debris. Some washers are also NSF-certified to reduce other allergens, such as canine dander or birch pollen.

        • Vibration and noise reduction
          If your high-efficiency washer and dryer will be near living or sleeping areas, you'll appreciate models designed to reduce vibration and noise. Vibration reduction is especially key if the washer will be on an upper floor, to counter the force of spinning at very high speeds.

        • Digital displays and touch-screen controls
          More and more washers and dryers feature digital displays, and some advanced appliances even boast touch-screen panels. These make it easier for you to use their array of specialized features and settings, and some even let you save your favorite combinations.

          • Delayed start
            These options can help you fit laundry into your busy schedule, without leaving a load of clothes to sit wet or develop wrinkles for hours. Before going to bed or leaving for work, you can prep a wash load or transfer a clean load to the dryer, and then time the appliance's cycle to finish when it's convenient. You can also time loads for hours when energy rates are lower to save money on your bills.

            • Smartphone compatibility
              Some high-end models boast built-in Wi-Fi to sync with your compatible smartphone. With this technology, the washer or dryer can send you an alert when a cycle has finished, so you don't need to monitor progress by lurking near the laundry room, crisscrossing the house or trekking up and down stairs. These smart features vary across brands, but possible capabilities include usage tracking, remote controls, smart grid awareness (not available in all areas) and troubleshooting.

              • Self-diagnostics
                Some brands offer washer and dryer models with technology that makes it easy to identify error codes or signals, and then provides tips so you can either resolve the situation yourself or streamline service. This feature typically involves a smartphone app that interacts with the appliance, but a few brands offer the option to call from any landline or cell phone and transmit an audible signal for a computer to analyze.

                • Color and finish
                  A large number of washers and dryers have undergone a style upgrade as well. After all, so much technology inside deserves a high-tech design — especially for laundry appliances situated in or near main living areas. And while traditional white is still the most popular choice for laundry appliances, it's no longer your only choice. Many high-efficiency washers and their matching dryers offer a stainless steel, gray or black option, while some even come in bold red shades that can brighten any laundry day.

                • Stainless-steel drum
                  These drums won't chip and rust like porcelain-coated designs could, nor will they crack, absorb odors or discolor like plastic can. In addition, stainless steel is better able to withstand the faster spin speeds in high-efficiency washers and the longer drying cycles of high-capacity dryers.

  • Features for dryers

  • Dryer settings
    Similar to washing machines, standard dryers include a number of basic settings — typically three temperature levels and a no-heat/fluff option — with mid-level and high-end models offering a variety of specialty cycles. Some may feature reverse tumbling, which helps prevent clothes and sheets from tangling up and wrinkling. Another option to consider is post-dry or extended tumbling, which keeps the drum spinning after the heat shuts off, so clothing doesn't sit and collect wrinkles before it can be removed from the dryer.

    • Moisture sensors
      A growing number of dryers include sophisticated moisture sensors. By using them, the dryer automatically knows when to stop, so you don't end up with still-damp towels or waste energy to heat (and potentially damage) clothes that are already dry. Moisture sensors built into the drum are more accurate than those that monitor air temperature in the exhaust vent.

      • Dual-opening doors
        EasyLoad dryers presented by LG open two different ways. You can open the door from the top into a hamper-style chute to quickly load wet clothes — with less bending and reduced potential for dropped items — and then swing the door out to the side to easily unload when the cycle is done.

        • Heat pump technology
          Dryers featuring the new heat pump dryer systems — such as LG EcoHybrid and Whirlpool HybridCare — employ a highly efficient heat pump, condenser, heater and evaporator that create, amplify and recycle heat. This technology is still relatively new, so you'll see a higher price on these dryers, but they offer the greatest energy-saving potential among current models. In addition, some states offer rebates to help offset the initial purchase cost.

          • Drying rack
            Some dryers include these accessories to help you dry items without tumbling them, such as shoes or delicate sweaters. Some racks rest horizontally inside the drum while others attach to the inside of the door.


  • Check down the list and ensure you'll have everything you need to get your new washer and dryer hooked up and ready to use for your needs.

    • Required accessories

      • Water hoses
        Not all washing machines include the necessary fill hoses, so be sure to reference the product detail page. If the hoses are not included — or if only rubber hoses come with it — consider upgrading to braided stainless steel. Hoses contend with a great deal of water pressure, and steel is much more resistant and reliable, whereas rubber becomes susceptible to bursting as it ages (a common cause for water damage in homes). If you do use rubber hoses with your washer, they should be replaced every five years.

        • Dryer vent
          A new vent kit must be purchased separately with every dryer (excluding condensation dryers), and should be rigid or semi-rigid metal. Foil or plastic tubing increases the risk of fire — and in the case of a gas dryer, the risk of a carbon monoxide leak. Dryer vents should also be cleaned annually, which will reduce your drying times as well as the danger of fire or CO poisoning.

          • Dryer power cord
            Electric dryers do not include the power cord. Check to see whether your 240-volt outlet requires 3 prongs or 4 prongs.

            • Dryer gas connector
              Gas dryers require a new gas connector. Old ones cannot be reused.

              • HE detergent
                If you are purchasing a high-efficiency washer, then high-efficiency detergent is a must. The HE version is low-sudsing to match the lower water levels used by HE washers. Regular detergent can actually prevent your clothes from getting clean, fail to rinse properly, overburden the washer's pump or damage the machine — and it may even void the warranty. HE detergent also keeps soils and dyes suspended in the low water volume so they don't redeposit on your clothes.

              • Recommended accessories and services

              • Stacking kit
                If you will be stacking your laundry pair, then you will need a stacking kit to provide the necessary stability. Look for the kit that's compatible with your specific front-load washer and dryer models.

                • Pedestals
                  A laundry pedestal raises your front-load washer or dryer off the floor to a more convenient height, reducing the need to bend and relieving strain on your back. Most pedestals also include a storage drawer to make efficient use of the space. You will need to look for the pedestal that's compatible with your specific front-load washer or dryer model (and in the matching color).

                  • Steam dryer installation kit
                    Steam dryers that draw water directly from your water supply may not include the necessary inlet hose. This kit includes a 6' fill hose of braided stainless steel, plus a Y-adapter and 1' extension hose.

Shop Online or In Store

Find a wide variety of washers and dryers on Your local Best Buy store also has a selection of laundry appliances, and Pacific Kitchen & Home premium products are now inside select Best Buy stores, so you can shop from an impressive selection of quality brands. Plus, our friendly Blue Shirts and dedicated Pacific Sales staff are there to answer questions and help with choosing the best washer and dryer for your needs.