Before you buy, make a list of your 'must-have' features - large-capacity drum, hand-wash programme, and so on - before you get bamboozled by the choice.

* The current trend is for washing machines to have large load capacities, high spin speeds and top energy ratings to make the washing process more energy efficient. To help you, here's our guide to some of the most important features.

What features are available on washing machines?

We've got plenty of advice to help you find the right model

RATINGS
AAA or A+AA (for energy efficiency, washing and spin drying performance) rated washing machines may cost more, but are more economical to run and leave your washing drier.


DRUM/LOAD SIZE
6kg machines are very popular and some even have drums that will hold from 7kg-10kg loads. Clever design means many models with larger drums can still fit into a standard space. Don't forget, with any size of machine, it's more economical to wash a full load than do lots of small washes.


SPIN SPEED Faster spin speeds reduce drying times and keep fabric creasing to a minimum. An rpm of 1200 is perfectly acceptable.


FUZZY LOGIC/AUTO SENSING
A facility whereby sensors adjust the water intake, wash and rinse times, and so on, to ensure optimum performance with minimum energy and water use. A good feature if you have a water meter, or you want to wash economically.


CONTROL PANELS
Digital LED displays are usually straightforward to read and use. A 'time left to run' display is useful and worth having. Delay timers mean you can set the machine to start and finish when it suits you.


NOISE LEVELS
Manufacturers quote the noise level in decibels. Those rated in the 40s are considered particularly quiet. Check the decibel level if your washing machine is to be used in an open-plan room.


WASHER-DRYER
If you only want a dryer for occasional use, a combined machine is a good option. Drawbacks are that you can't wash and dry at the same time, so may end up with a backlog. Usually drying needs to be done in smaller amounts, but some can dry up to a 5kg load.

Special washing machine features to look out for

Look out for special features to help you make the right choice

Today's latest washing machines will often offer several useful cycles on top of the standard ones we are used to, although the terms different manufacturers use to describe them may vary slightly. For example:


Hand Wash
For clothes that are labelled 'hand wash only' – not the same as the delicates or woollens programmes.


Freshen Up
A recent introduction to some washing machines. It basically rinses and spins clothes that may just need a spruce up rather than a complete wash.


Stains Guide
Siemens' latest models have a built-in guide to the right programmes to use for specific stain removals.

Use our product guide to find the right washing machine for you.

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