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Advanced Cycles: Updates, Innovations & Best Buys in Laundry Appliances

Washer capacity is increasing, and LG and Samsung introduced models that allow you to wash multiple loads of laundry at the same time. Meanwhile, combination washer/dryers still take a long time to dry clothes, and manufacturers haven’t warmed to heat-pump-powered dryers.

Whirlpool

Manufacturers and retailers believe that more consumers than ever before want to wash as many clothes at once as possible. As a result, manufacturers continue to increase the capacity of their washing machines.

We found 10 front-loading washers and 21 top-loading washers that have a capacity of at least 5 cubic feet, compared with five and 19 such models, respectively, in 2015. Maytag’s 6.2-cubic-foot ($1,299) top-loading model is the largest washer that’s on the market, compared with an industry best of 5.6 cubic feet of capacity before.

LG now has a 5.8-cubic-foot front-loading model ($2,000), a 5.7-cubic-foot top-loading model ($1,500) and a twin-loading washer ($2,580) that delivers a total capacity of 6.2 cubic feet. LG’s twin-loading washers, which the company introduced in 2015, mount a conventional washer on top of a 1.0-cubic-foot pedestal washer that has enough room for 3–4 pounds of clothes. (Experts say a typical full outfit for an adult weighs about 3–5 pounds.)

We like the twin-loading concept, because the machines deliver extra capacity and the capability to wash a small load of clothes separately from the main load. So if you want to wash only a few shirts, you can use the pedestal washer instead of the main washer.

“If you have a kid in sports, you’re washing shirts and jerseys several times a week because of the games and the practices,” says Shirley Hood of retailer Abt. “Instead of using the large machine for that, you can use the smaller machine.”

Unfortunately, the top of the LG pedestal washer is just 14 inches from the ground, and we found that it’s uncomfortable for us to bend or kneel to reach it.

“If you’re an older person, if you’re tall, if you have back problems, it might be difficult,” Hood says.

In January 2017, Samsung introduced two FlexWash washers (starting at $1,599) that include a conventional front-loading washer and a separate 1.0-cubic-foot top-loading washer. FlexWash’s additional washer is 47 inches tall, so it’s much easier to reach than is LG’s low-mounted pedestal washer. What’s more is that the FlexWash system requires only one water connection; the LG twin-loader requires two. In other words, a FlexWash model is easier to install and set up than is an LG twin-loader, says Steve Sheinkopf of Yale Appliance, which sells washers and dryers.

Samsung also introduced two FlexDry dryers (starting at $1,599), which are the first twin-loading dryers. The models include a conventional front-loading dryer and a separate 1.0-cubic-foot top-loading dryer that lets you flat-dry items. Unlike with conventional dryers, the top-loading FlexDry compartment doesn’t rotate and has only a low-heat setting. We found that to be a good feature if you want to wash only a few delicate items. If you want to wash something heavier, such as a pair of jeans, you’re better off drying it in the main dryer, because clothes dry at least twice as fast on a tumble-heat setting.

NICE BONUS. Besides FlexWash, Samsung introduced two other convenience innovations in the past 2 years.

Two top-loading washers (starting at $849) include an ActiveWash built-in sink that’s positioned above the washing drum. You can prewash items in the sink with the help of a water jet that’s on the side. When you’re ready to wash the items, you lift up the sink, and the prewashed items slide out of the back of the sink and into the drum.

“It’s designed for people who don’t have a separate washtub in their laundry room, maybe in a townhouse, apartment or condo,” Hood says. “It gives you the chance to scrub a grass stain, then throw that piece in the washtub until you’re ready to do the rest of your laundry.”