Living in a small condo taught me many things, but one of the most important was how life can be much better if you install a compact washer. You might need one if you have a strong desire to avoid the laundromat and a yearning for clean clothes on demand, any hour of the day or night. A compact washer is also your best solution if, like me, you're fussy about the way your laundry is done. I never trusted the scary old washing machine in my building's basement to handle my clothes.
What is a compact washer?
A compact washer is a 24-inch washing machine with about the same footprint as a standard dishwasher. If you're thinking of getting a compact washer, first take out your measuring tape and make sure you have room for one. And think vertically, too: You can stack a compact washer in a closet with its companion dryer. In fact, if you're willing to give up your linen closet, you may be able to locate your compact laundry there. Or you might emulate the Europeans and hook it up in the kitchen.
What do I need to know before I buy a compact washer?
Bear in mind that in addition to a water connection, you might need to install a 220-volt outlet, so you will have to get that past the condo association or landlord before you buy. And in a compact washer, you only have approximately 2.2 cu. ft. of capacity to clean your clothes, so the big fluffy comforter will still have to go to the laundromat. Also, realize that you may be tied up doing laundry longer than you'd like since compact washers often run slower than their full-size counterparts. As with any major purchase, you'll have to consider the cost. A compact washer is almost always an investment of $1,000 or more. But once you accept the caveats, you can set yourself up with an excellent in-unit washer. You'll pat yourself on the back every time laundry day (or night) rolls around.
How we test at Reviewed
As we do for every other washer in our labs, we evaluate each compact washer based on its ability to remove stains, the amount of wear and tear it puts on clothes, water retention, and cycle time. User-friendliness of the controls factors in, too.
Should I buy a compact washer?
Once you decide a compact washer is right for your home, all you need to know is which one to choose. Of the compact washers we tested, these models rose to the top:
Miele W1 WWH860 WCS
Impressive and innovative, this Miele model is our favorite compact washer. It's tremendously versatile and lets you get as hands-on or hands-off with the laundry as you want. Boasting a feature called TwinDos that uses pre-filled detergent and oxygen bleach cartridges, the WWH860 WCS calculates and dispenses the exact amount of detergent each load requires to get clean. Of course, if you prefer, you can skip the pricey cartridges and manually use your favorite brands of detergent and bleach.
The honeycomb texture inside the drum gently scrubs stains away, getting clothes and bedding clean without tearing holes in them. Although this washer costs almost twice as much as the lowest-priced compacts on the list, it is the best performer of all the compact washers we tested. The Miele does an excellent job cleaning in an hour and 20 minutes on the Normal cycle.
I eventually moved from my tiny condo to a larger home with a real laundry room, but I still consider adding a compact washer on the bedroom level. The LG WM1388HW is obviously a family-friendly supplemental washer. It's tough on stains, has a Sanitary cycle good for disinfecting kids' bedding and clothes, and its stainless steel tub is textured to minimize wear and tear. Its moderate price point is likely to fall within a family's budget, too. But don't expect speedy washing. In our tests, even the Speed Wash cycle lasted over an hour. Don't worry, though. While it runs, you'll be at home watching TV instead of sitting in a grim laundromat staring at your phone.
We're fans of Electrolux washers. (The company's full-size 627 washer is our favorite standard front-loader.) The EFLS210TIW won't make you wait for the laundry: Its Fast Wash finishes in 21 minutes and Heavy Duty comes in at under an hour. The Normal cycle takes an hour and 15 minutes, and the cleaning is as good as any washer on this list.
Fisher & Paykel WH2424F1
New Zealand-based Fisher & Paykel has been one of the appliance world's well-kept secrets for some time. Now owned by Haier and positioned as its luxury arm, Fisher & Paykel is getting more exposure. Its compact washer, the WH2424F1 is a model that could end your small washer search. This washer has 12 cleaning cycles that make it possible to customize each load of wash. Its quick cycle cleaned the clothes and removed stains beautifully in only 32 minutes, and the Heavy cycle's clean actually outperformed the Miele washer, our top-scoring compact. Bring on your wool sweaters and scarves—this model sports a Wool cycle certified by Woolmark to keep your woolens in good shape while it cleans them.
GE Appliances' American-made washers tend to do well in our tests, whether the focus is a standard top-load machine or a compact washer. The GFW148SSLWW washing scores comfortably in the middle of the compact washers we've tested. This model has clear, user-friendly controls that make it easy to choose the feature you want. Steam cycles are a plus in any size washer and this washer lets you choose from Casual with Steam or Stain Wash with Steam. Of the compact front-load washers we've tested, this is one of the few to come in under $1,000.
A compact washer with German engineering, the Bosch WAT28401UC topped all the other compact washers we tested in stain removal. Packing an internal water heater, this model can reach temperatures close to 170°, which helps it destroy those stains. That's a big plus—cleaner laundry is high on everyone's list of small pleasures. Thanks to its fast spin, the SpeedPerfect feature can shorten cycles by 15 minutes while doing just as good a job at cleaning.
Though we've seen it demonstrated, we haven't yet had the chance to test the Samsung WW22K6800W. This model looks like a contender among compact washers and owners are reviewing it very positively. We'll let you know as soon as we put it through the paces at Reviewed. In the meantime, the Samsung WW22K6800AW has powerful features including a fast spin and a Super Speed feature that allows a load of laundry to complete in just 40 minutes. If pre-treating stains isn't your thing, you might appreciate the Steam Wash setting, which the company claims can eliminate stains without any pre-treatment. That could be an effortless way to deep clean laundry.
Do I need a compact dryer, too?
If you always hang your wet clothes on a rack after washing, you'll extend their useful lives. However, you'll appreciate the convenience of a compact ventless dryer to match your washer when it comes to drying sheets and towels. We've tested some models we're sure you'll love, too.