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Washing machine capacity guide

Cramming clothes into your washing machine? Get the right drum size.


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Is overloading your washing machine really that bad?

We all have those Sunday nights when you realised you’ve let the laundry pile up and now you don’t have anything clean for tomorrow. But overfilling your washing machine can be a bad idea. Why?

Your laundry won’t clean properly

If there isn’t enough room for the clothes to move around, the machine won’t be able to wash them as thoroughly. And to make matters worse, your detergent won’t be able to do its job properly either. That means some of your clothes might come out smelling like detergent, while others smell as bad as they did in the laundry basket. Yuck!

Overloading the machine could damage it

Your load may not feel too heavy when it goes into the machine, but just imagine how heavy it will be once it’s soaking wet. That extra weight can throw off the balance the machine and affect its performance over time. Another reason not to cram.

So, what size washing machine do you actually need? Take a look at our handy guide below to help you understand how much weight your machine can handle...

What does washing machine capacity mean?

When you’re on the lookout for a new washing machine, you’ll see a range of washing machine capacities. This is how much you can fit into the washing machine. Always bear in mind that drum sizes are measured in weight of dry clothes. You won’t need scales or a washing load size chart handy - you can generally tell how much you can wash by the drum size.

Wondering what size washing machine you need? The most common sizes are between 8 and 9 kg. These are ideal for average family-sized loads, but what you need will depend on what you’re washing and how often you’re washing it.

Freestanding washing machines have a wide range of capacities. There’s everything from less than 7 kg capacity to a whopping 12 kg drum – that’s enough to easily fit a king-size bedding set in for a wash.

If you’ve got a built-in kitchen, you might want an integrated washing machine. They generally have 8 and 9 kg capacities, so they’re great for a family home.

Small drum (up to 7 kg)

How much will it wash?

As a general guide, one load in a small drum means it can handle 5 small towels and 6 lightweight tops. Or 2 pairs of jeans, a jumper and 10 pairs of socks or underwear. Or 2 bedsheets and 2 pillowcases.

Who’s it right for?

If you’re washing for one person and you’re doing 4 loads or less a week, this is about perfect. The added bonus is that smaller washing machines generally mean faster cycles times. Great if you’re heading out for the night and you want your fave clothes cleaned in a flash.

Standard drum (8 - 9 kg)

How much will it wash?

In one load in an average sized drum, you could expect to fit 5 small towels and 10 lightweight tops. Or 4 pairs of jeans, a jumper and 20 pairs of socks or underwear. Or 2 bedsheets and 4 pillowcases.

Who’s it right for?

If you’re a couple or have a flatmate or two, this will be a great size for you. Or you may just be on your own and love your workouts! Either way, it’s a good size if you’re doing 4 - 6 loads a week.

Large drum (10 kg)

How much will it wash?

Expect a large drum to be able to take on 6 small towels and 12 lightweight tops. Or 5 pairs of jeans, a jumper and 22 pairs of socks or underwear. Or even 2 bedsheets, a duvet cover and 2 pillowcases.

Who’s it right for?

This is great for a small family who need to do 4 - 6 washes a week. A larger drum size is also great if you want to tackle bedding in one go. Plus, the more you wash at once, the less wear and tear on the washing machine – which will extend the life of your machine.

Extra-large drum (11 kg+)

How much will it wash?

In an extra-large drum, you can do 8 small towels and 15 lightweight tops. Or 5 pairs of jeans, 2 jumpers and 30 pairs of socks or underwear. Or 3 bedsheets, a duvet cover and 4 pillowcases.

Who’s it right for?

This is great for a large family who are super active (or even a small hotel!) who need to do 6 or more washes a week. Plus, an extra-large drum size will save you energy and money if you can do larger loads and fewer washes.

What else should I think about?

Washing time

Washing machines with an extra-large drum size can take up to twice as long as smaller drums – basically because they have more to wash. So if you’d rather wash in a rush, it’s definitely something to think about.

Cost per wash

Larger washing machines can use 10% less energy per wash than smaller washing machines. At the same time, you’ll probably have to pay more than a smaller model – so it’s worth thinking about that when you’re thinking about what works for you.

How much space do you have?

Drum sizes will only affect the depth of your washing machine, not the width or height. So, if you want to get a larger machine into a cabinet space, it will fit but might stick out a bit.

Some machines, like Samsung SpaceMax washers, are designed to fit a bigger drum size in a standard size machine. That means you can make the most of the space in your kitchen.

Need a hand?

Our Tech Experts can help you with installing your washing machine, including checking your connections are safe and removing and recycling your old machine. That’s handy!

Need more help?

You’re in luck! Our washing machine buying guide is loaded with helpful advice.

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