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Lee Goldberg

Professional Green Technology Expert

Best Most Efficient Washing Machines & Best Green Washing Machines

Eco-Washers – More fun to watch than most TV.

My first encounter with a European-style high-efficiency washer back in the early ‘90s is almost as memorable as my first ride in a Porsche. The compact Bosch front-loader I found in the Swiss hotel’s laundry room radiated a sense of efficiency and precision that the hulking white top-loaders I used at home lacked. My first impression was confirmed as I watched my clothes being put through a methodical set of rocking motions that pushed a small amount of water and an impossibly small amount of detergent gently through them before they underwent a NASA-like centrifuge ride that left them almost dry enough to wear. Even the purposeful whirs, clicks, and hums that the unit emitted as it cheerfully carried out its task stood in stark contrast to the mindless hum-clunk of the simple porcelain cubes I’d grown up with.

The washer I saw in Switzerland was a marvel of efficiency, both in the amount of water and electricity it used. Equally important, their high-speed water extraction cycles cut the amount of energy needed to dry the clothes by half or more. In some models, the same computer chips that control the washer’s precision agitation cycles also gives it the smarts to detect an out-of-balance situation and automatically correct it by jostling clothes about in the drum.

But, despite their obvious advantages, their higher cost and smaller capacities made them a rarity in America until recently. Things changed around the turn of the century as eco-conscious consumers helped spread the word that their higher initial cost was more than repaid after a few years of lower water and energy bills.

From Oddity to Fashion Statement:

Buying a high-efficiency washer has become easier for the average consumer of late as U.S. and Asian manufacturers jumped on the environmental band wagon. They’ve started building eco-friendly machines with larger capacities and features that were more in tune with the American lifestyle. Many of today’s machines also boast designer colors and sleek styling that that has helped move them from their Cinderella-like existence in the basement to take their rightful place in the center of the home as no less of a domestic fashion accessory than a Viking stove in your kitchen or a Prius in your garage.

How We Chose the Best of the Best:

When compiling our list of the top eco-washers on the market, we chose those that offered the best mix of environmental benefits, consumer-friendly features, and overall washing performance. We used the energy efficiency and water consumption data from the EPA’s EnergyStar web site to come up with an initial pool of candidates. We then narrowed our final choices for The Best of The Best based on features, styling, reliability history, and overall quality.

Choosing Your Personal Best:

All of our selections offer a superb washing experience but to get the unit that best suits your needs you have to take stock of your goals and priorities. First, do you prefer the more efficient front-loading style or a more conventional top-loading design? For the most part, side-loaders tend to save more water and energy at the expense of a longer wash cycle (70-100 minutes). If you still feel more comfortable with a top-loader and like the shorter wash cycle (45-60 minutes) we’ve included several models that offer environmental performance that’s still above average.

Next, how much space do you have to park your eco-washer and its companion dryer? Some of the new eco-units are a bit bulkier (up to 31” deep) so it might be a good idea to measure your laundry nook and then bring a tape measure when you go shopping. One great way to save space is to stack your units but you may need to buy a model that has some sort of vibration-damping technology (Samsung and Whirlpool among others) if you want to run them on anything but a solid basement floor.

After deciding how much capacity you need, and the must-have features you can’t live without (I think that the steam option is one of them), it’s time to look at environmental performance. The U.S. government’s EnergyStar program has done a great job of providing a clear, easy-to-understand set of metrics used to certify an appliance as environmentally friendly. The same specs also make it easy for you to see how your choice stacks up against the eco-performance of any washer or dryer on their list.

See the Best of the Rest section for more details on the EnergyStar specs for each model we’ve listed.

Buy the best most efficient washing machines to join the green revolution and save plenty of green. These best green washing machines are energy efficient to cut down on resources required.

Best Green Washing Machines by Lee Goldberg

The Best You Can Get

  • LG SteamWasher - WM2688H

    Lee says: Excellent washing performance, generous load capability, and above average reliability compliment this machine’s fine environmental performance. Adding a steam soak cycle to pre-loosen the toughest dirt and neutralize most allergens helps make it one of the best choices for a full-featured eco-washer. Styling is a mix of refined European functionality with a dash of sleek American streamlining. Available in traditional white or refined navy blue.

    • 3.47-cubic-foot capacity front-loader
    • Steam pre-treat cycle loosens stubborn dirt, enhances cleaning, reduces allergens
    • Consumes 171 kWh electricity, 4690 gallons of water per year
    • Water Factor = 3.5, Modified Energy Factor = 2.4
  • Whirlpool Duet Steam – WFW9600T

    Lee says: Combining great environmental performance with sexy styling and some of the best reliability in the industry, the ‘9600T is a practical fashion statement. Its integral steam generator eliminates the need to pre-treat in most cases, and allows you to sanitize towels and sheets without bleach. Available in either an ultra-modern metallic silver on white or eco-style aspen green.

    • 3.51-cubic-foot capacity side-loader
    • Steam pre-treat cycle loosens stubborn dirt, enhances cleaning, and sanitizes
    • Consumes 150 kWh electricity, 5256 gallons of water per year
    • Water Factor = 3.8, Modified Energy Factor = 2.47
  • Miele 4880

    Lee says: One of my personal favorites, Miele is the epitome of European eco-design, combining clean Euro-styling with great performance. Its stainless honeycomb drum gives a gentler, more effective wash cycle. Angled touch control panel provides an attractive, easy-to-understand user interface. Among the quietest washers in its class, its precise movements still manage to convey a wonderful sense of German efficiency and precision. Revel in its crisp white-only color scheme.

    • 3.07-cubic-foot capacity side-loader
    • Consumes 186 kWh electricity, 5091 gallons of water per year
    • Water Factor = 4.2, Modified Energy Factor = 2.4
  • Samsung WF338AAB

    Lee says: Don’t let the sleek styling fool you into thinking this workhorse is just a pretty face. With a direct drive motor turning its four-cubic-foot drum, you’ve got a washing powerhouse on your hands. Its anti-vibration system is supposed to be especially good at avoiding noise or "washer wandering" if you’re considering using it in a stacking configuration on second floors or in apartments. As with other top-grade washers, the ‘338 packs a steam cycle to help with deep cleaning and sanitization chores. Available in standard white or in Breakwater Blue, a sexy blue silver metallic finish that would be just as at home on a sports car. If you don’t need the steam option, the 3.8 Cubic-foot WF337 is available in several truly gorgeous colors, including my all-time-favorite, Tango Red.

    • 4-cubic-foot capacity side-loader
    • Consumes 153 kWh electricity, 4798 gallons of water per year
    • Water Factor = 3.6, Modified Energy Factor = 2.59
    • Steam
  • Fisher Paykel AquaSmart WL26CW2

    Lee says: Fisher Paykel has been one of my favorite brands for years because of their simple, efficient, and durable designs. While it uses a little more energy and water than some top-performing side-loaders, the ‘26C still delivers extremely respectable environmental performance along with great cleaning performance. Its unique direct drive washing system uses an unusual (and extremely durable) permanent magnet motor system that’s quiet and allows a 1000 RPM spin cycle that’s almost as fast as front-loaders. Even if you didn’t consider their impressive environmental attributes, the new fully-featured WL26 is one of the best top-loaders on the market today, and an excellent choice if your layout requirements or taste in washing machines tends towards the vertical.

    • 3.7-cubic-foot capacity top-loader
    • Consumes 199 kWh electricity, 7104 gallons of water per year
    • Water Factor = 5.8, Modified Energy Factor = 2.15

You will be happy with any of these

  • Bosch 800 Series WFMC8401UC

    Lee says: A new model with crisp Euro-styling and easy-to-use controls designed for the American market. If you want a side loader but are not thrilled with the ergonomics, consider the ‘8401. It boasts improved drum and door angles make this the easiest-loading side-loader available. As with the Miele, it is a very quiet machine, but still manages to purr with a precise German accent to assure you all’s well with your clothes and the world. Available in white or an oh-so-sexy silver/white duo-tone finish.

    • 3.31-cubic-foot capacity side-loader
    • Consumes 151 kWh electricity, 5359 gallons of water per year
    • Water Factor = 4.1, Modified Energy Factor = 2.55
  • GE WHDVH680J

    Lee says: I used to be down on GE appliances because they always seemed to break just after the warranty expired but this has changed a few years ago after their last CEO stepped down. GE’s renewed focus on reliability now compliments their excellent the environmental performance their new models deliver, making their ‘680 series a very good choice. Like some more expensive imports, it boasts an internal water heater to boost wash temperature for reduced bacteria and better cleaning.

    • 4-cubic-foot capacity front loader
    • Consumes 142 kWh electricity, 5496 gallons of water per year
    • Water Factor = 4, Modified Energy Factor = 2.2
  • Kenmore Elite HE5t Steam 4778

    Lee says: Another great choice for the eco-conscious household with excellent washing performance plus miserly use of energy and water. Steam pre-treat cycle is reputed to do a very good job. This is a new model so reliability is unknown but if it’s like most of Kenmore offerings, you can expect a long and trouble-free life. Sleek American styling and a nice choice of colors (white, silver, blue, deep red) are icing on the cake. The only thing that kept the ‘447 from being a candidate for our Best of the Best list was its long cycle time – 1hr 40 minutes in a normal cycle and over two hours if you use the steam cycle.

    • 4-cubic-foot capacity side-loader
    • Steam pre-treat cycle loosens stubborn dirt, enhances cleaning
    • Consumes 151 kWh electricity, 5311 gallons of water per year
    • Water Factor = 3.9, Modified Energy Factor = 2.59
  • Whirlpool Cabrio WTW6700T

    Lee says: Here’s a top-rated top-loader with a huge capacity that still offers good enough environmental performance to earn it an EnergyStar rating. Expect durability and performance from its direct-drive, agitator-free wash system, rumored to have been designed by Fisher Paykel, the pioneer in eco-friendly top-loaders. Its attractive styling is a cut above the average top-loader making it a model to consider if your washroom is in a public space and your washday pile looks like something out of “Cheaper by the Dozen.”

    • 4.5-cubic-foot capacity top loader
    • Consumes 330 kWh electricity, 10,781 gallons of water per year
    • Water Factor = 6.9, Modified Energy Factor = 1.98
  • GE Profile Harmony WPGT9360E

    Lee says: Another good choice for an American-made (Lexington, KY) top-loader. Several features make this unit worth considering if environmental performance is not at the absolute top of your list. One of the more intriguing is a menu-driven touch screen control that allows you to select wash cycles by fabric type, clothing type, plus several special cycles for items like blankets and jackets. The same menu system also allows you to select the kind of stain you have and programs a wash cycle that’s optimized to remove it. You can even design and save your own custom cycles. If you get the matching Harmony dryer, there is a data cable that connects the two machines. This allows the washer to communicate information about the wash load electronically to the dryer so that it can pre-set itself with the right temperature, time, and dryness settings.

    • 4-cubic-foot capacity top loader
    • Consumes 2.69 kWh electricity, 9797 gallons of water per year
    • Water Factor = 7.1, Modified Energy Factor = 1.98

Related Articles

For the best most efficient washing machines, first assess your needs. On the best green washing machines, ask what features are essential (maybe the steam feature) and which can you live without. Then check the best eco friendly washing machines reviewed for the best EnergyStar ratings to join the green revolution and start saving big.