A good washing machine will make light work of your dirty clothes, but choosing the appliance that's right for you is not a decision you should take lightly. The washing machine you select today will have a pivotal role to play in your household for years to come - so it's important you take all things into consideration before parting with your hard-earned cash.

Think of how often you use your washing machine - and the vital job it performs - and you'll understand just how essential it is to find a make and model suited to your needs.

To help make things a little easier for you, we've compiled a list of the factors we think you should consider before plumping for one type over another.

What features are you looking for?

Are you likely to be cleaning heavy loads on a regular basis? Are your clothes often heavily soiled? While most washing machines include common programmes for synthetics, cottons, delicates and woollens, certain models will include programmes that are most suited to your individual needs. For example, pre-wash could be ideal for those whose work gear or sports kit gets dirty on a regular basis, while half-load for economical washing might be perfect if you want to do your bit for the environment. Other popular features include hand washing - which is great for silks and wools - short wash and rinse hold.

What type of machine is most suitable?

Most of us think of washing machines as being essentially the same, with a circular door at the front and the drawer above it. But there are actually some significant variations on models - and some may be more suited to you than others. Front load machines are very common, with the forward-facing opening being easily accessible and allowing you to position the appliance underneath a worktop - an efficient and space-saving solution. For those of you with a little more room to spare - in a utility room or the garage perhaps - a top loading option could be the best route to take. These machines tend to have a much larger drum capacity and might therefore be of interest to those who wash big loads regularly - such as a family or sportsmen and women with lots of kits to get clean.

Is a washer-dryer a good solution?

Those of you really struggling for space may find a washer-dryer is the perfect solution. This combination of the two - a washing machine and a tumble dryer - means you'll only need room for one appliance. One of the main drawbacks of this option, however, is that you won't be able to have your washer and dryer on at the same time - which can be a good way to get all of your cleaning chores over and done with in one go.

What about energy efficiency?

Energy efficiency is something manufacturers are increasingly taking into account when releasing new models. Lucky for us, washing machines are rated on an A++ to G scale - with A++ being the most efficient - so it is easy to see which ones are best for energy rating and overall washing performance.

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