Are High-Efficiency Washers Worth It?

It’s time once again to reach into the mailbag to answer a question from my dear readers. It’s kinda my favorite day, which should give you an idea of how much I love to hear from you. While I cannot respond personally to all of your messages and letters, know that I read every one, selecting those to answer here that I believe will have a universal appeal.

Dear Mary: The pump in our older washing machine has gone out, so rather than the big repair bill to have it replaced, we’ve decided it’s time for a new washer and dryer. Are high-efficiency models worth it? And which brands do you recommend? —Ben

Dear Ben: High-efficiency, or HE, washers do a fine job of washing clothes for normal home laundry use. The benefit over a typical top-loading machine is that they use a lot less water—the reason they’re known as high-efficiency.

Another benefit of a front-loading machine is that it can be stacked with a dryer sitting on top of it. Of course, one would need to purchase the stacking hardware that securely attaches a dryer on top of the washer, with no possibility of it falling off!

Because of the front-loading aspect, an HE washer requires a bit more routine maintenance to make sure that the front gasket that seals the door is kept clean to prevent mold and mildew.

You will need to use only HE detergent in a front-loading machine. HE detergent creates few if any suds. Using high-sudsing regular laundry detergent in an HE machine can cause the machine to fail.

If your dryer is still functioning well, there’s no reason other than aesthetics to replace it. Your old dryer will keep doing the job for a long while, provided you maintain it properly.

With this background information in mind, together with a long conversation I had with a repairman who works on all brands of washers and dryers except Samsung (he absolutely refuses to work on Samsung or LG products because it is nearly impossible to get parts for them)—here is my best advice:

Set a Budget

Determine the price you’re willing to pay for the appliance(s). Lock eyeballs with that number, and commit to finding the best option without going over budget.

Must-Have Features

Write down the top three features you need in this appliance. Traditional basic top-load washers will offer temperature management and load size options, and that’s about it. From there, determine what you must have. Or do you really need more than the basics?

Take a Tour

Go to a Sears store or outlet, or another local appliance dealer that carries the top brands of appliances, with your top three requirements. Then listen, and pay close attention to what you learn.

In the store, the salesman will try to steer you into a higher-end model with lots of bells and whistles you’ll probably never use (I know from experience). Keep going back to your three “must-haves.”

Personally, I would lean toward a traditional Whirlpool appliance or a Speed Queen commercial-grade washer. Past experience tells me that once these brands become ancient, they’ll still be working well. Parts and services for Whirlpool and Speed Queen brands are considerably less expensive than for brands like Samsung and LG.

Make the Decision

Once you narrow your choices to the one that fits with your budget and meets your needs, make the decision. Find the best price, and arrange for delivery and installation. Then, don’t look back.

If you hold out to find the absolute perfect appliance at the perfect price, you’ll still be looking next year this time—and driving yourself nuts with indecision.

Mary Hunt is the founder of, a frugal living blog and the author of the book “Debt-Proof Living.” Mary invites you to visit her at her website, where this column is archived complete with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary invites questions and comments at, “Ask Mary.” Tips can be submitted at This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Copyright 2021

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Mary Hunt
Author: Mary Hunt

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