Get the right size washer – washing machine capacity explained

June 16th, 2017

Appliance Talk Buying Guide Laundry Washers & Dryers

Washing machines come in all shapes and sizes, so it’s important to choose one that perfectly suits your household’s needs.

If you pick a washer that’s too small for your family, you’ll have to waste time and effort running multiple cycles. But if you choose an oversized appliance, you’ll lose money on increased running costs for power and water that you’re not using.

Figuring out the right size washing machine for your household can be tricky, whether you’re shopping online or in store. Online, you have to rely on the measurements and specifications provided by the manufacturer, and these can be tricky to visualise in your own situation. And in-store, you’ll get a good look at new appliances in person, but it’s not often that you’ll be able to bring a load of laundry with you to test-drive machines of different sizes.

What does a washer’s capacity in kilograms mean?

If you see a washing machine described as a 5kg machine, or a 7.5kg washer, or a 10kg appliance, this specification does NOT refer to the weight of the machine itself!

Instead, this figure describes the weight of the laundry load that the machine can comfortably and efficiently clean, without using excess power or water, or taking up too much time.

Keep in mind that higher-capacity washing machines are larger and heavier than smaller-capacity designs – be sure to double-check a washer’s dimensions before you buy, to ensure it will fit into your laundry room!

Does a washing machine’s capacity in kilograms measured in WET or DRY clothes?

As anyone who’s tried to walk through a thunderstorm in a thick pair of denim jeans knows, clothes get heavier when wet.

For example, five dripping wet towels would perhaps weigh twice as much as five dry towels. And as a washing machine is in the business of taking dry clothes and making them wet, this measurement can indeed be a bit confusing.

But we DO have an answer for you.

It’s dry clothes.

Not wet clothes. DRY clothes.

So when you see an appliance described as a 7 kg washing machine, you’ll know that it can efficiently clean 7 kg of dry garments. Obviously, these clothes will get heavier once they become wet, but don’t worry – the machine’s made to handle that.

How many items of clothing make up each kilogram of laundry?

While washing machine capacity is measured in kilograms, we don’t always think of our laundry loads regarding weight (unless we’re carrying them!).

One way to work out what size washing machine will suit your home is to find the weight of your average laundry load and search for washers with a matching capacity.  You could do this either by weighing each item on a kitchen scale and adding up their total mass, or by standing on a set of bathroom scales while carrying a full wash load in a basket, and subtracting your weight.

But for a quick and simple alternative that doesn’t involve scales, use the following guideline (based on information from, and H2G2) to estimate your load size:

1kg of laundry = 5 shirts OR 1 shirt + 1 pair of denim jeans OR 2 bath towels

So by following this guideline, a 6kg washing machine should be able to efficiently clean a load of around 30 shirts, or a dozen bath towels.

Use these measurements as general guidelines. After all, clothes come in all manner of shapes, sizes and styles, and it’s pretty rare for anyone’s laundry load to consist of just one type of garment.

But if you can work out the approximate size of your household’s average wash load, and compare it to these guidelines, you can get a better idea of what size washing machine will best suit your family’s needs. For example, if your homes dirty laundry basket holds the equivalent of 50 shirts, then a 10kg washing machine should be able to get the lot washed, without spending too much time, effort, energy or water.

A note on Big Things

Bulky items like blankets, curtains and doonas need a lot of room to wash properly. A washing machine with a smaller capacity- such as a top loader with a central agitator- may not only give your bulky items a bad clean, but it could also damage your items if they were to catch, tangle, stretch or tear.

As a general guideline, you’ll want a washer with a capacity of at least 6kg to efficiently wash the doona from a single-sized bed. Doubles will need 7kg, Queens 8kg, and Kings 9kg. And for a full-sized set of floor-to-ceiling curtains, you’ll want a washer with a capacity of at least 10kg to clean them well.

Remember though, if you want to wash bulkier items without wear and tear, try to choose a washer with a special Bedding cycle or something similar to provide these items with the best possible treatment.

Washers by capacity

Hopefully, we’ve equipped you with enough info to help make that all important decision. If so, use the handy icons below to view and shop our fantastic washing machine range by capacity. If not, keep scrolling for more ways we can help you. 

We’re here to help

Appliances Online customer service

If you’re still slightly confused and need help working out the right size, make and model of washing machine, or you simply have a question that needs answering, we can help! Check out our buying guides, send us an online message or call one of our friendly consultants on 1300 000 500. Our team’s available 24/7!

Check out our impressive range of high-quality washing machines that are ready to be delivered to your home- free of charge!*

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All the way from the land of the flightless bird, Krissy brings a part of New Zealand culture to the Appliances Online content team. And although she is adamant she does not say 'fush and chups', she can't deny her continuous use of the term 'sweet as' and her ongoing argument with her team on the correct name for jandals (thongs). One thing is for certain, however, her passion for her kiwi slang is matched with her love for sharing news, hacks and buying tips for all things appliances! Krissy's favourite appliance is the Tefal Cook4Me multi cooker, as she believes it's ok to let an appliance do all the work for you.

2 responses to “Get the right size washer – washing machine capacity explained”

  1. Tin says:

    I have just bought the Samsung WW75J4213IW 7.5kg Front load today. it is taking 3.1/2 hrs to wash my clothing. To me I consider it take to long time to do the wash. Is it any way to shorten washing time?



  2. Mark Bristow says:

    Thanks for your question, Tin.

    I’ve had a chat with some of our experts, and they agree that a good start would be to try out some different wash cycles and settings, using the control panel. Certain cycles are faster than others, though they do provide different levels of wash performance.

    It’s also important not to overload your machine, as this can lead to longer cycles and inconsistent cleaning. As a rule of thumb, you should have enough room to move your hand above the clothes while they’re being placed inside the drum.

    Hope that helps, Tin!


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