Maximum laundry, minimum space
December 15, 2009 6:22 PM   Subscribe

What are your experiences using a combination washer/dryer?

I am thinking of buying one for my very tiny new house, but somehow it seems too good to be true! Do they really work? Is there a brand you've tried that you like?

It would have to fit in a space that's 23"X25". (Can face either direction)
posted by exceptinsects to Home & Garden (25 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I don't recall the brand, but I do remember that the clothes almost NEVER came out dry. I constantly had to hang-dry them following the "drying" cycle.
posted by arm426 at 6:27 PM on December 15, 2009

I used on while visiting a friend in Europe. It was small and convenient. It fit under his kitchen counter like a dishwasher. That said, if you actually left your clothes in there to dry, they came out terribly wrinkled. My friend had learned just when to take them out and drape them across the furniture. The wrinkles were really really bad and very deep set and hard to get out if you didn't take the clothes out on time.

Also, this may have been my doing somehow, but it turned all my underwear washwater purple. These weren't new clothes that had never been washed, they were old and the colour had never run before, but it ran in this washer.

Given the choice I would take a stacking washer/dryer instead. It still has a small footprint.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 6:29 PM on December 15, 2009

Oh, and I also remember that at the end of the drying cycle it locked for some period of time and you couldn't take your clothes out because it was dangerously hot in there and it needed time to cool.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 6:30 PM on December 15, 2009

I ad the same experience as If only ... Used a combination washer/dryer in the UK, and had to dry even the smallest lightest stuff for at least 90 minutes. And some of my underwear got dyed a very dark grey, from washing black socks with it, which I do all the time at home. I don't know if it was the washing or drying cycle that did it.

The other odd thing I found was that after the drying cycle, opening the unit fogged up my glasses, which my home dryer never has enough moisture left to do. It was much like opening a dishwasher, rather than a clothes dryer.

And finally, at least with the one I used, there was no way to stop it mid-cycle, in any of the cycles. Once I set it, I had to live with it.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 6:34 PM on December 15, 2009

I had one in the flat that I rented when I first moved to London. The small capacity was a bit frustrating, and drying could take a really long time. It was perfectly manageable for things like small loads of underwear, socks, T-shirts, etc., but tough when doing things like sheets and towels. I could only wash one or two towels at a time, and getting them dry would take a couple of hours. So one load could take two to three hours in all, and of course the machine wouldn't be free again until drying was done, so doing two loads in a row was not very practicable.

SO - it's definitely useful as opposed to having to take laundry somewhere else, but if you are used to getting through lots of laundry in a concentrated amount of time, then it might be utterly exasperating.
posted by sueinnyc at 6:36 PM on December 15, 2009

The trick with washer dryers is to use them to wash and about 3/4ths dry. The stuff gets very hot, but at the same time it's very humid in there. You take everything out after an hour, and hang it to... it's less drying and more de-humidifying. It takes about 15 minutes and everything is grand. Loads of steam rises off and evaporates and you're left with dry clothes that are easy to iron when needed.

In other words, people who are using the dry cycle for ages and ages until the stuff is actually traditional dryer dry are doing it wrong. It just doesn't work that way. My American parents were amazed that clothes retrieved very damp indeed were perfectly fine 20 minutes later.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:51 PM on December 15, 2009

we have used a haier hwd1000 in a couple of apartments over the last couple of years (one was provided, the second we bought). because it is ventless, drying is slow and often incomplete, so we use a warming/drying rack to finish the job.

when we get lazy and let the laundry back up too much, we take the excess to get the fluff & fold treatment. (but we're just two adults with simple wardrobes -- it doesn't take much for us to keep up.)

we feel all of this totally worth it in comparison to dealing with shared laundry facilities. but if we could, we would vastly prefer a stacking, vented washer/dryer setup.
posted by jimw at 6:56 PM on December 15, 2009

I had an LG one in an apartment I rented. It constantly stopped in the last 10 minutes of the wash cycle and gave an error message. It took about four hours to do a load, and I had to babysit it nonstop and rebalance the load after every error message.
posted by transona5 at 6:57 PM on December 15, 2009

I have this LG combo, which would fit exactly in your space.

I'm very happy with it, despite the flaws noted in the comments above, because I

a) live in a 4th floor walkup with no laundry facilities in the building.

b) have an outdoor space where I've revived a bit of Old New York by setting up a clothesline. (Actually, a relatively discreet fold-up umbrella-type thingy.)

c) work at home so I can do multiple loads during the week instead of ruining one of my weekend days.

The dryer function is somewhat useful when it's too cold or wet to line-dry but, like If only's friend, I've learned to take everything out while it's still dampish and hang it up on a smaller line in the bathroom.

You're in San Diego so too cold/wet doesn't really apply. If you can find a bigger spot to install it, you'd be better off with a regular washer and a decent umbrella-type clothesline. But even the stackables have a bigger footprint than you've specified—at least the ones I've looked at.

Good luck, and congrats on the new house!
posted by dogrose at 7:04 PM on December 15, 2009

Oh, you're in San Diego, and in a house. This could actually work very well for you because you can, like many Europeans, opt to hang your drying out for much of the year and just use the dryer function for stuff you'd really want to dry like jeans, and in wet weather. This is, obviously, the most ecologocal and economic option.

The only issue I see is that 23.5 is the minimum width for standard manufacturing; you can get up to 9kgs in there, which is about 20 lbs of laundry. The 23 inches you have is going to be tight and you may need to get a slimline version, which will hold less laundry.

But really, hundreds of thousands of people get on with combi units just fine; you just have to understand them. Follow the washing and particularly the drying weight capacity guidelines, do not over-dry, be prepared to de-steam with hanging; you'll be fine.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:12 PM on December 15, 2009

I have one in my apartment, and apparently it's one of the best (and most expensive) models, a Miele. I hate it.

It takes 3 hours to go through an entire wash/dry cycle. It is a 5kg machine, but I can't put more than 2-3kg in it, or the clothes will wrinkle to the point of almost being permanent. Even if I leave them somewhat wet, everything still comes out wrinkled and I have to iron everything, including my jeans, which increases the total amount of time needed to over 3 hours.

It has ruined a couple pairs of jeans, leaving odd streak marks all over them (apparently, you are supposed to turn your jeans inside out and make sure they don't get anywhere close to being dry before you remove them). Maybe this is something you're always supposed to do with jeans, but I never had to do this when I was in the US.

Given that it can barely wash a day's worth of clothes and takes 3 hours (+ ironing), if you don't continually keep up with it then you will still have to end up going to a laundromat to "catch up" on laundry (at least this is the case for me, as I am not home often enough to do more than 1 load/day).

If you only have enough space for a washer, then I suppose it doesn't hurt to have one, since the wash works exactly the same as any other washer. But if there's any possibility for you to install a separate dryer, I would do that instead.
posted by helios at 7:17 PM on December 15, 2009

I used one when staying in a long term motel type place. I loathed it. Once it was going it was very difficult to open. You could stop it mid cycle (once I finally found the extremely well hidden stop button) then wait for 15-20 minutes and it would generally unlock, but not always. If I forget to add a sock I want to just throw it in, I don't want to wait while the machine carefully decides if I'm getting my clothes back first. Changing the program part way through was impossible. Getting the program to stop and reset was difficult but I think I managed it once after messing around turning it on and off for 45 minutes or so.

Add on top of that incredibly long cycle times, with the shortest 'time save' cycle which was supposed to take 45 minutes (according to the manual) taking somewhere around four hours and the 'normal' cycle taking more than eight (I don't know how much more, I gave up), and it got very frustrating, very fast. That may have been something about the way it was set up but even 45 minutes is much longer than my top loader takes for a quick cycle. Being stuck with leaving it going once it's set is so much worse when it takes a whole day to wash two towels.

I don't like using a dryer in general anyway and convicing this thing to just wash my clothes in cold water and give them back to me immediately was difficult (there was no program that wouldn't heat my clothes in some way), which is probably an issue with that particular model. So if nothing else check out what programmes are possible on there to make sure they match what you want and find out how to avoid the awful running time issue I was having, the door thing it looks like you'd just have to live with (and may not hate as much as I did, I'm using to throwing extra things in without thinking)
posted by shelleycat at 7:21 PM on December 15, 2009

Yet another vote against the combo machine. When I had one (another LG), it was constantly breaking and leaking and the local washer/dryer repair shops didn't know what to do with it, had never seen it before. I once spent a whole day sitting on the floor, painstakingly siphoning out water that had become trapped inside. Getting it repaired was a tremendous pain in the ass that we eventually gave up on doing. The cycles took forever and got really, REALLY, FLOOR-SHAKING-LY LOUD. I was thinking maybe they had advanced the technology and they were better now, but from the other comments it sounds like they haven't.
I would recommend one of the stacked units but it sounds like it would be too tall to fit in your space.
posted by amethysts at 7:28 PM on December 15, 2009

Another vote against, I had a combo machine in the hotel I stayed in in China about a year ago. It was nice to not have to rely on the hotels laundry service but you had to keep up on everything. It would only do one pair of pants and perhaps two shirts and socks etc at once. Essentially you had to do laundry every other day at least and careful planning was required to get through a weekend without using it. And I didn't have to do sheets or anything except my clothes, I can't imagine trying to do a whole houses worth of 'real' laundry with it. It took forever and everything was extremely wrinkled so there was that added work. The Chinese labels didn't help but overall I didn't care for it.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 7:49 PM on December 15, 2009

I liked my LG. We were a family of 3 -- and we had a baby with cloth diapers! Imagine the amount of laundry! We learned to just do a half load of clothes, stop after the wash cycle, fluff the clothes, and toss them back in. Worked for us.

However, we were quite happy when we moved to a new home and it had regular full-sized laundry. Still, we could have lived with it for a long while. If you have a choice, go with regular separate laundry. If not, it is the best option for the circumstances.
posted by acoutu at 7:59 PM on December 15, 2009

I have a really good Thomson combo washer/dryer in France. It doesn't get clothes completely dry but hanging them anywhere inside for a couple hours is enough. On any windy day that isn't actively raining, though, you're better off just hanging the clothes outside. The drying cycle is mainly for those weeks when the rain won't stop.
posted by jet_silver at 8:43 PM on December 15, 2009

I used one when I lived in Europe, and my neighbors in the next flat just got one a few months ago. What everyone else has said, pretty much: it'll get your clothes clean and then really hot, but not dry. Take them out when they're hot, have a system to hang them, and they'll dry quickly and relatively wrinkle-free. Leave them in until they're actually dry, and they'll have baked-in wrinkles.

One other thing: they vibrate. A lot. I'm sitting at my kitchen table typing this and my neighbors are running their machine. I can feel the table vibrating and it's their machine that's causing it.
posted by trip and a half at 8:46 PM on December 15, 2009

Oh I also meant to say that I lived for a while in a place that had one of those washer-with-dryer-above appliances. That was a festival of awesomeness.
posted by trip and a half at 8:53 PM on December 15, 2009

I love my LG washerdryer combo . . . I did a LOT of reading before buying one . . . and it's true that there's a bit of a learning curve (!!) and that they don't work the same as typical washers and dryers. (The dryer capacity is only half of the washing capacity . . . so you need to take out some clothes before you set it to dry.) I use an Antonius drying rack from IKEA and that gives me tons of drying space for shirts and stuff I don't need to dry in the dryer.

But the machine works well in my apartment and it gets my clothes really, really clean. Like, I used someone else's normal machine recently (my kitchen is undergoing renovation, thus I can't use the washerdryer combo just yet) -- and I was horrified at how dirty the jacket still was after a full wash and double rinse cycle! There are tons of different wash and dry settings on the LG and I think my clothes are all the better for it. memail me if you wish for, uh, loads more info.
posted by oldtimey at 9:49 PM on December 15, 2009

I had a Haier and hated it. It had a tiny capacity, took forever to wash a load and the dry cycle did nothing at all. My tiny apartment was constantly covered in drying clothing and I couldn't invite anyone over if it was one of the 4 days a week I did laundry. By the time I moved out all my towels smelled funny and it put streaks on other clothing.
posted by fshgrl at 11:19 PM on December 15, 2009

I've lived in both the US and the UK (native US with insanely huge washers and driers from the 70s). I love single unit washer/dryer combos. There are many differences, and there will be some adjustment time needed, and if you're resistant to change, don't do it.

1) They are smaller. There's usually a weight limit in the instructions for how much clothing you can load it with. This affects the spin - too heavy a load and the spin won't work, and your clothes stay soaking. There is even a difference between the weight limit for washing and the weight limit for drying, which seems bizarre, but there it is. (The limit is lower for drying than for washing.) Bear in mind that most people in Other Than North America refrain from using a dryer if at all possible. (Ikea makes a fantastic cheap drying rack that looks like an electricity maiden, holds two loads (or two double sheets and assorted odds and ends) on a small foot print.)

2) They take longer. Crazy longer. Just for a wash cycle. It's partly a front loading thing, I think. It soaks, and then spins a bit, and soaks, and spins a bit. It takes less water and less energy to get clothes really clean, though. And the spins are usually really good and remove more water from the clothes, making drying faster. Um. Theoretically. Under certain circumstances.

3) The dryness thing - yes, it helps to take them out damp and hang them, and they do dry quickly after that (and less wrinkly - but the wrinkly issue is also because of overloading). However, mostly this should be solved if you hook it up to vent like a typical North American (and other unspecified places?) dryer. All the dryers I've seen in the UK (home ones, not laundrette ones) get rid of the moisture by some weird condensation process, which collects all the moisture in a little container instead of venting it to the outside. A vent would probably be better at getting the moisture out more efficiently. If you do have the condenser, make sure to read the directions - it actually needs water in it to work. (according to some instructions I read once...) And then of course it needs to be drained of excess water periodically, also.

4) The weird colour thing - this is most likely because people have been washing at the wrong temperatures. It really pays to be careful about checking the tags - in the UK the choices of temp aren't hot/warm/cold. They're 30, 40, 50/60, 90. That's in degrees C. 30 is bath warm/hot. 90 is nearly boiling, and 60 will make your colours run. In America, I don't separate my laundry, I wash it all on cold/cold or warm cold with no ill effects. Tried that with one of these, not understanding what 90 meant, and ruined half my stuff. (And the other half chafed.) Choice of detergent also has an effect, obviously.

That all having been said, it helps to remember how these were sort of designed to be used - for putting in a load at night (when there's less demand for electricity and the rates are lower) and letting it go. In this case, the long time needed for a wash and dry isn't a handicap. It can be frustrating when you're trying to get through a week's washing in a Saturday morning, however.

I've briefly used stacking washer/dryer combos, and hated those - you can also only wash a sheet and a washcloth at a time, but they have none of the benefits of the single unit washer/dryer. Grump. I never have any off-balance issues with a front loader.

Oh, and the ones I've used have never been high end models - always cheap and crappy.

So. They're awesome, but different, and it's really important to read the instructions. And also not to trust the 'wool' setting.
posted by magdalenstreetladies at 1:40 AM on December 16, 2009

We had a washer/dryer, just used the washer and would hang-dry. An Ikea fold out self-standing dryer thing and a fan go a long way to drying things very quickly.
posted by jedrek at 1:47 AM on December 16, 2009

LG model, my boyfriend bought one when he moved into his unit. I'll say thumbs down too, for these reasons:
an auto-lock mechanism that doesn't have an unlock function. Once stuff's in, it's IN;
it takes forever, and still is locked when it's in cooldown mode (trust me, machine, if I burn myself I will just blame myself instead of you), and the cooldown mode is at least an unncessary 5 hours, making what used to be a two hour load into at least 10;
it completely craps itself when coins get into the wash; rather than just making noise like in a normal washing machine, it will block up the hoses which will result in hours of bucketing out.

I usually use my outside clothesline to dry (benefits of ground floor unit, I suppose), but I miss being able to use a dryer for short 20 min bursts to refresh towels or jeans. Auto-lock prevents this.

AUTOLOCK I FUCKING HATE YOU. I don't think you realise how long I've been wanting to express that.
posted by chronic sublime at 3:42 AM on December 16, 2009

Wow. The horror stories about these things really surprise me. I certainly agree that a machine that holds your laundry hostage for five hours sucks, but having used at least three different brands and five different units that don't do this, I'd urge someone considering buying a washer/dryer to check out a few models and possibly pick one that doesn't have this issue.

Mine have all had locks so they can't be opened during a cycle and pee all over the floor, but I can usually get around this by advancing the cycle through to a drain/spin and then to End and wait a few minutes (not worth it for a forgotten sock, but possible). I've started and stopped mid-cycle a few times when I've needed to re-drain/spin because I've overloaded the thing and ended up with laundry soup. And the dryer cycle can be stopped by turning the thing off and then it either opens immediately (current washer) or after 5-15 seconds (previous washer), and I can pop things in and start the dryer part, no problem. Lucky, cos I leave the clothes out to dry in the rain far too often. (And my dryer runs on a timer... not, like, 'I'll release your clothes when I SAY THEY'RE DRY ENOUGH!!! WHICH IS NEVER! BWAHAHAHA!!' That's a weird system.)

And coins... have been washed many times with no ill effects. I can't even see where they would have a chance to block hoses. There seem to be some colossally sucky washer/dryers out there, though. Sheesh. I can see why people would hate the whole species after experiences like that.
posted by magdalenstreetladies at 5:55 AM on December 16, 2009

I have the LG linked above and love love love it. A combo is not for you if you insist on bone-dry out of the dryer, if you have more than a couple of people in your household or if you need your laundry to be done in under an hour.

I don't have a washer-dryer hookup, so this is perfect for me. I have a quick connect on the hose, and it gets water from and drains into the sink. No vent for the dryer and being able to plug into a regular outlet is what causes longer drying times, and a drying rack is a good idea. I find it a small tradeoff for convenience. And it does get clothes really, really clean. You must use HE detergent. The unit must be level on the floor. The load should not be too big, but it shouldn't be too small, either, so it can spin efficiently (and it does).

For me, a normal single load is about an hour to wash and an hour in the dryer, after which I just take the stuff out and let it air dry.

The LG has a pause button and a stop button. You are NOT locked out for hours -- it's about a minute to open the door for any reason.

I'd say you can avoid 90 percent of the problems mentioned so far by glancing at the manual.

We've had three combos over the years, the LG is the only one I would recommend.
posted by sageleaf at 11:14 AM on December 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

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