Washing machine capacities, Does size matter?

When it comes to buying a washing machine energy efficiency and the overall quality of the machine play big factors, but what about size. Does size matter? What size washing machine do I need? And how much can you fit into each specific size machine? I hope to answer these questions in the following post.

Does size matter?

Sounds like a question that can be applied to so many topics but in this case we are talking about the size or capacity of a washing machine. So does size matter? The short answer is yes, unfortunately that’s not a very helpful answer so I’ll go into a bit more detail.

The reason size matters is simple if your machine is to small it will take more loads to do all your washing, if its to big then you will be wasting energy and water each load. Some people might look at a smaller machine and think that being cheaper it will save them money, this is not the case. As I said before you will need to do more loads in your machine to get all your washing done and this will cost you extra money with each extra load. Also, overfilling your machine will impact the cleanliness of your clothes.

What is the capacity of that machine?

Now that you have a brief understanding on why size matters its time to look at how washing machines are rated for capacity. From my research it seems that not all machines are made equally, and the drum size isn’t relevant to the capacity. Yes a bigger drum will fit more clothes but the motor of the washing machine can play a large factor in capacity as well.

Whilst trying to come up with some sort of comparison scale for different machines I discovered that not all companies list the weight capacity of their machines, some prefer to simply list the volume of the drum. Some companies list how many towels a machine will fit in them, this isn’t very helpful unless you know the weight and dimensions of the towel used.

The two main capacities that companies use are Cubic feet and pounds. Cubic feet is the volume of the actual drum and pounds is the dry weight the machine can handle. It is best to use pounds to compare different machines as Two different brands may have two different weight limits for the same sized drum.

When a washing machine doesn’t list the weight capacity, I would recommend asking the supplier to find out for you. It is critical to know this and all models should have it displayed for the consumer.


What does the capacity mean?

When you hear the word capacity most people think “how much you can fit in it” when talking about washing machines that is exactly what it means. When a washing machine states that it can hold 13 pounds of clothes it is referring to the dry weight of the clothing not the wet weight.

When your clothes become wet they will weight more, but don’t worry your washing machine is ready for that. The manufactures have accounted for this when listing what the capacity of their machines are.



What size machine do I need?

So what size machine does your family require? Only you can truly answer that question as it is dependent on your laundry habits and how many people share the washing machine.

To help work out the size you require first you will need to answer these few questions

  • How many people will be using the washing machine?
  • How often do you wash your clothes?
  • How many outfits do you wear per day?
  • Do you have any space restrictions? (small laundry, small apartment?)
  • Do you wash large bulky items on a regular basis? (e.g king-size donas)

Once you have the answer to these questions we can start to look at what capacity machine would suit the needs of your family.

People using the machine:

The following can be used as a “guide only” to what capacity you may need.

  • 1 single person requires an 11 pound machine
  • A couple require a 13 pound machine
  • A small family 2 adults, 1 child require a 15 pound machine
  • A medium family 2 adults 2 children require a 17 pound machine
  • A large family 2 adults 3-4 children require a 20-22 pound machine
  • A very large family 2-3 adults 3 or more children require a 24-26 pound machine

How much does a load of washing weight

So you know how many people will be using the washing machine, its time to look at some average washing loads and what they weight. Let’s say you alone wear 1 outfit per day (shirt, pants and undergarments) that’s 3-5 pieces of clothing per day. Whilst socks, bra’s and underwear don’t take up much space, shirts and pants can pile up quickly. Assuming you use 1 towel per day this would be 7 towels in a week. The amount of towels you use in a week is dependent on your personal showering habits.

So based on the one outfit and one towel per day that gives us 7shirts, 7pairs of pants, 7 sets of undergarments and 7 towels. The next step now is to work out how much the items roughly weight to determine the size of this load. The best way to do this is to weight your own clothes at home as the data provided here is provided as a “guide only” and may not be the same as your actual clothing weight.

To weight your clothes you will need a set of scales and an empty washing basket. Stand on the scales holding the empty basket and record your weight, next place the desired piece of clothing into the basket and stand on the scales again. The difference in weight will be the weight of chosen item.


The formula for working out the weight would be (weight with item) minus (your weight without item) as an example (165.125 – 165 = .125)

To provide you with an idea on the weight of each item I have added a table showing some rough weights of common clothing.

Item Rough dry weight 7 Pairs
Women’s underpants 0.44 pounds 3.08 pounds
Women’s Bra 0.44 pounds 3.08 pounds
Women’s Socks 0.22 pounds 1.54 pounds
Women’s Pants 0.88 pounds 6.16 pounds
Women’s shirt 0.55 pounds 3.85 pounds
Women’s shorts 0.66 pounds 4.62 pounds
Women’s mid length dress 1.10 pounds 7.70 pounds
Women’s skirt 0.88 pounds 6.16 pounds
Women’s jeans 2.20 pounds 15.4 pounds
Men’s underpants 0.66 pounds 4.62 pounds
Men’s socks 0.33 pounds 2.31 pounds
Men’s pants 1.76 pounds 12.32 pounds
Men’s shirt 0.77 pounds 5.39 pounds
Men’s shorts 1.10 pounds 7.70 pounds
Men’s jeans 3.74 pounds 26.18 pounds
Childs pants 0.66 pounds 4.62 pounds
Childs jeans 0.88 pounds 6.16 pounds
Childs shirt 0.39 pounds 2.73 pounds
Childs skirt 0.66 pounds 4.62 pounds
Childs shorts 0.44 pounds 3.08 pounds
Childs underpants 0.44 pounds 3.08 pounds
Childs socks 0.22 pounds 1.54 pounds
Small towel 0.88 pounds 6.16 pounds
Medium towel 1.32 pounds 9.24 pounds
Large towel 2.20 pounds 15.4 pounds

7 sets of womens clothing is 17.71pounds split in to 2 loads is 8.85 pounds per load

7 sets of mens clothing is 24.64 pounds split into 2 loads is 12.32 pounds per load

7 medium towels is 9.24pounds one load worth.

So going off the above figures a single individual could live with a machine of just 11-12 pound capacity. Whilst you could purchase a 20 pound machine and do it in fewer loads you would have to wait till all your clothes were ready to be washed at the same time. Running a large capacity machine with a half load still costs the same as running a full load. A family of four would be suited to a machine with a capacity of around 17 pounds.