All-in-One Washer/Dryer Buying Guide

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If you've ever wondered whether all-in-one washer/dryers are worth it, read on.

Urban apartment dwellers, owners of tiny homes and Europeans have been sweet on all-in-one washer/dryers for decades. Appreciated for their compact size — easily fitting into closets, under kitchen counters or in bathrooms — these machines are steadily growing in popularity.

Bendix Home Appliances introduced the first combination washer/dryer to the public in 1953. Early versions were clunky and low performing. Today’s two-in-ones are more technically advanced, offering intelligent operations such as steam-cleaning, extra-hot temperature settings for sanitizing, and smart features that send alerts and information to your phone through an app.

What Is an All-In-One Washer/Dryer?

An all-in-one is a clothes washer and dryer in a single drum. They’re almost always front-loading and tend to be slightly smaller than a standard standalone washer or dryer.

Washer/Dryers: All-in-Ones vs. Separate

Here’s an overview of how combos and standalone washers and dryers stack up against one another.

Washing Ability

The two types are surprisingly comparable in cleaning clothes and cycle times. The difference comes down to drum capacity and the drying function (see below).

Drying Ability

All-in-one washer/dryers are ventless, resulting in significantly longer dry times than their separate counterparts. Investing in a more expensive combo that uses heat-pump technology, rather than a condenser, can speed up the process. Also look for an all-in-one with a faster spin cycle (1,400 RPM or more) to wick away the most water possible, which can really cut down on drying times.

Load Size

With smaller size comes smaller loads, so you’ll need to run the all-in-one machine more times to clean the same amount of laundry as a separate washer and dryer. The average capacity of an all-in-one is 2.5 cubic feet, about the equivalent of three outfits. There are a couple of two-in-ones on the market that can accommodate up to 4.5 cubic feet of laundry.

Another thing to keep in mind: In combos, washing capacity is larger than the drying capacity. So to properly dry the clothes, you may have to split the load into two.

Cycle Run Time

With average run times between three and six hours, all-in-ones will try your patience. It will be difficult to complete more than one load of laundry a day. If you’re someone who’s frequently in a rush, a separate washer and dryer is a better choice.

Fabric Life

“An all-in-one can be a great space saver, but not necessarily the best for your clothes,” says fabric expert Eve Token of The Creative Curator. “With wash and dry cycles taking up to six hours to complete, that’s a lot of water, heat and agitation applied to fabrics that may not be able to withstand such.”

Dimensions

With average widths from 23 to 27 inches, a typical combination washer/dryer takes up about half the space of traditional side-by-side machines.

Energy and Water Efficiency

All-in-one washer/dryers on average use more energy and water than traditional appliances.

Cost

Given the complex nature of two-in-ones, you’ll find they’re a lot more expensive than purchasing a pair of separate machines. You’ll also need to factor in the increased electric and water bills generated from longer run times.

Installation

Thanks to their ventless design and 120-volt power source, combo washer/dryers are relatively easy to install. You’ll need an electrical outlet, a water supply and a hose that feeds condensation into a sink or drain. Handy DIYers can usually handle the job.

Repairs

Because of the washing and drying aspects involved, all-in-ones are more complicated mechanically. Breakdowns are not as straightforward as that of conventional washers and dryers. Parts can be difficult to find, and if one function conks out, the entire appliance may have to be replaced.

Who Should Consider Buying an All-In-One Washer/Dryer?

If you have limited space, then you should absolutely consider buying an all-in-one washer dryer. Others who might benefit from owning one include:

  • Singles;
  • Those who prefer line-dried clothes (avoiding the problematic dryer);
  • RV and boat owners;
  • Patient people who can wait three to six hours to do a load of laundry.

If an all-in-one is your only option, says Token, “try to allow some breathing time for the fabrics by running your wash and drying cycles separately.”

Fortunately, many combos allow you to set the wash cycle to stop when completed rather than automatically going straight into the dry cycle. This also allows you to pull out delicate items that may require drip-drying or other special treatment.

Toni DeBella
Toni DeBella is a freelance travel, lifestyle and digital content writer based in a medieval hill town in central Italy. Her work has been featured in such publications as Fodor's, The Telegraph, Walks of Italy, Italy Magazine, Frommers.com, Touring Bird (via [email protected]) and more. Most recently she authored the 2020 edition of DK Eyewitness Sicily travel guide. When Toni is not roaming around Europe, you'll find her tending her alley-side container garden or honing her clay-court tennis game.