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Do Washer/Dryer Combo Machines Really Work?

I think it’s great that there are so many options when it comes to setting up your laundry appliances. I recently moved and changed to a washer/dryer combo, which brought some limitations to light that I hadn’t fully realized when I made the purchase.

This is not to say that washer/dryer combos are a waste of time and money; I just think my experience could provide some insight for you who are looking for a space-saving/cheaper/convenient option. So, let’s look at what works and what misses the mark a little.

Combo machines function as a washer and dryer, but there are limitations. The dryer seems less fleshed out with limited programs, time control, and the door lock, which can be frustrating. The washer is front-loading and has limited capacity. Plus, the Wash + Dry is not the ultimate program.

The Machine Washes and Dries Clothes

A washer/dryer combo means you have a single, front-loading appliance that can function as a washer and a dryer. This integrated unit is great for saving space or starting out in your own home when you only afford to buy one appliance.

It may sound questionable if you’ve never seen such a machine, but it really does function as a full washer and a dryer. The operational ability of one is not compromised by the other; it’s not like it can’t drain properly or leaves clothes wet.

LG WM3488HW 24" Washer/Dryer Combo with 2.3 cu. ft. Capacity, Stainless Steel Drum in White

There are, however, both pros and cons to these combos, so let’s look at them from an angle of personal experience. Hopefully, I can help you decide if it is worth purchasing.

For context, when I moved, I went from having a separate washer and dryer to a Samsung combo (WD70TA046BX/FA).

Dryer Limitations

Fewer Dryer Programs

In my experience, there are fewer program options for the dryer side. This may be perfect for the sake of space, or it may not bother someone who just does what it takes to get laundry done.

Having less control over the programs makes it feel less complete, though, and it has less customization than a separate dryer.

I did some research, looking at several well-known brands of laundry appliances like LG, GE Appliances, and Whirlpool in addition to my machine. Most combo machines appear to have more wash programs (I noted between 12-17) than dryer programs (about 1-6).

Having experience using the machines separately, my combo machine seems to function more like a stand-alone washer than it does a stand-alone dryer, even though it can dry clothes with no issues.

Cannot Control Dry Times as Well

Along with the typically fewer drying programs, most of those available are hours long. This frustrated me after coming from separate machines. Even if you haven’t experienced the separate setup, the deficit in time control may not be ideal.

I used to be able to take clothes from the line and pop them into the dryer for a final 15 minutes to finish drying, soften, and get rid of the wrinkles. I could even gamble with clothes that might shrink because I could just put them in for a short time.

Woman putting clothes inside the dryer

Most of the time-specific programs come in 30-minute intervals (30, 60, 120). This leaves you with little room to customize how long your dryer runs; you don’t always want a full-length program.

I don’t like the thought of using so much electricity when I don’t need to. It not only costs me money, but it is not the greenest way to use a dryer.

However, these programs may be the better option (compared to the pre-set dry cycles for certain materials) as you can, at least, limit the drying time. Otherwise, you might end up locked out of the machine for a good two or more hours.

The Door Locks During Drying

One of my biggest peeves about my washer/dryer is that the door locks. Of course, I fully understand why this is a feature, but I still find it inconvenient. First, let me explain the lock feature, and then I will explain why I dislike it at some times.

The door on the machine locks during times when it would be unsafe or inappropriate to open the door. It locks when it is full of water and when it is very hot from drying. This is to protect you and your home.

However, a little heat is part of my laundry process. I line-dry much of my clothing as often as possible, but I always like to use the dryer for a few minutes. So, I would set the dryer for around 20 minutes and stop it around the 15-minute mark before the cooling was complete.

Woman setting up  the controls on the dryer

This helps to ensure the clothes are fully dry, but warming them up and then folding or hanging them also helps reduce wrinkles. I, therefore, have less ironing to do—when is this ever not the goal.

Considering that I cannot specifically set the dryer for a short cycle, which I would stop just before finishing, I also cannot open the dryer if I stop it during the 30-minute cycle. At least, not until it has cooled. This defeats my aim and increases my ironing pile.

Basically, I almost never use the dryer. I tend to only use it when the weather is really bad or when I’m in a hurry.

Another consideration here is that the locking system means that the door cannot be reversed, so make sure you buy one with a door that swings in the best direction for you.

Washer Limitations

No Top-Loader Options

Washing machines are available in top-load and front-load options, but dryers are only available as front-loaders. This is because when you have a front-loading drum, it can spin faster, making it more efficient at drying your clothing.

This might seem confusing since you can find dryers categorized as top loading. However, it’s an aesthetic not a functional design. Dryers can be made to look like a top-loader as a way to match the machine to a top-loader washer. The door remains on the front for a front-loading drum.

So, because a washer can be both while a dryer can only be one, you have no choice but to get a front-loading washer and dryer combo.

This is unfortunate since top-loaders have their benefits. For example, you can leave the door open without it getting in the way. This means that it can properly dry out, which is better for its continued function.

Another advantage is that top-loading washers are easy to access since the door is on the top. This means you need to stoop and bend less to use it.

RCA RPW210-C Portable Washer-LED Digital Display Panel-5 Cycles-Top Loading Design-Low Noise Washing Machine, 2.1 cu ft, White

Top-loading machines are also known to allow larger drum capacities. A bigger washer allows you to do fewer loads. With my penchant for line-drying, I never needed as big a dryer. I know many people don’t line-dry, though.

Capacity Limitations

There are several washer and dryer sizes and capacities that you can choose from. When you get a separate washer and dryer, you can choose from the full range of compact, standard, large, and extra-large for both.

This allows you to fully customize your laundry capabilities to match your needs. In comparison, most combo machines are classified as compact capacity. It’s helpful when you have a limited budget and space, but it is not the most family-friendly size.

I downsized in terms of the washer, and I felt it. This probably won’t be an issue if you are used to standard capacity washers, but when you suddenly have to double the number of loads you do and wonder if your bedspread will fit in the machine, it can be frustrating.

It is worth noting that even in this combined unit, the washer is likely to have a bigger capacity than the dryer because aeration space isn’t a factor. So, your washing loads can still be a decent size, although nothing like the extra-large top-loaders.

But even this capacity difference between the washer and dryer side has implications for the effectiveness of the combined function. With the Wash + Dry programs typical of these machines, you can run into some issues.

Using Wash + Dry Programs Not Always Practical

I find there are two main issues with the Wash + Dry program.

Firstly, as I mentioned above, the washer can take a bigger load than the dryer. This means that the amount of clothes washed may not be able to directly translate to the dryer function.

If your machine is not stopping to let you address this, you might come back to the machine to find a damp mess. Otherwise, you have to split the load before drying, which then counters the intended convenience.

Secondly, tumbling your clothes dry can take a really long time.

Woman setting up the control of the washer

The drum is still wet when you take your clothes out after washing them. With separate machines, you transfer the clothes into a dry machine. With the combo, using one of the wash-then-dry programs, the drying time will be longer because it has to combat the dampness in the machine from the wash cycle.

This has time, cost, and environmental implications. The longer dry time means more electricity is used and paid for, which has pollution considerations.

When your main option for using the dryer is as part of this Wash + Dry program, it might not be the most practical for everyone. I will certainly choose other options if available, but maybe you only do small loads and want to cover washing and drying in a single option while you are out of the house.

Most machines also do not come with reversible doors, which is likely due to a combination of factors.


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