Where would we be without the mod cons of washing machines, washer dryers and tumble dryers? They're essential parts of kitchens and utility rooms the length and breadth of Britain - and choosing what's right for your home is as much about the space you have available as it is about cost or make.
Freestanding washing machines are the sort most people have in their homes. They cost less than an integrated washing machine, and many modern machines are able to handle surprisingly large loads in a single wash. They're easy to plumb in - and just as easy to take with you when you move house.
If you don't want your investment in beautiful kitchen units spoiled by the (typically) white glare of a washing machine front, choose an integrated machine. It sits behind a cabinet door matching your style of kitchen, with the bottom plinth running directly in front of it. Simple, neat and tidy.
Is space limited in your kitchen or utility room? Then you might prefer the convenience of a washer dryer. The freestanding variety can general handle bigger loads than the integrated type, but both can be set to wash your clothing or bedding then dry it.
Just like integrated washing machines, built-in washer dryers hide away in your kitchen. It means the effort you put in to achieve that perfect run of attractive cabinets isn't ruined by your white goods. The only thing to bear in mind is that integrated washer dryers often have a smaller wash capacity.
Perfect for drying all the family's laundry on even the wettest days, freestanding tumble dryers are the type most people go for. Many machines also remove creases, cutting down on tiresome ironing. Just plug into an electrical socket and switch on - but make sure it's properly vented (see below).
You guessed it - integrated tumble dryers blend in with your kitchen units by hiding behind a cabinet door that matches the rest of your kitchen. With this type of tumble dryer, you're best opting for a vent that goes out through a wall, or simply buying a condenser dryer (see below).
You can vent non-condensing tumble dryers in one of two ways. If yours has a tube that can be stretched to an open window or door, you can attach a kit to collect moisture from drying clothes. Better still, go for a wall vent - essentially, a tube that extends out through a wall, allowing hot air from the dryer to go outside and not create damp problems indoors.
If your budget will run to a condensing tumble dryer, you'll find this the most effective type. It simply collects moisture in an on-board tank that you then remove and empty every few loads. It means you can put a condenser dryer in any room of your home without worrying about damp issues.
The benefits of washing machines, washer dryers and tumble dryers largely speak for themselves. But it's worth considering what features a machine offers before you buy. Here are some typical features found on many modern appliances:
This is really a numbers game. Put simply, the higher the number, the faster the spin and the less water still in your laundry when you take it out. Go for the highest speed you can afford if you don't want to spend longer waiting for items to line dry, or more money drying them in your tumble dryer. Also, look out for machines offering variable spin speeds - much gentler on woollens and delicates.
Once again, the higher the number (in kilos), the bigger the load you can wash in one go. Most homes need only a 6kg load capacity - but if your household is larger, or you wash things like duvets at home, you're better off with a 7kg or 8kg machine. It's worth getting the same capacity tumble dryer as your washing machine if you think you'll need to dry indoors a lot over the wetter months.
Handy if you have sensitive skin or allergies, an extra rinse function makes sure as much detergent as possible is removed from laundry before you take it out to dry.
If using electricity at night is cheaper for you, you don't want to nip down at 1am to pop on a wash. A delayed start function means you set your machine to come on while you're in the land of nod.
A clever feature that works out how long to dry a load based on its weight and fabric type. Settings can include getting laundry extra dry, dried for ironing or simply dry enough to put away.