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Which washing machine cleans and treats your clothes the best?

April 21, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
These days a brand-new washing machine could cost you more than $1,000.

In fact, the new Whirlpool Vantage costs $2,000. It boasts a fancy touchscreen with more than 50 different wash cycles, a USB port for software upgrades, and even an illuminated washtub.

Consumer Reports tested the Vantage along with 117 other washing machines to see how well they perform and if all the "bells and whistles" are worth the extra cost.

Swatches stained with tough substances like red wine, cocoa, blood, and dirt were used to see how well the washers clean. While fabric swatches with small holes were used to evaluate how gentle a washer is on your clothes.

"Our testers even weigh the laundry before the spin cycle and after the spin cycle. That's to see how much water the machine extracts. And the less water that's in the laundry means the less time it's going to spend in the dryer," said Consumer Reports' Celia Kuperszmid Lehrman.

In the end, testers found you don't have to spend anywhere near $2,000 on the Vantage to get a great washing machine.

While the Vantage was Consumer Reports' top-scoring top-loading washer, the $600 Whirlpool Cabrio only scored one point lower in the tests. It uses less energy and washes much faster than the Vantage, too.

If you prefer a front-loading washer, Consumer Reports rated the $800 Kenmore Model 4027 a best buy. It rated excellent for cleaning, gentleness, and capacity, as well as energy and water efficiency.