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How Much Laundry Is Too Much Laundry? A Guide to Washer Capacities

by Angela Maple

A standard washer’s size ranges from 3.5–5 cubic feet, capable of handling at least 12 pounds of laundry. But did you know that washing machines come in various sizes and capacities? Depending on that laundry appliance’s interior volume, the amount of laundry load sizes each machine can wash will vary. Regular (1/2-full), large (3/4-full), and extra-large loads (full but with room for tumbling) will not be the same quantity per washer because of their interior dimensions. With this in mind, avoid overloading the washer with too many items; this will prevent the washer from properly washing when there is no room for the load to soak or tumble during the spin cycle. So, you can’t treat every washer the same and load them up with pounds of clothes, bed sets, towels, pillows, or rugs that could affect the drum.

If you are unsure how much your washing machine can handle, a simple formula to help you calculate the tub capacity is:

Volume in cubic feet = (r2) (pi) (D)

  • r (radius) = diameter divided by 2
  • pi = 3.14
  • D (depth) = height of the cylinder

Whether you're looking at new washing machines or are curious about the capabilities of your current one, this guide will help you get the best use out of them and have a clean load of laundry every time!

Small-Capacity Washers

small washer with a load of laundry inside and a clothes basket beside it

These types of laundry appliances are typically 1.5–3.4 cubic feet in size. Small capacity washing machines are great for small households like couples or individuals living in a limited space. These smaller appliances can typically handle 4–8 pounds per laundry load but not including heavy or bulky items like quilts, bedding, and pillows. This is perfect if you don’t create a lot of laundry or typically wash regular 6-pound laundry loads.

Mid-Capacity Washers

single, white washer in laundry room with basket and soft blanket

Medium capacity is 4.5–4.9 cubic feet in size and is an excellent fit for an average-sized household in a standard-size home. This washing machine can also handle larger and bulkier items like comforters and pillows that may take on more water and require a stronger spin cycle. When it comes to laundry load sizes, whether it’s a regular or a full load, a medium-capacity washing machine can tolerate 7 or 8 pounds of laundry.

Large-Capacity Washers

White washing machine with blanket in drum and blankets of laundry around it

This large-sized appliance is 5.0–5.3 cubic feet and is ideal for a big household that washes more than three baskets worth of clothing in one load and large/bulky items. A large-capacity washer is worth the money spent if you are someone that frequently washes more than seven loads a week or if you have little or adult-sized athletes that need their uniforms or gym clothes cleaned regularly. If you are interested in doing larger loads and less laundry (who isn’t?), the large capacity washer is the best choice.

Keep in mind — it’s essential to consider the size of your household and how frequently you have to wash when buying a washing machine. You might lose money with a larger appliance if you do a few small loads or often wash multiple loads of laundry because the washer is too small. It is also important to know that overloading or underfilling the washing drum can cause imbalance during the spin cycle, result in a higher cost per load, and, ultimately, shorten the machine’s lifespan.

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