What is a Built-in Washing Machine?

What Is an Integrated Washing Machine?

A kitchen is one of the most functional spaces in any home – but that doesn’t mean they can’t be stylish too. If you’re the sort of person who likes to keep your home looking clean, minimal and clutter free, an integrated washing machine could be just what you’re looking for.

Want to know more? This guide covers:

What is an integrated washing machine?

An integrated washing machine sits behind one of the cupboard doors in a fitted kitchen, meaning it’s completely hidden when the door is closed. They’re specifically designed to fit inside an enclosed space, meaning integrated washing machines have a few key differences to conventional freestanding washing machines.

Built-in washing machine

How do integrated washing machines work?

Integrated washing machines – also known as built-in washing machines – have a cupboard door at the front, usually attached to the machine itself, so they look just like any other kitchen cabinet. The legs are set back and the base of the washing machine is recessed so that a wooden kitchen plinth can be fitted across the front and sit flush with the other units.

As they occupy a smaller space than freestanding machines, integrated washing machines are slightly thinner, shorter and shallower than their freestanding counterparts. This allows them to sit in line with your kitchen cabinets and still have space for pipes and water connections at the back. It also means they often have a smaller load capacity than freestanding washing machines.

Integrated washing machines rely on the cupboard they’re fitted to for stability and support, and should never be used unless they’re securely fitted. They also usually have slower spin speeds than freestanding models, as the vibrations from high spin speeds might otherwise cause issues for cupboard doors and neighbouring units or appliances.

What is the difference between integrated and freestanding washing machines?

While integrated and freestanding washing machines do the same job, there are some key design differences that mean an integrated washing machine can’t be safely used as a freestanding one, and vice versa. There are also differences in capacity and performance to keep in mind.

Integrated washing machines:

  • Blend seamlessly into your fitted kitchen
  • Are often quieter than freestanding machines
  • Have slightly smaller dimensions than freestanding machines
  • Sometimes have a smaller load capacity
  • May offer lower spin speeds
  • Can be more expensive, due to the complexity of the design, the extra fittings required and lower manufacturing volumes
  • Cost more to install, as installation is more complex

However, these are generalisations and washing machine design and performance is getting better all the time. For example, it’s possible to find integrated washing machines with a drum capacity of up to 9kg, as well as affordable integrated washing machines costing less than £400.

As far as actually washing your clothes goes, there’s no distinction. According to Which?: ‘Our research shows that the average scores for cleaning quality and rinsing for integrated and freestanding versions are on par’.

What is a semi-integrated washing machine?

A semi-integrated washing machine has a cupboard door fitted over the front but leaves the top control panel visible. Other than that there’s no difference between a semi and fully integrated washing machine.

The main advantage they offer is making it easy to see how long is left in your wash cycle and when your washing is finished. Because semi-integrated washing machines are harder to find, you’ll probably find you have less choice than if you opt for a fully integrated model.

Can you use an integrated washing machine freestanding?

Integrated washing machines are designed to be fitted into kitchen units and are not to be used as a freestanding machine. They’re built differently and, without being fixed in place, wouldn’t be stable enough to use safely.

Fully integrated washing machines have a flat-fronted door with space to attach the cupboard door hinges. They also have set-back legs and a recessed base at the front. Without the support of a kitchen unit the washing machine wouldn’t be stable enough, which is why manufacturers always advise against using an integrated washing machine like a freestanding one.

In the same way, it’s not usually a good idea to try and turn your ordinary freestanding washing machine into an integrated one. Even if you’re handy at DIY, you’d need to make quite a lot of modifications – which would not only invalidate your warranty, but could also ruin the machine. Bottom line: hacks are great for furniture, not so great for electrical appliances.

Integrated washing machine

Where is the filter on an integrated washing machine?

The filter is usually on the front of the washing machine behind a small hatch. If you have an integrated washing machine, you may need to remove or unclip the kitchen unit plinth to access it.

The filter works to prevent dirt and fluff from blocking the washing machine pump. It should unscrew to let you drain the water and remove any obstructions.

In integrated washing machines, the filter is often hidden behind the kitchen plinth at the base of the washing machine, meaning you’ll need to remove the plinth to access it. This shouldn’t be difficult, as a good installer will fit the plinth using clips so it can be easily removed for maintenance and repairs. Have a quick check for screws, then gently try to pull the plinth away. You can then unscrew the top of the filter as usual – don’t forget to put an old towel down first.

Why are integrated washing machines more expensive?

Integrated washing machines are generally more expensive than freestanding washing machines with similar functions and specifications. Manufacturing costs are higher and you can also expect to pay more for installation, which is more complicated than for a freestanding model.

There are 4 main reasons integrated washing machines can cost more:

  • There’s less demand for them, meaning they’re manufactured in lower volumes and cost more to produce per unit
  • The design is more complex and requires extra components
  • They’re more complicated to install. Cupboards need to be adapted for the machine to fit properly, the cupboard door needs to be drilled in exactly the right places, and the washing machine has to be completely level and securely in place correctly
  • Servicing and repair costs can be higher, as accessing the back of the machine is harder and it can’t simply be slid back into place

If your budget is tight, a cheaper freestanding model will likely give you more in terms of capacity, features and spin speeds. But there are some very reasonably priced models available, including a selection of integrated washing machines for under £400.

Discover your new integrated washing machine

We hope you’ve found this article helpful, and that it’s answered your questions about integrated washing machines. For help with choosing your new model, take a look at our washing machine buying guide, or use the links below to browse our range. Delivery is free over £250, and we can even dispose of your old washing machine with our in-house recycling service.


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