A laundry cabinet over your washing machine puts soap and other supplies at eye level and within easy reach in a space that would otherwise go unused. A few extra minutes spent measuring the available space and planning the ideal cabinet placement ensures that the lid of the machine has plenty of room to open and close and that the cabinet is shallow enough for you to reach all the way to the back when standing in front of the washer.
A top-loading washer lid must be able to open and close with enough additional clearance for your knuckles. Measure the height of the top edge of the lid while it is all the way open; then add about 6 inches to determine where the bottom of the cabinet should be. This ensures that you will not scrape your knuckles or pinch your fingers when opening and closing the lid.
If you have a front-loading washer, you only need enough space to reach the soap and softener dispensers while pouring. Other machines have pull-out dispensers and only need clearance in front of the machine rather than above it.
When the lid on a top-loading washer does not open all the way, the actuator may not disengage from the lid switch, allowing the spin cycle to continue running. The actuator is a pin that fits into the lid switch, which signals the machine when the lid is down. Although you can hold the lid up with one hand, the actuator may still hit the lid switch while you are loading the machine. If this happens while someone is loading the washer or repositioning an unbalanced washer load, the spin cycle could start and the paddles of the agitator could strike an arm or hand, breaking bones or causing severe bruising.
Dimensions and Configuration
Stacked washers may not leave enough room for cabinets. Washer/dryer pairs average 75 inches tall when stacked, leaving just 11 inches of space above them in a room with an 8-foot ceiling. Side-by-side washer/dryer pairs stand 33 inches tall and need another 24 inches of clearance for a top-loading washer, leaving 39 inches above the washer for a cabinet.
Your Height and Reach
Your maximum reach is the length of your arm from fingertips to shoulder. As you raise your arm at a steeper angle, your maximum reach gets shorter, until your arm is straight above your head. At that point, your maximum reach is the distance from the pad of your thumb to your fingertips, or a hand's grip, about 4 to 6 inches. The higher you place the cabinet, the harder it becomes to reach to the back of each shelf, unless you stand on a stool or use a grabbing tool. For a person 66 inches tall, shoulder height is about 57 inches from the floor. The bottom edge of an ideally-positioned cabinet would begin 24 inches from the top of a 33-inch tall, side-by-side washer/dryer pair.