My experience is exactly the same, and my advice is the same, too. Another suggestion is Frog Tree Merino. It's highly underrated, but as soft as Malabrigo but overall a better deal because of the yardage. Not hand-dyed, though.
For animal fibers that are machine washable, I recommend Karabella Aurora 8, which is a dream to knit with and because of the way it's plied surprisingly durable for a machine washable merino.