Top-Load vs. Front-Load Washers - What's best for your home

We've all seen a myriad of attractive ads for different ways clothes are cleaned with a washing machine. And it seems as if any laundry set will do the job for our family. However, when front-load washing machines made a debut in the late '90s, the question arose what kind of washing machine is better - the traditional top-load or the new high-efficiency front-load washers?

Most of us only use one or two basic cycles for our everyday clothes and linens. However, there are times we'd like to run a gentle or sanitize cycle or launder our bulky comforter. Will a top-load or front-load perform better?

Traditional washing machines were designed to scrub clothes with soap in a tub of water. Since then, not only has technology revolutionized the washing machine design, but modern-day detergents and cloth fibers have changed as well.

Today, washing machines are a necessity in most households with new features tailored to cleaning the latest cloth fibers. In this article, we'll take a look at the key differences between a top-load versus front-load washers. Whether you need a compact washer or a full-sized set, we'll explore ease-of-use and price points associated with certain features.


PREFER VISUALS? CHECK OUT OUR EXCLUSIVE TOP-LOAD vs FRONT LOAD WASHER VIDEO GUIDE:

Our Video on Top Load vs Front Load Washing Machines

Top Load vs Front Load - 8 Factors to Consider

Choosing between a top load and front load washer can be a very personal choice. We think you should make your selection based on the following performance factors - click on the links below to see our review on each.

1) Which is easier to use?

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Top-loading washers are normally more convenient since you don’t have to bend over to load and unload clothes. For older buyers or those with joint issues, top-loading washers typically stand at an ideal height to save the trouble of bending down. To mitigate this issue with front loaders we recommend installing the units on laundry pedestals that raise the units about 12-15".

Top loaders also have other convenient qualities, such as the ability to add clothes in mid-cycle, or even right after starting the cycle. Top-loading washers can also collect lint and distribute fabric softener better than front-loading washing machines can.

  • Product Suggestion: LG's WT7500CW is a good example of an easy to use top loader. It is highly rated by leading consumer organizations and comes with a "Slam Proof" lid which closes gently.

  • Winner: Top-Load Washers


2) How quickly do they wash?

Top-loading washers with an agitator tend to wash clothes faster than front-loading washing machines since the clothes are immersed in water for the length of the wash cycle.

The exception to the rule: Agitator vs. Impeller

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Note that not all top loaders are same. Today, there are two main types of top-loading washing machines, one that has an agitator and one that does not. An agitator is a mechanism within a washer that creates motion by shaking and forcing water through the machine, leading to a vibrating washing machine. Top-loading washing machines with agitators typically wash quicker, but top-loading washing machines without agitators (known as high-efficiency top load washing machine) clean better, can clean more clothes at once, and use less water. As such, HE (high-efficiency) washing machines cost more.

We covered the differences between the agitator top load washers and impeller top loaders in our in-depth review.

  • Product Suggestion: Speed Queen got is "mojo" back with the release of the TC5000WN (a.k.a. TC5) traditional agitator washer which is able to complete a cycle under 28 minutes.

  • Winner: Top-Load Washers


3) Which cleans better?

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Despite being easier on your back, top-loading washers can also be rougher on clothes, especially if the machine is overloaded. Front loaders are much gentler with clothes. Top-loaders also have a difficult time washing larger items, such as pillows or comforters, as they won’t fully immerse in the water.

  • Product Suggeestion: Electrolux makes top notch washers that are gentle on fabrics yet effective with tough tasks such as stain removal. The EFLS627UTT is a great front-load washer worth considering.

  • Winner: Front-Load Washers


4) Price

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Front-loading washers are typically more expensive, but justifiably so. They give a more quality clean and tend to be more energy and water efficient than top loaders.

In addition, the front load washers pack more wash features to accommodate all fabric types and soil levels. Moreover, front loaders are far more quiet than top loaders thanks to their more advanced motors and suspension systems.

Although the upfront cost of a front loader is generally more, we think over the long run your total expenses will even out.

  • Product Suggestion: The LG WT7100CW is a budget friendly and reliable top-load washer.

  • Winner: Draw


5) Which uses less water?

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Front-loading washing machines use less water and electricity than the average top-loading washing machine.

According to the EPA "an average family uses more than 300 gallons of water per day". Clothes washing accounts for 17% of this number. Therefore, an efficient front-loading washer can help better sustain our environment. Consumers Reports also consistently rates front-loading washers “excellent” and “very good” compared to top-loaders normally being rated “poor” or “fair.”

  • Product Suggestion: Check out Samsung's innovative 2-in-1 FlexWash washing machine WV60M9900AV. When paired with the FlexDry dryer you can do 4 loads of laundry simultaneously saving you valuable time.

  • Winner: Front-Load Washers


6) Installation Flexibility

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Front-loading washing machines have the ability to be stacked with a dryer. When these two appliances are stacked, the space dedicated to laundry is contained to a smaller footprint in your home.

There are two popular reasons why people decide to go with a stacked washer-dryer layout. The first is that they have no other choice. Many homes or rental units have their laundry sets located in small closets where vertical space is the only space available. But even those who have the space are opting to stack their laundry units since it allows them more functional floor space that can be used for additional cabinetry, storage or even left open.

In many homes, space, among other details, tends to be a major deciding factor when choosing a washer and dryer. If you have limited space or an unusual setup, be sure to refer to our post on compact washers and dryers.

Gone are the days when consumers and homeowners are constricted to the builder-grade laundry centers that are immovable and space-hogging. As vertically stacked arrangements have become more popular, nearly all washers and dryers being manufactured are built to have stacking compatibility. Even the largest units which might seem un-stackable are being produced with vertical stacking capability as a key feature.

  • Product Suggestion: The Miele WWB020WCS washer is only 24-inches wide and pairs with it stackable dryer. It is an ideal laundry for apartments or tight spaces. The ventless heat-pump dryer uses standard 110 volt electricity which makes it versatile.

  • Winner: Front-Load Washers

PRO TIP - Make sure to contact our staff at (888) 714-4938 to inquire about washer and dryer savings.


7) Spin speed - How Well Does It Extract Water?

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During the final spin cycle, front-loading washing machines generally spin about 33% faster than typical top loaders, meaning that more water will be removed from the clothes before you transfer them to the dryer.

This means your clothes will dry faster in the dryer and will be less heavy to move between the two units. One drawback however is that the spin cycle causes many front-loading washers to vibrate, making noise that many people would rather avoid.

You can find the spin-speed of any washer in its specifications document measured by RPM's (revolutions per minute). We expect a good front-load washer to have 1,300 RPM's (try to stand clear of any front load models with less than 1,200 RPM speed). On the other hand, you can expect to get anywhere between 700 and 900 RPM out of an average top load washer. Recently, LG and Samsung are leading the pack with top loaders with faster spin at 1,050 RPM.

  • Product Suggestion: This mega capacity LG WM9000HVA comes with a fast spin cycle.

  • Winner: Front-Load Washers


8) The smell/mold issue

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One of the biggest complaints about front-loading washers is that over time mold can buildup around the door's rubber gasket. To combat this, front-loading washers require a lot more maintenance than top-loading washers. We recommend placing these washers in an area with good airflow and keeping the door slightly ajar between cycles to minimize issues with mold and mildew.

Top-loading washing machines don’t have this issue since they rely on gravity to pull water down, so water doesn’t get trapped in any seals.

  • Product Suggestion: The GTW685BSLWS is a budget friendly and realiable top load washer from GE.

  • Winner: Top-Load Washers


Conclusion

Summary Of Our Review

Comparison Factor Washer Type
Which is easier to use? Top Load
How quickly do they wash? Top Load
Which cleans better? Front Load
Price Draw
Which uses less water? Front Load
Installation flexibility Front Load
Spin speed - performance on water extraction Front Load
The smell/mold issue Front Load

The feature set found in front-loading washers is generally better than that of the top-loading washers. Also, front-loading washers are more energy and water efficient. Overall cleaning performance and stain removing abilities are better in front-loading washers. However, these attractive looking, modern washing machines come at a slightly higher price tag and the door seals do require regular wiping down to prevent mildew. If you need to fit a washer in a smaller space, compact front-loading washers can be placed under the countertop or stacked in a closet.

Top-loading washers are more convenient to load and unload, offer a tub of water for pre-soak and are easier to maintain than front-loading washers.
If you are looking for a quicker and easier wash, top-loading washing machines are probably a better way to go. If your laundry area is in a basement with limited airflow, gravity pulls residual water away from the seals and gaskets so wiping down these parts is not necessary. However, while these washers initially save money, top-loading washers will cost more in water usage than a front-loading washing machine will.

Shopping for a washing machine ultimately comes down to what you personally are looking for and where your laundry will be located. If you have questions, feel free to reach out to our sales staff at Designer Appliances to go over what the best fit for you and your household is.


Additional Resources

We keep these lists up-to-date as manufacturers release new products or at least on a quarterly basis.

PRO TIP - Make sure to contact our staff at (888) 714-4938 to inquire about washer and dryer savings.