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Front Load vs. Top Load Washers: The Pros and Cons of Each

May 31, 2024

There’s a washing machine for every kind of household—but that doesn’t necessarily make choosing any easier.
Nowadays, washing machine models run the gamut of price point, efficiency, size, and even high-tech features. You’ll have to make some careful decisions about where you want to put your money.

front load vs. top load

Today, we’re going to take a closer look at the two main types of home washing machines: front load vs. top load washing machines. We’ll go through the pros and cons of each, discuss high-efficiency models, and touch on the pricing, size, and other features you can consider when making your choice.

What to Consider Before Purchasing

How much do you want to spend? It used to be that top load washing machines were virtually always cheaper, but now that laundry technology has advanced and both styles have the potential to be big, small, or high efficiency, there’s a lot more variation in pricing. Come up with a budget beforehand—this can help you narrow down priorities like size and extra features from the get-go.

What will fit better in your home? Take a look around your space. Regardless of size, some homes are simply better suited to one style of washer than another. Do you have room for a front swinging door? Do you need to stack your washer and dryer? These things will all impact your decision.

Do you need to consider accessibility? Will bending over frequently be an issue for you or your family members? Keep in mind that you will have to lean over a top load washer to reach the bottom and with front load machines, you may need to bend over to access the door. Front load models do allow you to squat down while loading the clothes though.

Now, onto the pros and cons of front load vs. top load washing machines.

man doing his own laundry

Top Load Washers

What Are Top Load Washers?

Top load washing machines have a lid on the top, allowing clothes to be placed inside from above. This design enables you to load your laundry conveniently without bending over and, importantly, to add or remove items during the wash cycle.

Once upon a time, top load washers were the most popular and absolute cheapest option for home washing machines. In fact, many in North America still prefer top load washers, and they do have many benefits – including, often, lower prices. We’ll run through the pros and cons below.

Pros of Top Load Washers

  • You don’’t need to bend to load the washer. This can be easier on the back and joints, especially for those with mobility problems.
  • Top load washers with agitators can be much cheaper than high-efficiency and/or front load washers.
  • Though models vary greatly, many top load washers have shorter cycle times.
  • Water evaporates upward out of the machine very easily, reducing the risk of mold or mildew.
  • It’’s easy to add clothes mid-cycle – convenient for busy families.

Cons of Top Load Washers

  • The twisting mechanism of agitator-style top loaders doesn’t clean as thoroughly or efficiently as the tumbling motion of front loaders.
  • The agitator also takes up space, so agitator-style models may not fit as many clothes per cycle.
  • Top load washers tend to use more water and energy.
  • Top load machines with an agitator can be rough on fabrics. High-efficiency models, in particular, can cause more tangling of laundry because of the low water level and faster spin speed.

Top Load Impeller Washers

For a top load washer that is gentler on your fabrics, consider an impeller washer. An impeller washer uses a low-profile cone or disc to clean your clothes, rather than an agitator. The impeller spins and rotates, gently rubbing the clothes against each other to provide a more delicate wash.

Pros of Top Load Impeller Washers

- Gentler washing action

- Gentler on fabric

- Higher spin speed

Cons of Top Load Impeller Washers

- Less efficient at cleaning compared to agitator washers

What about High-Efficiency Top Load Washers?

It used to be that top loaders offered less energy efficiency across the board, but newer high-efficiency (HE) top load washing machines allow you to get a better clean with less water and energy. However, even HE top loaders tend to use more water and energy than front load machines. The Wire Cutter reports that front loaders typically use about 5 fewer gallons per water cycle than a top loader, or the equivalent of 50 standard bathtubs per year.

Remember that HE machines require a special detergent, so always be sure to read labels carefully when shopping and using detergent in your HE machine.

doing laundry with kids

Front Load Washers

What Are Front Load Washers?

Unlike top load washers, front load washers do not depend on clothes rubbing against each other to get clean. Instead, they adjust the water level based on the load size and clean by lifting clothes as the drum rotates, then dropping them into the water.

Once only available on the highest end, front load washing machine prices have come down in recent years to make them a little more comparable to the best top load washers. Check out the benefits and drawbacks below.

Pros of Front Load Washers

  • Clothes can come out cleaner. The tumbling motion of a front load washer puts gravity and friction to use, removing stains and spots more thoroughly with less water and energy.
  • All front loaders are high efficiency, using less water overall (and thus less hot water during hot cycles).
  • Front load washers can also reduce dry time. Water drains out of clothes more easily with a tumbling motion, so clothes come out of the washer dryer, further reducing energy use.
  • Front load washers can be easier to reach for those in wheelchairs or for children.
  • You can stack front load washers with dryers to save space.

Cons of Front Load Washers

  • You must bend or squat down to put laundry in a front load washer, which can be painful. However, you can stack your washer on a pedestal to make it a little more comfortable.
  • Front load washers can require more maintenance than top load washers.
  • You can’t always put clothes in mid-cycle, as the door locks to prevent leakage.
  • Because it’s harder for water to evaporate, front load washers may have more mold or mildew problems.
  • Because of the way weight is distributed during a tumble-style wash, front load washers are more vulnerable to damage due to overloading.

Price and Additional Features

The general price spectrum of front load and top load washers runs from about $500 to $2,000, barring major deals or rebates. While advances in technology and sheer time have seen prices between top loaders and front loaders level out somewhat, top loaders are still generally cheaper than front loaders – particularly agitator-style top loaders, which are often your most affordable options.

Of course, special features – such as self-cleaning settings on front load washers – will also add to your costs. Other features to consider include built-in sinks, automatic detergent dispensers, wi-fi connection, and pedestals. Carefully consider your budget against your needs to decide what – if any – of these features you need.

Adding detergent

Tips for Best Washing Machine Performance

No matter which style of washer you choose, there are some best practices you should stick to for a well-performing, long-lasting washing machine.

  • Don’t overload the machine. This leads to dirtier clothes, machine strain, and wasted energy. It’s especially straining on the weight distribution of front load washers.
  • Use the right amount of detergent. Always check your owner’s manual and the instructions on your detergent bottle to make sure you’re not using too much detergent, which can damage the machine, result in improperly cleaned clothes, or even lead to messes or mold/mildew problems.
  • Purchase and use the right kind of detergent. Make sure you’re buying the right kind of detergent. HE washing machines (whether top load or front load) require special detergent in order to clean your clothes properly.
  • Always leave the door open between washes. This helps excess water evaporate, preventing mold or mildew growth (which causes unpleasant smells that can transfer to clothes).

There’s no right answer when it comes to choosing a front load vs. top load washing machine – it’s just a matter of your personal needs.

Looking to Finance?

Extend your budget and apply today for special promotional financing. Howard’s can work with you to find flexible financing and you can receive 18 months of no interest. Learn more about our appliance financing options online today or contact us for more details.

Find Your New Washer at Howard’s

Howard’s has been in business for over 75 years and is Southern California’s largest and most trusted appliance retailer. We offer the best deals on laundry appliances. To make things easier for our customers, we also offer online chat, phone consultations, and online ordering. Shop one of our 13 locations or browse our selection online at Howards.com.

Frequently Asked Questions: Top Load vs Front Load

What are the problems with front loading washers

  • Maintenance: The rubber gasket around the door of a front-loading washer traps water after a cycle, creating a damp environment that can lead to mold and mildew growth. To prevent mold and mildew growth, wipe down the gasket and door after each use, use the appropriate amount of detergent and water, and keep the door open.
  • Loading Front-loading washers may require more maintenance compared to top-loading washers. Bending over to load laundry into a front-loading washer can be uncomfortable, especially for those with back pain. Adding a pedestal can raise the washer, but you often still need to bend over to reach the drum.
  • Mid-Cycle Access: The door locks during the wash cycle to prevent leakage, so you can't always add clothes mid-cycle unless you have a door-in-door model.
  • Wash Times: Front-loading washers can take longer to complete a cycle than top-loading washers, so you might need to use the quick wash setting more often.

Should I get a front load or a top load washing machine?
If you prioritize energy efficiency, and superior cleaning performance, and are willing to invest more initially, a front load washer might be the best choice. However, if you prefer a lower upfront cost, easier loading, and faster wash cycles, a top load washer could be more suitable. Consider your budget, laundry habits, and any physical comfort needs when making your decision.

What are the disadvantages of a front load washing machine?
Front loads usually come with a higher initial cost and require more maintenance due to the rubber gasket that can trap moisture, leading to mold and mildew. Loading and unloading can be uncomfortable as it involves bending over, which can be problematic for those with back pain. Additionally, the wash cycles tend to be longer compared to top load washers.

What are the disadvantages of top load washing machines?
Top loaders are less energy efficient and may use more water. The agitator models can be rougher on clothes, potentially causing more wear and tear over time. Additionally, they may not clean as thoroughly as front load washers, and mid-cycle access to add or remove clothes can be limited.

Do front load washers last as long as top load?
Front load washers tend to have a similar lifespan to top load washers, typically lasting around 10-14 years with proper maintenance and usage. However, the actual lifespan can vary depending on factors such as the brand, model, frequency of use, and maintenance routine.

Do front load washers go off balance?
Yes, front load washers can go off balance, especially if the laundry load inside is unevenly distributed. This imbalance can cause the washer to vibrate excessively and make loud noises during the spin cycle.

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