Buying Guide

Front Load Washer vs. Top Load Washer

How Front Load Washers Work
Man adding clothes to front load washing machine.

Modern front load washers clean clothes by moving them through the water. High-efficiency front loaders don’t have agitators at all but rather feature molded vanes that move the laundry around. Tubs also spin both ways, causing dirt to be loosed in the process. One comparison of front load vs. top load washers is that front loaders clean clothes slower. Small loads work fine in front load washers because they don’t depend on other clothes to clean. 

Pros and Cons of Front Load Washers
Front load washer and dryer in a laundry room.
  • Their drums move faster so they are more efficient at removing water.
  • They can require a higher upfront investment 
  • They usually use far less water.
  • Many people swear by the cleaning power and energy-efficiency of front-load washing machines.  
  • Front-loading washing machines have the ability to be stacked with a dryer, using up less space.
  • Compared to agitator washing machines, front load impeller washers are much gentler on clothes.
  • Some have reversible doors that makes it easier to transfer wet laundry to the dryer from either side. 

Tip: A laundry pedestal will raise the unit 12 inches to 15 inches, making it easier to load and unload clothes without bending. 

How Top Load Washers Work
Woman loading laundry into a top load machine.

Traditional top load washers or agitator washing machines clean clothes by submersing them in water filled with a detergent. As clothes float around in the tub, the agitator rubs against them, removing stains and grime. Some top load machines have an impeller instead of an agitator. There are differences between an agitator vs. an impeller. 

  • Top load impeller washers have an impeller that is made of connected discs at the bottom of the of the tub that moves laundry around. 
  • Agitators are poles in the center of the tub and come in two different types.
  • Single-action agitators have paddles on the top and bottom that move the laundry around the tub. 
  • Dual-action agitators have paddles plus spirals at the top that force laundry down. 
Pros and Cons of Top Load Washers
Top load washer in a kitchen.
  • High-efficiency top-loading washing machines with impellers can perform much like a front-loader.
  • A top loader’s agitator or impeller can be hard on clothes, adding to wear and tear. Impellers are the gentler of the two.
  • They usually use more water.
  • They require no bending or stooping to load or unload.  
  • Users of shorter heights may find it hard to reach the bottom of the tub.
  • Those with agitators wash clothes quicker and allow you to add clothes after the cycle has begun.
  • They may have difficulty cleaning pillows or comforters.
Choosing a Top Load vs. Front Load Washer
Woman folding clean clothes while sitting on a sofa

Selecting the best washer for your home means figuring out other considerations, such as how long it takes to wash and how much you can wash at a time. Front loaders have longer washing cycles, ranging from 60 to 120 minutes or longer. Top load washers have cycles that range from 49 to 60 minutes. Front load washing machines usually have a capacity of 4 cubic feet to 4.9 cubic feet.  Top loaders have a little less capacity ranging from an average of 4 cubit feet to 5.2 cubic feet. Of course, some larger top loaders can have capacities of 6 cubit feet or more. 

Tip: A washer with around 4.5 cubit feet can hold about 20 pounds of laundry or a king size comforter.