Washing machines are an essential appliance in every home. With both top load and front load washers available, deciding which is best for your needs can be confusing. This comprehensive guide will compare the pros and cons of top load vs front load washing machines to help you choose the right one.
How Do Front Load Washers Work?
Front-load washers load clothes from the front instead of the top. After lifting the door, which opens 180 degrees for full access, clothes are dropped into a horizontal stainless steel drum. This drum gently rotates back and forth during the wash cycle, repeatedly lifting and dropping clothes into the water.
Front load washers do not have a central agitator rubbing against the clothes like old fashioned top load models. Instead, the back and forth tumbling action fully submerges garments in water to gently remove dirt and stains. This is especially beneficial for heavily soiled items.
During the spin cycle, front load drums can reach very high speeds up to 1400 RPM to extract water from clothes before drying. This compares to just 600 RPM in many top load machines. The fast final spin leaves clothes almost dry at cycle completion, reducing energy usage and time required in the dryer.
Many front load washers use a direct drive motor mounted directly to the rear of the drum. This allows reaching higher spin speeds than belt driven top load models. The direct drive mechanism often requires less servicing as well.
Overall, front load washers provide a gentle, efficient, and effective cleaning solution. But they also come with some unique considerations to bear in mind.
What Are the Benefits of Front Load Washers?
There are several compelling reasons front load washing machines have surged in popularity in recent years:
- Enhanced cleaning performance. Front loaders do an excellent job fully dissolving detergents and repeatedly lifting and dropping clothes into wash water. This provides effective stain fighting cleaning, especially for heavily soiled laundry loads.
- Lower water usage. Because clothes are fully submerged and saturate with water early in the cycle, front loaders can use as little as 15-30 gallons per cycle. This compares to 40+ gallons for many top load washers.
- Reduce energy consumption. With less water to heat and reduced drying time, front loaders cut energy costs significantly. Estimates range from 30-60% less power usage than conventional top load designs. This saves money.
- Option to stack with dryer. Many front load washer and dryer models are stackable, perfect for tight laundry rooms. Units can be purchased together or retrofitted using a stacking kit. This maximizes vertical room.
- High spin speeds. Spin cycles exceeding 1000 RPM significantly reduce moisture content in clothes. This means less drying required. It also minimizes wrinkling when hanging clothes to dry.
- Gentler on fabrics. The smooth, low friction drum is easy on fabrics. There is no abrasive central agitator that can damage delicate items or cause excess wear. Front loaders safely clean items ranging from silk draperies to daily work clothes.
- Capacity for large loads. Drum volumes up to 5.0 cubic feet or larger allow washing bulky items like comforters as well as fitting fullsize loads to maximize each cycle. Fewer overall loads saves time.
- Quieter operation. With no noisy gearbox and the outer tub suspended on vibration dampening springs, front loaders run extremely quietly. This is a major advantage for laundry rooms near living spaces.
What Are Potential Downsides of Front Load Washers?
While front load washing machines shine in many ways, they also come with some limitations to be aware of:
- Bending over for loading. With the door opening located near floor level, using a front load washer requires bending over to load and unload clothes. This can be difficult for users with limited mobility.
- Mold and mildew concerns. Water may puddle in door gaskets after a cycle finishes. If not promptly removed, mold can develop. Regular cleaning and leaving the door ajar are important. Newer models have improved door seals and antimicrobial coatings to inhibit mold growth.
- Require leaving door open to dry. To prevent odor issues, the washing machine door should be left open after finishing a load to allow the drum to fully dry. Some dislike having the open door.
- Must balance loads. Off-center loads can cause excessive vibration in front load washers. You may need to manually redistribute laundry to balance it prior to starting the washer.
- Potential leaks from door seal. If door seals become damaged over time, water may leak at the bottom of the unit. Replacing door seals can fix this issue.
- Overloading risks bearing failure. Loading over the recommended capacity strains the front drum bearings. This is an expensive repair. Follow loading limits in the owner’s manual.
- Few models offer viewing window. Not being able to view the wash progress may be frustrating to some accustomed to traditional top load machines. However, inspection glass window options are available on select models.
- Higher initial cost. Front load washing machines generally have a higher upfront purchase price. However, lower operating costs often recoup the price difference over time.
How Do Top Load Washers Work?
The most classic washing machine design, top loading washers received clothes dropped in from above. Inside the outer tub, the inner perforated wash basket rotates while filled with wash water, providing an aggressive cleaning action.
Agitator Top Load Washers
The traditional design utilizes a pole agitator in the center that rubs clothes up and down to flex and rotate them. Dirt is shaken loose into the water below. These models may also include fins on the sides of the basket to provide additional motion.
The central agitator pole is abrasive to clothing, and the strong motion can damage delicate fabrics. But it provides effective heavy duty scrubbing for durable everyday laundry.
Impeller or Agitator-Free Top Load Washers
Newer designs replace the central agitator with an impeller or wash plate. These have ridges, fins, or paddles that move clothes around in a gentler motion while still providing sufficient cleaning action.
With less mechanical components that can fail, impeller models can offer very reliable service. Reduced friction also minimizes wear on clothing.
While not as efficient as front loaders, high-efficiency top loader models use advanced technology for solid performance with lower water consumption.
What Are the Advantages of Top Load Washers?
Along with their classic design, top loading washing machines have continued popularity thanks to benefits like:
- No need to bend over for loading. With the drum positioned at waist height, adding and removing laundry is more ergonomic. This provides easy access for all users.
- Can pause cycles and add clothes. If you forget an item, it’s simple to stop a top load washer mid-cycle, open the lid, and drop it in. This flexibility and convenience is useful for households with unpredictable laundry needs.
- May fit spaces better. Many top loading units are shallow in depth compared to front loaders. They can fit in narrower spaces like apartment closets.
- View clothes as they wash. Top load washers offer viewing windows to monitor the progress of a load. You can ensure it is washing properly.
- Requires less maintenance. Without a door seal, top loading drums won’t trap as much moisture. This avoids mold and mildew problems in gaskets requiring frequent cleaning.
- Trusted design. With a long history of reliable performance, many consumers prefer the tried and true top loader design over newer front load units. Familiarity and dependability provide peace of mind.
What Should You Know About Top Load Washers?
While top loaders offer benefits, it’s also helpful to understand:
- New models are more efficient. Look for ENERGY STAR high-efficiency top loaders to reduce water and power consumption. These use advanced technology like low-friction wash plates and sensing to optimize cleaning performance. While top loaders still use more resources than front loaders, high-efficiency models are significantly more miserly than old designs.
- Performance is adequate for most needs. Impeller wash systems provide sufficient motion for removing everyday stains and soil. While front loaders excel at stain fighting, top loader cleaning is satisfactory for typical mixed laundry loads.
- Durability depends on design. Longevity varies by manufacturer and specific model. Top loaders with fewer moving parts like direct drive motors and cabinets sealed to prevent leaks can operate reliably for over 10 years. Build quality matters more than configuration.
- Lower cost models available. With fewer bells and whistles, basic top loading washing machines start under $500. This accommodates tight budgets, whereas most front loaders start around $800 and up. However, lower prices may mean sacrificing features or longevity.
Additional Key Considerations for Both Washer Types
To get great performance from either a front load or top load washer, keep these tips in mind:
- Match detergent type to machine. Use low-sudsing detergent made for high-efficiency models. Otherwise washing machines may not rinse properly leading to detergent residue in clothes. Check manufacturer guidelines.
- Don’t overload the drum. Overfilling causes poor cleaning and wears components. Follow loading limits in the owner’s manual. Distribute clothes evenly for best results.
- Clean washing machine regularly. Run monthly maintenance cycles to control odor and residues. Periodically wipe gaskets, drums, and other parts with disinfectant.
- Use proper cycle settings. Soak heavily stained clothes first. Adjust settings like water temperature and spin speed to match each laundry load’s needs. The right combinations maximize cleaning.
- Sort laundry carefully. Wash whites, colors, and delicates separately. Soils and dyes release best in warm or hot water. Save cold water for darks and fabrics prone to shrinking.
- Pre-treat tough stains. Spray shirts with collar grease or mud-stained pants with prewash stain remover before washing. This boosts cleaning results.
- Leave the door open. After finishing a load, prop the door open so the washer interior dries completely. This prevents musty odors and mold growth.
- Clean the lint filter. Lint traps moisture leading to mildew in top loaders. Check and clear the filter before each cycle.
- Use an equipment rack or pedestal. For easier access, raise front loaders several inches off the floor. Make top loaders easier on your back.
- Buy from reliable brands. Stick with established manufacturers like Whirlpool, LG, Samsung, etc. for the best warranty coverage and parts availability. Research expected reliability before purchasing.
How Do You Decide Between Top Load and Front Load Washers?
With good reasons for selecting either design, choosing the right type of washing machine for your home depends on several factors:
Cleaning Delicate Fabrics
- Front load is the best choice for safely washing silks, satins, lace, wool, and other delicates. The smooth drum is gentlest on fabrics.
Washing Large Items
- Top load machines offer greater load capacity for bulky items like comforters, sleeping bags, or pillows. Larger drums make this easier.
- Front load units use far less water per cycle. Pick this style if water conservation is a priority in your home.
Needs to Fit in a Small Space
- Top load machines with short depth dimensions can work in closets and other compact laundry areas.
Requires Easy Access
- Those unable to bend over should choose a top load washer for convenient loading and unloading.
Seeking Lowest Upfront Cost
- With fewer moving parts, top load washers cost less than front load models in initial purchase price. However, they are not as water or energy efficient long term.
Needs Quick Wash Cycles
- Look for models with speed or turbo wash cycles that can finish in under 30 minutes. Great for busy families.
Wants High-Tech Features
- Look for load sensing, WiFi controls, stain treatment settings and other smart technology available on certain front and top load washers.
As you can see, the choice depends greatly on your priorities. Take time to consider how you use your washer, types of laundry, space constraints, and budget to pick the best match.
Within both front load and top load subtypes, there is also wide variation in capacities, cycles, speeds and other options. Comparing these details allows finding the just right washing machine for your lifestyle.
Finding the best washing machine involves balancing performance, efficiency, cost, and ease of use. For superior stain fighting cleaning, front load washers are the clear choice. But for a traditional top loading design that accommodates oversized loads, top load models fill the bill.
Take time to think through how you do laundry and what’s most important in your next washer. With an excellent selection of machines available today in both configurations, you can enjoy clean clothes for years to come with the model tailored best for your household.