Front Load vs. Top Load Washers.
  • Category:
    Home Energy Savings
  • Published:
    May 19, 2017
  • Updated:
    April 22, 2022

Front Load vs. Top Load Washers

Understanding the differences between a front load vs. top top-load washer will help you make the right selection. Not long ago, consumers had no choice between top load vs. front load washers. The US was a top load market. Now you have more choices. We discuss the key difference between top loading and front loading washing machines and the various pros and cons of each.

What to consider when shopping for a washer

In choosing a front load vs. top load washer, here are the key factors that will go into your washing machine purchase decision.

  • Price. You can buy a stripped down model to stay within your budget. Also consider the costs of installing, running and maintaining the machine.
  • Features. Some features save energy and water, others balance care of your garments against the ability to clean. You can find smart washers and dryers in both configurations that are part of the trend to automate home appliances.
  • Energy efficiency. High-efficiency washers use less energy, less water, and less detergent.
  • Installation. Some models are easier to set up and get running than others.
  • Maintenance. Servicing, availability of spare parts and track record for durability are considerations.
  • Lifespan. Long lasting models may be a better value, costing less money over time.

Front load washing machines

When considering your options between a top load vs. front-load washer, it helps to understand the features and functions of each. Consider top load vs. front load washers pros and cons when making a decision. Are front load washers better?

Front-load washing machine pros

  • Uses less electricity. It is no contest comparing top load vs. front load washers when it comes to power use. The US Department of Energy estimates we would save 14.9 billion kWh of energy annually by using only front load machines. With regular use, you can lower your average home power usage.
  • Leaves clothes dryer. Front-load machines spin faster than top-loaders, so your clean clothes are 10% drier at the end of the wash cycle. They are less prone to breaking down with unevenly distributed loads.
  • Less wear and tear on clothes. Because these machines tumble clothes clean, almost like hand washing. Your garments will last longer.
  • Takes less space. Even full-size models are stackable, so you won’t need as much floor space to accommodate them.
  • Uses less water. The average front load machine uses about 20 gallons of water, about half what a top loading washing machine uses. One of the top water conservation tips is to buy appliances, like an HE front load washer that uses less water.

Pros of front load washers.

Front-load washing machine cons

  • Harder to load. Bending over to put the clothes in and take them out is inconvenient for some people.
  • Can’t add items mid wash. Once the wash cycle begins, the door locks. You can’t throw in a last minute garment.
  • Higher purchase price. One big difference between top loading and front loading machines is cost. Front loading machines cost more in general.
  • Harder to service. It takes a trained professional to work on these machines when they break down.

Front load vs top load washers comparison.

Top load washing machines

Now let’s look at top load machines when considering top load vs. front load washer pros and cons. Depending on your situation, you might find that top load washers are a better option for you and your needs.

Top-load washing machine pros

  • Easier to load and add items. Because most are waist-high, you can easily drop your clothes in without bending over. You can also add or remove overlooked items into the washer throughout the entire wash cycle.
  • Faster spinning means less drying. While one of the high-efficiency, top-load washing machine benefits is that it spins faster than a machine with an agitator, it also means that fast spinning could cause clothes to tangle, so you want to be sure to untangle items before placing them in the dryer.
  • Less opportunity for mold growth. Top load machines drain fully, thanks to gravity, at the end of wash cycles. That means lower risk of the warm, moist environment that promotes mold growth.
  • Easier to service. Accessing moving parts is easier in a top loading machine. Do-it-yourself maintenance and repair can save time and money.
  • Less expensive. Price depends on features, but overall, top load machines cost less. You can save more with energy-efficient appliance rebates. You can also connect an ordinary machine to your smart home through using a smart plug.

Pros of top load washers.

Top-load washing machine cons

  • Breakdowns are more common. Uneven loads that cause the machine to shake and shimmy are tough on the motors and belts. These models are prone to breaking down.
  • More wear and tear on clothes. Because most models still use an agitator and wash by twisting, they put more stress on your garments.
  • Potential for damp, tangled clothes. Clothes can get bunched around the agitator, or in newer HE models, may be distributed unevenly during the spin cycle. The result is damper, tangled up garments.
  • Uses more water. The average top loader uses over 40 gallons of water. HE models can use less, but all use more than front load machines.
  • May require special detergent. You can use nearly any detergent in regular top load machines, but if you have a high-efficiency model, you may be restricted to more expensive detergent marked HE.

Agitator vs. impeller top loading washing machines

Top loading machines are available with two technologies.

  • Agitator top load washers. The traditional top load washer technology uses a central post with paddles called an agitator that twists back and forth and moves clothes up and down through the water to clean them.
  • Impeller top load washers. This technology is found in high efficiency models. A shaped plate at the bottom of the washing drum creates currents in the water that cause your garments to rub together for washing. It uses less water and is more gentle on your garments.

What are the most energy-efficient washers?

Front loaders are more energy-efficient washers than top load models, according to the Department of Energy. They use less water, which reduces the energy needed to pump and heat it for the wash. The way they operate also takes less energy; up to 45% less.

Even when compared to high-efficiency top loading machines that use an impeller, front load washers are still 25% more energy and water efficient. Because front load machines spin faster at the end of the wash cycle, they extract more water from your garments. You’ll use even less energy when you put clothes in your dryer.

Deciding which type of washer to buy

When it comes to choosing a front load vs. top load washer, you won’t find one right answer that applies to everyone. Your individual situation and needs will drive your choice, with consideration of the pros and cons for each.

Regardless of where you land in the top load vs. front load washer debate, you can find ways to save energy in your home when doing laundry. Refer to these laundry energy-saving tips like air drying your clothes when possible or only running large loads.

New ENERGY STAR® appliances give you options in choosing between a front load vs. top load washer. Using care, both will save you energy and clean your garments well.

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Comments ( 12 )

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dori Norwich - 5/19/2022

Thanks for the useful info.

craig bruch - 5/19/2022

The article was well written explaining the differences between top load vs side load. I will take this information and use it on my next purchase.

Keith - 5/19/2022

It’s been my experience as well as friends of mine that the front load washers have a dampness and water discharge problem. There is always a significant amount of water in the unit which creates a mildew smell on the clothes. Keeping the door open helps but it will not evaporate all the liquid. I believe that is why there is a market for scent beads to mask the mildew smell. Friends and family have already switched back to top loader. We still have a front loader but will get a top loader next.

Erik - 12/6/2021

Greetings! Very helpful advice on this article! It is the small changes that make the biggest difference. Thanks a lot for sharing!

ezboutiq - 4/8/2021

Thank you sharing this information it help me a lot.

Maria Stein - 4/24/2020

Just for the record, I am not a fan of my highly rated top loading washing machine (no agitator). I hang many of my clothes to dry, and every item that comes out of my washer is tightly twisted, which translates to many wrinkles. I have never had any issues with soap residue on clothing, but now my dark clothes sometimes have to be rewashed, as they have soap all over them. Finally, I have had multiple sheets and pillowcases (from 4 different sets of sheets) wear out (holes, tears). Again, I think it’s because everything get twisted up so tightly. I would not purchase this type of washer again.

Brenda West - 4/24/2019

I will wash my clothes at night,( lowest cost for electricity)gently put them in my basket and hang outside in the morning. Hanging a line between two trees or a fence or putting in posts. There’s nothing like the smell of fresh air dried clothes. Pick breezy days you’ll get the best wrinkle free clothes.

Ace - 12/25/2018

My last front-load lasted 9 years and now we may need to get another one (8 years later). I can’t see how this is saving us money if we need a new one every 8-9 years. And what is it doing to the environment…all of these plastic parts going to waste. I guess top-loaders will be in my list now. Thanks for the info.

    Constellation Community Team - 1/23/2019

    Hi Ace, you’ve made a great point. Even though front-load washers are usually more energy efficient, if you’re noticing that your front-load washer needs to be replaced more often than you thought, we agree that perhaps getting a top-load washer is best for your scenario.

Iggy - 9/26/2017

I disagree with the Front-Loader “facts” of always being better than a Regular or Normal Top-Loader. I definitely wouldn’t ever buy a HE Top-Loader, watch it “wash” and you’ll agree. Sorry but, with Front-Loaders not even living 6-years on average and Top-Loaders living an average of 20-years, I’d have to say Top-Loaders win every time and in every way.

I’ve never had any problem with any Regular Top-Loader’s cleaning and/or untreated stain removal. And who cares about water? My bill’s $30 and has never even hit $40. But, if I use anymore heating or cooling it’s blatant in my electric/gas bill. Now, I do only cold washes with Coldwater Tide (works amazingly well) and have no energy affect with my Top-Loader and saw no appreciable change in my bill from before I went cold.

If you want to pay A LOT more from start to a sprint-finish, then a Front-Loader is what you want. If you want the UNBEATEN tried and true cheapest route, then a Regular (“wasteful”, according to liars and frauds) Top-Loader is what you need. Hey Front-Loaders, is it ecological or economical to throw away your forced obsolescence garbage purchase THREE-TIMES (minimum) as often?

    Constellation Community Team - 10/17/2017

    Hi Iggy, You definitely make valid points. We understand your appreciation for regular top-loaders, they’re served us so well for so long! As an energy supplier, Constellation cares a lot about energy conservation, but also about water conservation, and HE washers (top-loading and front-loading) use less than half of the water than regular washers did 18 years ago. We love to give our customers and readers different tips and advice on energy matters, but we always want you to make the decision for yourself! We’re glad to hear that you’ve done your own research and found the one that’s best for you.

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