Front Load Washer Vs. Top Load Washer: How to Choose

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For many years, top load washing machines were they only option. Now we’re seeing more front loaders hit the market. When choosing which type of washer is right for your household, there are several factors to consider.

Your laundry room layout, washing habits and environmental concerns you might have are a great start. Are you only washing your own lightly-soiled clothes, or do you have several children whose jeans end up muddy and grass-stained on a regular basis?

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Pros of Top Loaders

People gravitate toward top load washers because they are comfortable to operate — there’s no bending over. (Although, if you are on the shorter side, you might find it difficult to reach clothing out of the bottom of the drum.) Top loaders are also easier to clean because there is no gasket to seal the lid, which is often prone to mold and mildew accumulating.

The best top load washer will require less maintenance overall and generally cycle through wash sessions faster.  You can also easily add clothes mid-cycle.

Cons of Top Load Washers

Top loaders use a lot of water and detergent. They’re also not as efficient, using more water and energy than front loaders. Due to their design, they can cause more wear and tear on clothing, which might end up costing you more cash in the long run. Certain items — such as sleeping bags or pet beds — might be too bulky and create problematic loads.

Aside from being noisier to operate, top load machines are unable to be stacked, which requires more installation space, but if you have a decent-sized laundry room, this won’t be an issue.

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Pros of Front Loaders

Front load washers use drums with side paddles to lift up clothes and use tub rotation and gravity to tumble them using only a small amount of water.  According to Energy Star, certified front loader washers use about 45% less energy and 50% less water than a top-load washing machine with an agitator. Clothes are rinsed by being sprayed repeatedly with high-pressure water rather than soaking them in a full tub of water as top load washers do. Since they don’t draw as much hot water from your heater and they force more water out of your clothes as they spin, you’ll see more savings in the long run.

All of Consumer Reports’ Green Choice washing machines are front loaders, because  they use less water and energy, last longer and are designed to be easily repaired during their life spans and eventually efficiently recycled.

When it comes to the laundry itself, front loaders bring home the trophy, too. Not only are they proven to clean clothes better than top loaders, but they are also gentler on clothes overall.

Front load washers can also be stacked, which is ideal for accommodating small spaces.

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Cons of Front Loader Washers

The higher price sometimes makes consumers think twice, but the shorter drying times and lower hot water usage can make up for it on the utility front.

Others might be concerned about them becoming smelly or moldy. For example, if you use the wrong detergent or too much of it, the drum and gaskets stay wet between uses, making it easy for mold and mildew to sprout. The easy fix is to wipe the door and gasket between each use and run a wash cycle once a month with bleach or specialty drum-cleaner Affresh.

Additional negatives: Not all machines allow for reversible doors, nor is adding clothes mid-cycle always possible.

What makes the most sense for your household? Will your next purchase be a top load washer or would you rather purchase a front load instead?

About the Author

Emily O'Brien

Emily is a freelance writer who loves connecting the dots among facts and finding obscure little details to weave in throughout her work. Whether she's interviewing Olympic athletes, small business owners, dessert cookbook writers, or world-renowned architects, she's passionate about shining the spotlight on good people doing remarkable work. Learn More.