Top loaders usually get clothes clean by vigorously swirling them back and forth in the water. They’re faster than front loaders but can be tougher on your clothes.
If you just need a machine to get the dirt out of non-delicate clothes and fabrics, any of the top loaders in our test will do a good job.
Top-loading washing machines have 2 options for swirling the load: an agitator (central spindle), or an impeller (a small bump at the bottom of the bowl). Impellers spin and pulse to turn the washing over, rather than twisting it. Washing machines with impellers tend to be easier to load and unload, but their dirt removal isn't always as good as agitator models.
Front loaders remove dirt by gently turning the clothes over and over. They are more energy efficient and use less water than top loaders (but can produce stiff, rough or scratchy towels as a result).
If you have lots of delicate items in your wardrobe, a gentle front-loading machine with a cycle for hand-washable items will help your clothes last longer.
We’ve tested the dirt removal, gentleness and efficiency of a wide range of washing machines. Use our database to find the model and price that’s right for you.