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Top loader or front loader?

Top-loading washing machines and front-loading washing machines perform equally well – they just do it differently. Here are the pros and cons of each.

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Top-loading washing machines

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.

Impellers or agitators?

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.

Pros
  • Faster.
  • You can add extra items after the wash starts (you can do this with some front loaders, too).
Cons
  • Can be tough on your clothes.
  • Use more water.
  • Use more energy on a warm or a hot wash.

Front-loading washing machines

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.

Pros
  • Use less water than top loaders.
  • Use less energy on a warm or a hot wash than top loaders.
  • Gentler on clothes.
Cons
  • Take a lot longer to get through their cycles than top loaders.
  • Can't always add extra items after the wash starts.
  • Can produce stiff scratchy towels if the model is too water efficient.
  • Can result in higher levels of vibration than top-loaders, especially if you have wooden floors.
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The top performers

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.

View the results