Though clothes washers come in varying sizes, styles and with different features, there are really only two main configurations to choose from. Front-loading or top-loading.
So, when pitting a front-load vs top-load washer, you will want to know exactly what the differences are between them. There are several aspects of each washer type to compare and contrast. And that’s where the experts at Appliances Connection can help you decide which is better, top-load or front-load. Here, we’re going to take a look at the facets of each, how they differ, and how they may affect your decision when purchasing a new washer. But first, a brief rundown of how each type of washer works.
HOW THEY WORK
A standard top-load washer cleans clothes by filling the bottom of the washer tub with water to a certain level that is chosen by the user or, as with some modern top-loaders, a level determined by sensors built into the machine. When the water level is correct—and with the addition of detergent, fabric softener, etc.—the clothes are moved about by a central agitator. This type of washer, as exampled by the Maytag MVWC565FW, was a mainstay of American homes for decades. But lately, top-loaders without agitators such as the GE GTW500ASNW have become more prevalent, utilizing pulsators (or impellers) to agitate the clothing and the water.
Front-load washers like the Electrolux EFLS627UTT clean clothing by filling the bottom of the tub with a smaller amount of water, then using the rotation of the tub, the side paddles, and basic gravity to move the clothes throughout the interior. This creates a churning action that lifts clothes in and out of the water and, along with the items of clothing contacting each other, provides the “scrubbing” action necessary.
And now, let’s see what each has to offer…
This is, of course, the most basic and important task of each washer: getting clothes clean. And you may be surprised to learn that despite their lack of an agitator, front-loading washers are widely regarded as being better at cleaning clothes. One reason for this surprise is that so many people have grown up with traditional top-load washers and their constantly churning agitators, which certainly give the appearance of being “tough on dirt.” But the truth is that while top loaders look like they work harder, in reality they’re battering the clothing around in the process of cleaning them, which greatly adds to the wear and tear on clothing.
Front loaders achieve better results simply by their tumbling action, gravity, and clothing collision, delivering a clean load while treating laundered items more gently. This may not be noticed immediately—but after years of use, both you and your washables will feel the difference.
Meanwhile, pulsator top-loaders also get their loads cleaner than their agitator cousins, and treat clothing with more care as well.
Well, this comparison is pretty obvious: one washer loads from the top, one loads from the front. And in this area the top-loader immediately takes the lead, if only by ergonomic comfort standards. It’s easy to simply drop a load of clothing into the drum from the top, and just as easy to lean over and pull items out at the end of a cycle. No bending at the knees (or worse, at the back) or considerable strain to worry about.
With front loaders, there’s no getting around it—you’re going to have to get down low to add and remove clothing from the wash tub. And while this may not seem like a big deal at first, over time you might get a bit tired of the involuntary calisthenics every time you do the wash—especially if you already have problems with your legs, knees, or back.
But the front-loader does have some advantages in this area—many models of this type are stackable. With the washer on the bottom, a front-loading dryer is placed on top at eye-height, making the second half of the laundry process much easier while saving space as well. And while the top-loaders typically have their controls up top on a rear flange, front-loaders have their control panels conveniently up top and up front.
One small (but inevitable) point: think back on how many times you’ve put a load into a washer, start a cycle, and only then remember that you forgot to put a particular item into the wash. With the top-loader, this is as simple as lifting the lid and dropping the errant clothing in. With the front-loader, this isn’t a possibility unless that particular model has a pause button.
Okay, now we get down to brass tacks. A washer is most likely the hardest-working appliance in your home and is expected to perform day after day for years to come. So both the short and long-term costs should be taken into consideration.
As for the initial expense, a front-loader will more than likely cost you more. Not that there aren’t some more moderately priced models like the Whirlpool WFW5620HW to be found, but standard top-loaders such as Samsung WA45N3050AW are definitely the economy-minded front-runners right out of the gate, by virtue of their simplicity of design and function.
But this is a long race with many laps of laundry. And that’s where the front-loaders pull ahead. Sure, they may have a larger price tag, but they pay you back in energy savings when compared to the standard top-loading washer. This is mostly due to the amount of water used by top-loaders vs. front-loaders. Top loaders require more water simply because they must fill the drum from the bottom up until there is enough water to surround the clothing, allowing articles to move freely about within the drum as to be properly washed.
Front-loaders use far less water than a standard top-loader by many gallons per wash load. They only need to fill up a shallow amount of water at the bottom of the tub and use the tumbling motion of the drum to wet each clothing item and churn the entire load, distributing both water and detergent equally. Because of this, the financial savings garnered during the long life of a washer can really pile up.
Even though clothes washers utilize hot water and cleaning detergents all the time, it doesn’t mean they stay squeaky clean forever. Even if they have a self-clean feature, it’s a good idea to take a hand in keeping the appliance in top condition.
Top-loading washers are fairly easy to take care of. Since whatever water or residue is drained out at the end of a wash cycle, you mostly want to keep the detergent and softener dispensers clear of gunk and grime, give all outer and inner surfaces a good wipe down once in a while, and occasionally run a hot wash cycle with some bleach or vinegar to keep the interior fresh. And leaving the lid open between uses helps fresh air get into the drum to dry it out.
Front-loaders need a bit more attention. If you use the wrong kind of detergent or too much of it, shut the doors or allow the drum and rubber sealing gasket to stay wet between uses, mildew and mold can appear. And the smell they can create is definitely something you want to keep away from your clothes. So, it’s important to keep the door open for maximum air exposure, as well as making sure to wipe the door and gasket between each use. It may seem like a bother, but nowhere near as bothersome as a repairman’s bill.
There are too many different models of both front-loading and top-loading washers to go over their various features and technological conveniences specifically (unless you have a few days to spare in reading about them). But we can state with confidence that overall, front-loading washers are infinitely superior in this category, being fully armed with a host of helpful programs and options to make your laundry day a customized experience. A perfect example of this is the Miele WWH860WCS—a smart washer that does practically everything but push the start button for you.
We at Appliances Connection hope this article has been helpful in describing the drawbacks and benefits of both top-load and front-load washers, and that you now have the facts you need to make an informed judgement when purchasing a new appliance. But as much as we know about the subject, we’d still like to hear what you think. Which washer do you prefer? And why? Please leave any comments or suggestions below.
Are top load washers more reliable?
Most people think top loads are far more reliable. That really depends mostly on the brand and quality of the washer, but overall, top loaders have proven a bit more reliable by the slightest margin.
How long do front load washers last?
The average lifespan of a washer, whether it is a top-loader or a front-loader, is about 11 to 14 years. Of course, this all depends on such variables as usage, initial quality, and proper maintenance.
Do front load washers get off balance?
Just as a top-load washer can become unbalanced during a spin cycle, a front-load washer can become unbalanced, causing the washer to make loud or unusual noises, or to vibrate and shake.