In the past, you didn’t have much choice in the type of appliances you could buy to wash your clothes – most washing machines came with standard cycles and a center agitator, and they used gallons and gallons of water. The world of washing machines has changed dramatically the past few years. Now you have the choice of purchasing a front-loading washing machine, a portable washing machine, a high-efficiency top-loading washer or a traditional top-loader of yesteryear.
One concern many people deal with is having enough space to accommodate it. Top-load washers do vary in terms of capacity and size, so you may not need as much space for one as you think. Some can fit into a fairly compact space even though stacking isn’t an option. If you’re concerned about energy efficiency and think that top-load washers are energy-sucking appliances or maybe don’t get clothes as clean as a front-load washer, that is not necessarily so. Many top-loaders have become more energy efficient and have more cycles and options than ever before.
We examined both traditional top-load washing machines and high-efficiency top-load washers. Traditional washing machines have a vertical post agitator in the center of the tub that rotates back and forth, moving clothes around to clean them. Many of the latest and best designs for top-load washers have done away with the center agitator in favor of wash plates that toss clothes around and tubs that rotate both ways, which creates friction between the clothes to get them clean. This also makes more room for larger loads. They also employ jets and streams of water to rinse your laundry. Some of the more traditional designs, which are also more compact, use an agitator. Top-loader washers with agitators have also improved and get clothes cleaner with more efficiency than ever. Each type of washer has its pros and cons to consider before you choose the best top-load washing machine for you. To learn more, check out our articles on top-load washing machines.
Best for Big Wash Loads
The LG WT7700HVA Mega Capacity is a 5.7-cubic-foot top-load washer. The Maytag MVWB955FC has a 6.2-cubic-foot capacity. Neither top-load washer has an agitator to get in the way, which frees up space for even more laundry than they would otherwise hold. They are Energy Star-certified and use the latest technology to clean your clothes in the most efficient way. These are two of the best top-load washers on the market. The more clothes you can fit into a single load of laundry, the less work that is required to wash clothes for a big family. The large-capacity dryers are well equipped to make laundry day more efficient as well.
As a leader in innovation, LG continues to create smart home appliances, like the LG Mega Capacity WT7700HVA top-load washing machine. This high-efficiency top-loader includes numerous features and cycles to help you clean your clothes the way you want to. In fact, you get more cycles and options with this machine than any other top-load unit we reviewed. This top-load washing machine offers a spacious 5.7 cubic feet for you to fill with your fluffiest bedding – and it will have enough room to get it clean and rinsed well since there’s no agitator in the way. The LG DLEX7710VE, the matching dryer, has a 9.0-cubic-foot capacity and a sensor dry system that measures the moisture levels and automatically adjusts the drying time to help insure dry clothes with each load.
As high-efficiency top-loading washing machines go, the Maytag MVWB955FC has all of the wash cycles and options most people will need. This is an enormous 6.2-cubic-foot drum to fit big loads of dirty laundry, which reduces the number of times you need to load and unload. Although this Maytag model uses more gallons of water per wash cycle than many of its Energy Star counterparts, it’s still quite an efficient machine. The matching dryer, the Maytag MEDB955FC, has a generous 9.2-cubic-foot capacity, which is more than enough space to dry the huge loads.
Best for Energy Efficiency
Many top-load washers are Energy Star certified, and most of them have energy-saving features. However, some models, like the Samsung DV9000 and the Whirlpool Cabrio WTW70EC, have technology that puts them ahead of the competition when it comes to conserving energy. They use water and electricity efficiently and help you save money on utility bills. Their large capacity allows you to wash more clothes efficiently. Both models also have smartphone technology. Having the ability to stop and start your washer and dryer remotely and controlling for things like water temperature and over-drying from your smartphone can definitely help conserve energy.
Although the Samsung WA9000 top-load washing machine does not offer the most cost-effective laundry solution, it comes close. The generous 5.6-cubic-foot drum means you can do a lot more laundry at once than you could with a traditional washer. You also get several wash cycles and options to help you do your laundry your way – in fact, there’s even a "favorite" wash cycle that allows you to customize a load that you can save and use later. The matching dryer, the Samsung DV56H9000EW, has an Eco Dry system which is designed to decrease energy use by 25 percent with each load. In addition to being safer for the environment, this technology can save you an estimated $4,500 over the lifetime of the washer and dryer.
The best top-load washers give you a multitude of options, barely increase your energy or water bill, and give you plenty of room for your biggest, heaviest items that need washing. Whirlpool’s Cabrio high-efficiency WTW8700EC top-load washer fits the bill as being one of the best out there. This top-load washing machine uses the impeller method to wash clothes, so there’s no center agitator – which means more space for your clothes. The washer and its matching dryer, the Whirlpool WED8700EC can be controlled from a smartphone app that lets you start cycles whenever you want remotely. It lets you track the progress a cycle and you can activate an option that will occasionally toss the laundry in the dryer to prevent wrinkling if it will be sitting for a while.
Time-Savers for Busy Households
The Kenmore Elite and the Kenmore 28132 are both large-capacity top-load washers with innovative technology, allowing them to efficiently handle large loads of laundry without losing anything in terms of cleaning quality. They both use powerful spray jets and impeller motion to keep clothes moving and remove deep dirt. The matching dryers effectively handle large loads of wash with smart functionality that prevents uneven drying that occurs when clothes ball up or overdrying that results from cycles going too long.
The Kenmore Elite 31633 is a large-capacity top-load washer that works well for big families. It includes 10 wash cycles, five soil levels and several wash-and-rinse temperatures. This washer uses less water than most agitator-type machines, so it costs less, on average, to operate each year. The matching dryer, the Kenmore 61633, has a 9.2-cubic-foot capacity. It uses SmartDry Ultra technology that adjusts temperatures to prevent overdrying.
As a traditional top-load washing machine, the Kenmore 28132 comes out ahead of most of its competitors. It includes nine wash cycles, four soil levels and five wash-and-rinse temperature settings. It has several wash options, including StainBoost that gives extended wash time to clothes with tough stains while being gentle on fabrics. The matching dryer has a large capacity of 8.8 cubic feet and is designed to dry big loads of laundry without balling and tangling. It uses SmartDry technology to prevent overdrying and reduce shrinking.
Best for Compact Spaces and Fixed Budgets
At 3.8- and 3.5-cubic-feet respectively, the GE GTW330ASKWW and the Amana NTW4516FW are two affordable top-loading washing machines that will fit into just about any sized washroom. They are both agitator-style washers that are designed to thoroughly clean clothes in their own way. While they will occupy a compact space the washers and matching dryers fit a lot of clothes and are well-suited for small to average-sized families.
The GE GTW330ASKWW top-loading washing machine is a traditional washer with an agitator style of washing. It is one of the best traditional top-load washing machines because of its many wash cycles, low water factor and affordable operating costs. With its tub capacity of 3.8 cubic feet, this top-load washer is large enough to handle good-sized laundry loads. The matching dryer, the GE GTD33EASKWW, has an aluminized alloy drum that is designed to both resist corrosion and improve energy efficiency.
The Amana NTW4516FW is a traditional washing machine that still sports the center post agitator that swishes your clothes around to clean them. This is an affordable, compact top-load washing machine with 3.5 cubic feet of space. It has basic features and functions, as well as the dual-action agitator that provides extra rotating action to clean your clothes thoroughly. Its matching dryer, the Amana NED4655EW, is a 6.5-cubic-foot front-loader with 11 dry cycles. Together they make a solid, affordable washer-dryer combo.
Other Considerations in Choosing a Top-Load Washer
Some considerations when deciding on a washer/dryer combination are cost and space. If you have a tight space, a front-load washer/dryer with stacking capabilities would probably be your best option. But if you have plenty of space to set them side by side, there are many advantages to top-load washers. There are many high-efficiency top-load washers on the market to choose from.
Conserving Energy and Reducing Costs
A large appliance is going to affect your electricity bill and possibly the environment. If reducing your energy and water consumption is a concern, then you want to find a top-load washing machine that is not only Energy Star-certified but proves its savings over time. Rather than simply looking at the energy cost, though, we also compared the water factor (WF), or the number of gallons per cycle per cubic foot the washer uses. When you combine the average cost of energy and water used, you get a more accurate picture of how much money you're going to spend each year keeping your clothes and linens clean.
We found that high-efficiency top-loaders performed more efficiently over a long period of time and affected the environment less than traditional agitator machines. High-efficiency top-loaders use less detergent overall, but they also require you to use specialized detergent so as to not flood the machine and to ensure your clothes get a complete rinse.
Increasing Efficiency While Reducing Work
If you choose a washing machine with a larger drum, then you can get your laundry done and get on with your day. So the top-loaders we reviewed that have a higher capacity garnered more points. Typically, the high-efficiency machines have more space for your clothes and linens because there isn’t an agitator in the way. It’s much easier to stuff a large comforter into one of these units than a traditional washer. A high-efficiency, large-capacity dryer will reduce work by allowing you to reduce the loads of wash.
Generally, a high-efficiency washer takes much longer to wash a load of clothes versus traditional washers, but the tradeoff is the unit uses far less water and detergent. Also, these machines cut down on drying time, because the spin cycle is so fast and the washer is able to extract more water than units with an agitator. You can almost set your watch by a traditional top-loader – and it usually finishes a load about twice as fast, on average, than a newer, high-efficiency type. The timed wash of a traditional machine uses more water, though, since it doesn't use water jets and streams to rinse your clothes.
Finding the Cycles You Need
Most washing machines give you the option of a regular wash or permanent press cycle for white or colored clothing, but there are others that offer delicate, heavy duty, eco-friendly and allergen cycles. If your family has specific needs for its clothes, then a top-loading washing machine with more cycles may be a good fit for you. A very nice feature found in top-load washers is a steam option that softens the fabric of your clothes, making stains easier to remove.
Steam contributes to the effectiveness of a sanitation cycle, as the washer heats the steam to a higher temperature than a regular hot water cycle. The steam eliminates more germs and bacteria, which means cleaner clothes for you and your family. This is especially helpful if you have children who have a tendency to get dirty.
While everyone appreciates cleanliness, this feature is especially helpful if you have a baby and use cloth diapers or have other youngsters in the household who get really messy from playing outdoors, spilling food and just being kids.
Options That Suit Your Lifestyle
The best top-load washer gives you more control over your laundry. Some offer extras such as vibration reduction, which keeps your laundry room quieter, an important consideration if your laundry room is in a central location in your home. Others include child locks for added safety; others give you the choice of the speed at which your clothes spin, so you can wring out as much water as possible, which reduces the time it takes to dry your clothes. A few models give you steam, stain and prewash settings, touchscreen controls and more.
Once you choose the top-load washing machine that fits your household, you're going to need a dryer, too, so be sure to read our reviews and recommendations about the best clothes dryers. If you’re in the market for a combination washer and dryer, look at our reviews on the best washer and dryer combos. Since many top-load washers share the same features and functionality, differentiating between them can be tricky. Our buying guide will help you narrow your choices and find the one that is the right size and fits your lifestyle.
Contributing Reviewer: Noel Case