Best Front-Load Washers of 2019

Angela Parkinson ·
Home & Appliance Editor
Updated
We maintain strict editorial integrity when we evaluate products and services; however, Top Ten Reviews may earn money when you click on links.

We've been evaluating front-load washing machines since 2010. We've spoken to product experts, compared manuals and specification sheets, and read countless consumer and professional reviews in our search for the best. After more than 200 hours analyzing the most popular front-load washers on the market, we recommend the LG WM1388HW for its compact design, broad selection of wash cycles and energy efficiency.  

Best Overall
LG WM1388HW
The compact and convenient LG WM1388HW can fit into any laundry space and offers a wide selection of wash cycles for cleaning a broad range of items in the most efficient way.
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Best Value
Samsung WF5000AW
The Samsung WF5000AW is big and budget friendly, with a low initial investment of less than $800 and an annual operating cost of less than $18.
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Best for Big Loads
Kenmore Elite 41072
This Kenmore unit has the largest capacity of any front-load washer we evaluated, making it a good match if you have a big household or if you simply want to avoid the trip to the laundromat to wash comforters.
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Best Overall
The LG WM1388HW packs a lot of variety and options into its tiny frame. It tied for the most wash cycles of any washer we reviewed. This means you get to wash everything in the way that's best for its particular fabric.
Most washers give delicates a delicate cycle and cotton items a normal cycle. The WM1388HW takes it many steps further by giving sportswear its own cycle. There are also cycles specifically for bulky items and baby clothing, among others. Aside from the cycles, there are lots of choices to customize whichever cycle you choose, including 10 wash options like extra rinse, self-cleaning and delay wash. There are also five different water temperatures to choose from – extra hot, hot, warm, cold and tap cold, so you can use only as much energy as you need for each load and nothing more. This washer also has a wide variety of cleaning patterns that help ensure optimal cleaning for different types of clothing – rolling, stepping, scrubbing, tumbling, filtration and swinging. One option the LG lacks is steam, but you generally have to buy a much more expensive machine to get that. With a 2.3-cubic-foot drum capacity, this is probably not the best for large households. It can still hold 12 pounds of laundry. That's enough for most loads in most homes. It may not be the best at washing larger quilts and comforters, though. With a smaller machine you get a lot of energy efficiency. The LG WM1388HW costs about $19 a year to run. There were actually a few that were even more efficient, but this one is still very competitive. The estimated annual water usage is minute.
Pros
  • A wide selection of cycles offers specific cleaning for different types of clothing.
  • This compact machine can fit in almost any laundry space.
  • The self cleaning cycle will help maintain this washer.
Cons
  • It lacks a steam option.
  • It's too small for large comforters and quilts.
  • Other machines have lower utility costs.
$899.96Sears
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Best Value
The Samsung WF5000AW is the least expensive machine we evaluated, and it still has a lot of the most modern features. It also has a big capacity that could make it comfortable for a larger household.
With 4.2 cubic feet, it is bigger than most of the units we compared. It can fit almost three laundry baskets of soiled items at a time, so you can do bigger loads less often. This unit takes care of itself in some ways with its self-cleaning cycle and its phone app diagnostics. At 27 inches wide, this one is not that compact, so it might not work for smaller laundry rooms. It is stackable, though, so you can save a lot of room that way. With only eight wash cycles, it has less variety than most we compared. It still includes common cycles like normal, heavy duty, bedding, rinse, quick wash and perm press. There is even a cycle specifically for active wear. There is no steam cycle, but there are more choices than normal for water temperature, so you can use as little energy for heating water as possible. The Eco Warm setting is cooler than traditional warm. This front-loading washer has a large capacity and a host of convenient features, including user-friendly controls and a smartphone app, that make it one of the best-reviewed units on the market today.
Pros
  • Lots of selection in water temperatures offers energy savings when used correctly.
  • The 4.2-cubic-foot capacity fits almost three laundry baskets of clothing at a time.
  • A phone app for diagnostics can make repairs easier.
Cons
  • This is not the best choice for small laundry rooms.
  • Other units have more cycles to choose from.
  • There is no steam cycle.
$719.00Sears
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Best for Big Loads
When you have a larger household, capacity is important. This unit from Kenmore is the largest we reviewed. Its 5.2-cubic-foot capacity can handle all the heavy bedding you can throw at it.
That capacity is tied to quite a bit of girth, so make sure you can accommodate the almost 30-inch width in your laundry space. The Kenmore Elite 41072 still manages to be incredibly efficient; it will likely be noticeably less expensive to run than the one you are replacing. It costs about $14 a year to operate if used with an electric water heater. This washer is designed to clean clothes beyond the surface with its steam option, which can remove even the dirt that has set in. A sanitize cycle kills 99.9 percent of bacteria without forcing you to add bleach. It has six wash motions – saturating, rolling, stepping, tumbling, swinging and scrubbing – to maximize cleaning power for different types of clothing. There are 14 wash cycles, including a bulky cycle for things like bedding and a workout cycle for gym clothes. There are also eight wash options to choose from, including extra rinse and pre-wash, and the electronic LED controls make everything easy to navigate.
Pros
  • It has the largest capacity in our evaluation so even big bedding fits.
  • A sanitize cycle kills bacteria and is even certified by the National Sanitation Foundation.
  • This machine is tied for the most wash cycles.
Cons
  • This is not the cheapest option in terms of energy costs.
  • At almost 30 inches wide, it requires significant space.
  • With the door open, this model needs 57 inches of available depth – other machines needed a foot less.
$999.99Sears
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Best Warranty Coverage
The best front load washers represent a significant investment for most folks, so we like the ones that come with some strong warranty coverage. The Electrolux EFLW317TIW offers the best warranty coverage of any unit we considered.
This washer comes with different amounts of coverage for different pieces. Many just offer one year on everything but the EFLW317TIW offers 10 years on the motor and lifetime coverage on the tub. Electrolux is the only company to offer lifetime coverage on any part, among those we compared. That inspires a lot of confidence in this washing machine. It is especially impressive since it scored third overall when we weighed a combination of efficiency and convenience features among 10 of the best-selling front load washers on the market. There were a few features we prefer that are not available on this machine, though, including a drum light, steam option and smart phone diagnostics.
Pros
  • This is the only machine that comes with lifetime warranty coverage on anything.
Cons
  • There is no steam cycle with this unit.
-
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Most Energy Efficient
The Bosch WAT28402UC was dramatically more efficient than most of the other front load washing machines we compared.
But that's a little less impressive when you consider it is also the smallest capacity washer we reviewed with just 2.2 cubic feet of drum capacity. That might mean it can't accommodate a larger household. It still stands out when comparing it to other small machines, though. There was another machine that was 2.3 cubic feet in capacity and its numbers were not nearly as good for estimated annual operation costs, power costs, water cost, water usage and average water used per wash. This Bosch machine is expensive, but you will make up for the higher initial cost over years of use. It is the best front load washer for energy efficiency.
Pros
  • This washing machine is designed to save on water and power costs for years to come.
Cons
  • The smaller drum won't accommodate very large loads.
-
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Why Trust Us

We have spent hundreds of hours since 2010 comparing and researching the best front-load washers. We have watched product videos, read manuals and spoken to customer service representatives to determine the best in the industry. We have utilized EPA figures to quantify energy efficiency and spoken with industry experts to gauge what matters for this type of appliance.

Front-Load vs. Top-Load Washers


There is still some debate about whether top-load washing machines or front-load machines are best. While that decision is mostly a matter of personal preference, front-load washers generally save on space because you can stack them with front-load dryers, according to Edward Crump, brand and product marketing manager for Frigidaire.

"Front load units also typically offer better cleaning and handling of clothes, and tend to use energy and detergent more efficiently," he wrote in an email. 

Top-loading washers have come a long way in both efficiency and cleaning power, but they're just not as good as front-loading machines, said James Peters, product manager at Kenmore. Peters has been involved in lots of testing that proves that point, and most third-party testers come to the same conclusion: Front-load machines clean better. However, people still tend to shy away from front-loading machines for many reasons. Part of the issue is some early front-load machines had problems with mildew and vibration.

"It's comparable to a lot of things out there in the world today – people have biases that they lean on," Peters said.

Since he's been in the business for a long time, people often ask him whether to buy a front- or top-loading machine. And then they ignore his answer. "I'd think people would listen to me, but I find that they don't," he said.

Peters explained that top-loaders have gotten better, but front-loaders are still better at cleaning and are more efficient. Top-loaders even tend to need more repairs, based on his experience with appliances, which goes back to selling them in college. He's always seen fewer issues with front-loaders over the years.

How We Evaluated

We purposely selected the best-selling front-load washers from major retailers to compare. We made detailed charts comparing features that matter for front-load washing machines, including annual operating costs, total capacity, water used per wash, dimensions, warranty and more. We gave better scores to the units that have useful features like a wide variety of cycles, soil levels and water temperatures and presets.

How Much Does a Front-Load Washer Cost?


There is a pretty broad range of prices when it comes to front-load washers – from about $600 to $1,700. You can find a good machine for right around the middle of that range if you can live without some of the more advanced features like steam cleaning. The five most popular front-load washing machines on Home Depot, Lowe's and Best Buy have an average price of $782.

How Long Do Front-Load Washers Last?

A 2007 National Association of Home Builders/Bank of America Home Equity study concluded that 10 years is a reasonable life expectancy for washers. Frequency of use, quality craftsmanship, maintenance and other factors can impact how long a front load washer lasts. You can safely assume most machines will outlast their warranties but that is not the same as life expectancy. One way to get a more educated guess is to ask people in the industry.

We asked Richard Spencer, who has been involved in the repair business since the 60s and owns Utah-based Mark-A-Newt Appliance Specialists. He recommends Speed Queen as the most reliable brand. He rarely repairs them. He also likes Whirlpool and Maytag for dependability. He recommends looking for a strong warranty and researching how easy it is to find replacement parts before purchasing any appliance. All of them will need repairs eventually, he said.

The History of Washing Machines

It wasn’t all that long ago that most washing was accomplished by beating clothing on a rock near a river, no matter what part of the world you were in. The washboard came along in 1797, and that made it at least a little easier to extract water and dirt. The earliest washing machines started to appear in the 1800s and were still pretty labor-intensive. Some versions consisted of a metal drum with holes that users would turn over a fire. There were also some wooden models that sped the process at least a little. Most people still did everything by hand, though laundry plungers helped. They look a lot like a modern toilet plunger and came in different sizes. There were even small ones for agitating baby clothing in a wash basin.

As the technology progressed, there were gasoline-powered motors that moved a central agitator in a metal tub to clean the clothing. It was then transferred by hand to a rinsing bin and sent through a hand-crank wringing device to extract water before being hung on a clothesline. Each item had to go through the wringer or mangle separately. Eventually inventors were able to combine washing and extracting into one machine that could also fill and drain water on its own. Improvements and advancements, especially those in energy efficiency, are ongoing. Check out our reviews for the best front-load, top-load and combination models on the market today. 

Features to Look for When Buying a Front-Loading Washer

Energy Efficiency
All the machines we reviewed are Energy Star certified by the U.S. Department of Energy. That means they are at least 20 percent more energy efficient than the minimum required federal standard. Many of these machines go far beyond the Energy Star level. If you want to save money over the life of your machine, you should pay attention to other energy stats as well, including the estimated annual operation cost, power cost, water cost and water usage. The DOE also provides information about average water used per wash and the water factor (WF), which is the number of gallons per cycle, per cubic foot. The lower the WF, the better.

A fair amount of energy efficiency is determined by the size of the machine – if the washer has a smaller wash drum, it will use less water and power. As such, it is definitely worth buying the smallest machine that accommodates your needs. However, the correlation is not always exact. We saw many machines of roughly the same capacity that have quite different energy efficiency numbers. See our energy scores for more information, and check out the DOE's site for specifics about energy efficient machines.  

Wash Cycles & Options
More cycles are generally better, but look at the types of wash options, too. If you plan to use cloth diapers for your baby, for instance, you will want a sanitize cycle. If you have athletes in your household, you may want a heavy-duty cycle that can power through stains. We gave higher scores to machines that have NSF-certified cycles. This means they can reduce 99.9 percent of microorganisms without carryover to future loads.

Design & Dimensions
Before shopping, measure the space you have available for your washer. Even if you have a tiny laundry room, you can find innovative features on a compact unit. The best compact washers offer design features so you won't feel like you have to sacrifice functionality for size.

Warranty
A washing machine represents a significant investment, so look for one with strong coverage from the manufacturer, especially on the motor. You should be able to count on the most expensive part of the washing machine for years to come.

Impressive Upgrades

We compared some great machines that cost right around the average price of the most popular models at Home Depot, Lowe's and Best Buy. However, some of the best rated front-load washers are outside the average shopper's budget. If you have more to spend, you might want to take a look at some of these upscale options. They have impressive, unique upgrades that might be worth it.

Samsung FlexWash models have a separate small washing machine on top of the main one. They also scored high when tested by independent facilities like Consumer Reports and CNET. You can simultaneously run loads in the top and bottom washer or just throw in a quick load up top, for example after a workout. While this feature would be wasted in a small household, it might really pay off if you routinely have large laundry piles.

The LG WM5000HVA is another pricey machine that might really be worth it. It has a smaller machine under the main washer for tiny loads. It also cleaned well in unbiased testing and has great energy efficiency numbers.

What Size Washer Do I Need for a King-Size Comforter?

Maybe your old machine didn't fit your comforter, which meant a trip to the laundromat when it was time to wash it. One of the most common answers we found to this question online is you need about 3.8 cubic feet to fit a king-size comforter, but that might be a little too small, according to our research. Lots of cleaning experts also list 4.5 cubic feet and larger as the proper size for cleaning a king-size comforter. However, even that may be too small.

"The question is not just can you fit it in but also can you clean it properly," said Peters. "The testing that we do is around actually cleaning the comforter in different capacities."

One basic standard Kenmore has established is that any machine over 4.5 cubic feet in capacity can properly clean a queen-size bedding set – comforter, sheets and pillow cases. A washing machine over 5.2 cubic feet can clean a king-size set. Machines over 4.5 cubic feet can fit a king-size comforter, but they might not clean it quite as thoroughly, Peters said.

The answer may depend on the type of comforter you have, too. A really bulky one might not have enough room to get clean in a 4.5-cubic-foot model, but a thinner one might be just fine. Consider what type of bedding you have. We recommend you buy a machine with at least 4.5 cubic feet of space for any king-size comforter, with more space for bulkier comforters.

Proper Maintenance for Front-Load Washers

Front-load washers are notorious for smelling like mold and mildew. It may even deter you from buying a front load style of washer. But there are ways to keep the smells in check. It really is as simple as airing things out, maybe more than you are used to with a top-loading machine. There are three things that really need attention between uses.

The Gasket
The seal around the machine's door has folds in it that need to be cleaned out on a regular basis or gross things will start to grow. Wipe it down with a paper towel or a rag often.

The Door
Keep it open when you are not using the machine. This allows the tub to air out and helps keep it dry. Less moisture in general is a good thing for these machines.

The Detergent Tray
Keep the air circulating around the detergent tray, too. Pull it out so air circulates through it, and remove it for a thorough cleaning regularly.

How Full Should a Front-Load Washer Be?

The answer to almost any question you have about your washing machine is to follow manufacturer instructions. However, many of the manuals we looked at don't actually address the overfill question directly – they simply list loading laundry and closing the door as steps in the process. A few of the manuals warn against overfilling your washer but have nothing about how much laundry it would take to do that. We also spoke with several manufacturers' customer service departments to get a feel for the prevailing wisdom. We were told to leave room at the top, though no one got very specific.

Some washers have a fill line, but for those without one, we recommend you fill the drum no more than 80 percent full. There has to be adequate room to move water through the clothing. If you stuff the wash basin too full, there won't be room for proper agitation and clothing will not come clean. Overloading your washer not only leads to rewashing loads that didn’t get clean, but it can also cause undue stress and wear on the motor.

Can I Wash One Item in a Washing Machine?

Information abounds about why stuffing your washer too full is bad – wear and tear on the motor, clothes do not get fully clean, etc. But you may also wonder how small load sizes impact your washer. There is a fair amount of suspicion that tiny loads are also bad for your machine. We scoured the internet to find some answers. Here is what we can tell you:

  • Small loads are somewhat bad for top-loading machines. The accumulated weight on one side of a top-loading machine (inevitable with a small load) can cause undue wear and tear on the motor. It can also sound awful when you enter the spin phase.
  • Small loads do not harm front-loading machines.
  • It is still much better to run full loads, when possible. You use almost the same amount of energy to wash a large load as you do a small load, so it makes sense to run full loads simply for the savings, in both water and energy.

Can Vinegar Damage Your Washing Machine?

Vinegar has sometimes been given credit for cleaning super powers. It is so appealing to use something natural instead of a bunch of store-bought chemicals, and it is economical. Vinegar has its limits, though. It is an acidic liquid that is produced through fermentation. That acidity means it can be helpful for cutting through grease and grime in some settings. But that same acidity has been credited with breaking down seals and hoses on washing machines and dishwashers, capable of pitting and eventually weakening them.

We asked a few manufacturers and some of them recommended using vinegar, at least for running it in a clothing-free load periodically to clear out soap residue. Others warned against it, citing potential damage to stainless steel tubs. Cleaning experts online seemed divided on the question as well. There were mentions of vinegar's power to boost colors and remove odors when added to normal loads but there were also warnings about acidity and its ability to break down soft surfaces. The safest bet is to follow manufacturer instructions regarding vinegar use.

We recommend vinegar as a solid option for both cleaning the seals and tub cleaning. Make sure you run a washcloth with just water over the seals after you use the vinegar, though, and run a water-only cycle after a vinegar cycle just to play it safe.

Front-Load Washer Detergent Tips

If you are switching over to a front-loading machine for the first time, you may wonder what laundry detergent is appropriate for these machines. The modern front-load machine is so different in every way from the old top loader you may be replacing. For one thing, the modern front-loading machine uses much less water. That means lots of things need to change about the way you use detergent:

  • Switch to HE (high efficiency) detergent – This stuff is becoming so common that it's an easy switch. Shelves are lined with HE choices. Less water means that using normal detergent creates too many suds. You will end up with soap in your clothing after running a cycle. That is why high efficiency detergent is so helpful.

  • Use less – The relatively small amounts of detergent recommended for a front-loading machine may seem odd at first, but you really don't need much. Usually just a tablespoon or two will do, depending on how hard your water is.  

  • Use pods and powder properly – Popular detergent pods can be used in the high efficiency setting of a modern front-load washer. Just make sure you put them on the bottom of the wash drum. Placing them on top of clothing might make it hard for enough water to reach them and dissolve them fully. Placing pods in a dispenser drawer won't work either. The same thing applies to most powdered detergent – place it directly in the drum, before you load the laundry.

Organizing Your Laundry Space

If your New Year's resolution is to get more organized, there are some great ideas out there for your laundry space specifically, even if you have very little room. We've scoured the internet for some of the best ideas. There are lots that are inexpensive and very effective. Consider these:
  • In-between storage – A narrow, rolling laundry cart that can fit between your washer and dryer is great if you can spare those inches. You can place cleaning products, your iron and whatever else you need to complete your laundry on these tall and skinny carts that usually have at least two shelves.
  • Overhead storage – There are always a few items that will not survive the dryer, at least long-term, so a drying rack is convenient. If you don't have room to build a large one, or for one that sits on the floor, consider the kinds of racks that lie flat against the wall until you need them. You can even get short ones if you only have room to hang it above your machine. We've also seen some great DIY versions.
  • Skinny storage – The racks that hang over a door are pretty narrow but they can usually hold lots of typical laundry room clutter – many kinds of detergent bottles, dryer sheets, stain removers and more. We also saw some very cool shelves constructed behind laundry room doors. If you are at all handy that might be just the ticket.

Ridding Laundry of Residue

It's a good idea to strip laundry periodically, especially if you have hard water or regularly use detergents that coat fabrics. Detergents with a reputation for coating fabrics include homemade soaps and some eco-friendly detergents. Fabric softeners can also coat fabrics over time. The results of stripping a load, generally a bathtub full of murky water, can be disturbing yet satisfying. It's even more alarming when you strip a load of light items and the water still turns dark. Stripping comes down to five steps:


1.       Start with clean clothing and bedding right out of the washer.
2.       Fill your bathtub or another container with hot water.
3.       Add mineral removal solution and dissolve. The mineral removal solution can be a few different things. There are commercial options: Grovia pods or RLR. Or you can make a homemade stripping mixture with washing soda, Borax and Calgon – 3 tablespoons of each.
4.       Soak until the water is completely cool.
5.       Wash load in water-only cycle.  

Washer Dryer Combos Save Space

Front-load washers are great for saving space because they can be stacked, unlike top-loading machines. That way you have only the footprint of the washer to accommodate. If you want to save even more space there is nothing better than a washer dryer combination. These are still considered a foreign concept to many people in the U.S., who often have sprawling laundry rooms and are just more used to having a separate washer and dryer. If you live in a smaller dwelling, though, these machines can be a lifesaver. Even if you just want to simplify your life they might be a good idea, especially if you ask Atul Vir, Founder and President of Equator Advanced Appliances, maker of a few washer dryer combo brands, including Deco. He's been wondering why Americans have two separate machines since he moved to the states from Europe decades ago. Stopping your day to move a load from the washer to the dryer strikes him as unnecessary. At least some of the reason people do it is just habit.

He recognizes there are reasons besides habit that washer dryer combos are still somewhat rare in the U.S. Until very recently the capacity of most combos was much smaller than washer and dryer sets. Also, combos are not known for drying as well as they wash, leaving clothing wrinkled. Washer dryer combo technology is improving all the time, and it is a valid option, especially if you are short on space. Check out our pick for the best overall for more information.

What Should & Should Not Go in Your Washing Machine

You can wash just about anything that will fit in your machine, but there are items you should hand-wash instead, even if they fit inside. Here are some good tips we found as we researched the topic:

  1. Baby Clothes – Anything tiny, including baby socks and similar items, can go into your washing machine if you put them in a mesh bag first. If you don’t, they can migrate into your machine’s hoses and vents and clog things up, causing flooding or other damage.
  2. Throws and Covers – Pillowcases and couch cushion covers are fine in your washing machine, especially if they are preshrunk. Pay attention to the label, though. You can ruin some couch cushion covers in the washing machine. The same is true of blankets and throws – most are fine, but check the label.
  3. Rugs – Even those with rubber backing can be washed safely in the machine, though the rubberized portion will wear out after a while.
  4. Sneakers & Running Shoes – Yes. And No. Sneakers are fine, though it's best if you throw a towel in to act as a buffer. Running shoes really should not go in the washer, though. They are so carefully designed, and a harsh cycle could change some of the features that make them comfortable for running.
  5. Pillows – Most pillows can be washed in your machine – even down pillows, with a little caution. However, you shouldn't wash memory foam pillows in your machine, since a wash cycle can materially change the feel of memory foam.
  6. Embellished Items – Backpacks and formalwear with a lot of glitter or glue-ons will not do well in a typical wash cycle. It’s best to hand-wash these items.
  7. Stuffed Animals – Your child’s treasures are usually fine in the washing machine, but consider hand-washing the really delicate ones. You can also put them in a mesh bag to protect them and to keep track of any buttons or other parts that come off in the wash.
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