How to use a top load washer

White washing machine in a utility room with red basket on top, showing how to use a top load washer.
(Image credit: Getty)

Laundry often seems like a never-ending task and is a task that we complete without much thought, but to get the most out of your chores, it's time to consider how to use a top-load washer properly. 

There are many reasons why more people are on the hunt for the best top load washers. Known for how well they accommodate larger loads, top load washers mean you can easily wash your comforter instead of sending it for dry cleaning - saving time and money. They can also ease any pressures on your back or legs, as the upright design allows you to fill the drum standing up, as opposed to having to bend down to transfer laundry in and out of a front load washer

While using the best washing machines comes second nature to many, there may still be some simple mistakes you're making or things to adapt to ensure your top-load washer is being used to its full potential. From balancing a load effectively to the maintenance you should be making time for, upgrade your washing routine with these quick steps.

How to use a top load washer

1. Don't overload it 

The size of top load washers lends itself nicely to larger loads. From outdoor gear, bed linen, blankets, and your usual clothes wash, it can be tempting to pack everything into one load to save on time and money. However, doing so can impact the quality of the cycle. 

Items that are packed too closely together can quickly become intertwined, resulting in a less thorough clean. It also means they may come out even more wrinkled than usual - bad news for anyone not keen on ironing. If this is a common habit in your household, it's wise to start doing some smaller cycles, as overloading can damage a washer's frame or motor. These appliances are often expensive home investments, too, so doing so will protect your purchase from premature replacement. 

The general rule of thumb is to avoid packing a top load washer more than three-quarters full and don't load past the agitator, to allow linen some space to move around. 

2. Distribute soap evenly 

One of the biggest differences between a top load and a front load washer is how it distributes detergent. A top load washer doesn't spread it evenly until it washes, requiring a bit more attention when using it. Instead, ensure you should put the soap in when the machine is filling with water, so it disperses throughout the load.

You should also always follow the recommended dose of detergent, which will be written on the back of the bottle. By adhering to the exact quantity required, you will get a much better clean, as there won't be any additional residue left on your garments. It can be tempting to add extra detergent to particularly dirty or smelly loads, but sticking to the advised amount will leave you with better-cared-for clothes and longer-lasting cleaning supplies - a win-win! 

3. Balance the load

Alongside the importance of a slightly lighter load, balancing items in a top-load washer will also help it perform better. This type of washing machine has a central agitator (the differences between agitators vs impellers can affect how your laundry is cleaned), which acts as a good guide for positioning your laundry so that it stays balanced. 

If one side is heavier than the other, it can cause the machine to vibrate excessively, leading to an expensive repair. Try to also place larger items, such as bed linen, at the sides of the machine, as opposed to round the bend, to avoid the likelihood of it twisting. Despite the common concern of losing smaller pieces of laundry, like socks, in between sheets, it's a good idea to put these together as it will create a much steadier load. 

4. Stay on top of maintenance

What the expert says...

Sara Hesikova, Laundry Expert at Brandrated, says, "You should run your machine on a hot cycle around once a week, although this depends on how often you use your machine. While washing at colder temperatures saves money and energy, this doesn’t break up layers of built-up detergent or fabric softener, whereas hot water dissolves leftover soap residue." 

Sara Hesikova, Laundry Expert at Brandrated, noted that "with efficient maintenance steps, a top-loading washing machine can last for years." 

"Most modern top-loading machines have a self-clean cycle that sanitizes the inside of the machine. However, these cycles don’t tend to reach the soap dispenser compartments. An easy way to clean these hard-to-reach areas is to pour hot water through the compartments and scrub where you see dirt and soap residue. A sponge or even a small toothbrush works best for this." 

So, as well as factoring in the laundry itself into your routine, make sure you're taking the time to care for your top load washer, too, as this will help you to use it efficiently on a day-to-day basis. 

Laundry tips and tricks

Close all zippers and buttons to prevent them from tearing other items.
Always separate light and dark-colored laundry.
Load smaller things, such as underwear, first to avoid them from getting lost in larger garments.
Pre-treat stains first to give your washer the best chance of a thorough clean.
Choose a cycle length that is specific to the weight and size of the load.
Opt for cold water when possible to prevent your clothes from shrinking. 

Holly Cockburn
Former Features Editor

Holly is the former Features Editor at Top Ten Reviews where she focused on creating informative, how-to advice. She has a degree in English Literature and previously worked as a copywriter at Howdens, specializing in kitchens and trend-led interiors. When she’s not reading or writing, you can find her exploring the best London bars and brunch spots, or planning the next budget-friendly city break. 

With contributions from