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Top loading vs front loading washers

Top loading vs front loading washers: Image shows laundry room
(Image credit: Getty)

The debate of top loading vs front loading washers is a common conundrum when it comes to choosing a new washing machine, which is why we’ve rounded up all the pros and cons of each type right here. 

It’s no secret that the best front load washers and the best top load washers are designed to clean your clothes, but these two types of machines work in very different ways and there are benefits to using both kinds of washers. 

Top load washers are the more traditional type of machine and are still a popular choice for many, however, front load washers were invented to offer larger capacities and more energy efficient alternatives. 

We’ll be running through important factors such as price, features, and efficiency here so you can decide which type of machine is for you. 

Top loading vs front loading washers: Price 

When it comes to price, top load washers will nearly always be cheaper than their front loading counterparts. In fact, you can expect price differences as big as $1,000 for a top loader and a front loader that offer the same capacity. 

Top loading machines are more traditional, however, both types of machine are still widely available and we’re seeing new models with more and more advanced technology on both types of washers.

Top loading vs front loading washers: Features  

Top load washers have a hatch (you guessed it) on the top which makes them a good option for those with mobility issues because you don’t have to bend down to load your washing in. The downside is that you won’t be able to stack a top loader with a dryer which could be an issue if you’re short on floor space. 

If you want to wash in a hurry, top load washers typically have shorter cycles, and average cycles last between 15 minutes and 30 minutes. A front loader’s cycles vary from over an hour to three hours plus, however, there are quick wash settings but these aren’t normally as thorough as a full-length wash. 

Many top load washers allow you to open the lid and add that odd sock you left behind, even after the wash has started. This isn’t something many front loaders can offer but there are some newer models that do have an add-garment function.

Top loading vs front loading washers: Image shoes woman pulling washing out of washer

(Image credit: Getty images)

We wouldn’t be able to compare these two types of machines if we didn’t discuss how they actually wash clothes - which is probably the biggest difference between them. Top load washers feature a wash basket that fills with water and submerges the clothes. The wash basket is also fitted with an agitator - a column that moves from side to side and rubs against the clothes to get them clean. This method of washing is quite harsh on clothes and can sometimes cause damage. Despite that, the clean still isn’t as thorough as you get with a front loading washer. Top load machines are improving, however, and some are available with an impeller that spins the clothes around rather than rubs them against an agitator. 

Front load washing machines feature a drum that uses gravity to tumble the clothes around in a spinning motion. Because the clothes are constantly moving, front loaders don’t require as much water to clean the clothes. This method of cleaning is more gentle than using an agitator, and it means front load washers are normally quieter than top loaders. 

Top loading vs front loading washers: Efficiency  

Front loading washing machines are more energy-efficient than top loaders. This is because they don’t submerge the clothes in a big vat of water, and therefore use less water overall. Front loaders also rely on gravity to help the clothes spin around in the drum and they don’t require as much laundry detergent.  

Top loading vs front loading washers: Image shows man and boy loading a washing machine

(Image credit: Getty)

Top loading vs front loading washers: Which machine should you buy?

If you’re on a tight budget, a top loading washing machine will be a cheaper option but be prepared to use more water and electricity to power it. A front loader might be a bigger expense initially but it will give your clothes a deeper clean and be more efficient.

Aside from efficiency, the right type of washer for you can also depend on how much space you have. Front loaders will be suitable for stacking up with a matching dryer to save on floor space, but top load washers won’t require you to bend down to put your washing in. 

With all that in mind, the right washer for you will depend on what you need. Top loading washing machines have shorter cycles and they’re often more affordable but not very efficient. Front load washers have longer cycles but they are more efficient and can be stacked. 

Sophie Bird

Sophie is Home Editor at Top Ten Reviews. Starting off her career in print journalism, Sophie then moved to digital and now specializes in lifestyle, home interiors and social media. While she has scooped awards for her journalism, Sophie likes to whip up a storm in the kitchen when she's not writing.