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Looking to purchase a new washing machine? Don’t just buy the first thing you see at the appliance store, or let a salesperson talk you into buying the latest, greatest (and most expensive) model. 

Go into your buying experience armed with the knowledge of what different types of washing machines offer and what type of washing machine might be best for you.

The very first thing to consider? Whether you want a front load or top load washing machine. Here are the key differences between the two.

Ease of Use

Who does the most laundry in your household? If it’s someone with a bad back or a limited range of motion, you may want to consider ease of use when it comes to picking out a washing machine. 

Front load washing machines may require you to bend down to dig out all your wet laundry. A top load washing machine removes this obstacle. (However, if you purchase a stacked washer-dryer unit, where the top load washing machine sits below a front load dryer, you’ll run into a new problem where you’ll have to reach above and back to retrieve all dried laundry from the dryer.)

If you do decide that you want a front load washing machine, for some of its other features listed below, you could always install your washing machine on a raised platform, which makes it easier for some users to retrieve their laundry. These raised platforms are often available for purchase when you’re shopping for appliances, but be warned — they can sometimes cost hundreds of extra dollars. 

Another “ease of use” factor to consider? Your schedule. If you don’t have a lot of time to get laundry done, then you might avoid a front load washer, as their wash cycles generally take longer. 

Additionally, unlike top load washing machines, front load washing machines don’t allow you to pause a wash cycle to add an article of clothing. With a top load washing machine, a lot of times, adding an article of clothing is as simple as lifting the lid and throwing it in. 

So, which option wins the ease of use debate? In most cases, it’s going to be your top load washing machine.

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Space Considerations

Woman doing laundry.

If you don’t have a lot of space in your laundry room or wherever in your home you plan to put your new washer, then you could either go with a top load washing machine or a front load washing machine, depending on which model you choose. 

Both top load washing machines and front load washing machines come in variants that are stacked, meaning the dryer is on top of the washer. If you have limited floor space, you might want to consider one of these options.

If you’re sure you have enough floor space to place your washer and your dryer side by side, don’t forget to take into account swinging doors and whether or not you have enough space for a front load washer door to swing out into your room. Is it going to hit the opposite wall? A nearby door? Always measure and then measure again just to make sure! 

Some front load washing machines do have reversible doors, so you can open your washing machine from either side, which may solve your problem. 

At the end of the day, though, top load washing machines are going to be the best option in terms of least space used.

Cleaning Power

If you’ve already been looking at front load and top load washing machines in the stores, you’ll likely notice one key difference in design. 

Top load washing machines feature a tall post in the middle of the drum, while front load washing machines feature an empty drum. This tall post is called the agitator, and it moves in a specified pattern during a wash cycle. 

The purpose of the agitator is to clean your clothes and create some friction that will knock or rub any dirt or soiling away in the water. Front load washing machines do the same thing, but with the power of gravity, turning and tumbling your clothes in the soapy water until they’re clean.

The difference? Front load washing machines are often much gentler on your clothing in the long-term, and some claim they still manage to get your clothes cleaner overall. In side-by-side reviews from publications like CNET, front load washing machines are better at removing stains and other debris, including stains from wine, cocoa, blood, carbon and even skin oils. 

All that said, though, the cleaning power of a top load washing machine is often good enough for most users, so long as you’re not frequently dealing with stains. 

Front load washing machines win when it comes to cleaning power.

Water Consumption & Electricity Usage

Woman walking to washing maching with a laundry basket.

Front load washing machines use half or less the amount of water that a top load washer uses, which can amount to up to 40 gallons of water for each load of laundry cleaned.

Similarly, front load washing machines use about a third of the energy that top load washing machines use (both just to operate and in drawing hot water from your hot water heater, which requires, of course, energy to heat the water). 

The energy savings even extend to your drying experience. Front load washing machines use less water and then remove more water from your clothes than a top load washing machine, so when those clothes make their way to your dryer, they require less energy to dry. 

In terms of eco-friendliness, front load washing machines win hands-down. 

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Capacity

Most front load washing machines can fit more clothes than a top load washing machine — thanks in part to the lack of that agitator. This not only means you’re doing fewer loads of laundry per week. It also means you’re saving additional water consumption and electricity usage, because you’re not running as many cycles. 

Front load washing machines are king when it comes to capacity. 

Mold Issues

One of the unfortunate downsides to front load washing machines is the great potential for mold or mildew issues. It’s very easy to develop these issues, too, if you’re not using your washing machine appropriately. Don’t use the right amount of detergent, don’t use your washing machine often enough, add too much of a chemical, and you have a recipe for disaster. This is thanks in part to the sealing mechanisms in front load washing machines’ doors. 

Not only can this mold and mildew be hazardous to your health (no one wants mold or mildew growing in their home, after all!), but it can also make your entire washing machine, laundry room and even in some cases your clothes and other washed items, smell like mildew. Gross. 

The issue can be fixed after it pops up, but it requires extra maintenance and work. You’ll have to actually clean your washing machine between uses and do a deep clean on your washing machine about once a month.

This is something that very rarely happens with a top load washing machine.

When it comes to avoiding mold and mildew with ease, top load washing machines are your best bet.

Reliability

Woman pulling towles out of the dryer.

Top load washing machines are more apt to need repairs and to break, thanks to that agitator. 

Additionally, while top load washing machines are more apt to break, they also have more ways that they can break because they just have more parts compared to a front load washing machine. However, despite their frequent issues, top load washing machines are at least more affordable to fix than front load washing machines. 

But, while front load washing machine repairs are pricey, the primary issues that arise with a front load washing machine are easily avoidable. Most repair calls for front load washing machines are related to overloading or that above detailed mold and mildew problem. If you can avoid these two issues by making smart decisions, it’s very likely you can avoid pricey repairs.

If you want a reliable washing machine that won’t cause you any problems, you need to go with a front load washing machine. 

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Noise

If you’ve ever had a top load washing machine and you’ve filled it incorrectly for a wash cycle, you’ve likely noticed that, about half-way into that wash cycle, your washing machine will start vibrating and shaking all across your floor. This is due to a lack of vibration control and stabilization. 

When front load washing machines came on the market, manufacturers addressed this issue, for not only a more stable wash but a quieter one as well — no shaky floors!

When it comes to noisiness, front load washing machines are the quietest option. 

Smart Digital Features

Man and woman doing laundry

Front load washing machines often include more smart digital features and other general, desirable features, smart or no. These features might include the ability to delay your wash cycle until later in the day, a steam cycle, a fast wash for when you’re short on time or a cycle specifically designed to move allergens from a piece of fabric. 

You won’t get options like these from a top load washing machine until you get into the very expensive models. 

If it’s fancy features you want, go with a front load washing machine. 

Price

Overall, your top load washing machines are going to be less expensive than a front load washing machine. You can easily find a popular top load washing machine for around $400, while most front load washing machines start around the $700 mark (and if you purchase a raised platform to make using your front load washing machine experience easier, the price is going to be even higher, possibly even pushing the $1,000 mark). Because of this, you’ll find that many landlords will put top load washing machines in their rental units. 

However, despite front load washing machines’ higher up-front cost, front load washing machines do save users money over the life of the appliance through water bill and energy savings. 

Additionally, despite top load washing machines’ lower up-front cost, they often, as stated above, need more repairs over their lifetime, which can add up. 

So, if it's the price you’re looking at, you’ll want to consider how much money you have right now. If you don’t have enough to afford a front load washing machine, then you’ll likely opt for the up-front budget option of a top load washing machine. But, if your budget is a little more flexible, you might choose to go with a front load washing machine so you can enjoy the long-term savings. 

The verdict? When it comes to price, these two options tie.

Front Load vs. Top Load Washing: Which is Best?

Let’s look at the data. 

Front load washing machines win when it comes to the following factors:

  • Cleaning power
  • Eco-friendliness
  • Capacity
  • Reliability
  • Low Noise Levels
  • Smart Features

On the other hand, top load washing machines are the best when it comes to these factors:

  • Ease of use
  • Space savings
  • Avoiding mold or mildew issues

And the two options both tie when it comes to price, as that comes all down to how much money you have now and how much money you hope to save in the future.

Should you choose a front load or a top load washing machine?

It all depends on what matters most to you. If you’re all about a quick budget option that will fit into a small space like an apartment, go with a top load washing machine. If you want a long-lasting, state-of-the-art washing machine, go with a front load model. 

You might also be interested in: Is Your Refrigerator Set at the Right Temperature?

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Posted 
May 6, 2020
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