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by Product Expert

Top-load and front-load washing machines both do a great job cleaning clothes. However, there are critical differences between these two types of washing machines beyond the obvious door location. When deciding whether to buy a top or front-load washing machine, you need to consider factors like how well the washing machine conserves water and energy, handles large loads, fits into your laundry room, holds up for years of use, and accommodates your budget.

Before You Shop Washing Machines In-Store or Online

Before visiting local appliance stores to begin your search for a new machine, take time to evaluate the type and volume of laundry you do each week. Also, think about your family’s needs.

  • Figure out how many medium and large loads of laundry you do weekly.
  • Identify what you like and don’t like about your current washing machine, and know how much you can afford to spend. Armed with this information, you will be better able to evaluate features on new models.

How Different Washing Machines Clean


Top-load washing machines have a door on top that opens to a cavernous barrel. Top-load machines either have an agitator in their center or a low-profile impeller to spin the laundry during the wash cycle. Top-load machines with impellers can hold slightly larger loads than those with agitators. The spinning action causes laundry to rub together, thereby working out the dirt.


Front-load washing machines have a door that opens to the front. Front-load machines do not have impellers or agitators; instead, as the barrel spins, clothes tumble and fall against each other, rubbing out the dirt. Because of this tumbling action and lack of agitator, front-load washing machines are gentler on clothes than top-load machines. They also may get clothes cleaner than top-load machines.

To prevent leaks, the door on front-load machines is sealed and locks when in use. This means that once a load has started, the door cannot be opened to add an extra item like the door on a top-load machine can. To address this, some newer front-load models either have pause features or a special door through which only small items can be added to a load already in progress.

Comparing the Types

Top-load machines offer wash cycle options such as normal, permanent press, and delicate. In addition to these cycles, some newer front-load machines also have cycles for steam cleaning and freshening clothes.

It is important to note that top-load machines can wash a load in under 30 minutes, while front-load machines can take almost twice as long.

Water and Energy Conservation

When it comes to water and energy conservation, front-load washing machines outperform typical top-load machines because they use less of both. Front-load machines only use about 13 gallons of water per load, while most top-load machines use 40 gallons. Note that these numbers vary by model, so you’ll want to be sure to check specifications for any particular top or front-loading washer model you’re interested in purchasing. Check with ENERGY STAR to get information on how efficient a given washer may be.

Some high-efficiency top-load washing machines use only 15 gallons of water. Several of these high-efficiency top-load models also have sensors that determine the precise amount of water for the laundry load’s size so that water is not wasted.

Another way that front-load machines help to conserve energy is with their faster spin cycle. Front-load machines spin faster than top-load machines, removing more water from each load. This means each load will have to spend less time in the dryer, which also saves energy.

Why Laundry Load Size Matters

Most front-load washing machines can hold a slightly larger load than a top-load machine. However, because the barrel of a front-load washing machine rotates vertically, frequent heavy loads can put too much strain on the bearings.

In contrast, because top-load machines’ barrels spin parallel with the floor, they can handle frequent heavy loads with ease. This is where knowing your laundry habits can help you decide whether a top-load or front-load washer is right for you. If you tend to do large, heavy loads more frequently, a top-loader might be a better choice.

Determining Which Appliance Will Fit

No matter the size of your laundry room, many excellent washers and dryers will fit in it nicely. Before shopping, measure the washer and dryer’s space and measure how much space above and in front of the washer you have for door clearance.

  • For a top-loading machine, you’ll want to make sure you have enough clearance to open the door completely.
  • For the front-load machine, you’ll want to make sure you have enough space to open the front door and comfortably reach into the machine.

If your laundry room is large, either type of machine can work. However, if you have a small laundry room with limited space, door clearance, and floor space, it can become the most crucial factor in your decision.

One of the nice things about front-loading machines is that they can be stacked one on top of the other, freeing up floor space. However, for this option to work, the washer and dryer need to be of specific sizes and sometimes the same brand to fit into a stacking frame.

Of course, there are also pre-stacked washer and dryer combination units that come in both front and top-load models. These are ideal for apartments and tiny laundry rooms, particularly those tucked in closets. Keep in mind that these models can’t handle the large volumes that regular-sized washers and dryers can.

Which Washer Type Requires Less Maintenance?

Top-load washers typically last about 14 years, while front-load washers last about 11 years. Top-load machines also tend to need fewer repairs throughout their lifetimes than front-load machines. But, smart technology is starting to help with this.

High-end models of both types of washing machines have smart technology and are WiFi-enabled. These features let you control the start and stop time of your wash and monitor load progress using your cell phone. It also allows technicians to diagnose problems remotely. This particular feature means that when there is a problem with your washer, the technician can diagnose the problem before leaving their shop so they can be sure to bring the necessary tools and parts to complete the repair, saving both time and money.

Cleaning Your Washer

Both top and front-load machines should be cleaned out, but front-load machines need to be cleaned more frequently to prevent mold and mildew.

Because the door on a front-load machine seals when it is closed, any moisture in the washer can lead to mold growth and a mildew odor. The solution is to run a special cleaning cycle regularly and to leave the door open between loads so the interior can completely dry. The actual seal around the door of a front-load machine will also need to be wiped clean regularly, as mold can grow amid the rubber fold.

Budget Considerations—Shop Scratch & Dent Washers and Save!

Washing machines can range in price from a few hundred dollars to well over a thousand (if you’re shopping in traditional retail outlets). Top-loading machines typically cost less than front-loading machines. However, there are a few high-efficiency top-loaders that almost match front-load prices.

The good news is that you can save a significant amount of money when you shop brand new scratch and dent inventory here at K&A Appliance. When you want to find the ideal washer for your laundry needs and your budget, it’s time to make a trip to our Lancaster area showrooms and discover the most impressive selection of new models.