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Choosing a Clothes Washer

Top Loaders and Front Loaders

Clothes-Washer-and-Dryer-Side-By-Side

Courtesy of the U.S. EPA's Energy Star program

Washers can either be loaded from the top or loaded from the front, depending on the model you purchase.

The big news in washers in the past few years has been the major introduction of front-load models — typically associated with commercial laundry machines — into the home. Both run on electricity and both will get your clothes clean. Where they differ is in how they get your clothes clean, water and energy usage, and tub capacity and placement.

Why choose a front loader over a top loader, or vice versa? Here's a breakdown:

Top Loading

Front Loading

Traditional Usage

Homes; United States

Laundromats and other commercial settings; Europe and Asia

Wash Method

Tub is filled with water, then agitator moves clothes (items may get tangled around it). Some top loaders have alternative technologies that are less forceful and use less water. Easy to add clothes mid-cycle.

Use tumbling action instead of agitator; cause less wear and tear on clothing. Water does not completely fill the tub. Higher spin speeds extract more moisture and reduce drying time. Difficult to add clothes mid-cycle..

Cost

Most are less expensive, with fewer options. They also are less efficient, with higher utility bills.

Higher price tag and typically come with more options. Greater efficiency means lower utility bills.

Availability

More popular, therefore come in a wider range of models, prices and styles

Much more common than even five years ago

Tub Capacity

The bigger the agitator, the less room for clothing

No agitator taking up space

Ergonomics

Children and small adults may have trouble reaching in to remove wash

Require the average adult to bend over to load the machine

Energy and Water Savings

Not as efficient as front loaders, but can still find Energy Star models

Use less water than top loaders and therefore require less energy to heat it

Detergent

Standard

HE (high-efficiency) detergent with fewer suds; slightly more expensive than standard

Options

Range from very basic models to multiple cycles, speeds, temperatures, etc.

Tend to come with more options as standard offerings

Stackable

No (unless part of a laundry center washer-dryer combo)

Yes

 

 

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