Picture of the Maytag Bravos high efficiency clothes washer, showing the front view.

Top Load vs Front Load Washers Pros Cons




In this piece we discuss top load vs front load washers pros cons.  In a front loader washing machine, you get nearly all the conveniences of taking your laundry to a Laundromat. But you get them in your own laundry room! How cool is that?  A top load washer though, may clean certain clothes better.  While front loaders use less water, they sometimes suffer from leaving heavily soiled clothes still dirty.  This is not as much of an issue with top loaders.  As long as they allow you to fill up the tub all the way with water, we find that they deep clean better than front loaders.



Top Load vs Front Load Washers Pros Cons

With a front loader, you’ll notice water and energy savings, and in SOME cases, better cleaning. You can wash all but the biggest washable bedding items in your home in a front loader. Generally speaking, front loading machines do a good job at washing. But we find that a top loader does better on especially smelly and dirty clothing.

We’ve used a front loader since 2013, and top loaders for years prior to that. We washed several hundred loads of various sizes and types of laundry in the front loader, and a few thousand in our top loaders. See below for our impressions of the ups and downs of the front loader washer, and how it compares to the top loading washer machine.

Top load vs front load washers pros cons. Picture of a Bosch front loader washing machine, apartment size, front load clothes washer from Bosch.
Top load vs front load washers pros cons. Front loader washing machine. Typical apartment size Bosch Front loading clothes washer.

Top Load vs Front Load Washers Pros Cons: Advantages, Features, and Benefits

Front Loaders are Stackable, Top Loaders are Not

You access the washtub in front loader clothes washers through the front hatch. It’s not through a lid on the top like in older top loader washing machines. So, this frees the top surface for stacking a dryer. A stacked washer and dryer set has a smaller footprint than the top loading washer placed side-by-side with a dryer. Furthermore, the lower capacity models can fit in much smaller closets.  You can’t put a dryer on top of a top loader though.

Front Loaders Use less Water that Top Loaders

Front loading washing machines use less H2O than the top loaders. Since the front loader constantly drenches the clothes in moving water, these need less water to clean the same.

Non HE churn up the clothes as they soak in a tub of standing water. That tub must be most of the way full. So this means that top loaders use more water than front loaders.  High efficiency top loaders though, use less water than the older non HE ones.

Front Loaders Offer Quieter Operation than Top Loaders

Since the motors in front loaders run on controlled DC voltages, and not 60 Hertz AC power, they hum less. But they can whistle during the spin cycle. Now these pitches are higher than the humming of the old AC motors. So, you can more easily tone down their noise. How? Try placing the washer in a laundry room, behind a closed, thick door.

Front Loaders have No Agitator but Many Top Loaders Do

In a front loading washer, the whole wash drum turns to agitate and circulate the water through the clothes. So, front loaders need no agitator. This lowers wear on costly clothes. Thus, no agitator extends the life of your clothing.

On the other hand, with the exception of some HE front loaders, you do find agitators.  Some argue that these get clothes cleaner.  But yes, they do wear out the clothes faster.



Front Loaders have Fewer Moving Parts than Top Loaders

Many front load washers have direct drive motor systems. In these, the motor directly attaches to the drum. Thus, the drum always spins at the same speed as the motor. So, this gets rid of the need for belts and clutches. Thus, with fewer moving parts, there are less parts to break down. The result is a more reliable washing machine.

Top loaders on the other hand, features belts, clutches, brakes, and transmissions.  This heavy use of moving parts can make the top loader more likely to break down.

More Laundry Soap Needed in Top Loaders than Front Loaders

Since many top loaders fill the tub with more water than the front loaders, you have to add more soap to get the same soap concentration in the water, and thus, the same cleaning power as a top loading washing machine.

Front load washing machines use less water all around. Plus, the water circulates more completely through the clothes. So you use less soap to get the same degree of clean.

Top Loaders Wash Blankets and Pillows Poorly Compared to Front Loaders

You often cannot wash blankets top loaders. Why? Because the blanket gets quite heavy with the gallons of water it soaks up during washing.

But with less water used in front load machines, blankets don’t get so dripping heavy. So, the front load washer can better flip and toss them around in the drum for better cleaning. Even queen-sized quilts we’ve washed successfully in the Bosch front loading washer pictured above.

Can’t See your Clothes Washing in Most Top Loaders

Nearly all front loaders feature a glass window that allows you to see what’s going on inside, as it’s happening.

But far fewer top loaders have a window in the top door for seeing into the washtub.  Some have the window though, like the Maytag top loader pictured at the top of this post.



Both Top and Front Loaders Adjust Amount of Water Used to the Size of the Current Wash Load

Now perhaps you only wash a single shirt or a few pairs of socks. Then, the washer machine only draws enough H2O to wash that size of load. This water right sizing is a big feature of HE washing machines, whether top loading or front loading.  Bigger loads use more water. Smaller loads use less.

In contrast, a top loader machine uses the same amount of water as set on its water level controls. No matter how many or few clothes you put in, it uses the same water amount. This is of concern in non high efficiency (HE) models.

Top load vs front load washers pros cons. Picture of a front loader washing machine, showing the rubber door seal, where mold and mildew typically grow.
Top load vs front load washers pros cons. Front loader washing machine, showing the rubber door seal, where mold and mildew typically grow.

Top Load vs Front Load Washers Pros Cons: Disadvantages, Problems, Drawbacks, and Limitations

Can GetNoisy and Wobbly

Among the front loader washing machine problems, is that they can make lots of noise. They get especially loud during the spin parts of the cycle. Plus, if not properly installed, front loaders can rock on the floor, adding to their rhythmic din. Correct balancing and secure footing are critical.



Longer Washing Cycle Times

Generally take longer to complete a wash load. The two models we tested take well over an hour to wash a load. But the many top loaders we’ve owned could do it in well less than one hour. Perhaps designers paid too much attention to saving water. Further, they paid too little to fast yet effective clothes washing desires.

Front Loaders May not Clean Well with Low Water Tap Pressure

Some models appear to require a set minimum pressure on the input water lines in order to properly fill. Thus, with too little water, they may not clean or rinse the clothes well.

One unit we found actually used a timer to determine the fullness of the drum, rather than a flow sensor. During filling, this timer opened the water intake valves for a set amount of time, that was not user adjustable. The result was that in low-pressure situations, the washer did not rinse well. When someone flushes the commode or takes a shower, clothes came out soapy. Not rinsed well.

Filling the washtub in this timed way helps guarantee that a load takes a predictable amount of time to complete. But without enough water pressure, your clothes don’t clean and rinse well.

So, if you’re looking for a front loading washing machine, get one that senses the water level in the drum. It should not move forward in the wash cycle until it fills with enough water for good clothes cleaning.

Both Washing Machines are Computer Controlled

Actually, this is a big plus for today’s washers, except when the control module breaks down. When it does, it renders the front loader completely useless, and repairs can run into the hundreds of dollars.



Front Loaders Could be Harder to Load and Unload than Top Loaders

Place the front loading washing machine on a raised platform. This makes easier the adding and removing clothes. Otherwise, you must stoop or bend down to reach the front door during loading and unloading.

Of course, bending over may not be any more of a problem than in top loaders. Why? Because in top loading machines, you must still reach way down into the washtub to pull out the laundry.

Top load vs front load washers pros cons. Picture of a typical front loader washing machine, with its door slightly open, to minimize mold and mildew growth on the rubber seal.
Top load vs front load washers pros cons. Typical front loader washing machine, with its door slightly open, to minimize mold and mildew growth on the rubber seal.

Front Load Washing Machines Need Regular Cleaning, More than Top Loaders

When a front load washer stinks, you must crack the door a little to let it dry out between washing. Fortunately though, they sell popular brands of front load washing machine cleaners for this. But leaving the hatch open for complete drying might not be practical when you put the washer in a closet. In apartment sized closets, you usually have little space between the washer front and the closet door. With the washer hatch open, you may not be able to close the closet door. Inconvenient yes. But with these washers, leaving the door open between loads is a must.

Both Washers can Develop Mold and Mildew Smell

If not left ajar while not using, especially when used little, front loader seals start looking really dirty. They get moldy and stained with mildew, and sometimes coated with soap scum. Plus, leaving the hatch open does not always cure the mold and mildew smells. To neutralize these odors, we run ours through a cleaning cycle every month or two. For that, we use a washing machine cleaner such as Tide, Gain, and Afresh. See the Related Posts section below for our reviews on these products.

A top loader though, is less likely to develop mildew and mold.  Why?  Because the door does not make a perfect seal.  There’s always some ventilation in the washtub therefore.  So, it can dry out quickly when not in use.



Front Loaders Often Cost More than Top Loaders

A front loading washer can run nearly two thousand dollars for a large capacity model. This is around twice as much as a like-sized top loader. But with the energy and laundry soap savings, the front load machine typically pays for itself well before wearing out.

Some Front Loaders do not Allow Chlorine Bleach

The users guide for our Bosch front loader warns against using chlorine bleach, as this can harm the water-handling internal components. But we’ve never seen this sort of warning accompany a top loader.

The Front Load Washer Seal can Leak

So, it’s important to always keep the rubber seal around the front hatch clean, and free of debris. This grime can make this gasket leak if allowed to build up too much.

Top load washer machines have no seal around the door to leak.  Leaking door seals thus, is never a problem for them.



Top Load vs Front Load Washers Pros Cons: Conclusion

Over all, the front loader washing machine technology is still relatively young.  As such, it’s by no means perfect. Users complain often about this type of washing machine. They fret over either its high cost, or how poorly it cleans clothes. They also mumble about the long time it takes to wash a load, and how loud it can get.

Top loaders on the other hand, feature highly mature technologies.  While they use somewhat more energy and water, we feel that top loaders clean better than the front loaders.  And, they do so in less time per load.

But washing clothes like is a certainly a work in progress, and improving constantly. Units are getting better each year. So if you want to buy a front loader, read up on it in Consumer Reports. Also, read the customer reviews. Make sure the machine will work as you hope. As they call even the small ones major appliances, don’t buy one without doing your homework. Research on a small major appliance does you just as well as that for a big major appliance.



Top Load vs Front Load Washers Pros Cons: Related Posts

Top Load vs Front Load Washers Pros Cons: References

Top Load vs Front Load Washers Pros Cons: Revision History

  • 2018-04-10: Originally published.