Washing machines have become as much about energy and water savings as they are about washing clothes.
Front load machines have a larger capacity (3.8 cubic foot versus 2.5), use much less water (40 gallons to an average 10-18 in a front load) and half the electricity as well than traditional top loaders. They are also gentler on clothing. While new High Efficiency (HE) Top Loaders do not have an agitator and have more capacity, many believe (myself included) they do not clean as well.
Another benefit of front loaders is the added Steam Cycle. These washers have a built-in water heater which raises the water temperature hot enough to kill 99.9 % of germs and bacteria in your wash when you select the sanitize or allergy wash. Washers with a steam cycle offer quick ways to refresh your clothing similar to a steam dryer.
The larger capacity of a front loader means not only being able to wash fewer loads but also being able to wash bulky items like bedspreads and curtains. I’ve never washed curtains but I once ruined a comforter that was sliced open by the top of the wash drum as it was agitated in the wash cycle.
Top Loader Advantages
Without a doubt, the number one advantage of a top loader is being able to add items after the wash cycle has started. Conversely, you can also stop a load should you need to and hunt for items (or electronics) that may have been left in pockets.
When initial price matters most, top loaders win hands down. Combined with an uncomplicated control panel, top loaders are the preferred washing machines for rental units and short-term living situations.
Not having to bend over as much to get clothes in and out is also a major advantage. While manufacturers do offer pedestals, some dislike the added expense and feel they are place the top of the machine too high.
Shorter wash cycle time is another advantage of top loaders. Front load machines average a 30 minute longer wash cycle.
Traditional top loaders use conventional detergent but can use concentrated HE detergent – in smaller amounts.
Front Loader Disadvantages
A major problem with front loaders is that water left standing in the gasket can cause mildew to grow. You should wipe the gasket out after each use. If you still have a musty odor, try running vinegar and baking soda in an empty wash once a month. It’s also best to keep the door open when not in use for air circulation.
Front load machines spin at a higher rpm than top loaders; this is great for removing water and reducing drying time but it also can cause noisy vibrations. Newer machines have better shock absorption technology and some machines now come with a vibration guarantee. However, if you are installing a front load washer on a second floor you may need to add a washer pad or hire a contractor to beef up the subfloor.
Some front load washers are only offered left hinged. This could be very inconvenient depending upon the layout of your laundry room. Always check for a reversible door hinge if your washer placement is on the right.
Top Loader Disadvantages
As I mentioned earlier, top loaders do not clean as well as front loaders and they require more water to cover all the clothes in the drum. Some of the money saved on the washing machine is eventually lost in utility bills – especially if you have to wash an item twice.
These machines also don’t do as good a job as front loaders removing water in the spin cycle. This will mean longer drying times and higher utility bills.
Font load machines can’t be stacked. If you are moving to a new location with a smaller laundry area, you will have to purchase a new set instead of taking your machines with you.
The smaller drum capacity is a disadvantage for top loaders. Washers with agitators offer even less capacity and are harsher on clothing. If you want to clean a comforter, you’ll have to schlep it to the cleaner’s.
Families tend to prefer top loaders for their ergonomic design, large capacities, shorter wash cycles and generally lower price points while couples and singles generally prefer front loaders for their water and energy efficiencies, compact size and ability to stack them when space is tight.
Where do you stand? What will your next washer be?