Top Loader Vs. Front Loader Machine

It’s the great home appliance debate: front load washing machine vs. top load washing machine.

Of course, there are pros and cons for both types. Comparisons like these are why many people get confused in the front load washing machine vs. top load washing machine discussion. But at the end of the day, whether you choose a top loader or a front loader comes down to personal choice.

If you want to know which is better, we can help. In this article, we’re breaking down the pros and cons of a top loader and a front loader, dispelling a few washing machine myths, and telling you which washing machine is better.

Front Load Washing Machine vs. Top Load Washing Machine: Which One Is Better?

Top Loader

How It Works

A top loading washing machine is the standard tub style washer. Clothing is loaded into the basket inside the tub, water fills the tub, and the center or bottom agitator works to provide friction and loosen dirt in fabric fibers. The machine then drains the water and spins to wring the last of the moisture out of the fabrics.

The Top Loader Experience

Top loaders have long been the standard choice for home washing machines around the world. For most people, a top loading washing machine is still the best choice for the range of benefits it offers—benefits that a lot of us believe aren’t available in a front loader.

Benefit 1: Capacity

One of these major benefits is that top loading washing machines generally have a larger capacity than front loaders in the same (or similar) size range. The largest residential top load washing machines, for example, can handle up to 6.1 cu. ft. capacity—that’s enough to handle even the busiest family’s laundry routine. As more commercial top loaders make their way into large or multi-family homes, that capacity is closer to 7 cu. ft.

Benefit 2: Cycle Speed

In a busy home, where time is of the essence, top loaders have another advantage over front load washing machines. They often have a much faster run cycle than front loading machines. The average top loader run cycle is 58 minutes. Compare this to the average front loader run cycle at 235 minutes and the difference is a whopping 177 minutes. The primary reason for this difference in speed is the amount of time our clothing spends immersed in water. In a top loader, our clothes are immersed until the first rinse, and then again until the second rinse and spin. In a front loader on the other hand, our clothing is not immersed in water for long periods of time, so the cleaning cycle takes longer.

Benefit 3: Ergonomics

A lot of people also find a top loader more convenient to use than a front loader. This one absolutely comes down to personal choice.

Do you find it a hassle to bend down and unload or load your machine? 

Do you struggle with back issues? 

If so, a top loader can be a more back-friendly washing machine.

Benefit 4: The Last Minute Stray Sock Dilemma

In the front load washing machine vs. top load washing machine debate, there is one undisputed benefit to a top loader: you can add clothes mid-cycle. It’s the classic scenario: washing machine loaded and running, and then we turn around to see we’ve dropped one lonely sock en-route to the laundry. A top loader wins this category for the sheer convenience of lifting the lid and throwing in that last pesky item of clothing.

A top loading washing machine isn’t winning on every point, though. There are several drawbacks to a top loader.

Drawback 1: Lower Energy Efficiency

They are, for example, far less efficient with water and energy than their front loading counterparts. A front loading machine uses around 7 gallons of water per wash cycle. A top loader can use up to three times as much water.

Drawback 2: Top Loaders Get Loud

They make a lot more noise, too. Top loader wash cycles use an agitator to create friction in order to clean our clothes. This agitator is considerably louder than the mechanism used in a front loader.

Drawback 3: Tough on Clothes

Top loaders are notoriously harder on our garments—especially machines with a central agitator. They create more lint in our clothing, are prone to tangling threads, ties, and loose yarns, and are rough on clasps, bra straps, and fastenings.

Drawback 4: Limited Cycle Options

Top loader technology means that the cycle options and customization options are improving. But they’re still not on par with a front loader. We can choose spin speed, water temperature, water level, and up to 5 cycle options as standard.

For those of us who enjoy using a top loading washing machine, convenience and speed are usually the two main draw points. Likewise, if you struggle to bend up and down to load and unload your washing, a top loader is a logical choice.

Pros

  • Simple engineering: If you require washer repair throughout your machine’s life, top loaders have a straightforward build and mechanism and rarely require specialist parts.
  • Back friendly: top loaders don’t require you to crouch or bend to load and unload, which is great for those with mobility issues.
  • Child friendly: not entirely, but because the loading hatch and controls are on top of the machine, and not at the front, issues are harder to access for small hands.
  • Faster wash cycles: a win for our busy lifestyles, faster wash cycles mean we can get several loads done in a row, or fire off a full load of washing before we leave for work in the morning.
  • Less moving parts: top loaders don’t require door seals or stringent anti-leak systems, since the water is all contained within the interior tub.
  • Lighter weight and easier maneuverability: ideal if you rent or plan on moving several times
  • More affordable: the initial purchase price is lower than that of a front loader, and appliance repair costs are lower, too.

Cons

  • Poorer performance on clothes: top loaders rarely wash as well as front loaders.
  • More wear and tear: top loaders use an agitator system which swirls the clothes and water in the tub. This is harsher on clothes than a front load washing machine, meaning your clothing wears out faster.
  • Bulky dimensions: top loaders can be bulky, even when they have a low capacity. They are also taller than front loading washers and require clear headroom to open the lid.
  • No top surface for storage: many people use the top of a front load washing machine to store cleaning products, laundry products, or small items.
  • No stackable laundry system: Similarly, front load washers are designed to stack the corresponding dryer directly on top, creating a compact laundry station. Top load washing machines can’t deliver that kind of functionality.

4 Top Loader Myths: Debunked

“Only top loaders are compact”

If the space in your laundry is very narrow, you may only be able to fit a top loader. But the common misconception is that only a top loader can fit in a narrow space. On the contrary, there are many compact front loaders that will fit anywhere a standard top loader will fit. The key is to measure the space you have available and select a model that fits, but still delivers the benefits you want. It’s also worth considering that a front loader makes more efficient use of space—because the top of the machine can double as bench space, storage space, or room to fit a dryer.

“Top loaders are cheaper”

Some high end top loaders are actually more expensive than their front loading counterparts. The biggest way to compare pricing is to check the specifications of a quality top loader against the specifications of a quality front loader. Many people are pleasantly surprised to see that a top loader and a front loader of the same quality can be pretty close in price, too.

That being said, this myth is true, within reason. On average, one third of top load washing machines cost over $1,000. Two thirds of front load washing machines cost over $1,000.

“Top load machines are more convenient”

Many people complain about top load machines being more user friendly than front loaders. You can add items to your top loading machine mid-cycle. You can reach in and out with ease without crouching down. You can generally move them on your own.

All of this is true, but that doesn’t necessarily make it untrue for front load machines. Many new model front loaders have a hatch through which you can add loose items during the wash cycle. The machine itself can be raised to a more comfortable height—and a storage drawer added underneath to maximize storage space. Lastly, compact front load washers can be just as easy to move as top load washers.

“Top load machines waste water”

This is true, in most cases. A standard top load machine uses double the amount of water a front load machine does. However, there are some very convincing exceptions to this rule, thanks to the latest advancements in top load machine technology. A high efficiency top load washer might use 13 gallons where a standard top loader uses up to 26. And if your top loader is more than 20 years old you could save $100 a year on energy, and 15+ gallons of water per load, just by switching to a newer model top loader.

Front Loader

How It Works

Front load washing machines have some similarities to a top load machine. Both have a steel inner drum, a wash tub, a motor, and the mechanics needed to run the spin cycle.

Front loaders, however, don’t work by filling the tub with water and swishing our clothes around. Instead, they put a small amount of water into the tub and let gravity and rotations do the cleaning. This action is similar to how a dryer works—slowly rotating and flipping our clothing through the water to loosen dirt. Small side paddles lift and push the clothing away from the sides of the drum and into the water.

The Front Loader Experience

If top load washing machines are the traditional choice across Canada, the US, and the Pacific, front loaders are the traditional choice across Europe. They are feature rich, they look good, and they often offer a better level of performance—as in they clean our clothes better.

Benefit 1: More Efficient Use of Energy and Water

For starters, a front loader has a much higher level of energy and water efficiency. Because front loaders don’t submerge our clothing in water, rather using a small amount of water to push through the soiled loads, they use less water. Up to two thirds less. They require half as much warm water as a top loader, which saves a considerable amount on our energy bill.

Benefit 2: Less Detergent

They also use less detergent, which means less chemicals and suds being washed down the drain.

Benefit 3: More Cycle Options

Another strong point in the front load machine’s favour is the number of built-in features and cycle options. Front loaders have more features—often including half-load, whitening, babywear, towels, and sanitary.

Benefit 4: Gentler on Clothing

Typically, front load washing machines are better for your clothing. Despite the faster spin cycles, they deposit less lint on the machine, meaning less fabric lost from your clothing. They also wash fabrics more thoroughly than standard top loading machines.

Like top loaders, front loaders are far from perfect.

Drawback 1: Long Cycle Time

One of the main flaws of a front loader is the biggest complaint owners have: the cycle speed. The average wash cycle for a front loader is considerably longer than that of a top loader. For families on the go, or people who like to get a load of washing clean and on the washing line before they head out for the day, this can be a serious hassle.

Drawback 2: Small Capacity

Front loaders also have notoriously small capacities for their cost. Because overloading a washing machine—and especially a front loader—can wear it out and shorten its lifespan considerably, this means smaller, slower loads on a regular basis. For many families, this is the kiss of death.

Drawback 3: Higher Price Point

Front load machines also cost more. Both as an initial outlay, and in washer repairs over the course of the front load washing machine’s life, there is a more significant impact on your back pocket. Overloading a front load machine can increase wear and risk of damage to the drum bearings, making it more likely that the machine requires appliance repairs in its lifetime. This risk is much higher with a front loading washing machine than with its top loading counterpart.

Drawback 4: Moisture Build-up

One of the most significant faults in the front load washing machine is mold and mildew issues in the door well. If we use too much detergent, fabric softener, or keep the door closed between wash cycles, there is an increased risk of mold in a front loader. Because top loaders should be left with the top hatch open, damp is allowed to evaporate more quickly.

Having said that, many industry leading manufacturers have invested in new technologies that reduce the chance of mold and mildew growth, and improve the quality of seals and water resistance in front loader products.

Your laundry habits and your lifestyle will ultimately determine what kind of washing machine you need. Many homes start with a top loader and move on later, as they become more aware of the benefits to their clothes and energy bill. Likewise, some may find the top load washing machine more cost effective, and easier to manage when it comes to washer repairs. The choice is entirely yours.

Pros

  • Results: A better, more thorough, gentler clean for our clothing
  • Less waste: More water and energy efficient in warm water washes
  • Less detergent: top load washing machines require less detergent, which is better for the wallet and the clothing
  • Better selection: More cycle options and customization of temperature and spin speed
  • Speed: Higher spin speed
  • Size: More compact, and offers additional bench space

Cons

  • Long wash cycles: up to 2 hours per cycle
  • Inconvenient: it is difficult to add items to the wash cycle when the drum has water in it. Likewise, it is impossible to remove keys or electronics that were left in the pockets once the cycle has started.
  • Cost: Expensive as an initial purchase
  • Noise and movement: Louder spin cycles and may require the use of brackets to prevent floor damage
  • More delicate than a top loader: front loading machines can be prone to seal damage, drum damage, and build up because of excessive detergent amounts

4 Front Loader Myths: Debunked

“Front load washing machines aren’t big enough”

It may look as though a front loading machine can’t fit all your gear, but this is seldom the case. Provided you stick to the manufacturer’s recommendation and don’t overfill the machine, front loaders can comfortably tackle your big laundry pile.

“Front load washing machines take forever”

There is a lot of truth to this. The key is to use the short wash cycle, everyday cycle, or half load cycle when required. And read the user manual carefully, as this could provide valuable tips that reduce the wait time between loads. Most front loaders have a quick setting, or allow us to make use of the delayed start function so our machine earns its keep when we’re out earning a living.

“Front load washing machines can get gross”

This is a pretty old misconception, and it doesn’t apply to new front load machines. The key is maintenance. Carry out a tub clean or maintenance cycle, and give the door seals a thorough wipe, to ensure build-up doesn’t gather and dry. As it dries, it rubs against the door seal causing micro-tears. Micro-tears gradually turn into visible tears, which turn into damage, which cause your seals to lose their water tightness.

“Front load machines use more power”

This essentially comes down to personal efficiency, wash cycles, and levels of use. In a side by side comparison, the difference between a front and top loader on an everyday cycle was difficult to track. Over the course of a year, the front load machine cost an additional $4 in electricity. That is less than a $0.01 per day difference.

Washer-Dryer Combo

How It Works

Washer-dryer combos provide a front load washing machine that also acts as a condenser dryer—in one cycle. It can still be used as a standalone washer, or a standalone dryer, or as a single solution to go from dirty clothes to clean, dry clothes with zero effort on our part.

The Washer-Dryer Combo Experience

In theory, a washer-dryer combo is an excellent idea.

The Benefits

Put your load of washing on before leaving for work, and come home to clean, dry, ready to wear clothing. As an added bonus, some models continue to tumble your clothing for a preset length of time—so no ironing is required, either.

In practice, though, washer-dryer combos have a long way to go.

The Drawbacks

They are expensive—to be expected of a dual purpose appliance—and they are prone to breaking down. Washer or dryer repair on a washer-dryer combo is likely to be more costly than for a standalone appliance, too. It is also quite common for the two to be connected, meaning that you pay for washer repair and dryer repair as separate services.

Regarding water and energy efficiency, the washer-dryer combo doesn’t deliver on either front. Some can use up to 50 gallons of water to wash and dry your laundry.

Pros

  • Footprint: ideal for compact spaces where there’s no room for two separate appliances
  • Easy to use: load, select your cycle, and add detergent—then come home to clean, dry laundry

Cons

  • High water usage: up to 50 gallons for a full wash and dry cycle
  • Long cycle times: up to 6.5 hours for a full wash and dry cycle
  • Performance: prone to running issues and costly repairs

And The Winner Is…

It may seem like there is no clear winner in the showdown between a front load washing machine and a top load washing machine. To us, though, the winner is clear: front load washing machines are better.

Top loaders are tougher on our clothes, require more headspace, use almost three times the water as a front loader, and—most telling of all—they don’t clean as effectively.

Got a problem with your washing machine? Get in touch with us for expert service and appliance repair Ottawa trusts.

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