Top load vs. front load washers: what’s right for you?

From the top or the front?

When you’re busy caring for your family, it’s difficult to find the time to shop for a washer, much less do the research to figure out what’s right for your home. The choices may seem a little dizzying.

We can help. We’ve condensed everything you need to know in a simple guide you can review whether you’re waiting for soccer practice to end or dinner to cook.  

grey whirlpool top loading washing machine

Top load vs. front load: What’s the difference?

The first — and perhaps most important — consideration is washer type: top load or front load? As the name implies, the chief difference is in the way you load/unload clothes. Top loading washers clean in two ways: with an agitator or an impeller.

An agitator is a tall central post that twists back and forth to break down stains and loosen soils, while an impeller is a low-profile cone or disk that rotates to get clothes clean.

Learn more about washing machines with agitators vs. washing machines with impellers

Answers at-a-glance

Top Load Washer

Style: Trim and traditional, top load washers bring the style and functionality you might be used to, with loading from the top and a control console in the back. 

Capacity: On agitator washers, the central spindle often takes up room in the wash basket. Impeller washers offer more space for bulky items and easy loading/unloading.

Cleaning Action: Agitators rub against clothes for a hard-hitting clean. Impellers rub clothes against each other for a thorough yet gentle clean. (If low water gets you down, add more water on select cycles with our Deep Fill option.) 

Comfort: Top load washers allow for comfortable loading/unloading, but it might be harder to reach the bottom of the wash basket depending on your height or the height of the washer.

Efficiency: Many agitator washers are ENERGY STAR® certified. All impeller washers ENERGY STAR® certified.

Front Load Washer

Style: Front load washers offer a sleek and contemporary look with front controls in easy reach. Washer/dryer pairs are often available in a stacking configuration, which is ideal for small spaces. 

Capacity: Without an agitator or even a low-profile impeller, front load washers often provide greater capacity.

Cleaning Action: Models that use HE detergent are designed specifically to work with low water levels. They use a specialized tumbling action to get clothes clean.

Comfort: With front load washers, clothes are always within easy reach. If you don’t want to continually bend down, however, consider adding a laundry pedestal for a few extra inches of height. Some pedestals also offer additional storage space so you can tuck away laundry supplies like detergent and fabric softener.

Efficiency: When it comes to high-efficiency, front load washers paved the way. They save on detergent and water. And although they typically have longer wash times, their high spin speeds wick away more moisture and ensure shorter dry times on average.