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Front load vs top load washer: Which is better? It's a matter partly of performance and partly of personal preference.

When you're shopping for a washer, the big concern is mold. Most of the front loads have a problem with it; the top loads don't. Stackability and fit are other key differentiators.

Here are the 10 biggest pros and cons and our winner:

Short on time? Here is John's video review of front load vs top load washers with great visuals.

Smell and Mold Issues

Winner: Top load washers


This, friends, is the elephant in the room. The biggest complaint about front load washers is that mold builds up around the door's rubber gasket. To combat it, you have to clean a front load washing machine a lot more often than you do a top loader.

Do all front load washers have mold and mildew problems? Well, they're working on it. You'll see front loaders with solutions designed to target this problem, from self-clean cycles to antimicrobial-coated surfaces to special vent systems.

Here's what we know works: We recommend placing a front load washer in an area with good airflow, wiping the door gasket and detergent drawer after every use, and leaving the doors slightly ajar to keep mold at bay. That might be more of a cleaning routine than you want to commit to.

Top load washing machines, by contrast, require zero maintenance. They don’t have mold problems since they rely on gravity to pull water down. There aren't any seals or gaskets for water to get trapped in. And there's a free airflow through the lid. Thus: no maintenance.

But mold-fighting technology is proving so popular that some top-load washers now incorporate it, even though it's not strictly necessary. For instance, GE Profile 900 series top-load washers have Microban-coated gaskets, dispensers, and drain systems for extra anti-stink protection.

  • Product Suggestion: If your heart's set on a front load washer, GE washers have a unique solution (i.e Ultrafresh) to fight mold.
Watch our exclusive video review of GE washers

Cleaning Performance

Winner: Front load washers


For the best washer, this is everything. Cleaning performance hinges on detergent distribution, water temperature, time, and the mechanical action of the drum.

Front loaders remove more dirt and grime and are better at removing stains in almost all tests. Ultimately, it's the biggest reason why front load is better than top load.

For starters, front loaders are better at distributing detergent into the load. Electrolux even has a feature called SmartBoost that pre-mixes the ideal amount of water, detergent, and stain remover for about six minutes prior to releasing it into the drum. This creates the perfect cleaning solution and is why Electrolux is consistently rated tops for stain removal.

The tumbling motion of a front load washing machine's drum also helps clean clothes better. Top loaders pull and twist fabric instead. Even if you choose one that has an impeller instead of an agitator (that is, a surface in the bottom of the drum that moves clothes around rather than a post in the center), it just won't clean as evenly.

The one exception? Really dirty clothes. Say you're a landscaper or an avid gardener. Muddy clothes need a stronger wash action and more water to get completely clean. In that case, we'd recommend a top loader with an agitator and a deep fill option.

  • Product Suggestion: Electrolux washers are top-notch and are gentle on fabric yet effective on stains. The ELFW7637BT is a great front load washer worth considering.


Winner: Front load washers
Many top loaders and front loaders today have anti-vibration sound-dampening features, so look for those if your laundry room is close to bedrooms or living areas.

Regardless, top loaders are much louder throughout the cycle, not just at the beginning when you can hear water splashing as the tub fills up.

You can, however, get one with a soft-close lid now—so at least you won’t get annoyed by your family members letting the door slam. The LG WT7800CW is a good example of a top loader with this feature.

Ease of Use

Winner: Top load washers


Top load washers have always been convenient since there's no bending over to load and unload clothes. For older buyers or people who have joint issues, top loading washing machines typically stand at an ideal height for reaching in. If you're on the shorter side or need extra access, however, you might not have as easy a time reaching a stray sock in the drum. In this case, your best bet is a step stool.

Front loaders, on the other hand, are great if you need an accessible solution or are short, but they can be annoying to unload if you're tall or have joint pain. That's why we recommend installing the units side by side on laundry pedestals that raise them about 12 to 15 inches if you can. Just keep in mind that's an extra expense of a couple hundred bucks on average per pedestal, and it means you can't stack them.

Top loaders also have other convenient qualities, such as the ability to add clothes midcycle or even right after starting the cycle. Top loading washers also collect lint and distribute fabric softener better than front load washing machines do.

  • Product Suggestion: The LG WT7800CW is a good example of an easy-to-use top loader. It's highly rated by leading consumer organizations and comes with a Slam Proof lid that closes gently.

Faster Cycle Times

Winner: Top load washers

Top load washers typically wash clothes faster since they immerse them in water for the whole wash cycle.

The exception to the rule: agitator vs. impeller.


Not all top loaders are created equal. Today, there are two main types: ones that have an agitator and ones that don't. An agitator is the post at the center of the washer that creates motion by shaking and forcing water around the drum.

A top loading washing machine with an agitator typically washes the fastest. For instance, the Speed Queen TC5003WN washer completes a cycle in about 30 minutes. A top loading washing machine without an agitator, known as a high efficiency (HE) or impeller washer, has fins in the bottom of the drum rather than an agitator at the center. It cleans better, holds more per load, and uses much less water—even though it takes an average of 50 minutes for a normal cycle. That's why impeller washers cost more.

We covered the differences between the agitator top load washers and impeller washer in our in-depth review.

Front loaders take an average of 60 minutes per normal wash cycle. And though they might have a quick wash cycle of 30 minutes or less, it's usually for smaller, lighter loads. (That's a good detail to check in the specs.) Some exceptions are LG's TurboWash and Samsung's Super Speed Wash, which can handle bigger loads, but washers with them tend to be pricier.

  • Product Suggestion: The Speed Queen washer got its mojo back with the release of the TC5003WN (aka TC5) traditional agitator washer that's able to complete a cycle in under 28 minutes.

Energy & Water Efficiency

Winner: Front load washers


Front load washing machines definitely use much less water than the typical top load washing machine—about 2,000 gallons less per year on average.

According to the EPA, an average family uses more than 300 gallons of water per day. Clothes washing accounts for 17 percent of the total tab. Therefore, an efficient front load washer can help better sustain our environment. Consumer Reports also consistently rates front load washers "excellent" and "very good" compared with top loaders, which it normally rates "poor" or "fair."

Because they use less water, front loaders also need less detergent.

And they have another energy-saving benefit: They're better at removing water from clothes due to the way they spin at the end of the cycle. That means they need less time in the dryer.

Want to be sure you're buying an eco-friendly appliance? Look for the Energy Star label.

Installation Flexibility

Winner: Front load washers


Front load washing machines give you more installation options. You can place them side by side, as most people do, or you can stack your dryer on top to take up less space.

In many homes, space, among other details, tends to be a major deciding factor when choosing a washer and dryer. If you have limited space or an unusual setup, be sure to refer to our post on compact washers and dryers. They may have a few less cubic feet of capacity for clothes, but they fit into about two square feet—a cinch for closets—and can still handle a king size comforter.

To make the dryer controls easier to reach, some brands have developed features that let you set the dryer using the washer's control panel, like Samsung's MultiControl. LG's WashTower, a single unit that has a washer on the bottom and a dryer on top, also has easy to reach center controls.

Front loaders come in a variety of widths, too. The standard is 27 inches, but models from brands like Miele and Bosch come in compact 24 inch widths. Top loaders don't come in compact options.

Pro Tip: Whether you prefer a front load vs top load washer, be sure to check the dimensions of your space against any machine you buy—especially the depth and door swings.

And front load washing machines can pair with ventless dryers. If you live in an apartment or want to put your laundry in an area where you can't vent to the outside, ventless dryers use condensation to drain water out of the tub instead of venting out the hot, humid air.

  • Product Suggestion: The Miele WXD160WCS washer is only 24 inches wide and pairs with a matching stackable dryer. It is an ideal laundry for apartments or tight spaces. The ventless heat-pump dryer uses standard 110 volt electricity, which makes it versatile.

Which spins faster—so your clothes dry faster?

Winner: Front load washers


We mentioned this earlier, but during the final spin cycle front load machines generally spin about 33 percent faster than typical top loaders, removing more water from the clothes before you transfer them to the dryer.

This means your clothes will dry faster in the dryer and be less heavy to move between the two units. One drawback, however, is that the spin cycle causes many front load washers to vibrate, making noise that many people would rather not hear.

You can find the spin speed of any washer in its specifications document measured by RPMs (revolutions per minute). We expect a good front load washer to have 1,300 RPMs; steer clear of any front load models with less than 1,200 RPMs. On the other hand, you can expect anywhere between 700 and 900 RPMs from an average top load washer. Recently, LG and Samsung are leading the pack with top loaders that spin faster, at 1,050 RPMs.

Which looks better?

Winner: Front load washers

This one’s quick: Front load machines look like they came from this century. Top loaders look like they’re stuck in the 90s. We prefer front loaders with their nice trim and glass doors.

Which saves you more money?

Winner: It depends...

We don’t think top load or front load technology is inherently more reliable than the other. With any washer, reliability is a function of build quality. A lot of people think that top loaders break down faster. We can’t say that’s definitely true.

All manufacturers offer good, better, and best options, and the machines are priced accordingly. The better models tend to be built better. In the best models, you’ll often find bells and whistles like Wi-Fi, or a little extra capacity, or perhaps a different color finish.

Front load washers cost more, generally speaking, but we think they’re worth it if you’re at all flexible on the price. If you’re looking for a rock-bottom price, choose a top loader. The technology is simpler and it’s time tested.

  • Product Suggestion: The LG WT7005CW is a budget friendly and reliable top-load washer.

The Verdict

So, which washing machine is better?

Comparison Factor Washer Type
Which reduces smell/mold issues Top Load
Which cleans better? Front Load
Which is quieter? Front Load
Which is easier to use? Top Load
Which washes faster? Top Load
Which is more efficient? Front Load
Which is easier to fit in your space? Front Load
Which spins faster? Front Load
Which looks better? Front Load
Which saves you money? It Depends

Front load washing machines win in 6 out of 10 categories. But that doesn't mean they're the best choice for every household. To sum it all up:

The feature set found in front loaders is generally better than that in top loaders. Also, front load washers are more energy and water efficient. Overall cleaning performance and stain removing abilities are better in front loaders. If you need to fit a washer in a smaller space, compact front loading washers can be placed under the countertop or stacked in a closet. However, these attractive looking, modern washing machines come at a slightly higher price tag, and the door seals do require regular wiping down to prevent mold.

Top load washers are more convenient to load and unload, offer a tub of water for presoak, and are easier to maintain than front load washers.
If you're looking for a quicker and easier wash, top loaders are probably a better way to go. If your laundry area is in a basement with limited airflow, gravity pulls residual water away from the seals and gaskets so wiping down these parts is not necessary. However, while these washers initially save money, top load washers will cost more in water and energy usage over time.

Shopping for a front load vs. top load washer ultimately comes down to what you're personally looking for and where your laundry will be located.

Additional Resources

We keep our roundup articles up to date as manufacturers release new products. We also gather real-time customer information and feedback and update our rankings based on this input.

Pro Tip: Contact our staff at (888) 714-4938 to inquire about washer and dryer savings.