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Decisions, decisions. There are already so many choices to make, that the further choice between a front and top loader can be a little overwhelming. There are die hard fans on both sides that will tell you exactly why you should stay away from the other, but you will don’t end up with the answers you are looking for. However, I am here to step in and show you the pros and cons of each option. Everything is here, laid out in concise detail, so that you can make a confident choice you won’t end up regretting.
Top Loader vs Front Loader: Knowing the Difference
Before you buy a new washing machine, you need to be able to tell the difference between the two variations; front and top loaders. Really, the only big thing that separates them is the way in which your laundry gets loaded into them. You’ll find out more about each in the next sections; everything from what they are, to the things that make them stand out. Which one will you end up with?
What is a Washing Machine Front Loader?
It’s all in the name with washing machines. The front loader has a door on the front of the machine that the clothes can be loaded through. You’ll find a drawer on the front of the machine above the door that you can put the detergent in. The controls will also be located next to this for easy access. They are smaller than top loaders in terms of capacity, but also much more compact for smaller homes.
What is a Washing Machine Top Loader?
You can load your clothes through the top of this machine through a door in the same place. Unlike the front-loading machines, you cannot watch your clothes wash as the doors tend to be solid. Detergent is usually poured directly into the machine alongside the clothes before you start the load. The controls are also on the top of the machine. They are heavier and bulkier than front loaders, but also have a larger capacity for clothes.
Top Factors to Consider When Choosing Between a Front Loader vs a Top Loader
Now you know the difference, but do you know which one you want? There are quite a few things to consider before you make the final choice, and you might be surprised by which one ends up best suited to your home.
#1 Which is Easier to Use?
Generally speaking, the top loaders are the easiest to use. This is because you don’t need to bend over, and ca instead just dump the clothes straight into the machine. This is ideal for those witch back issues, arthritis, or the elderly. The other thing that makes a front loader easier to use is that the door doesn’t lock, so you can add forgotten clothes in the middle of a cycle without issue. They are also better at distributing fabric softener during a cycle, and you can pour the detergent directly onto the clothes.
#2 How Quickly Do They Wash?
This really depends on the kind of washing machine you have. A lot of the time, a front loader will wash clothes faster, but there is a top loader that holds a secret advantage. There are some models that contain something called an agitator. What this does is create a vibration motion by shaking the water and forcing it through the machine.
As a result, the clothes are cleaned much faster. Front loaders don’t tend to have these agitators, but they will still wash in quicker time than a top loader without one. Both types of machine wash quickly, but the top loader with an agitator is the fastest. However, this does not always mean they are able to clean clothes better.
#3 Which Cleans Better?
The top loader might be easier to fill, but when it comes to the cleaning quality, you need to be looking at the front loader. They are much gentler on clothes, leaving them soft after each wash. Top loaders are rougher on garments, which make more delicate materials easy to damage. Front loaders are also better at washing larger items, such as pillows and duvets, because they can fully immerse them in water; unlike a top loader.
If we are just looking at the up-front cost, the top loader is the cheaper machine. The front loader is typically more expensive, but there is a reason for this. They tend to last longer, and the quality is higher; both in terms of materials and the overall wash. If you compare the average rating for top and front loaders, you will find that the former pretty much always scores higher. Top loaders also need to be replaced sooner, so in the long-run the price ends up evening out.
#5 Which Uses Less Water?
Front loading machines use less water and energy than their top loading counterparts. In fact, they use up to 40% less water than top loaders, which makes them really quite effective when cutting down your water bill. Top loaders are bigger and less refined in terms of their construction, and so they have not yet got the ability to be more efficient with their water usage.
#6 Installation Flexibility
I’ll tell you right now that the front loader wins here. This is partly because they can actually be stacked with a dryer, so they stand one on top of the other. It saves a lot of space and is ideal for really tight utility rooms. It also provides you with more floor space for storage cupboards, making the most out of what you have.
Even if you don’t stack a front loader, you can still use the top of the machine for storing detergents, a laundry basket, or other utility room essentials. They can also be installed under counters, making them much more flexible. All of these are things that a top loader cannot do, and in addition to this, they also take up more space than their front-loading counterparts.
#7 Spin Speed – Performance on Water Extraction
Interestingly, a front-loading washing machine will spin 33% faster during its final cycle than a top loader. What this means is that more water will be removed from the clothes by the time the clothes have finished being washed. So, when you take them out of the machine and transfer them into the dryer, they will take less time to dry. This is a massive benefit and leads to faster washing/drying cycles overall.
#8 The Smell/Mould Issue
Top loaders take the crown for this part, because they are much easier to clean and maintain. Front loaders have the issue of mould forming around the door where the rubber ring is. This is because it is almost constantly wet, and also due to the fact that it collects soap scum quite easily. The build-up can cause mould and mildew, as well as an awful smell that can linger on clothes and in the machine.
Top loaders don’t have this issue because the detergent and the water never really go near the top of the machine. They are also easier to clean and maintain as a result. You can prevent the mould from forming on a front loader, but it does take extra time and effort after each load to ensure this.
Benefits of Front-Loading Machine
What are the benefits of choosing a front-loading washing machine? Below, I have some of the top reasons why you might want to consider one of these in your home.
#1 Cleans Clothes Better & Damages Clothes Less
Front loaders are able to clean clothes better than top loaders, and they are also much gentler. The spin cycle works by moving the clothes up and down, a lot like when you are hand washing clothes. This means that there is less wear and tear during the wash and so they won’t get damaged easily. This is unlike the top loader, which is much harsher on clothes and causes more wear and tear.
#2 Run Fewer Cycles
They wash faster and more efficiently, as well as ensuring clothes are thoroughly cleaned and rinsed. Due to this, you won’t need to run as many cycles which will save you time and energy. They are also able to fit larger objects inside them for washing, so there is no need to wash that comforter twice because you couldn’t quite get it clean in the top loader. It’s just much more effective overall.
#3 Water and Energy Efficient
Using 40% less water means that the front loaders are way more efficient, and your clothes will come out dryer at the end too as a result. The spin cycles are faster, which makes for better results, and it is also cheaper to run. Less water and faster cycles mean more energy efficiency and savings in this area.
Front loaders last longer. They have an average lifespan of 11 years, which means that they will keep going for a fair amount of time. Top loaders, on the other hand, usually last less than a decade, and will need to be replaced sooner. You will find that front-loading machines need less repairs and mechanical maintenance as well, which makes them much cheaper in the long run.
#5 Less Noise During Spin Cycle
These machines are also quieter, running smoothly and with less noise and vibration than the top loading machines. This is much more pleasant, especially during the final spin cycle when it starts moving really fast. There is also less risk of damage to the machine as a result of vibrations because it is quieter and more stable.
#6 More Cycles and Features
The front-loading washing machines have so many more cycles and features than the top loaders. This means you can select more specific washing functions that work with your type of clothing and the materials. You also get to choose shorter or longer cycles, as well as things like baby, sports, and hygiene programmes. There is just more for your money with a front loader.
Cons of Front-Loading Machine
What about the cons, though? It’s something that you need to think about when you buy a new appliance, because you have to know it’s an affordable choice. The main costs of a front-loading machine can be found below.
#1 Initial Cost
They are more expensive to purchase because of their extra features and the improved technology. While this can put a bit of a dent in your finances, it does work out to be cheaper over time. This is due to the fact that they last longer and tend to need less maintenance than top loaders. However, that initial cost does remain quite a strong negative.
#2 Cycle Time
They can take longer to wash clothes, depending on the cycle that you choose for your laundry. In comparison, a top loader’s washing times remain quite consistent, making them shorter overall when compared to a front loader.
#3 Last Minute Laundry
With a front-loading machine, there is no chance to throw in that last minute shirt or forgotten sock. The door is locked, and the only way to get anything else in is to stop the cycle and then start it up again. For a top loader, there is no such complication. Instead, you can just lift the lid up during the cycle and chuck that extra piece of clothing in with no issue.
Benefits of Top-Loading Machine
Thinking about a top-loading machine instead? They can be a good choice to make, especially as they are better for older people or those with back issues. Here are a couple of their top benefits.
#1 Less Expensive
They are much cheaper to buy, which is nice if you find yourself on a tight budget. On top of the lower price, they also tend to have a larger capacity, which can prove pretty handy if you have big loads of washing. Even the top loaders that have slightly fancier features have a lower price than their front-loading counterparts.
#2 Ergonomically Friendly
They are much kinder on your back and joints, which makes for less painful laundry sessions and much less bending over. They are kind on the body, and this is something that is useful for more than just the elderly. Those who have disabilities or find themselves with severe joint pain earlier in life are at equal advantage here.
#3 Easier to Clean
As I mentioned before, the top loader is much easier to clean because the seal at the top of the machine doesn’t really come into contact with water or detergent. So, as long as you don’t leave your clothes in the machine for too long, you should find that you have a lot less to do in terms of cleaning and maintenance.
There are a lot of pros and cons for each type of washing machine, and it is easy to see why there is so much debate surrounding them. Top loaders are more comfortable to use, cheaper, and easier to keep clean. On the other hand, front loaders last longer, are more reliable, and offer more efficient use.
Were I to pick a winner based on all the facts above, I would have to say that the front loader would be it. There are just so many things that set it apart from top loaders, and it is the better and more efficient of the two. If you want quality and something that will last over a decade, a front loader is the one for you.
Gemma Tyler is a freelance journalist with 15 years of experience writing for consumer publications. She has tested and reviewed a wide range of household items from vacuum cleaners to washing machines and dehumidifiers to steam irons. Her attention to detail and exhaustive testing certainly makes her an expert in her field.