Front load vs top load washing machines: which is better?

February 27th, 2013

Laundry Washers & Dryers

So, your current washing machine has gone to appliance heaven, and you need to buy a new one.

Even though, as comedian John Safran has pointed out, you can wear a pair of underpants four times without washing (forwards, backwards, inside-out forwards, inside-out backwards), there’s only so long you can go without a washing machine before things start to get a little, er, ‘hobo fresh’.

But with so many options available, how do you know which washer is best?

And, most importantly, the big question: should you buy a top load or a front load washing machine?

Fear not, filthy one. Help is at hand!

Top load washing machines

These are the main reasons why some prefer top loaders:

1.    Easier to load

You don’t need to stoop down to load a top loader, which is a prime reason why people choose this style of washer. If you have back problems, this is the washer for you.

2.    Wash cycles are shorter

Generally speaking, top loaders are faster than front loaders. The average wash time for a top loader is around 1-1.5 hours, while front loaders can take anywhere from 1.5-3 hours (depending on the cycle).

Most front loaders offer a fast program (some as short as 15 minutes!) but these are usually only suited to light loads.

3.    Cold water washes

Top loaders and front loaders use different types of detergent. (It’s important to never mix them up, otherwise you could risk damaging your machine).

The detergent used in front loading machines works best in temperatures at 30 degrees Celsius or above – because that is the temperature at which the enzymes will start working. Whereas top loading detergent is more suitable for cold water washes.

However, top loaders require more detergent than front loaders, which is a drawback.

4.    Add/remove items mid-cycle

Even though some front-loaders can be paused mid-cycle so you can rescue your mobile phone (for instance), top loaders make this process a lot easier. So if you discover an errant sock on the floor on your laundry after you’ve pressed ‘start’, you can still pop it into your top loader without a fuss.

5.    Price

Even though front loaders have come down in price in recent years, top loaders are still – generally speaking – the more affordable choice.

Although it should be noted that front loaders are cheaper to run, because they’re more energy and water efficient.

6.    Weight

Top loaders tend to be lighter than front loaders, which makes them easier to move. (Although in some cases, this can mean a sacrifice in sturdiness).

Front load washing machines

At this point you’re probably sold on the virtues of top loaders. But front loading washers present their own set of advantages:

1.    Highly water & energy efficient

As a general rule, front load washing machines use much less water and energy to run. In a country like Australia where water is such a precious resource, this is a particularly important issue. And while you may pay more upfront for an efficient washing machine, the recuperated savings will end up making the investment worthwhile.

2.    Gentle on your clothes

Some top load washing machines use an agitator (i.e. that round plastic column in the middle of the tub) to wash clothes. The problem with this is that your clothes can become tangled, snagged and stretched around the agitator, causing damage to the fabric. Other styles of top loaders do away with the agitator altogether, however this will affect the efficiency of the machine.

It’s a matter of conjecture of course, but some would argue that front loaders give you better wash results – with advanced stain removal capabilities and less lint.

3.    Compact size

The external dimensions of front loading machines are smaller, so you can fit them into tight spaces. This makes them perfect for apartment living. You could also incorporate your front load washing machine into a kitchen – by installing it beneath a bench.

4.    Stack a dryer on top

Provided you get yourself the right stacking kit, you should be able to stack a clothes dryer on top of your front loader – another space saver.

5.    Higher spin speeds

Ever noticed how commercial laundries use front loading washing machines? This is because they’re engineered for frequent, heavy use. Front loaders give you higher spin speeds, which means your clothes will come out drier. This will cut down on the time your clothes spend on the line or in the clothes dryer – saving you time and money.

6.    Less detergent is needed

Because front loaders use less water, less detergent is required. Even though washing detergent manufacturers will tell you to use a full scoop, sometimes you can get away with as little as a quarter scoop – it depends on how soiled your clothes are.

Contrary to popular belief, using large amounts of detergent does not give you cleaner clothes. Additionally, it’s best to use liquid detergent – as it dissolves better, and it doesn’t lose its potency with exposure to heat or moisture (as can happen when you buy powdered detergent in bulk).

The verdict

There’s no right or wrong answer to the question of front loaders versus top loaders. Your decision will ultimately come down to your own unique needs and preferences.

…That said, I personally stand on the front loader side of the divide. They’re so much more efficient – which is important as I take environmental issues seriously. Not only that, but I think they’re more effective. (I currently own a Bosch front load washing machine, and it’s a beaut!)

Each to their own, though. I don’t judge …much.

But hey, don’t take it from me! Here are the product experts from Choice, battling it out:

Need help with your decision?

Feel free to give our helpful Customer Support Team a call – they’re available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week!

1300 000 500

Louise is a writer with a passion for appliances, especially those that involve food. She is particularly fond of ovens because they enable her to make cake. Apart from baking Louise also enjoys listening to alternative music, dying her hair various unnatural colours and writing poetry that has been described (by her Nan) as 'quite nice'. On her appliance wish list is a Hello Kitty toaster and 'Hero' the barking dog-shaped hot dog maker. She lives in Sydney. Google+

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