Top loader washing machines – agitator or impeller?

June 20th, 2014

Appliance Talk Laundry Washers & Dryers

So you’ve decided to invest in a new top loader for your laundry.  Good choice!  Not only are these reliable washing machines easy to load and unload without bending over and straining your back, but they’re also simple to use, and you can always toss in a forgotten sock mid-cycle.

front load vs top load washing machines

One thing to think about when choosing a top loading washer is whether to opt for a model that washes using a central agitator, or one that uses an impeller.

Here’s a quick comparison:

What is an agitator?

No, it’s not an unsatisfied individual organising protests against The Establishment.


In a top load washing machine, an agitator is a vertical column found in the centre of the washer’s bowl.  By twisting back and forth while the machine is running, it moves around or “agitates” your clothes, so that every surface of every garment can receive an even amount of water and detergent, and come out of the wash thoroughly cleaned.

However, an agitator takes up valuable space inside your washing machine’s drum, which can make it tricky to fit large loads of laundry into the machine, especially when laundering large items such as doonas and blankets.

Also, the powerful washing action of an agitator can be rough on your delicate clothes, and there’s a risk of your garments catching on the central column and stretching or tearing as it spins.

What is an impeller?

Top loader washing machines that don’t use an agitator typically include another part called an impeller or pulsator, which performs a similar function in a different way.



The low-profile impeller often resembles the propeller of a boat’s outboard motor, and functions in a similar way to an agitator; spinning back and forth in order to further churn the water (sometimes referrred to as a “pulsing” action).


This helps to rotate and spin your clothes for an even wash, while being gentle on your delicate clothes.  Plus, the low-profile design means you can fit more items of laundry into each wash load.

However, while using an impeller means that your clothes won’t get caught on the agitator, there remains a risk of your clothes getting tangled with each other.  This can in turn throw the unit out of balance as these clumps of tangled clothes start spinning together.

Finally, while impellers are often gentler on your clothes than agitators, this gentler action can mean your clothes won’t get as thorough a clean, or that an equally thorough wash cycle may take longer to complete.

Want more help?

Contact the team at Appliances Online if you’ve any further questions about what appliances are best for your laundry.  Our experts are available 24/7, 365 days a year!

Mark joined Appliances Online in November 2011 and has since learned more than he ever expected to know about appliances. He enjoys looking for new and unusual ways for to solve everyday problems using typical household appliances. When he’s not toiling at the desks of Appliances Online and Big Brown Box, he tries to find time to write the next big bestseller and draw satirical cartoons, but is too easily distracted by TV, music and video games. Mark’s favourite appliance is the Dyson Groom Tool, as he loves the concept of vacuuming your dog. Google+

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