Washing machines come in two basic forms, front-loading […]
Washing machines come in two basic forms, front-loading and top-loading. Top-loading washers were the standard for decades, and still hold a strong place. Old-fashioned front-loaders had a reputation for maintenance problems and mildew growth, but the new crop has largely outsmarted these issues while packing in plenty of helpful technology.
Front-loaders clean more thoroughly and efficiently, using less water and electricity than top-loaders. Plus, front-loading washers remove more water at the end of the cycle. And if the units stack, they save space.
Unlike the twisting action of top-loading machines, front-loaders use a tumbling motion to clean laundry. No space is lost to the agitator, the vertical center arm that provides motion in many top-loading washers, so the whole interior is available for laundry. The tumbling action is more gentle on clothing than an agitator, which can pull, twist, and snag. They also require about five fewer gallons of water per load, which adds up to about 2,000 gallons per year.
While the machine itself is more energy-efficient, it also saves energy that other appliances use. A reduced wash water requirement translates to a reduction in hot water usage, so the water heater isn’t working as much. Also, because the washer removes more water from the clothes at the end of the cycle, the dryer doesn’t run as long.
On the downside, front-loaders are not as durable as top-loaders. Overloading the machine can wear out the rear bearing—the part that supports the weight and movement of the drum—which will mean a pricey repair bill. They require more maintenance, such as cleaning the door and gasket after every use, to ensure that mold and mildew don’t build up inside the drum or on the door. What’s more, anyone with back problems may find bending over to load and unload the washer uncomfortable.
Most folks find top-loading washers clean adequately and are pleased to avoid some of the maintenance issues associated with front-loaders. In some situations, opening the lid on a top-loading washing machine can be a smarter use of space than swinging the front door of a front-loader. Also, they may be less of a back strain for some users.
High-efficiency machines, which use multidirectional wash tub movement instead of an agitator, are the best bet for cleaning ability and water usage in the top-loading category. The wash-cycle runs longer, but the energy and water savings are significant. By pre-treating stains, top-loaders can produce similar cleaning results as front-loaders but cost less.