Top-Load vs. Front-Load Washer: Which Should You Choose?

published Jan 28, 2023
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Split screen: left side is a laundry room with a top loding washing machine, open, laundry in red basket. Right side is a laundry room with a front loading washing machine, open, white laundry basket on floor in front
Credit: From left to right: eyecrave productions/Getty Images, gerenme/Getty Images

Most people spend a good amount of time in the laundry room, so the decision to have a hard-working, reliable washing machine is a no-brainer. But these days, every washer is equipped with different features and designs, which can directly impact a machine’s performance (not to mention your experience doing laundry). For example, you may be struggling to choose between a top-load washing machine or a front-load option. Does one do a better job of cleaning your clothes than the other? And just as importantly, which type is easier to use? 

In reality, both top and front-load washing machines can be effective and efficient appliances. But it’s important to understand the key differences before investing in one — your experience in the laundry room depends on it. Ahead, your guide to the difference between top-load and front-load washing machines — and how to pick the best option for you and your home. 

Top-load washing machine 

Top-load washing machines are just what they sound like: washers where you load your clothes from the top rather than the front. How you load your laundry is the main difference between the two types of machines, says Gretchen Boyd, president of NYC House Cleaners.

But some important structural differences in these washers can affect how your clothes are washed. Top load washers generally have agitators or impellers in the center of the machine that rotates the laundry through the drum for more thorough washing. While these features may result in a thorough clean, they can also be hard on delicates.

Robert Johnson, senior director of merchandising at Coast Appliances, says top loaders tend to use more electricity and water than other machines. They may also have fewer fancy features, which makes them more affordable options. 


  • Often have shorter cycle times
  • Easier to add laundry in the middle of a cycle
  • Generally more affordable 
  • Easy to clean and maintain 


  • May use more water and detergent
  • Could be more difficult to load depending on your height
  • More likely to accumulate mold or mildew
  • Agitation could wear down your clothes
  • May require more repairs

Front-load washing machine 

Front-load washing machines open via a door in the front. They also don’t have agitators or impellers; instead, Boyd says they tumble your clothes using paddles on either side of the drum, which can be kinder on your laundry. 

The structure of a front-load machine also allows it to hold more laundry, so you may end up doing fewer cycles over time — an important consideration because these models often involve a higher up-front cost than top-loading ones. 

If efficiency is important to you, front-load machines usually use less water and detergent than their top-loading counterparts. Another plus: “The spin cycle of front-loading washing machines extracts moisture from fabrics at the wash cycle end stage, which reduces additional drying time via a tumble dryer or air drying,” Johnson says. 


  • Often more efficient because they use less water
  • Uses less detergent
  • Can handle larger loads
  • Less likely to accumulate mold or mildew
  • Less harsh on delicate clothes
  • Better extracts water from clothes
  • Can be stacked with a dryer to save space


  • May be more expensive 
  • More difficult to add clothes in the middle of a cycle 
  • Door seals and gaskets need regular cleaning 
  • Can be uncomfortable to load if you don’t like hunching over

Ultimately, whether you choose a top-loading or front-loading washer is up to you and your personal needs and preferences. Doing your research before buying one can help to protect your investment — and, hopefully, make laundry less of a drag.