The average American family does nearly 400 loads of laundry every year. That’s a lot of dirty socks.
While most families still use traditional top-loading washers to handle all of that laundry, new front-loading models are making serious headway into the market.
Which is the best type to use? We take a quick spin through the pros and cons of each.
New appliances can be daunting, especially with all those technical features. Sometimes it can feel like you’re piloting a space shuttle just to do a load of laundry. Not so with most top-loaders. Everyone is familiar with them: the central agitator, the wash cycles. They’re what most people used growing up, and some estimates say 75% of households still do.
• Adding clothes mid-cycle
It never fails: You start your load and then notice a sock on the laundry room floor. Not a problem with a top-loader. Just pop it open, drop in the wayward sock and resume the wash cycle. With most front-loaders, you can’t open the door once the cycle has started.
Top-loaders are generally cheaper than their fancy front-loading cousins. You can get a base model for around $300, and the price goes up from there, based on the fancier features.
For some people, especially those with back problems, it’s simply more comfortable to load and unload from the top of the washer. No bending required.
With top-loaders, you can use the same kind of detergent you’ve been using all your life. Front-loaders require specially made suds.
• Energy costs
There’s only one, but it’s a biggie: Top-loaders use an average of 7,000 more gallons of water than front-loaders per year. One reason is because the cavity, or basket, fills with water, whereas it doesn’t in a front-loader. This means you’re using much more water and more energy to heat that water.
• Energy costs
Front loaders need less water per load, and some estimates say they use as much as 50% less energy than their traditional cousins, making them more economical and better for the environment.
The speed of the spin cycle on front-loaders is much faster than the spin of top-loaders. That means your clothes come out drier, resulting in less drying time. So you’ll be saving time and money on that aspect as well.
• Space inside the washer
Front-loaders don’t have agitators like top-loaders do. Agitators take up a lot of space. Because the basket is empty, you’ve got much more room for larger loads. And larger loads mean less loads.
• Bells and whistles
For techies who love the latest and greatest features, front-loaders are generally a better fit. Many have steam cycles for heavy stains, smart features that allow you to start and monitor the laundry when you’re not home and electronic keypads — the whole nine yards.
Some people report that their front-loaders can develop a rather unpleasant smell. That’s because water gets trapped in the seals around the door and can lead to mold. There are ways to prevent this from happening, but as a buyer, you should be aware of this issue.
Consider the amount of bending you’ll be doing to take clothes in and out of the washer 400 times a year. If you’ve got a bad back, a top-loader is probably a better choice.
Over time, you’ll see savings on your energy bills, but your front-loading machine will cost you more up-front.
You’ll need to use specially formulated detergent for your front-loader.
The Best of Both Worlds?
Having trouble deciding? Consider a high-efficiency top-load washing machine. There are a lot of makes and models to choose from. Though they’re more expensive than traditional top-loaders, they’ve got the innovations usually associated with front-loaders. You can find ones with fancy computerized keypads that save just as much energy as front-loaders, do loads in less time and have cool features like steam.