Which is best, a top loader or a front loader?

FAQ Front loading washing machines are very dominant in the UK and with good reason. Historically our kitchens have been small and we tend to prefer having our washing machines in the kitchen under a work top. Things are slowly changing as more modern homes have a separate laundry room but front loaders are firmly established as the number one choice here.

At the time of writing front-loading washing machines use considerably less water (reportedly up to 60% less), they also use less electricity and less detergent. They tend to wash better these days too, especially after the introduction of the eco-label awards for wash efficiency focussed manufacturer’s attention in this area.

A front loader is essential if it’s required to fit under the worktop. However, as top loaders can be made much slimmer than front loaders, as long as you don’t need to fit it under a worktop – or are prepared to drag it out – and you have a small width restriction it may be the best choice.

Top loaders have historically had a bigger wash capacity which is another reason some might have preferred one but these days front loading washing machines are available with extra large drum capacities of 6, 7 or 8Kg and bigger. (Related: Looking at how much laundry will fit into larger drum capacity washing machine – 7Kg v 5Kg washing machine drum pictures | 8Kg drum wash load in wash basket and hanging on line)

One of the most common so-called advantages of a top loader is that you can add an item of laundry after it has commenced washing but I fail to see how this is a serious advantage. The idea of leaving items of laundry out of the wash and then desperately needing to add something later being a common problem just doesn’t wash with me (excuse the pun).

Which? don’t appear to be too impressed with top loaders either saying that none of the ones they tested were good enough to be a Best Buy. However, they don’t qualify this by saying how many they tested.

At the end of the day some people may just prefer a top loading washing machine but front loading washing machines are likely to remain the number one choice. It’s possible that top loading washing machines may be more reliable in general, they tend to have less electronics and have more basic mechanical parts, but the greater running costs of a top loader are likely to cancel this out.

Finally, as top loaders use much more water (which is bad) a possible advantage to this is that they may rinse more efficiently. If rinsing thoroughly is very important to you (more important than wash efficiency and running costs) then it may be worth looking into a top loader but rinsing would need to be of paramount importance to you ( Why can’t modern washing machines rinse properly? )

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  1. avatarAnonymous says

    Do the front loading washing machines sold in the U.K. have mold problems causing the clothes to smell badly after the wash?

  2. avatarKeith Tunnicliff says

    You can use soap powder in a top loader but not in a front loading washing machine, thereby avoiding all the problems of allergic reactions AND no need for any fabric softener!

  3. avatar says

    Hello Keith. Is there a known difference between top loader (and twin tub) detergent compared to front loader detergent with regards to allergies? As far as I know the only difference is that front loader detergent has suppressants in it to prevent excessive foaming.

  4. avatargamston says

    i have a maytag top loader washing machine please can anyone recommend a wash powder that does not leave a white residue on dark garments. When in America this did not happen at all.

  5. avatartariq says

    is manual washing is possible in top loading washing machine in case there is a water shortage?

  6. avatar says

    I don’t think so tariq. They have pressure switches to control the water level just like front loading washing machines, so they aren’t likely to wash without the required level of water.

  7. avatarZach Smith says

    Front loaders win when comparing efficiency. But here is a point to consider, washing machines with more modern features usually break down easily. If we compare durability, i think top loaders still win. The older models of top loaders even last long enough to be passed down to the next generation.

  8. avatarMichael Brooks says

    I am sick to death of front loaders. Every front loader I have had suffers the same problem – dirt and mould grows in the door rubber and this gets transferred onto clothes (particularly thin materials such as shirts) from time to time during washing. Scrub as I might I cannot keep the mould and dirt away, and besides I don’t actually want to have to scrub the machine after every wash. A top loader cannot suffer this problem as gravity keeps the washing away from the door.

  9. avatarMichael Brooks says

    Washerhelp – many many thanks for this link. I’m ordering a new doorseal in the morning and I will follow the link’s advice re preventing the build up of mould in future.


  10. avatarGraham Galer says

    1. No-one has mentioned the convenience of top-loaders – you don’t have to crouch to load them and it is a lot easier to take the washed laundry out. For anyone over 60 or so this is quite a big plus.

    2. There are two types of top-loaders, those with a drum revolving in a vertical plane, and those where the drum is set horizontally. Our machine (Bosch UK) has a vertical drum, which is OK but can get jammed if the machine is inadvertently started with the drum door open. The horizontal kind, which we have used many times in Australia, doesn’t have this proplem, and the lid can be opened while washing, which can sometimes be useful.

  11. avatarWendyG says

    Top loaders win hands down for me. I grew up with a Hotpoint top loader.. sadly no longer made in a decent size and moved to a front loader a few years ago. I hate it – nothing is rinsed adequately and the whole system seems to rely on chemicals to get things clean rather than real water. I don’t agree with the ‘energy efficiency’ bs either. A top loader washes a large load in a fraction of the time a front loader takes, thereby using far less electricity. Obviously water usage is important IF you live in a place where that’s an issue – I live in Scotland, we’ve never been short of water here! My next washing machine will be a top loader. My son and husband have eczema and react badly to the poor rinsing in the front loader. I use a fraction of the amount of liquid detergent recommended just to save their skin, but then of course the machine won’t wash things well owing to lack of water. I’m just fed up of small washes taking nearly two hours too.

  12. avatargeoff jones says

    the rush by manufacturers to front loaders came about simply to satisfy the pressure applied by kitchen suppliers making the new craze for units to fit under work surfaces,including all white goods.Until this desire to have a “modern kitchen arrived kitchens concentrated on simply being efficient.The mnfsbefore this craze”still with us” of building kitchens with every item possible saddled with the need to fit under a work surface ,produced machines that lasted.We still have our top load machine now 30 years old which continues to outwash all front loaders friends and family have.Made by Hotpoint with a load of in excess of 9 kilos it is easy to repair and spares are stil available.

  13. avatarBini says

    Hi I live in a high-rise apartment building and live on the top floor which has the disadvantage of very low water pressure. I would like to know that does a front load washer require more water pressure in compariosn to a Top load washer or is it the other way round.

  14. avatar says

    If anything Bini, a top loader uses more water so it could be worse. It all depends on whether they have software that sets a certain amount of time for filling and aborts if it detects it’s filling too slow or not. Some top loaders may not be as sophisticated as front loaders but I couldn’t say in this situation which would be better. It can also from model to model and manufacturer to manufacturer.

  15. avatarMarian Hobson says

    Only 2 top-loader brands seem available in UK (Bosch seemingly having given up). Why? In CH I have just walked past a shop window displaying: Miele W144; Miele softronic; Elecrolux; Brandt which also could act as a dryer. Inside shop were a variety of front-loaders too.
    This choice should be available in the UK. why isn’t it?

  16. avatargeoff jones says

    Further to my reply “Oct 11 2011″
    Our Hotpoint 9605 electronic de-lux,”washing away in the laundry room as I write”,dous everything better than all front loaders.2 major reasons are, it uses more water in all the programmes ( other than spinning) and the action really moves the clothes backwards and forwards washing the dirt out fully.I tried asking Hotpoint why they had dropped them all those years ago,despite the fact that spares are still available,But no-one available knew that they used to manufacture a top-loader! The supplier I have used for spares told me some 5-6 years back that this type of machine would probably retail at around £1000 now (circa 2005-7) Is this the more likely reason top loaders of my 9605 vintage became unavailable?

  17. avatar says

    Marian & geoff: The answer to your questions is UK kitchens. Traditionally most UK kitchens are very small and our houses often not big enough for laundry rooms. Therefore most people required their washing machine to fit under a work surface in the kitchen. Because of that top loaders were always relatively rare purchases and economies of scale meant they just became increasingly expensive compared to front loaders.

  18. avatarfynnash says

    Top loaders can spin very well with little vibration and some models have a mechanism to check this. Also with a semi automatic top loader u can easily add water when the pressure is low(this is done in most African countries). When using washing powder, front loaders tends to have more residual powder in the cloths than top loaders becos when rinsing the water still has to pass over the caked powder in compartment.

  19. avatarDiane Rooney says

    I have a Westinghouse top-loader that I bought in Australia 20-years ago. It has never broken down or needed spares. There are 3 water levels (low, medium, high) to choose from and 3 wash cycles, plus you can set the clothes to soak pre-wash and even re-use the water by saving to a trough during the first spin of the cycle and then syphoning back into the machine for a new wash. You can use the machine just for rinsing/spinning and you can manipulate the wash while it’s in motion (i.e. add more water if you think the clothes need it.) Having had nothing but fantastic service from my top-loader I would never go back to a front-loader. I just hope that when my Westinghouse finally gives up the ghost I’ll be able to get another or something similar.

  20. avatarkingfisher says

    We have a house in Malaysia and I have a top loading Samsung washing machine and I love it. It does the washing in half the time of my front loader in the UK and gets everything a lot cleaner. The new Samsung models are amazing with great water efficiency and anti tangle facility. I have been looking to buy one in the uk but without success.

  21. avatarPaul says

    I lived in Australia for many years and had various top load machines, the traditional type with an agitator or, as some had, a pulsator in the bottom of the tub. I found both machines to be highly effective and fast. I was also able to wash in tap cold water, which is a fair bit warmer than UK tap cold and still got excellent results using detergents such as Cold Power. Yes, they use more water but the expense of more water was offset by the reduction in water heating energy consumption. Back in the UK I have had h-axis top loaders for 13 years and have only recently gone back to a front loader. I found the h-axis top loaders to be every bit as good as any front loader I have used. As far as I can see there is no performance difference whatsoever. However, when I bought my front loader I opted to by an old second hand machine (approx 15 years old when I bought it) but in excellent condition. The main reason for this was that I wanted a machine that used more water than modern machines particularly when rinsing. I got a Bosch WFF2001 and although it is a bit noisy I couldn’t be happier with it. They really were top end machines of their day and German built.

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