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. Sometimes very small. We tend to prefer having our washing machines in the kitchen under a worktop. Things are slowly changing as more modern homes have a separate laundry room, but front loaders are firmly established as the number one choice in the UK.

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 focused manufacturer’s attention in this area.

But if you have only a small space and restricted width requirements then top loaders can be 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 – then in such circumstances a top loader may be the best choice.

Bigger wash capacity

Historically, top loaders have had much larger drums and a bigger wash capacity, which is another reason some might have preferred one.

These days though, 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 – washing machine drum sizes – pros & cons.

Adding laundry

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).

Wash efficiency

In the reviews I’ve seen, consumer group Which? don’t appear to be too impressed with top loaders. They said 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 for most people. 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 may well cancel this out.

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Top loaders use much more water (which is bad), but a possible advantage to this is that they may rinse more efficiently (Why can’t modern washing machines rinse properly?). 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 because overall a front loading washing machine is likely to be best for most people.

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29 thoughts on “Which is best a top loader or a front loader?”

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. I recently bought a Whirlpool American top loading washing machine off ebay. The seller said it was in mint condition. The machine was brand new even still had shipping strip and protective cover of console. I have to say it’s the best machine I have owned. You have 3 load setting and uses hot water. I know they don’t have internal heaters but have a good supply of hot water. What impresses me the most is the amount of washing it can take and the speed it completes a cycle. Most loads done in just over 30 mins.

    I know they use a tremendous amount of water, but I seem to be washing less loads due to the enormous tub. I think it’s 640rpm, but I have a separate spin dryer that spins 2800rpm, so I spin my clothes in that.

    I also like the fact you can use any type of washing powder. I have been using Persil twin tub powder. I remember my mum having a Hotpoint top loader and she was pleased with that.

    I also have a quite new LG steam washer, it’s a good machine but cycle times tend to be long. If the LG is fully loaded the display can come up with 3 hours 37 mins. It does have turbo wash but only has 1 rinse.
    I converted my garage into a gym and laundry room so space is not an issue. The garage is well heated so no danger of frost bursting pipes.


  6. I had a Hotpoint top loader back I’m the 70s and I regret ever giving it up it washed incredibly well and it meant because it was a top loader that you could add the odd bit (like an escaped sock)! It had a paddle in it like the commercial washers and fed the water through a filter on the top if the paddle of of the paddle trapping dog hair and other fluff brilliantly

  7. Top loaders every time for me! Front loaders never seem to have enough water in them, and they don’t rinse properly! When you wash a small load of, lightweight synthetic items, you have to put a bath towel in with them, otherwise the paddles don’t lift them, and they just sit there at the bottom of the drum! I always end up adding extra water to every single front loader I’ve owned, I really wish you could still get Hotpoint top loaders. Plus, the amount of time it takes to do a wash is ridiculous. I washed some clothes for a neighbour when her washer broke down, at the time I had a Hotpoint top loader. She said the soles of her white socks, and her other whites, had never looked as clean ,or smelled as fresh! She though I must have used an expensive detergent, so I told her it was just the supermarket’s own brand non- bio, and that it was all down to the machine.

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