Surprisingly, they have less in common than you'd think.

The differences between front loading and top loading washing machines are vast, from their fill capacity to the type of detergents that pair best with each. Here, we spoke with two laundry experts to find out what makes these washers so different, even though they both do the same job. Ahead, their insight, including tips on how to choose the best option for your laundry needs.

woman loading washing machine
Credit: Getty / Cris Cantón

Less Obvious Differences

While there are obvious differences between these two models (the doors are in two separate spots, after all), there are structural fluctuations that are a little more subtle, says Laura Johnson, a consumer analyst in research and development at LG Electronics. "Front load washers use gravitational force to make clothes knock against one another, scrubbing themselves clean with the detergent; top load washing machines use an agitator or impeller to move clothes around for cleaning," she explains.

Best Is Relative

Though there are pros and cons for both options, deciding which is best comes down to your family's needs. "It's easier to lose a sock in a front loader, as most residential machines have the drum loose from the machine. Small things may disappear without anyone knowing it," explains Marieke van der Graaf of Laundrylicious. "But top loaders are great for soaking dirty items." So, if you do a lot of laundry that needs an extra soaking period (a must if you have kids in messy sports), a top loader may be the model for you.

However, if you're concerned about your washer's efficiency, go with a front loader. "Aside from using less energy and water compared to top loaders, front load machines are also considered to be better at cleaning and removing stains, are gentler, and spin out clothing better than top loader models," notes Johnson. But consider this first, she says: "Top loader models can be more ergonomic, since the access points for adding and removing a load of laundry is at waist height, whereas a front load might require some bending down." Efficiency aside, a front loader might not be the best choice for someone with a bad back or mobility issues.

Bells and Whistles

If you're looking for a high-tech addition to your laundry room, front load washers may be more appealing; they tend to have more bells and whistles. Johnson notes that LG's smart-enabled front load machines come equipped with AI Direct Drive, which uses artificial intelligence to sense the level of soil and fabric type in each load to create a custom wash cycle that cleanses more effectively. Top loaders typically don't have this level of modernization.

Space Requirements

When all is said and done, the biggest difference between the two is the amount of space they take up. Most top load washers cannot be stacked like their front-loading counterparts, which means you will always need to have space for both a washer and dryer on your floor (unless you opt for a hybrid model, that is). Front loaders, on the other hand, can be doubled up, cutting down on the square footage your laundry appliances take up.

Comments (1)

Martha Stewart Member
September 24, 2021
Have used both and my preference 100% is the top loader. But with a caveat. The " old" agitator is much better than the other impeller type. We are dealing with a new world with new problems. The new normal is now hot soapy water with bleach or oxy. The idea of removal of pathogens in cold water is not too bright. Grandma knew what she was doing. Gotta keep those little critters away.