Washing Machine Types and Sizes – Front Load or Top Load?

Washing Machine Types and Sizes - Front Load or Top Load?

So it’s time to replace your washer and dryer. Maybe your current set has finally broken down, or it’s just not meeting your needs anymore. While a washing machine is not the most thrilling appliance in the home, it serves an essential purpose. Many families run a load of laundry or more nearly every single day. That means small inconveniences can become extremely frustrating, and minor but significant features can make a huge difference over time.

Therefore, it makes sense to invest a bit of time when choosing the best washer and dryer set — one that’s built to last, features great tech advancements, and washes & dries well without breaking the bank.

The good news? There are over 200 different options available. The bad news? There are over 200 different options available. How do you choose the right one for you with so much variety in quality, style, features, and price?

That’s where we come in. Whether you’re excited about the prospect of some new appliances or just want to get the buying process over with so you can move on with your life, we recognize that no one wants to spend hundreds of dollars for a so-so machine. We’ve put together this guide to ensure that you buy a great washing machine that will keep you happy for a decade or more.

First Order of Business – The Fit

The sizes of washer and dryers have changed dramatically over the last ten years. Therefore, it is imperative to start your journey by measuring the space the washer and/or dryer will occupy. You want to make sure that there is enough height, width, and depth to fit your chosen model.

Washer Fit

If you need guidance on how to fit a washer in your laundry space check out our in-depth, visual washer and dryer installation checklist.

Washing Machine Types

There are two main types of washing machines in the market today: top load and front load washers. The differences between these two styles are significant, including how they function, how well they clean, and other design factors. Knowing the distinctions will help you make an informed decision about which type of washer to choose.

Specialty washers, along with unitary laundry centers, are derivatives of the front-load or top-load technology.

1. Top Load Washers


a. Traditional Agitator Washers

Agitator top load washers are generally considered the ‘standard’ washer type. The agitator is the central rod or part that is designed to move the clothes around and increase cleaning power. But that power comes at a cost. Top load washers with agitators tend to have less carrying capacity. They use more water, and are less gentle on fabrics due to the movement of the agitator. However, top load washing machines are generally less expensive and their wash cycles tend to be faster than other models.

In terms of aesthetic, top load washers with agitators also are generally not among the most stylish-looking appliances. But top load machines keep you from having to stoop down to put clothes inside and also allow you to toss in stray socks or other forgotten laundry even while a cycle is running, something most front-load washers don’t allow for.

Overall, the performance level of top load washers with agitators can vary, but they tend to produce cleaning results that are just good, rather than truly impressive.


b. Impeller (High-Efficiency) Top Load Washers

Top load machines without an agitator use a shallow impeller to move water alongside of the drum. Impeller top load washers provide more storage capacity. They are gentle on your clothes. These high-efficiency machines are considered the more modern update to standard top load washers with agitators. They have many of the same features of modern front load washers, including load sensors to determine the perfect water level as well as fast spin cycles to reduce drying time and save energy, removing more water.

One thing to keep in mind—high-efficiency washers without agitators require a special high-efficiency detergent, and wash cycles tend to be longer than standard top load machines.


2. Front Load Washers

Standard Front Load Washers

Most manufacturers pack their front load washers with many modern features each year, consistently improving their efficiency and cleaning performance.

As an example, standard front load washers have the highest spinning tumble speed out of any washer. Spinning more than 1200 RPM, they’re able to remove moisture from clothes very effectively, so the drying process becomes much short.

One of the main advantages of front load washers over their top-loading counterparts is that they can be stacked with a matching dryer and save space in your laundry area. Front load washers have the newest features, and their cleaning results tend to be better than other types. Their initial cost is more than top load washers, but they offer water adjustment systems and more energy efficient solutions that enable them to use less water than standard top-load machines, keeping more money in your pocket in the long run.

Our Exclusive Video Review on Tips Before You Purchase a Stackable Washer & Dryer

Best stackable washer and dryer sets also have greater capacity sizes than most top load machines currently available. They also generally boast the best cleaning capability, including when it comes to bulky items. They cause the least wear and tear on clothing since they don’t have any agitator or impeller, but loading and unloading require bending and/or kneeling to access the door. If you don’t like this, you’ll need to purchase a pedestal to raise the washer.


Compact Washers

Compact washers are smaller in size. They usually have a width of 24-inches. They are a good potential option for those who have limited space in their homes or apartments.

Although they are smaller, apartment size washers and dryers have all the great features of modern laundry. Compact size dryers are mostly electric. When stacked compact washers & dryers can be lifesavers in limited space!


Specialty Washers

Besides all the classic designs, there are some innovative and unique washers and dryers available out there.

The LG TwinWash features a small pedestal washer underneath a full-sized LG Washer. Most manufacturers use this extra space for a storage drawer, but LG uses it to provide a secondary, smaller washing machine for quickly handling small loads—even if a larger load is underway in the main washer. The pedestal washer can even be removed or installed after the initial installation of the main washer.

Samsung’s FlexWash and FlexDry: Samsung has offered a double machine system, but Samsung positions the additional unit on top and it cannot be separated. Like the LG model, this two-washer setup boosts capacity and saves users time by giving them the ability to wash or dry two different loads or types of laundry at the same time.

Specialty machines like these carry a few distinct advantages. Imagine you have a large load of laundry that includes both heavily soiled exercise clothes and delicates. You could wash workout clothes on an intense cycle in the large washer, and wash delicates on a more gentle cycle in the smaller wash. That’s the power of dual washer and dryer setups.


3. Laundry Centers

Laundry centers are stacked washer & dryer combos that you cannot separate. They are not the most efficient solution anymore and have less capacity than other types. Only a few manufacturers are still producing laundry centers at all. Why? Because while a standard 27” front load washer has around 4.3 cu. ft. – 4.5 cu. ft. capacity, a GE 27” laundry center has only 3.8 cu. ft. washer. That means less space for laundry loads and more loads necessary each day, eventually adding up to hundreds of extra hours of laundry time you don’t need.



Contemporary washers and dryers are energy efficient and come with many features that you will enjoy. Manufacturers make hundreds of different models in various sizes as they are aware of the fact that most homes have dimension constraints. Therefore, it is imperative to measure your space before getting too far on your research.

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SIDENOTE. This post was last modified on December 17, 2020. However, we regularly update our content as we test more products and new models are released. We also listen to the feedback of our customers and make changes to our product recommendations based on their experiences. So don’t be surprised if you see some old comments below! Since reader comments contribute to the topic, we have decided not to delete them.

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