Investing In a Front-Load Washing Machine

A few months after I found out I was pregnant I looked into purchasing a front-load washing machine. I always dreamed of having a washer that could clean 20 towels, plus a king-sized comforter, at once. However, my dream was soon dashed when I learned that the front-load machine I wanted did not accommodate Dreft, the pediatrician recommended laundry detergent that I had purchased to wash my baby’s new clothes.

That was five years ago. My baby is now in first grade and has since graduated from Dreft. Now, I am back doing research on front-load washers, and apparently, I am not alone. A recent study shows that 30% of washers sold in the United States today are front-loaders.

Front-load vs. top-load. How do you tell which washer is best for you? Take a look at some of the pros and cons:

FRONT-LOAD WASHERS

Pro: Several models – notably Whirlpool’s Duet – boast the ability to wash 20 pounds in one load. That’s 16 pairs of jeans or 50 T-shirts. My family doens’t even own that many pairs of jeans or t-shirts, but the idea that I could clean all that material excites me.

Pro: Uses less water, which lowers utility bills. A conventional top-load machine will hold 11 or 12 bath towels and use 45 gallons of water. A high-capacity washer will hold 22 bath towels and use 18 to 22 gallons. Front-loaders also spin clothes faster than a conventional top-load washer, extracting more water. This too translates into lower energy bills since a single load will require less time in the dryer.

Pro: Uses a wash process that is gentler on clothing. No agitator to rub and potentially weaken fabric. Manufacturers claim the tumbling action of a front-loader is actually gentler than hand-washing your clothes as the cleaning action consists of gently lifting clothes out of the water, and then dropping them back in, over and over.

Pro: Quieter operation. It creates less noise and vibration than a top-loader.

Con: Requires a special type of detergent made for front load machines. The high-efficiency detergents (which are recommended for best results in front loaders) cost more than the traditional types and might not be available everywhere.

Con: Front load-machines cost more. Prices vary, but expect to pay 30 percent to 40 percent more for a front-loader than you would for a comparable top-load machine. Some cost $1,000 or more, but you can find a few models in the $600 to $900 range.

Con: Some front loaders do not allow you to add an item once the cycle has started. So if you find a sock under the dresser shortly after you have started a load, you’ll have to wait to wash it with another load.

Con: Cycle times for front-load washers tend to run a bit longer (60 to 80 minutes vs. 40 to 60 minutes for top-load).

Pros for sticking with your conventional top-load washer include:

*Price: Conventional top loaders cost about $300-$600.

*Proven reliability: These machines have been around a lot longer than front loaders.

*Uses regular detergent.

*More models are available.

I have a few friends who own front-load washing machines and they have no complaints. I still have yet to make up my mind. Do you own a front-load washing machine? Would you recommend it to others?

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Michele Cheplic

About Michele Cheplic

Michele Cheplic was born and raised in Hilo, Hawaii, but now lives in Wisconsin. Michele graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in Journalism. She spent the next ten years as a television anchor and reporter at various stations throughout the country (from the CBS affiliate in Honolulu to the NBC affiliate in Green Bay). She has won numerous honors including an Emmy Award and multiple Edward R. Murrow awards honoring outstanding achievements in broadcast journalism. In addition, she has received awards from the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association for her reports on air travel and the Wisconsin Education Association Council for her stories on education. Michele has since left television to concentrate on being a mom and freelance writer.