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:
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?