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Agitator vs HE Top-Load Washers

There are two main types of top-load washers. First, there is the old-school style with an agitator, which many of us are familiar with, and second are a newer style of top-load washers that use an impeller, which is a low-profile cone that sits at the bottom of the basin.

The agitator is the long spindle that sticks up in the center of many top-loading washers. The idea behind the design was to replicate the way that hand-washing clothes in a tub would “push” all of the soil out of the clothes. Similarly, the agitator, well, agitates. It spins, but not continuously, more in a back-and-forth motion, once again, to replicate the rubbing and scrubbing of clothes washed by hand.

Keep in mind that there are some drawbacks to a washing machine with an agitator. For one, it uses more water and energy than a high efficiency (or a front-load) washer. In addition to that, your clothes are more likely to rip and will wear out faster due to the agitator. Another drawback is that washers with an agitator use more water and energy than HE washers.

HE washers don’t have an agitator, and therefore some may be able to fit larger laundry, like blankets, better. With that being said, you have to load them carefully - you can’t just dump all of your laundry in and shut the lid. You won’t want to stuff your clothes in. You should only fill it up about halfway at most. Also, you’re going to want to loosen the laundry that you put in there. What you don’t want are any tight clumps. Lastly, try and lay your laundry around the outside of the basin, around the impeller.

With these differences in mind, we listed out our picks of what the Best Top Loading washers are in 2021. If you are looking for a washer that doesn’t break the bank, scroll to the bottom to see our picks. Before deciding on whether any of the following washers are the right ones for you, we’d recommend you take a look at some of our other top-load washers here. Try playing around with the filters like price range, brand, and washing mechanism (agitator or impeller, which is what the high-efficiency washers use).

Best Top-Load Agitator Washer: Speed Queen Classic Clean (TR3003WN)

Speed Queen is a company that was started in 1908 in Ripon Wisconsin, just a thirty-minute drive from our Fond Du Lac showroom. They manufacture many of the commercial washers and dryers that you see in laundromats. Their consumer models are made with the same quality and can last much longer than most other washers. They are tested to last 10,400 cycles. If you wash eight loads of laundry per week, that adds up to 25 years.

The first thing to note with the Speed Queen Classic Clean is its short 28-minute cycle. Besides that, what makes this model our favorite are its simple controls and functionality. It offers six cycles, such as “Extra Rinse” and “Heavy Soil” and four temperatures. It has a switch that gives you the option to “deep fill”, which will fill the washer with water up to the top; to completely soak your laundry for the entire cycle.

Runner Up(s): Speed Queen Perfect Wash

The Speed Queen Perfect Wash is a new series of models, which are slightly more expensive than the Classic Clean model. What they do offer though is a gentler and quieter wash. While they still have the agitator like the Classic Clean, it ties to the tub rather than the motor, providing a more gentle and quiet wash. There are currently three models in this series; the TR3, TR5, & TR7. If you liked the simple knob controls of the Classic Clean, then stick with either the TR3 or the TR5. The TR7 comes with an electronic control pad, and also offers 8 different cycles as opposed to the TR5’s 6 cycles, or the TR3’s 4 cycles.

If trying to decide between Speed Queen’s Classic Clean and Perfect Wash models, consider what kinds of clothes you wash most often. Tougher fabrics like denim may get cleaned better with the more aggressive Classic Clean washer. If you often wash fabrics that may benefit from a gentler cycle, one of the Perfect Wash models may be more appropriate.

Best Top-Load HE Washer: LG Smart Washer (WT7300CV)

The first thing to know about this high-efficiency LG washer is that it’s big. Its capacity is 5.0 cubic feet, that's almost as large as LG’s highest capacity front-load washers. And before you read further, if you like simple controls, this may not be the washer for you. On the other hand, if you do like a lot of features, this certainly may be.

The WT7300CV, being a high-efficiency washer, doesn't have an agitator. This gives it a few of the advantages we had talked about earlier, including a higher spin speed, allowing it to dry clothes more allowing shorter time in the dryer. Also, it does have a greater capacity making it ideal for washing comforters and bulkier laundry. Just make sure to remember that it’s important not to overload these washers.

As we said earlier, this washer comes with plenty of features. For example, it offers specific cycles for bedding. Getting to the smart part of this washer, you can turn the machine on or off from your phone, you can set it to alert you if there is an unbalanced load, or when the cycle is complete with a text message. On top of that, if all the cycles the machine comes with aren’t enough, there are twenty-two downloadable cycles that you can choose from.

Bonus - Best Top-Load Washers For A Budget: GE 4.2 Cu. Ft. Capacity Washer (GTW335ASNWW) & GE 4.6 Cu. Ft. Capacity Washer (GTW500ASNWS)

Reminiscent of our top pick, the Speed Queen Classic Clean that we wrote on up above, the GTW335ASNWW washer has simple controls and uses an agitator. This washer has an average cleaning ability which should clean clothes that aren’t overly soiled just fine. Like other washers with an agitator, it can be a bit harsh on clothes. But if you run it on the “delicates'' cycle, it performs true to its name and stretches your clothes less.

At the end of the day, if you’re just looking for a quality washer at a fair price, this washer is a great choice. If you are looking for everything above but would like the benefits talked about of HE washers, check out the GTW500ASNWS.

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