why are top loaders rated so much lower than front?

kris680October 3, 2010

I'm having a really hard time wading through all the various comments and reviews (both here and online generally) as I try to figure out which style (TOP or FRONT) and then, which brand to buy.

I'm was thinking of a TOP loaders but Consumer Reports has ALL top loaders rated so much lower than the front.

TOP loaders: #1 is Whirlpool's Cabrios @ 78 & 77, followed by Bravos & LG @ 75.

FRONT loaders: #1 Kenmore @ 85, Samsung/Kenmore @ 84, and LG/Kenmore @83.

So, 1.) I'm concerned about the frequent mentioning of tangling w/top loaders. And 2.) I'm puzzled by why the top loaders are generally getting poorer reviews.

I want the machine to:

- clean well

- be gentle when needed

- not leave the clothing tangled

- quiet/low vibration (given it's location on the 2nd floor)

- I'd also love the option to select a shorter/quick wash

Can you tell me why you picked TOP over a FRONT, or why the FRONT over the TOP??

I know there are many many out there that love their Miele and the reviews tend to be stellar, but unfortunately I think it's cost-prohibitive for me.

Comments greatly appreciated :)

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Very simple: the ratings are "loaded" to put the HE machines at the top, because 3 of the 7 factors that add up to the total score are energy efficiency, water efficiency, and capacity (most HE machines can hold more for the same outer dimensions without the central agitator).

Look at the chart, and you'll see

Cleaning/Energy efficiency/Water efficiency/Capacity/Gentleness/Noise/Vibration

Only 2 of those really matter to the results for the actual fabrics that come out of your machine.

So you'll notice that the lower-rated Bravos cleaned better than the top-rated Cabrio, but is less energy efficient. I am sure from my research that this is because the Cabrio mixes cooler water than the Bravos does for the Normal cycle.

You ABSOLUTELY have to ignore those numerical totals like 83, 78, etc. if YOUR weighting of those 7 factors doesn't exactly match CR's. For example, I care a lot about cleaning and gentleness, and much less about everything else. But CR's formula weights them all equally, and they don't reveal the exact points of each factor, so it's difficult to use their ratings to find a machine that fits *your* priorities.

Another bothersome thing about the ratings is that virtually identical machines, of the same mechanical design and within the same brand, will rate so differently. This tells me that the variation between actual machines coming out of the factory is probably greater than the difference between the brands.

I recently chose a FL because it was available at a hitherto-unheard-of price thanks to Costco and huge rebates, and so many people feel that FL are superior. I figured this was the best time to try the new technology, knowing I can always return it to Costco if I don't like it.

I have not heard of any tangling issues with the FL, so that was a plus. There were so special loading instructions in the manual of the FL to prevent tangling. And it just seemed to me that by using gravity to tumble the clothes around the drum, the FL has a cleaning advantage. But ultimately, price/Costco availability ruled my decision.

So far, I believe that the FL cleans as well as my old TL (not better), IF I optimize the FL by making it use hotter water when appropriate for the load. With the default temps, I felt it did not clean quite as well as my old TL. But, I should note that I ALSO optimized my results in the TL, mainly by long soak times with oxygen bleach (which I had to set up manually), and good old hot water. It is possible to get lousy results in a TL if you don't choose the right water level for the load size, soil level, and gentleness you want to achieve. The FL does that automatically, so you're much less likely to get lousy cleaning in the FL. But if you really know what you're doing with a TL, I don't think you're going to see cleaner clothes.

For gentleness, *I* believe that the TL was more gentle, but once again, I achieved gentleness in the TL through long soaking and tweaking the water level to cushion the agitation when necessary.

There is some sort of WOW factor with the FL, though, that even when I am not getting the results I'm used to (e.g., towels coming out scratchy and stiff), I just love this machine anyway. :) The build quality, dispensers, way it operates, glass door, are all so cool.

Ultimately, I think you should first decide whether you want an HE machine or a traditional one. Of the HE machines, look CAREFULLY at the cleaning features, because the ones that are sooooo efficient are using cold water, and choose based on price and features. If low vibration is more important, go with a TL like the Bravos 850. But if low tangling is more important, go with a FL.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2010 at 6:16PM
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Andersons - thank you for such a well thought out answer. A few years back at our old home we put in FL Kenmores, which I have to say I wasn't loving that much (mold issues even w/wipping, door handles kept breaking, slow drying). Mind you that was 5 years back so things have changed a lot. Our current home has TL Kenmores but they're probably 13 years old and are just really hard on clothing (not to to mention that the dryer has one of my least favorite designs of all times - the lint tray that pulls out of the top of the machine and constantly makes a mess during cleaning). So just about anything is going to be a huge improvement that our current situation!

I think I'll rephrase my question as I'm really curious as to why people made the decision they did in selecting a FL or TL.

I'm not necessarily looking for a washer w/the highest efficiency rating. I'm mainly looking for a washer that cleans great (have toddler) w/o taking a year and a day, won't wear out the clothes (keep in mind I'm dealing w/a old washer now), is quiet (with minimal vibration), and is pretty good in terms of water consumption. I probably prefer the TL in terms of loading/unloading (easier to put in and take out clothes), but I'm certainly exploring both styles of machine.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2010 at 8:27PM
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Slow drying is almost always from a clogged vent. No new dryer is going to solve that problem.

I bought a FL a month ago, and I truly do not think that top versus front for loading and unloading the clothes is a factor at all. It's easy to put the clothes in and take them out, and I have 5 blown discs. It just isn't a factor either way. And I do not have it on a pedestal.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2010 at 10:16AM
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I want the machine to:
- clean well
- be gentle when needed
- not leave the clothing tangled
- quiet/low vibration (given it's location on the 2nd floor)
- I'd also love the option to select a shorter/quick wash


My Maytag Bravos washer meets ALL this criteria. Laundry is not tangled when it is done. It has an 18-minute Quick Wash for smaller loads. I have read MANY reviews at other websites where people who have second-story laundry rooms say this washer is the BEST for no vibration.

I haven't seen Cabrio rated higher than Bravos. And friends/relatives who have Cabrios have had problems I haven't had with Bravos.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2010 at 5:46PM
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Mara_2008, do you mind my asking how long you've had your Bravos and which model you went with?

    Bookmark   October 4, 2010 at 10:28PM
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Kris680, I've owned two Bravos washers. I bought the first one in 2008 and loved it. The only reason I bought another washer (also Bravos) this past June is because the first one didn't have an internal water heater -- that was not a problem until our old water heater went out and we bought an Energy Saver water heater. A friend really wanted my first Bravos washer, though, so it worked out fine.

Both of these washers have done an excellent job on laundry. I talked to that friend recently, and she loves my first Bravos as much as I did; says it is the best washer she's ever had (something I often said, and still do).

My current model is the 850 model; my former washer has been superseded by current models, is no longer on the market.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2010 at 11:35PM
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Mara, on which cycles does the heater activate and how much control do you have over the heater on it?

The one thing I see that can be problematic for the OP is the 2nd floor installation. No matter what machine you get, get it in writing that it can be returned if there's a problem. Each house is built differently so there's no guarantee of any machine being vibration free. Generally it seems front loaders are more of a problem on a 2nd floor but there are some with anti-vibration design and some use vibration pads. The best thing is to have the floor reinforced and designed for a washer/dryer installation.

Consumer Reports is essentially worthless. They are biased in their views. Couple that with they only test a few models out of the hundreds and hundreds of models available. Plus factor in that two identical machines, taken off the same assembly line right next to each other will very easily perform differently. One person can have a unit trouble-free and another person will have problems. The one person accordingly will swear by it and the other will swear at it.

My washer is over 30 years old and going strong so I can't speak to the new models. Frankly I'm scared of the thought of having to buy a new machine!

Another comment I'd make is on dryers. If you're not someone who much have everything match, you could very well do better buying a mismatched dryer. For instance, the Cabrio/Oasis/Bravos washers are around 5 cubic feet in capacity and the "matching" dryer is only about 7 cf or a bit over. The general guideline is double the space of the washer for the dryer so it's a mystery why they do that other than the presumption that people will seldom if ever fill the washer. You can also buy a larger capacity dryer for a lot less money.

A couple other random thoughts, if you have physical issues, one style may be an advantage or disadvantage for you. See how easy it is to reach into the machine you're looking at buying. For me, I had to put my dryer on a platform. It's so much bigger than the old ones and I now have bending problems so with the platform it makes it much easier to reach in and with the hamper door I can use it for a folding table and stand straight. Pedestals are available for front loaders but could compound vibration issues on 2nd floor.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2010 at 11:43PM
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I noticed the current bravos Models no longer have the Clean Boost w/Heater button. Wonder why they dropped that.


    Bookmark   October 6, 2010 at 12:09PM
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MRB, my Bravos washer is a current model -- has 850 in the number -- and has the Clean Boost w/Heater option.

cynic, I will have to get out my washer manual in order to list all the cycles which can be used with the heater. IIRC, almost all of them can -- the only exception I can think of, off the top of my head, is the Soak cycle.

I have seen many reviews from people who have a Bravos washer on the 2nd floor, and every one was positive.

My 7 cu ft Bravos dryer does a great job on my laundry, even though my current washer is a bit bigger than my former one -- the first one was 5 cu ft capacity, while my newer one is 5.2 cu ft capacity.

I agree with you that any good dryer of the right capacity will do, and I personally really like a hamper door (which my dryer does not have). That said, I really, really like my Bravos dryer; it does a great job on everything. I can truthfully say it's the best dryer I've ever had.

I'm on my way out the door to an appointment. When I have more time, I'll get out my washer manual so I can give more accurate info about which cycles can utilize the internal water heater.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2010 at 1:57PM
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Okay -- just checked my washer. The only cycle which cannot use the water heater is the Soak cycle. ALL other cycles can use it.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2010 at 7:20PM
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I'll still take a TL any day. I washed with a FL, and they just aren't in my opinion made to tackle REALLY filthy work clothes like my husband's. The whole "water squirting in" concept versus a tub full of water just doesn't compare, in my opinion. We live out here in the country, so water is NOT an issue, here. I'll take a TL tub full of water any day to a FL washer.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2010 at 12:28PM
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The energy efficiency, water savings, and functions of a machine are important. However, the actual savings have the biggest effect on the environment, the actual dollar savings will be minimal.

A cost analysis of TL VS. FL = $7 savings per month at 7.5 loads per week.

Life expectancy of Front Loading Machines is 11 years while Top Loading machines are estimated at 14 years.

Washing machine choice should be based on personal needs and desired cycles, etc.

Here is a link that might be useful: What Kind of Washing Machine Should I Buy?

    Bookmark   October 9, 2010 at 11:14AM
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I just purchased an LG top loader Model WT5001. I researched the Bravos and the Whirlpool top loaders and every
few reviews I saw there was an issue with either the clothes not getting clean from the small amount of water or there was damage to the clothes. I read more than 30 reviews of the LG on different sites and everybody LOVED the machines except for one person. My 24 yr old Whirlpool just started squealing during the spin cycles so I figured it didn't owe me anything and I have been wanting a larger machine for some time now. The LG 5.2 cf top loader with the ss tub looked wonderful. The salesman at Home Depot had a similar model and really explained how to use the different cycles. It's being delivered Wednesday and I have just ordered some HE detergent online from Costco and picked up a bottle of the Planet liquid detergent. Hope these all work together for a clean wash..

    Bookmark   October 9, 2010 at 8:03PM
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When you have some actual experience to share, I would be very interested in learning about it.

What you've read and what opinions you've formed from it are less than interesting.

Hope it works out like you hope.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2010 at 8:48PM
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angelic one, have yo ever used a FL washer to wash your husbands clothes? Im just wondering thats all. My FL does circles on my greasy work clothes, as I am a production machine operator and my clothes come home with oil and dirt all over them. I house sat for my brother while he and his family were on vacation. They have a conventional TL and it didnt clean nearly as well as my FL, not to mention my jeans came out feeling really wet when compared to the spin speed of my FL which is about twice as fast as a TL. People at work have asked me how I get my clothes so clean as they cant get their's clean and wanted to know what I was doing differently.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2010 at 5:01PM
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Are you sure it's just the FL cleaning better because you're using the same detergent in each one? HE detergents are generally rated much better for cleaning, and especially if one uses a cheaper brand of regular detergent, the difference can be dramatic.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2010 at 8:10PM
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We just got a top loader Maytag Bravo MVWX500 and so far I'm really loving it...but I've only done one load of wash in it so far. The MVWX500 is a High-Efficiency machine with a very large drum/capacity (4.3 cubic feet, no center agitator).

About the "tangling" issue:
I read the whole entire Maytag manual today and noticed that in the "Soil Level" section, it says "Lower soil level setting will help reduce tangling and wrinkling."

Under the Spin Speed" section, the manual says "Faster spin speeds mean shorter drying times, but may increase wrinkling in your load."

The manual also says, "When loading the washer with dirty laundry, fill it evenly around the basket wall," and "do not wrap large items such as sheets around the washplate; load them in loose piles around the sides of the basket. Try mixing different sized items to reduce tangling".

There is also a little picture in the manual that shows how to load the dirty laundry into the washer.

This evening I washed two huge (3 feet x 6 feet) towels and one smaller bath towel all in the same load, and everything was clean and fresh, and extremely well-spun. I had the washer set on:
Load Type: Heavy Duty
Soil Level: Extra Heavy
Spin Speed: High

It did spin the towels quite intensely. But with these huge towels we have, that's a good thing. With our old washer, sometimes I had to actually wring the towels out by hand because they were drippy when they came out of the washer (an old Kenmore). I also could only wash one of these huge towels at a time in our old washer, because the washer was just so small and wouldn't spin everything well enough with two towels in there.

The Maytag Bravo seems extremely quiet to me so far, but I'm used to our old Kenmore (non-digital/with the old-style knobs) which was pretty loud.

Went with a top loader because of the mold/mildew issues that I've read about with the front loaders. I think the thing with the front loaders is that you're supposed to leave the door open for at least an entire hour between every load of wash. Since I do multiple loads of wash on laundry day (I dry half of them on the outdoor clothesline) I don't really have the time to wait a whole hour in between each load! Also, I just was scared off by the word "mildew" or "mold" in the same sentence as the word "washing machine".

I also read that the top loaders last longer with fewer repairs needed than the front loaders.

However, front loader vs. top loader also depends on your lifestyle/laundry habits and how mobile the person doing the laundry is. I can imagine that if one is in a wheelchair that a front loader would be better, for instance.

I'll report back once I do a normal type of load in the Maytag Bravo MVWX500 with garments with sleeves and things that can tangle...will set the washer on "Normal" and the Soil Level on "Medium" for that load. Will also try some delicates on the "Hand Wash" cycle and see how that goes.

That's my two cents for now.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2010 at 8:54PM
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Wondering .. were your three towels really so dirty as to need Extra Heavy soil level?
I think the thing with the front loaders is that you're supposed to leave the door open for at least an entire hour between every load of wash. Since I do multiple loads of wash on laundry day (I dry half of them on the outdoor clothesline) I don't really have the time to wait a whole hour in between each load!You're misunderstanding the scenario of leaving the door open. The machine doesn't need to dry for an hour after each load ... it should be left open to dry at the end of the washday when all loads for the day are finished.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2010 at 1:40AM
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dadoes: Thanks for the info about leaving the door open on front loaders. The info I read said "after every load." One website I found said that this means literally "after every load" rather than "at the end of the wash day." I'll look around for that link. But on other sites I found, it just said "after every load" without specifying whether or not this just means "at the end of the wash day" when washing multiple loads in a day. Wondering... do you have a front-loading washing machine & has it been free of mold/mildew?

Still just curious about the issue of moisture build-up and mold/mildew in newer models of washing machines in general. For instance, does anyone know if a front-loader's rubber door gasket becomes more permeated with moisture after multiple loads in a day, as compared to the water permeation after just one load?

Also, is it just the rubber door gasket that causes the mold/mildew issue in the front loaders, or do other parts of the machine tend to become mildewed as well? If so, would these parts be more prone to mold/mildew growth when using the washer multiple times in a day without allowing the washer to dry out in between? Or does simply leaving the door open at the end of the wash day, and regularly cleaning a front-loading washer with a washer cleaner tablet or liquid chlorine bleach prevent the mold/mildew problem?

Re: your question above dadoes, yes, the towels were really that dirty! They were old towels that were caked with our local heavy red clay soil... used them to mop up the floor of our mud room and our rubber boots after the storm & floods we had here a couple of weeks ago. Scraped off the larger, loose chunks clay from the towels before washing, then hosed them down outside on the line, but there was still clay stuck in them. Thought it might be more "green" to use old cloth towels for that job, instead of a whole roll of paper towels. It's also tough to use paper towels for mopping up this kind of clay because it's so heavy... almost like pottery clay. Since we like to watch our budget, I wanted to wash & use these towels again & use them for another cleaning job, instead of throwing them away.

kris680, good luck with whatever washing machine you pick, and hope you find a good model that you're happy with. I'll come back & post more about this High-Efficiency top loader once I've used it some more.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2010 at 3:24PM
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Am I reading you right? There are actually sites that say that you have to open the door and let the machine dry out after every load....like before you do the next load....or you're going to have trouble? That's nuts. Either you you misunderstood what was being said or that advice is just plain wrong. (Which is not all that unusual. I have encountered numerous web-sites with totally bogus information.)

Hope you like your new machine.

About the towels....frankly I don't know whether the machine would handle that or not. When I have laundry items like that, I treat them like soiled diapers....which is to say, I rinse them out well before putting them in the machine. Also some soils, especially the clays, contain staining components that won't come out no matter what you do. You can get them clean, but the discoloration stays.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2010 at 4:58PM
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When it says leave door open at the end of every load - it means don't close it after you wash a load. Whether you do 5 in a day or one - leave it open after each load is done. I leave mine open 24/7.

This is from the Whirlpool Duet manual:

Leave the door slightly open after each cycle to allow for better ventilation and drying of washer interior.

You do not need to dry it out between loads. It's just to keep air circulating in the machine so it dries out over time. Front loaders are more air tight than top loaders.

I have had my front loader for 9 years and no mold issues here.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2010 at 5:42PM
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"I have had my front loader for 9 years and no mold issues here."

Very happy to learn this. Maybe I'll have another four trouble-free years with mine. You must have been an "innovator" in marketing terms.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2010 at 7:42PM
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My machines are Frigidaire front loaders that I got new when we bought and renovated our current home (May 2001). They were some of the original ones available at the time. They have been good machines (I can’t complain).

I am planning on getting new ones - hopefully before end of year. I would like the Miele 4842.

Mine is very basic - although I believe it is a true X axis (?) machine (not tilted). I am a little scared of something new (in case it doesn’t work out to be as good) but I look forward to a machine with an on board heater.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2010 at 8:30PM
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I have had my front load washer (Kenmore HE3t) since 2003, and I have had absolutely no mold or odor problems. I used to wipe the gasket down after each washday, but no longer do that. I just wipe the bottom of the gasket under the door as a few drops of water tend to collect there and I don't want to clothes to soak it up as I take them out of the machine.

This is the first front load washer I have had, and it works better than any other top load washer I have used. There are many reasons I like it, but the main reasons are that it gets the clothes cleaner, removes stains without pretreating, and is much gentler as evidenced by the lack of lint on clothing, longer clothing life, and less lint on the dryer screen v. clothing washed in a traditional top loader.

My machine is spotless inside. I stuck my head inside the washer and with a flashlight inspected the outer drum (by placing the flashlight against the drum, shining through the holes and rotating the drum back and forth), and the heating element and drum look brand new.

I have moderately hard water, go easy with detergent and fabric softener, and use bleach and hot washes on occasion.

At the end of a wash day I do empty any water out of the dispenser drawer, wipe down the glass door, and leave the door ajar slightly.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2010 at 2:18PM
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gates1 - Yes, I had already mentioned in my above post that I washed my husband's DIRTY work clothes in a FL, and they came out streaked with dirt on the jeans, and on the inside of the FL machine. I was just not impressed with the continuous flow of water coming in the machine...unlike a full tub of water to REALLY clean the clothes in.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2010 at 6:43PM
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Did you use your FL's prewash option, which is kind of an initial rinse, but with some detergent?

    Bookmark   October 14, 2010 at 6:49PM
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