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Sales of front-load washers picked up steam about a decade ago, and the best in Consumer Reports’ tests deliver excellent cleaning with unmatched gentleness, as well as water and energy efficiency. They even outperform top-load washers.
But in recent years, those sales have begun to decline. Only 25 percent of washers shipped to stores in the first six months of 2017 were front-load washers, according to the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers, down from 38 percent in 2009. “For some consumers, the higher price of front-loaders might make them think twice,” says Mark Allwood, a senior market analyst at CR. “Or they might have had a problem with mold in their front-loader, or thought the machine vibrated too much.”
Many of the front-load washers we tested clean better and are gentler on fabrics than top-load washers (that goes for both agitator models and high-efficiency, or HE, models).
Before you decide on a washer type, here are five things to consider about front-load washers.
1. Wash Cycles Are Long
Front-load washers typically take longer to wash a load than HE top-load washers—and much longer than agitator top-loaders: Wash times for front-load washers often range from 70 to 110 minutes using the normal wash/heavy soil setting. HE top-load washers get the job done in 60 to 80 minutes.
“Front-loaders use significantly less water than agitator top-loaders, so wash times are extended to give the dirty laundry time to wash clean,” says Emilio Gonzalez, the engineer who oversees Consumer Reports’ laundry-appliance tests. “But later in the cycle, the front-loader’s drum spins faster than a top-loader’s, which extracts more water and shortens drying time.”
2. They Can Handle Small Loads
Most of the front-load washers we test have a claimed capacity of 4.2 to 5.8 cubic feet, and readers often ask whether these big machines can wash small loads. “Generally, a front-loader should do a good job cleaning a small load,” says Jim Nanni, the engineer who oversees CR’s tests of large appliances. “That’s because front-loaders don’t rely on clothes rubbing up against each other to get them clean, the way top-loaders do.”
3. Most Can Be Stacked to Save Space
The front-load washers in our tests are usually the standard 27 inches wide, but height and depth can vary as much as 8 inches; find the dimensions in our washing machine ratings….