Do front-loading washers clean as well as top-loaders?

I’m used to using a top-loading washing machine, but yesterday I did my laundry at my brother’s house, where he recently got a new front-loading washer. I watched it work, and it seems to me that it can’t possibly clean as well as a top-loader because the clothes are never fully immersed in the water.

It went like this: the clothes spun around while a meager amount of water spurted on them in periodic bursts. The clothes became damp, but never appeared to be fully soaked and were never fully immersed in water.

In a top-loader, the clothes are fully submerged in water and agitated briskly, which I would think would clean a lot more deeply.

So what’s the straight dope on front-loaders?? Can they clean as well as top-loaders without fully submerging the clothes?

We just got a pair of the Whirlpool Duets (washer and dryer), and the washer does better than our top loader, believe it or not. It’s pretty weird though that your clothes will come out of it just damp due to small amount of water it uses.

Every report I read says they clean better while using less water and as they use less water and come out dryer, they also dry quicker and thus save you energy overall as the dryer is a big energy hog.

If you know anyone that gets Consumer Reports, see if you can get them to find the article that Consumer Reports did on front loaders.

Correction: I just found out that this year’s report from February found some top loaders that were almost as good at washing as the $1500 top loaders.

So, how does that work? How do they get clothes as clean by just spurting a meager amount of water on the clothes as opposed to submerging the clothes completely and agitating them?

Even though Consumer Reports is saying they clean even better… something in me likes to see my dirty clothes fully submerged in water, being agitated briskly.

Until an expert shows up on how they work, try here in wikipedia.

Thanks for that info. That explains it well.

Although I am still a bit skeptical… I want my clothes to be fully submerged and immersed in water! :dubious:

Personally I plan to wait until either my washer breaks or about 4 years as the improvements in washers seem to be moving fast these days and both Presidential candidates support but higher efficiencies in appliances. I have an mediocre Kenmore “Heavy Duty Super Capacity Plus”* top loader.

  • I kid you not, that is really what Kenmore calls it.

>I want my clothes to be fully submerged and immersed in water!

What for? The water above them isn’t even touching them.

You need water to provide attractive forces in all directions for particles, to dissolve the water soluble contaminants like salt from sweat, and as a vehicle for surfactant and other cleaning agents. You need surfactant to create rollup on the greases, and to act as a sequestrant. Sequestration might work better if you diluted the contaminants more, but because sequestrants are surfactants you really need more surface area, and the foam and all the surfaces of the water broken by fabric would provide that.

Everything I ever heard said that tumbling on a horizontal axis works way better than trying to achieve similar motions using a vertical axis. If you want to think of it this way, consider that the interface between air and water, which is a somewhat strong surface that you could actually move through your laundry, sits unused above the wash liquor in a top loader.

I got a front loader a few years ago. The paddles described in the wiki article have jets that force water into the loads. My water bill went down drastically, about $1,000 in the first year, and my clothes look better: the color stays better, they look newer longer. I have three boys under the age of 13, and there is no problem getting their clothes clean, unless you overload, which you shouldn’t do in a top loader either.

When you think about it, less water would cause more friction as the clothes rub/roll against each other.

I’m not a washing machine expert of any kind, but one of the reasons why clothes come out of a front-loader merely damp is because the spin cycle is far more vigorous. This is another way in which they save energy, because you then don’t have to run the dryer for as long. Or, if you’re me, you can just hang stuff up and it’s dry within a few hours without expending any additional energy.

The way you’ve described front-loaders isn’t really accurate - they may not fully immerse the clothing at all times, but they do more than just spraying them and getting them a bit damp.

The drum partially fills with water and the drum rotates - this means the clothes tumble in and out of the water - the tumbling and dropping motion of the clothes inside the drum is analogous to the kind of repeated soaking, draining and kneading that might occur during vigorous hand washing. - In a top loader where the clothes are fully immersed, the paddle can only really stir the contents all together - there isn’t any time (apart from when the tub is emptied) when the clothes are lifted out of the cleaning solution for water and dirt to drain out of them - in a front loader, it happens on each rotation.

One other benefit is that the front loaders are much less stressful on your clothes and the fabric will last longer.

Wow - how do you get a water bill high enough to be able to reduce it by $1,000? We have two boys, a top-loader and a dishwasher and our combined water/sewage bill was less than $600 for the last 12 months (and yes, we do shower every day).

Water bills vary by area a lot. In the town I use to live in we had well water and septic and I was overjoyed. Friends down the road from us paid $2500 for city water and sewer on average. This was 8 years already. A $1000 sounds high, but I am sure my old town was nowhere near the worst in the country. By current water bills are so low that I barely worry about the cost, though I use low flow shower heads and I am somewhat careful with water use anyway. My water bills work out to only about $360 per year for a family of four.

Living here three years ago were me, my husband (who makes big messes), our three boys, my MIL and a foster child. The youngest was of an age where bed wetting was an issue.

One year’s worth of water with just me husband and three boys last year was about $1,150.

I’ve been using front load washers for about 14 years now. I’ve installed them in the last 4 houses/condos I’ve owned. I find that my cloths are at least as clean as the top loader. In addition the front loaders seem to do a better job of rinsing out the soap at the end of the run. Have you ever pulled a load of towels out of the washer and heard the soap still crinkling in the towels? I don’t get that any more.

The only downsides I’ve found to front loaders are: You can’t add that last sock, once you’ve started the load. If the washer isn’t on the lowest level, you can get rattling when they start spinning. They are more expensive, but the difference is getting smaller.

But the question is…do they need to be agitated briskly?

Funny, you very rarely see a top-loader in Britain - the vast majority of washing machines these days are front-loaders.

We don’t have a front-loading washer at home, but the next one we get will be.

I’ll tell you all something, NOTHING gets horse clothing [blankets, sheets and so on] cleaner without using a ton of soap which takes forever to rinse out.

I read the review of washers and dryers in Consumer Reports awhile ago, and remember reading that even the more expensive newer-style, water-saving washers do not outperform some of the cheapest top-loaders available for purchase only a few years ago, before government regulations requiring reduced energy (= less agitation) and water usage crippled their washing capability. Because of these new energy regulations, the front-loaders work better now than many of the *newer * top loaders.

However, repair history isn’t necessarily great for the front-loaders, and the time required to wash a load is a LOT longer. I recall seeing 45-60 minutes for a front-loaded wash cycle being compared to only 15 or less with a top-loader.