How do front load washers work with so little water?

I was just now shining a flash light at my sheets getting washed. The actual “drum” appears to have no water in it. The sheets (or whatever I’m washing) seem to be saturated with water, but there sure is no excess.

So to me it seems like my damp clothes are just rotating around. You’d think you’d need a lot of water in there, penetrating and soaking clothes.

Of course, a minute and a half is the longest I’ve ever watched. I’ve never watched the entire cycle, so I obviously haven’t seen how it works.

Can someone shed some light on it? A Google search didn’t reveal much.


Just as a wild-assed guess, top loaders need enough water that the clothes are floating in it so they can agitate. Front loaders use gravity to tumble the clothes so the agitation can be done with less water.

Yes, I think it’s because there is more movement of the clothes , the water stays at the bottom and the clothes move through it.

Sheer volume of water doesn’t clean. Enough water and enough soap to make the water ‘wetter’ (that’s what detergent does), and agitation to move water through/around stains is the ancient Chinese secret.

1 gallon or 5 gallons: there is plenty of water to dilute and suspend dirt/stains.

As noted, less water is needed to get the clothes submerged, since the agitation/rotation work with gravity. Extra water would not accomplish anything.

A front loader simulates the motion of putting clothes into water and removing them over and over, like was done in the olden days of manual laundry. Since there is no agitator like a top-loader there is much less wear on the clothes and they get at least as clean. As an ex-european it is a complete mystery to me why so many Americans think top loaders are an acceptable way to wash clothes. Massive waste of water and electricity (to heat all that water).

We recently switched to a Bosch frontloader and as mentioned the water level is barely above the bottom surface of the drum. It does have some scoops that carry water to the top of the drum where it is dumped on the top of the clothes. Seems to do a fine job.

I’ll point out that back in the 50’s and 60’s many laundromats had front loaders and I seem to recall that the drums on those units were filled about half way full with the water level well above the bottom of the door’s window.

Why is is that front-loaders have taken so long to reach American homes, when they’re been used in laundromats and European homes for so long? They’re presented as some sort of high-tech achievement here.

I agree that front loaders are superior, but at one time they tended to break down (or leak) more often than top loaders.

More from Consumer Reports:

Obviously, because they cost so much more than top-loaders. (And they are more difficult to load & unload.) Plus the ‘wasted’ water doesn’t matter much in America – we don’t currently have a shortage of water in most places, and the price is very low. And until recently, the cost of heating the water was pretty low, too.

Another front loader perk is the really fast spin cycle. The clothes come out of the washer with an absolute minimum of water still in the fabric, leading to noticeably shorter dryer times. That means yet another efficiency gain.

In fact, polypropylene fleece clothing items come out of front load washer dry enough to wear right away without even using the dryer.

Recently the University of Leeds developed a front-loading washing machine that uses only one cup(!) of water per load. It does this by using small plastic beads or chips to assist in agitation and absorb dirt. There are plenty of articles about it if you’re interested.

Parallel development, I think. Front-loaders are rare in the US (becoming more common); top-loaders are very rare in Europe. But the priorities and values that led to thinking of one design or the other are linked to resources, among them those pointed out. Another resource of which top-loaders need more and which is at a much higher premium in Europe is space. “Laundry rooms” are relatively rare, it is very common to have the washer in a bathroom or in the kitchen (it was even more common a few decades back); if there is a laundry room, it is generally tiny; in most of them there is barely room for the washer (or a washer/drier, or one on top of the other) and for one person to turn around. A front-loader can go into the same kind of setup as a dishwasher, under the countertop; a top-loader can’t.

When I bought a dryer last year the stores seemed to have a lot of big front loaders on display so I figured they were getting popular. Don’t recall that 10 years ago.

Like granite or stone counter tops in the USA, people just have to have these top loaders now, and are running to buy front loaders when the old top loaders break down. They are the latest rage, that’s why they will catch on.

Open foyers, granite counter tops, stainless steel appliances, engineered flooring, flat-screen tvs and now… front load washer/dryer.
I guarantee that most Americans don’t even know the benefits.

I only have a flat screen TV and I know 1 advantage - much easier to move. :slight_smile:

They say they’re going to try to sell them to hotels before selling them to households. I hope not. Even if they get rid of stains, I have a hard time believing such a machine is going to properly wash the towels and sheets from the customer who came before me who has hepatitis or something.


You know not all elves are employed by the cookie industry.

You missed the best part…those dudes can swim!!

Mold and the smell associated with it is a major issue with front loaders. Google “front loader mold” and there’s pages and pages of hits.

I’m sure the problem will eventually be fixed. Front loaders seem to be the future of washers.

I mentioned in another thread that I never close the door to my washer until it has dried out. I imagine for some this might be an inconvenience, but my washer is in a converted storage room and it’s no bother at all. Also, once a month I clean it with Affresh (what a racket, lol), but I do it because the washer says I should, not because I’ve smelled any mold.

Also, some have mentioned that they are harder to load. I’m not sure why…because you have to bend down? They do make pedestals for them, which are cool because they double as storage. But I never found it a problem to load and unload. I think it’s easier. By a long shot. My dryer is stacked on the washer (and even though I have a stacked set…they are HUGE. Not like the ones you see in someone’s condo you rent in Hawai’i that lets you wash one beach towel and half a swim suit.) I throw my clothes on the floor, sort, and toss them in. Then, after watching the wash with a flashlight trying to figure out how my clothes are getting clean, I just grab the clothes and toss them in the dryer.

I always thought it was harder to reach into a top load and get the clothes up and out. And a front loader “fluffs” the clothes at the end of the cycle, so nothing is mashed in.

Then, when the dryer is finished, I put my basket in front of the tower, dump the clothes into the basket, and then dump them on the couch for the week.

There’s no doubt clothes come out cleaner, with fewer wrinkles, and I swear with less wear and tear.

Thanks for the info, everyone. I’m a guy, so I assume that more water equals more clean. I didn’t doubt it worked better, I just wanted to know how.