Washing machine style in the US

First World problems I know, but dopers, please answer these very important questions to a European.

For a while, I was under the impression (since I was told so by a US citizen), that most washing machines in the US households were top loading.
What shattered this believe was when I noticed in a TV show, that the character was loading the washing machine from the front.

  • Are washing machines in the US mostly front or top loading?

  • Is the front loading washing machine new to the US? or always been there?

  • Why top loading?

I don’t know which there are more of. Both kinds are used a lot. I think the top loaders were much more common until some design changes made the chance of leaks less likely in the front loaders. My informal observation is that top loaders still cost less than front loaders. Energy and water efficiency weren’t concerns way back when either so the greater efficiency of front loaders wasn’t much of a selling point. Convenience is another factor, it’s easier to load and unload top loaders but now it’s common to see front loaders on a stand so the door is up higher and access is easier.

A reasonable guess based on being around for over 6 decades is that top loaders have the lead and front loaders are heading for parity.

This is pretty much my experience / POV, too.

In the US, front-loaders have traditionally been significantly more expensive than top-loaders, and top-loaders have generally the norm for home use. I’d say that, 20 years ago or so, if you saw a front-loader, it was likely to be either (a) a very high-end machine for home use, or (b) a large machine for commercial use (i.e., at a laundromat).

While I think that front-loaders have become more common in homes over the past 10-15 years, they’re likely still in the minority, and possibly by a wide margin.

Front-loaders are definitely becoming a lot more common in the US due to their energy and water efficiency over top-loaders. I have no idea about actual sales numbers, but they’re definitely a lot more common than they used to be.

Definitely top loaders are the cheap option now and front loaders are the expensive trendy option.

So if the OP is watching TV shows and the characters are upper-middle class or higher and living in one of those gigantically spacious houses with all the mod cons, yes, you’ll be seeing only front loaders.

Except that compared to Euro- or Asian type front loaders they’ll be ginourmous. e.g. with a drum approaching a meter in diameter and well over half a meter deep.

It’s a reflection of the way things are organised in America too. In Europe, if you live in an apartment, you will have your own machine under a worktop in the kitchen. In America you would use a communal machine down in the basement (a la Big Bang Theory).

Out of the cities, American houses are more spacious, so they would have a machine in a scullery and have no need for the space saving worktop.

Times are changing as said above with the need for the water and energy saving features of European style machines.

Top loaders are cheap, so that’s what is most common. Front loaders are available and certainly the washing machine of choice if you can afford it.

And they are huge. I remember a couple of times a year we’d have to go to the laundromat to wash big comforters and blankets that wouldn’t fit in our top loader. Now that we have a front loader, it can fit big loads like that.

Although I’ve also seen, now, a top loader without an agitator, which holds a lot more clothes. It’s more like a front loader, but turned so you still load it from the top.

If you’re lucky. A lot of apartment dwellers still use laundromats. Also, sometimes the communal machine in the basement requires quarters to run, so it’s basically just a laundromat that is closer than the one down the street.

“Sometimes”? I don’t think I ever lived in an apartment where the communal machines weren’t coin-operated.

Even in laundromats, the basic washing machines tend to be top-loaders. The laundromats I used to go to did have a few front-loading washers, but they were huge industrial-type things for washing items like king-size bedspreads and stuff like that, and required a lot more coins than the lowly top-loaders did.

The front loaders on television have added visual interest. Cinematographers like things that attract the eye.

The front loaders on television have added visual interest. Cinematographers like things that attract the eye. It’s why street scenes at night are usually shot with wet streets.

there are conventional top loaders, and high-efficiency top loaders. the conventional ones use a lot of water and may have fallen out of favor in regions (e. g. the southwest) with limited water availability. On the other hand, they’re cheap so that’s what I have; I live on the Great Lakes so no water worries.

I haven’t paid attention enough to know when high efficiency top loaders became worthwhile, I do know they take forever and early ones (like the Whirlpool Calypso) quickly gained reputations as shredders.

I only know one person with front-loaders. granted, I don’t know that many people.

Well, they sure are a lot bigger than my laptop, but slightly smaller than my stove or fridge. At least the ones I’ve seen here in Europe.

My last two washing machines have been no-agitator top-loaders; the first was one of the ill-fated Calypsos. The one we have now (a Samsung) does a good job of cleaning clothes, doesn’t use as much detergent, and we haven’t noticed any issues with damage to clothes.

Our laundry room is accessible only through a narrow door. We literally could not find an American brand that would fit through it. (Except for some tiny machines that couldn’t do a full-size load.) We did find a European brand that would fit if the facing around the door was removed. The installers were not happy. Yes, the washing machine is a front-loader and replaced an old top-loader.

The fun part came after it failed on the second try. I called the store and told them we needed a repair on [Brand]. They had no idea what I was talking about. “It’s the very first machine you see when you walk through the front door!” I told them. Bumped me up to regional. Same answer. The brand wasn’t on their repair sheets. Finally, they searched and gave me the direct number to the brand. The guy who answered said it probably got bumped in shipping. Just hit [a series of commands like a cheat code in a video game]. That’s all it needed. Worked fine ever since. How any customer could possibly know that, however, is a mystery of the cosmos.

Laundry facilities in US apartments (i.e. leased residential space not in a single family detached house) come in three basic varieties: washer/dryer sets installed in each unit, communal coin-op sets installed in a common area (often a basement), or none at all and residents drive or walk to a nearby paid Laundromat.

The latter is common in older and/or poorer areas; e.g. pre-1970s construction. The former is almost universal in apartments built in the last 20 years except at the cheapest nastiest end of the spectrum. The communal installations probably represent the bulk of the installed base built from the 1970s forward to 2000-ish.

In-apartment washer/dryer sets are sometimes US full-sized, but are more often “space saver” stacking designs like http://lda.lowes.com/is/image/Lowes/APP_WshrsNDryrs_4COL_StckedLndryCntrs?$JPEG-HQ$&wid=234. The washer below is a top loader and the dryer above is a front loader. And both are relatively low capacity, akin to Euro-style machines.

The stackable set with a toploader will never not look ridiculous. Another advantage of the front-loading design is that they can be stacked without looking like their industrial designer was Rube Goldberg.

For the sake of completeness, though not much contributing to the discussion, is variant 3a: none at all, but the apartment has space and connections set aside for bring-your-own full-sized washer and dryer (i.e., dedicated washing machine closet).

I bought my first front loader about 15 years ago. I’m on my second one currently.

We have had a couple different front loaders since the mid 90s (first Whirlpool, then Bosch). The first one had a tiny door so it was a bit of a pain to load, otherwise we really liked them. The main problems we had were (1) if you didn’t keep the door open when the machine was not is use they would tend to get pretty musty smelling and (2) if you forgot to put something in the load, once the door locks you’re pretty much out of luck (a top loader you just open the lid and pop the item in).

When we rented a house in London, the clothes washer was under the kitchen counter - that struck us as unusual. More unusual was that it was a combined washer-dryer, which was very handy in that you didn’t have to remember to move the clothes when the wash cycle was done, but wasn’t very good for throughput if you had multiple loads. Is this type of combined machine the norm in the UK?