Washing Machines: Agitator vs Impellor--Which is Better?

Any thoughts?

Impeller, hands down, IMHO.

Much easier to load and unload, and seems to do as good if not better job.

Usually a bit more in price, but for something that should last a couple decades, probably worth it.

My sister-in-law hates her impeller and strongly advises me to buy one with an agitator.

Has she told you why?

My only real concern is maintenance. My old washer I could get the parts and fix it myself for 90% of the problems.

Not so sure on my new one, but I haven’t really gotten into it, it’s been working fine so far. Almost 3 years, and it is the one I have at work, so it gets used at least 3-4 times a day.

Recently bought one for my home.

Other than that potential issue, I find it superior in every way.

Consumer Reports discusses the pros and cons of each here:

Basically, traditional agitators are somewhat rougher on clothes and use more water. The newer high-efficiency impeller machines use less water and are gentler on clothing (though not quite as good as front-loaders in both respects). They also have longer cycle times than agitator machines, plus clothes can get tangled and loads can get unbalanced.

We have a second-floor laundry room, so refuse to get a front-loading washing machine due to vibration issues as well as the risk of flooding the house in the event of gasket failure or machine breakdown. Front-loaders have also had issues with mold.

Our last two washing machines have therefore been the top-loading impeller machines. Our Whirlpool lasted ten years (which is typical for us) and died a few months ago (bearing failure). It was pretty good, but we are even happier with the LG we got as a replacement.

i deal with this every day…if you have to wash several batches of clothes everyday you want an agitator …

My impeller machine takes longer than the agitator did, but still less time than the dryer.

Just replaced the top loader agitator with impeller model. Load balancing and longer cycle times are my biggest gripe. Also the agitation noise is more aggravating. May just be the model. Have not noticed any difference in the results. They seem on par as far as effectively cleaning clothes. But then again, our clothes are never heavily soiled so that it would pose a cleaning challenge.

I find that I don’t have as many problems with load balancing with an impeller. The current one balances the load before starting and apparently rebalances if it becomes unbalanced during the cycle. Presumably, it will stop the cycle if it can’t correct it. The last agitator model I had walked across the floor during the spin cycle if the load was unbalanced.

I’ve seen this as well. The LG model we bought a few months ago is much better at load-balancing than the 10-year old Whirlpool it replaced. (Both were high-efficiency top-loading impeller models.)

Especially with anything bulky or heavy.

With an agitator, once it gets to one side, the game’s all over.

With the impeller, it tends to balance it out better.

We’ve got a fairly modern top loading agitator model (a GE Adora), and it’s pretty good- it VERY rarely gets out of balance, has the automatic fill mode that fills only enough to wash the clothes, and doesn’t have obnoxiously long cycle times- the very longest have been about 80 minutes, with most around 50-60 minutes, which is about the same as our dryer. And our clothes are clean too.

The impeller machines I’ve used haven’t been much different, except that they seemed to get out of balance easier, but they were easier to load/unload too.

Longer wash cycles seem to be a thing with energy efficiency on both washing machines and dishwashers these days.

Yes, every dishwasher I buy seems to have a longer cycle than the last one. :frowning: Am I the only one who finds that extremely inconvenient?

I guess that’s another reason to hang onto my washing machine as long as I can.

Those Consumer Reports articles seem to make a distinction between agitator top-loaders and High Efficiency (HE) top-loaders which they equate with impeller type designs. This seems to me to be a false distinction as I have a Maytag HE machine which uses a modern type agitator, but clearly an agitator, not an impeller or “wash plate” at the bottom. It uses only HE detergent, uses only as much water as necessary when on automatic fill, and its wash cycle is relatively short – certainly very much shorter than the front-loader that it replaced.

I might be wrong here but I tend to view washers as being in two classes, top loaders and front loaders. Among top loaders, there are simply different ways of agitating the laundry, some better than others. I can see the convenience of impeller/washplate type designs in terms of having an unrestricted open tub that is handy for large items like quilts, but watching videos of these machines in action I get the impression that items spend an awful lot of time in the same place, like sitting at the top and not doing much. Whereas an agitator moves things around much more. I certainly have no complaints about the current machine. Its wash cycle is longer than that of an ancient top loader I had many years ago, but I suspect that has more to do with today’s phosphate-free detergent, which is probably also the same reason my dishwasher runs quite a bit longer than the old one.

That’s interesting. I was researching washing machines recently when I had to replace our 10-year old Whirlpool, and I wasn’t aware and didn’t see that there were any top-loading HE machines with traditional agitators.

I’ve always gotten the same impression with impeller-type machines. It often seems like not much is happening. The reason our last two machines have been impeller-type machines is largely on the basis of Consumer Reports ratings (which I trust), plus the fact that they do seem to get our clothes clean.

the “traditional” agitator models are pretty much gone, apart from a couple Speed Queen commercial types. Now they’re just the same mechanism as a HE top-loader, but with an agitator that doesn’t work as well.

I’m still running my older Whirlpool direct drive top loader I got in 2004, and I will keep this thing until it gets to the point it’s uneconomical to fix. I live right on the Great Lakes so I don’t give a rip how much water it uses, and it’s done in about 18-20 minutes.

We have not had any issues with our top-loader HE machine becoming unbalanced. Its predecessor, which was a front-loader, vibrated horribly, got moldy if we didn’t leave the door open, and REALLY got things tangled - basically every negative thing you’ve heard about, it did.

One thing with any new machine is that they all have circuit boards - which tend to be what fails. That’s what did the front-loader in and we’ve had trouble with the current dryer as well. My husband tried to repair the dryer. After 250 bucks invested in a replacement board, I told him we were not throwing any more money down the drain, and bought a new one. The previous washer: well, let’s just say I was glad I’d paid for the extended warranty and even then, it took several months before they got it working. After that, I refused to invest any more money in THAT one, and when it too died I replaced it the next day.

So: self-service on these newer ones can be a questionable proposition. I don’t know if agitator models have the same issue with circuit boards going bad.

I had the same issue with a 9-year old dryer that died last year. The dryer cost $900 new (as did its replacement). One day it made a pop when the “start” button was pressed and stopped working. I figured a relay had blown, and how much could a relay cost to replace?

It turned out that you can’t replace just the relay on newer machines any more. You have to replace the entire circuit board, which costs about $300-350, plus labor (~$150), which is not worth it for a 9-year old dryer that can be replaced with a brand-new machine for twice that amount. But pretty wasteful, IMHO.

However, in thinking about this, one reason for this state of affairs is the relatively low cost of new appliances (historically speaking). Years ago, the repair might have cost about the same (correcting for inflation), but a new dryer might have been several thousand dollars (again, correcting for inflation). That’s why people got things fixed years ago.

Because fewer people are getting appliances fixed these days, there aren’t as many repair parts available. Similarly, in their quest to make new appliances as inexpensive as possible, manufacturers are putting all of the electronics into one circuit board with no individually replaceable or repairable parts.

So anyway, it cost me $150 for a repairman to come out last year and tell me it wasn’t worth fixing the dryer. A few months later, when the nearly 10-year old washer started making sounds of bearing failure, I didn’t bother calling a repairman. Instead, I simply replaced it with a new machine.

At the time I bought mine (a couple of years ago) there were quite a few machines with various types of agitators. The one I have uses only HE detergent and has a center agitator:

If you click on the picture, it brings up some other pics where you can see parts of the agitator. It’s not quite like a conventional agitator which typically has giant fins that sloshes everything around. Most of the work seems to be done by the ridges and fins at the bottom of the tub, while the center piece resembles a giant screw whose main job seems to be to keep laundry circulating in a vertical direction. Anyway, it seems to work quite well, and I do much prefer it to the old front-loader.

Reading error: This thread appeared on my list of “stuff you looked at” and I misread the title at first.

I would expect that “Alligators” really are LOUSY at getting your clothes clean (though perhaps you wouldn’t be in any position to care, if you had a close encounter with one).