It’s a question that even the most knowledgeable appliance experts can’t answer with certainty: Which is best, washers with agitators or those without?
That’s because the answer really is: It depends.
There are pros and cons to each, and which will be better for you depends on various factors, such as how dirty your clothes get, the types of clothes you have, and the volume of laundry you wash.
This article will help unpack the benefits and downsides of washers with agitators and those without, allowing you to make an informed decision on which is best for you.
Since a washer is an appliance that most people use every week, and buying a new one is a significant investment, it’s worth spending a little time to understand the options available before committing to one type or the other.
Pros and Cons of Agitator Washers
Agitator washers are always top-loading and have a vertical spindle in the wash drum’s center. This vertical spindle is the agitator; it’s usually made of durable plastic and has a series of fins protruding from its shaft.
During a wash cycle, the agitator spins or twists in a back-and-forth motion, rubbing against the clothes and giving them a thorough clean. It’s similar to driving through a drive-thru car wash.
The high level of friction and the hard plastic agitator rubbing against the laundry make agitator washers excellent at cleaning heavily soiled clothes. This makes them great for people with active lifestyles who spend lots of time outdoors or in mucky working conditions. Also, since they clean so effectively, they have shorter wash cycles.
However, this rugged washing can be a bit harsh on delicate clothing items, such as silk and lightweight fabrics, fine knitwear, stockings and tights. Sometimes, items can get caught around the agitator and snagged, stretched, and pulled.
Finally, since the agitator takes up room in the wash drum, agitator washers tend to have smaller load capacities. Here’s a quick summary of their pros and cons:
- The best at cleaning heavily soiled laundry.
- Great for cleaning heavy-duty clothing.
- Faster wash cycles.
- On average, they’re a little cheaper to buy.
- They can be harsh on delicate clothing.
- Faster wear and tear on clothing.
- Smaller load capacity.
- They tend to use more water and energy.
Pros and Cons of Non-Agitator Washers
Non-agitator washers can be top-loading or front-loading, with the former using an impeller instead of an agitator and the latter relying on a tumbling action.
An impeller is a low-profile disc that spins at the bottom of the wash drum, swirling the water, detergent, and laundry, causing them to rub together. This makes for a gentler clean since clothing isn’t rubbing against hard plastic and has nothing to get caught on.
Likewise, the tumbling action on front-loading washers is gentler than in agitator washers. They use a horizontal drum that lifts the laundry as it spins, and then the laundry falls back down with gravity, creating a tumbling action that washes the clothes.
This means non-agitator washers are great for cleaning delicate clothing but less effective on heavily soiled clothing. Also, since non-agitator washers have nothing in the drum, they have a larger load capacity, meaning you can wash bigger loads and accommodate large items like comforters.
These washers also tend to be more efficient, using less water and electricity. However, because their washing action is gentler, wash cycles are longer than those of agitator washers.
Finally, since their wash drums can spin faster than agitator washers, they can extract water more effectively, assisting with faster drying times. Here’s a quick summary of their pros and cons:
- Great for cleaning delicate clothing.
- Gentler washing action, meaning less wear and tear.
- Bigger drum capacity, allowing larger load sizes.
- Can wash large items like comforters.
- More energy and water efficient.
- They can spin faster, leading to faster drying.
- Front-loading washers are often stackable with a dryer, saving space.
- They’re not as effective for cleaning heavily soiled clothing.
- Slower wash cycles.
- On average, they’re more expensive to buy.
A Quick Note on Price
While it’s true that agitator washers are, on average, a bit cheaper than non-agitator washers when buying them new, it’s also important to note that both types of washers come at a wide range of prices.
That means you’ll be able to find agitator washers that are more expensive than front or top-loading non-agitator washers, and vice versa. Therefore, it’s better to focus on which type of washer will benefit you most and then look for one in that style that suits your budget.
Conclusion: Which Is Best?
It has to be said that both types of washers we’ve looked at today generally do a good job. As we mentioned, which is better for you depends on your lifestyle and personal preferences.
However, if you or your household often have heavily soiled clothes, perhaps because you play sports, engage in outdoor activities, or work in a mucky environment, such as a construction site, the agitator washer will do the best job at getting all your gear nice and clean before your next adventure.
On the other hand, if you or your household wear a lot of delicate or designer clothing you want to preserve and enjoy for as long as possible, then a non-agitator washer could be the way to go. Likewise, if your clothing tends not to get too dirty, the larger load capacity and better water and energy efficiency may tip your favor toward non-agitators.