In Consumer Reports’ tests, the best front-loading washing machines use less water and clean better than the best high-efficiency (HE) top-loader washers; front-loaders are gentler on fabrics too. But shipments of HE top-loaders are on the rise, according to the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers. Here are five reasons to consider a high-efficiency top-loader over a front-loader or a traditional—and typically less expensive— top-loader with a center agitator.

Better Cleaning, Less Water

Most HE top-loaders are better at cleaning, gentler on fabrics, quieter, and use less water than agitator washing machines. And they spin faster, removing more water, which cuts dryer time. Note that the spinning can tangle laundry so be sure to untangle and shake out items before you put them in the dryer. You can also reduce the washer’s spin speed. The spin speed is especially important when washing waterproof items, which can cause the load to become unbalanced and the machine to shake excessively, even damaging it. So check the manual for advice on washing waterproof items.  (See our story on Samsung washers.)

Lower Cost
Front-loaders are usually your most expensive option—up to $1,500 or so—and that's not including a $250 pedestal, which raises the washer's height and makes it easier to load and unload laundry. Our top-rated front-loader, the Maytag Maxima MHW8200FW costs $1,150. The best HE top-loader, the LG WT5680HVA, runs $1,000. Some impressive HE top-loader washers cost $650 or less, including the Kenmore 27132.

Larger Capacity
HE top-loaders do not have agitators so you can do more laundry at one time, and their capacities now rival that of front-loaders. That comes in handy since the wash times are longer than agitator machines. The longer wash times allow these energy-saving machines to get clothes clean while using less water.

No Vibration Problem
HE top-loaders spin faster than agitator machines to remove more water. But front-loaders spin even faster. Combine that spin speed with tub rotation that similar to a dryer's, and some front-loaders vibrate while in use, especially on a wooden floor. You’ll find vibration scores in our washer ratings. Most HE top-loaders score excellent on our vibration test while the best front-loaders score very good or good.

No Mold Issue
For years consumers have complained about their front-loaders developing mold, mildew, and funky odors. The design of the door and detergent dispensers were to blame, in part. Class-action lawsuits followed, with Whirlpool and LG being the most recent to agree to preliminary settlements involving over 6 million front-loaders. HE top-loaders don't have seem to have this problem. Manufacturers do say they've improved the front-loader's door gasket and added a high-temperature tub-cleaning cycle to keep mold from developing. If you currently own a front-loader, check out these tips for preventing mold in washers, including cleaning the detergent dispenser and letting the tub air dry.

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