July 8, 2021 by Steve Anderson
The decision to buy a front load washer is not a clear-cut decision. Front loads have definite advantages that must be weighed in against the disadvantages of the design. Your decision of which of these characteristics is the most and least important defines your direction to go. Let’s look at a discussion of advantages and disadvantages.
The first and most advertised advantage is the water savings of front load versus top load. The front load basically puts enough water into the machine to get the close wet and then create a specific depth puddle of water in the bottom on the machine. The drum rotates causing the clothes to ride up the side and fall back into the puddle. This creates the motion that is significant for washing but relatively gentle on the clothes. For people with children that have dirty sports clothes or spouses that work in occupations that cause clothes to become significantly soiled, the front load provides better washing action than a new design top load. Therefore, less water, gentle on the clothes and washing action are three definite advantages of front load versus top load. Both the wash and rinse water and motion are the same. The spin speed on the final spin is similar to the newer top load washers. The higher spin speeds are used to dry the clothes more in order to reduce the dryer time for energy savings.
There are several criteria in the disadvantage list. Ergonomics, maintenance, operational requirements and failure opportunities are to be considered. The basic front load machine has the bottom of the door opening at about a foot off of the floor. This makes loading and unloading the machine a back-bending operation. Removing clothes from the back of the drum sometimes requires getting on your knees and stretching into the machine. This is not easy for older or less mobile people. Of course, for a price one can get a set of pedestals to lift the machines to a more ergonomic working height.
Maintenance is required on most all brands of front load machines. A small electric pump is used to drain the water. A sump strainer basket is designed in the unit to collect foreign items from clogging the pump. This strainer basket must be emptied periodically. Failure to clean will require an appliance repair call for a technician to empty the basket to allow the washer to drain. Maintenance of cleaning the bottom front of the tub area is required. All units have a gasket around the inside of the door opening. This should be wiped down every couple of months with the manufacturers suggested cleaning solution. This will prevent mold build up. All debris should be removed from the folds in this area. Socks, head bands and other small items are often trapped in this area. It is recommended to also leave the door partially open on your unit to help eliminate mold and a sour smell.
Operational requirements suggest the operator to follow some guidelines for smooth operation for appliance repair avoidance. Load balancing, and small or stringy items are two guidelines. Loads should be made of items with the same weight of material. One towel in a basket of silk underwear is not desirable. The towel will be on one side of the drum causing an out of balance condition. Maximum spin speed can never be obtained. Machines are programmed to try to balance several times and then default to a slower spin speed which leaves clothes wet. Load cycle time is significantly increased. Small or stringy items should be put in mesh bags provided with the machine. These items can get out of the drum and in between the gasket in the front of the machine. This will require an appliance repair call for machine disassembly to remove the item clogging up the drum or drain system. Never close the door with an item hanging out. When this happens the item winds up and can rip the gasket out of the front of the tub. That is an expensive appliance repair.
Failure opportunities requiring appliance repair are inherent to front load system and are common to all manufacturers. Not addressed above are items put in with the laundry or left in pockets. Bobby pins, tooth picks, ink pen cartridges and similar size objects can pass through the machine and jam the drain pump.
All of the criteria listed above can help you decide on front load or top load. The advantages are definitely there for you. The ergonomics, operation and maintenance need to be considered as front load washers are not as easy to operate as top load washers. Following good practices, front loads will provide good services and a long life.