Top-loading washing machines have agitators while front-loading models have drums that do not use agitators to wash clothes. Each type of washing machine has advantages and disadvantages for doing laundry; the biggest difference is how the load of wash is cleaned and rinsed.
Agitator Washing Machines
Top-loading washing machines have agitators that move the wash back and forth to clean clothes. The spin cycle moves the clothes in a complete circle to remove the water. Because the machine has an agitator, it can only hold about 12 to 16 pounds of wash, depending on the size of the washing machine.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Agitator Machines
Top-loading machines will open during the fill, wash or rinse cycle. During the fill or wash cycle, more items can be added. The top-loader doesn't need any additional room to open the door because it opens on the topside of the machine. Top-loading washing machines will use about 40 gallons of water. The agitator may twist and tangle a load of wash. Agitator machines only spin about 600 RPM, which doesn't remove as much water from the wash so drying time is increased.
Non-Agitator Washing Machines
Front-loading washing machines don't have agitators. The drum spins around in a circle, lifting the wash up then dropping it back into the water that stays on the bottom of the drum. Because the machine doesn't have an agitator, it can hold up to 20 pounds of wash at one time, depending on the size of the machine.
Disadvantages and Advantages of Non-Agitator Machines
Front-loaders cannot be opened after the machine is started; otherwise, the water will spill out of the door. Front-loading washing machines need more space because the door is on the front panel of the machine and opens outward into the room. Front-loading washing machines only use about 20 to 25 gallons of water. Instead of moving the wash back and forth, the machine uses a tumbling action to clean the laundry. Non-agitator machines can spin at 1,000 to 1,600 RPM, which removes more water from the wash so drying time is decreased.