Best and Worst High-Efficiency Top-Load Washers From Consumer Reports' Tests

These efficient machines can slash your energy bills, save time, and tackle large loads

LG WT7900HBA top-loading washer (left) and LG DLEX7900BE clothes dryer

By Keith Flamer

High-efficiency top-load washers are like the middle child of laundry appliances. They’re not as popular as top-load agitator washers and not as cool looking as those sleek front-loaders. HE top-loaders fly below the radar with little appreciation, until their flaws are called out. But it’s time to give them a little love.

Let’s start with the good. HE top-loaders are a happy medium between those other two washer types, hitting that sweet spot in terms of price, size and convenience. So if you’re looking to get an upper hand on inflation, a high-efficiency top-load washer can be a good choice.

They’re easy to load compared with cramped top-load agitator machines and back-bending front-loaders. And they’re mostly reasonably priced, costing $500 to $1,100—that’s $200 to $300 less than typical front-loaders and only $100 more than top-load agitator washers.

Like agitator-equipped machines, they load from the top, but offer better water efficiency and water extraction, thanks to faster-spinning drums. Their wash times fall in between that of top-load agitators and front-loaders—generally 60 to 80 minutes using the heavy soil setting (note: you can still trim some time using a normal soil setting).

Like front-loaders, most HE washers can tackle those big loads of beach towels and comforters, thanks to high-capacity tubs of up to 5.5 cubic feet. Just know that if you stuff it full, you may sacrifice a little on washing performance.

How HE Top-Load Washers Work

Top-load HEs operate differently than both front-loaders and top-load agitator models. High-efficiency top-loaders use an impeller (a low-profile disc with fins in the bottom of the drum) to clean clothes by rotating and rubbing fabrics against each other using minimal water (an average of 13 gallons per load). That’s why some top-rated HE’s achieve eco-friendly Green Choice status, CR’s exclusive designation for washers that have less impact on the environment.

This compares with top-load agitators that deep-fill the tub with up to 20 or more gallons of water and clean clothes using a twisting center spindle. Or front-loaders that gently spin the drum clockwise, then counterclockwise to flip clothes in and out of even less water—about 10 gallons per load.

If clothes inside an HE top-loader get out of balance, the machine will attempt to rebalance the load by adding more water to improve the circulation and even things out. If that doesn’t work, you’ll get an error message alerting you to manually rebalance the load.

“HEs use less water than top-load agitators, but more than front-loaders, says Rich Handel, CR’s laundry expert. “They are more gentle on your laundry than agitators, but more aggressive than front-loaders. So sometimes they tangle the items up.”

What Are the Disadvantages of HE Top-Load Washers?

According to our 2021 survey, CR members cited tangled or balled-up laundry as their biggest issue with high-efficiency washers, especially among four brandsGE, Kenmore, Maytag, and Whirlpool. This may be why most HE top-load washers receive middling ratings for customer satisfaction in our survey.

The second biggest complaint with HE washers is clothes not getting thoroughly cleaned. The same four brands—GE, Kenmore, Maytag, and Whirlpool—were called out on this issue, as well as Samsung.

Based on our lab tests, HE washers appear less effective in cleaning clothes than front-loaders, but more effective than top-load agitator machines. Surveyed CR members also complained of detergent residue embedded in those twisted fabrics (which is likely aided by a chronic detergent-overdosing problem in most households).

Running an extra rinse cycle can remove residual detergent from twisted clothes. But you’ll save both money and water if you simply dial back on your detergent use a bit. “If you use the correct amount of detergent, an extra rinse is not necessary,” says Handel. “It would only be needed if you are sensitive to detergent residue or if you’re dealing with a lot of particulate matter, like mud.”

To learn more about the performance and features of today’s high-efficiency top-load washing machines, see our washing machine buying guide, ratings, and reviews. CR members with digital access can read on for more details on the best and worst high-efficiency top-load washers from our ratings.

Best HE Top-Load Washing Machines

Worst HE Top-Load Washers

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