Impeller-based top-load high-efficiency washing machines?

Another day, another appliance failure. It is time to replace a washing machine. The space into which this slots is kind of tight, so it would be good to stay within the 27×27″ footprint that was formerly standard before (a) Americans got bigger, and (b) laundry machines got bigger via front load designs.

There are some top loading machines that still fit the old footprint. Supposedly the latest and greatest are impeller-based and don’t have the agitator spindle in the middle. This is an attractive idea, at least, since it would seem to be better for loading in bulky sheets, towels, etc., and not having them get tangled around the agitator. On the other hand, there are a lot of negative reviews of these machines online.

The dryer duct in our apartment is long and windy, thus making the dryer somewhat inefficient. The higher spin speed of the impeller-based machines is therefore attractive.

Does anyone have experience with this new breed of impeller-based top-loading washing machines? The ones that would seem to fit the space best are from Maytag and GE.

How about front loader versus these new-design top loaders?


Unrelated: a backhoe and/or laundry service in Anguilla, from 2002…

27 thoughts on “Impeller-based top-load high-efficiency washing machines?

  1. I have no direct experience since I do my laundry at a laundromat, but if you trust the NY Times to do a decent washer review, among front loaders they like the 4.5 cu. ft. LG WM3900H (it has WiFi!). It’s 27″ wide by 30-3/10″ deep by 39″ high. From March 13:

    The biggest problem with the front-loading machines is that everyone in the universe recommends leaving the door open post-wash to prevent mildew odors inside the machine. Not a problem on a top-loader but does everyone have room in their laundry area to leave their washer doors open?

    If you’re very old-school, a few people like this Commercial Grade Maytag. Reputed to be very reliable, but kind of small at just 3.5 cu. ft. with an agitator. Knobs, no wizardry, no WiFi.

    Maytag-MVWP575GW washer

    If it was me, I would probably buy the old-school Commercial Grade Maytag. It is 27-1/2″ wide by 27 deep by 42″ high. You have a Ph.D. in EECS from MIT, so this “zinc-plated, vacuum tube” choice might be hard to explain to visitors. 🙂

    I have no skin in the game agitator vs. impeller, but it sounds to me like the impeller was done to save water, and then the marketing department was tasked with making it sound awesomesauce.

  2. I have a new impeller based Maytag from Home Depot that replaced an agitator based washer with a burned out motor.

    My impressions so far: the cleaning quality is mediocre but acceptable, the impeller is probably more reliable (less likely to get caught and burn the motor), but the wash cycle takes forever. I suspect the long length of time and so-so cleaning are mostly the result of environmental regs. The electricity usage is very low and the water usage less than before.

    I prefer the industrial sized front loaders at the laundromat, but that is inconvenient in a time of coronaplague.

    With the 27″ impeller I recommend pre-washing anything that is severely soiled (e.g., mud or bug spray).

  3. We have a Maytag top-loader with an impeller. It’s obvious that it moves the washing items around differently. Items do not appear to be cycled from the top of the tank to the bottom as quickly — I haven’t the patience to watch it long enough to do a proper comparison. That said, I can’t say I notice a big difference in cleaning ability from the front-loader we were using previously, or from the old top-loaders with agitators that we used “back in the day”.

  4. Older washing machimes are better..

    Find out from a good local shop the cost of completely refurbishing a good old model from the transistor era. Make sure parts are available, and factor in a maintenance contract.

    green vintage recycling. Your new old washer works better than current models — industrial art in praxis.

    As a bonus, you can commission a local artist to do a custom paint job.

    Or you can buy some korean-made crap from best buy..

    • Perhaps consider engraving as an alternative to the custom paint job?

      Totally agree re: “eco” or “energy saving” — total waste of money when it comes to being able to do the job, e.g. wash clothes or dishes. Same is true for “eco” detergents which no longer clean anything. It’s almost surreal.

  5. How long did the previous one last and which brand was it? Inquiring minds want to know…

    • G: It was , top-rated by Consumer Reports at the time of purchase. About 15 years old. It had some issues, but we didn’t use it that often. Maybe once/week. Recently the drum just came off of its mounts after the cleaners tried to wash a big load of sheets. It had an agitator and maybe a faster spin than the typical conventional washing machine of its day.

      Fisher & Paykel was founded in New Zealand, which of course is a fantastic example of the benefits of female leadership for managing coronaplague (just like in Belgium!). Also a great example of the merits of having a Trump-style immigration barrier in the form of the Southern Ocean.

    • @Philg: Those are super-nice washing machines. It’s too bad, they currently only make two models, both front-loading and just 2.4 cubic feet. I’ll bet they’re beautifully made, though. Audiophile quality washing machines.

  6. I bought one of the newer top-loading Kenmore washing machines about 5 years ago. It used a lot less water, but the clothes came out of the wash extremely wrinkled. So wrinkled they were still noticeably wrinkled after drying – even towels. So ironing shirts (rather then taking them out when slightly damp to dry and then wear later) became the norm. Then after a year it broke just as I was making a long distance move. So needless to say it didn’t make the trip with me.

    If the dimensions are important I’d seriously consider what Mememe said above.

  7. Phil,
    If memory serves me, wasn‘t a MIELE your last recommandation for a washing machine?

  8. Had a Samsung top loader which worked well and the spin cycle was scary fast. Unfortunately and probably related it very frequently stopped its cycle due to an unbalanced load error. Out of warranty replacement of the arms attaching the drum to the body didn’t fix the problem. Also, and probably related, due to some peoples’ machine’s tops flying off, Samsung sent a repair guy to do a safety-related “repair” which seemed to consist of attaching a retaining bracket to the top and advising not to use the high speed spin cycle.

    TLDR: Don’t buy Samsung.

  9. I hope you find a washing machine that meets your space requirements, reliability, engineering and aesthetic criteria. Here’s a video of an old Maytag wringer washer that sports a little rust but still cleans clothes. No company could sell something like this today. The first idiot who got their fingers caught in the wringer would put them out of business. I’m continually amazed that the human race has survived to this point. The world was so dangerous I don’t understand how anyone made it to middle age. 😉

    • That brings back some so, so old memories.

      We had one of those machines back home in Syria in the 70’s (my family moved to the US, legally, in 1981 that took 6 years of paperwork and waiting). At 10 y/o I used to help my mom doing laundry using this machine. It was fun and I looked forward to use the machine to dry our washed clothes. Families and close neighborhood used to come over to do their laundry every now and then (not everyone had such a machine, it was considered a luxury and so is black and white TV). And if you had a car (we didn’t) then you are considered super rich.

    • @GeorgeA: My grandmother had one of the same machines in her basement for decades, including all the years of my childhood, and I washed my own clothes with it when I visited my grandparents, helping with the chores. The clothes were hung outside on a line to dry when possible, although she did supplement that with a modern washer/dryer set beginning in the 1960s. The modern washer and dryer set were used about 25% of the time, on more delicate and dress clothes, while the “work” clothes were always done using the wringer machine. Then the *really* good stuff was drycleaned.

      She had a system, in other words, and it worked. 🙂 Her ringer washer looked like it was new and still functioned perfectly when she passed away. It was at least 40 years old. I’m sure my grandfather had repaired it a couple of times, but it was very durable and reliable.

      Ditto on the community spirit. She had a lot of friends, and they shared things to spread the load. I remember her big lobster parties: my grandfather would go with his truck and return with huge baskets of lobster bodies. These were the lobsters where most of the restaurant meat had already been removed. They would buy a small number of live lobsters and scores of the pre-shucked bodies, which were very cheap, then have a “party” with 4 or 5 neighbors, who brought their own, and they would pick out all the rest of the lobster meat by hand. They would spend most of a day doing this and everyone had lobster for a couple of weeks.

      These were people who had survived the Great Depression in America and stacked one dime on top of another — they knew how to save money and still live a good life. They took care of the things they owned, because they lived through a time where you had to make them last, and might not get another one.

    • Alex…sounds like my childhood. We had the same machine. My family were all commercial fisherman off the Monterey, CA. peninsula. That depression, and WW2, had a huge effect on people of that generation. When my mother passed a few years ago we found bags full of wrapping paper, plastic bags, etc…that had been used over and over. We also found a closet full of unopened brand new boxes of plastic bags that she had won at her weekly bingo. She just couldn’t see using a new bag when the old one was still good.

      Those lobster shells you mention…those were treasured in Italian households to make sauce and soup with. They knew how to live.

  10. We have had a Whirlpool impeller for about a year. I asked my wife how she likes it. She says its easier to load/unload, holds more, and treats clothes better. We inherited old Fisher & Paykel washer and dryer when we bought the house. Impossible to repair the dryer when it failed so replaced both.

  11. My Whirlpool washer and dryer is over 35 years old and still going strong. About 3 years ago, the belt on the dryer snapped. I changed it myself (cost me about $30 and 2 hours of my time). Since then, the dryer will make a louder noise when spinning. I didn’t bother to look into it (it’s in the basement so I let it be).

    Moral of the story: today’s fancy appliances are designed for the eye, not for longevity.

  12. 6 months ago I purchased an LG impeller to replace an older LG frontloader. I really dislike it because it certainly does not clean like the frontloader. I notice stains on my kitchen towels and face clothes that I never had before. Wrinkled beyond belief on low spin. I’m in over 1000 with tax and extended warranty. I used to like washing but no longer. I hate it. I will wait a few more months for black friday specials and will get a frontloader.

  13. If I’m spending your money, I’m getting Miele professional laundry equipment. If I’m spending my money it will be Speed Queen (lowest tech machine available, meaning relays, not electronic control).

  14. Don’t do it. We had the very same set reform Maytag and the washer ruined our clothes. Per the Maytag customer service department, the impeller design uses clothes on clothes abrasion to clean. This ruined many of our items and forced us to get rid of the units and get front loading. If you read reviews this is a common problem.

  15. Like all appliances, you’re better off getting one of the cheaper models. Don’t fall for the marketing. You don’t need a bunch of cycles. It wets clothes, it agitates clothes and it spins clothes.

  16. I don’t know if it fits your requirements, but I love my Speed Queen clothes washer.

    Looks like a 1970s laundromat unit and built to last, with metal parts. Cleans very well. Uses gob loads of water.

    We use the delicate cycle mostly. The old fashioned impeller requires putting things with strings into laundry bags. Not a big deal but FYI.

  17. Just got a Whirlpool Cabrio. Top doesn’t slam. Clothes seem clean. Wrinkles don’t seem too bad. On sale for $500@ Lowes. Got a hundred off for using a Lowes card. Runs smoothly. Wondering if I should get the extended warranty$129 for 5 years. Peace of mind?

Comments are closed.