True front-loaders, and top-loading machines with horizontal-axis drum as described above, can be compared with top-loaders on a number of aspects:
- Efficient cleaning: Front-loaders usually use less energy, water, and detergent compared to the best top-loaders. "High Efficiency" washers use 20% to 60% of the detergent, water and energy of "standard" washers. They usually take somewhat longer (20110 minutes) to wash a load, but are often computer controlled with additional sensors, to adapt the wash cycle to the needs of each load. As this technology improves, the human interface will also improve, to make it easier to understand and control the many different cleaning options.
- Cycle length: Top-loaders have tended to have shorter cycle times, in part because their design has traditionally emphasized simplicity and speed of operation more than resource conservation.
- Wear and abrasion: Top-loaders require an agitator or impeller mechanism to force enough water through clothes to clean them effectively, which greatly increases mechanical wear and tear on fabrics. Front-loaders use paddles in the drum to repeatedly pick up and drop clothes into water for cleaning; this gentler action causes less wear. The amount of clothes wear can be roughly gauged by the amount of accumulation in a clothes dryer lint filter, since the lint largely consists of stray fibers detached from textiles during washing and drying.
- Compactness: True front-loading machines may be installed underneath counter-height work surfaces. A front-loading washing machine, in a fully fitted kitchen, may even be disguised as a kitchen cabinet. These models can also be convenient in homes with limited floor area, since the clothes dryer may be installed directly above the washer ("stacked" configuration).
- Water leakage: Top-loading machines are less prone to leakage, because simple gravity can reliably keep water from spilling out the loading door on top. True front-loading machines require a flexible seal or gasket on the front door, and the front door must be locked during operation to prevent opening, lest large amounts of water spill out. This seal may leak and require replacement. However, many current front-loaders use so little water that they can be stopped mid-cycle for addition or removal of laundry, while keeping the water level in the horizontal tub below the door level. Best practice installations of either type of machine will include a floor drain or an overflow catch tray with a drain connection, since neither design is immune to leakage or a solenoid valve getting stuck in the open position.
- Maintenance and reliability: Top-loading washers are more tolerant of maintenance neglect, and may not need a regular "freshening" cycle to clean door seals and bellows. During the spin cycle, a top-loading tub is free to move about inside the cabinet of the machine, using only a lip around the top of the inner basket and outer tub to keep the spinning water and clothing from spraying out over the edge. Therefore, the potentially problematic door-sealing and door-locking mechanisms used by true front-loaders are not needed. On the other hand, top-loaders use mechanical gearboxes that are more vulnerable to wear than simpler front-load motor drives.