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Putting a high-efficiency washer in your home has perks, both financially and environmentally. It may cost you a bit more upfront to grab a front-loading or top-loading machine that's conscious with how much water and energy it uses. Plus, you may have to get adjusted to longer cycle times, and how the drum doesn't always fill up all the way. However, a HE washer's thoughtful process pays off quickly, as this type of machine typically has an Energy Star rating that leads to cost savings each month.
The thoughtful process is brought to you by load-sensing technology, which "reads" your load before submerging it in water, HE detergent, and fabric softener. It's paired with practical features, including a built-in faucet, speed cycle, and deep fill setting that raises the water line within the drum for larger loads. In some models, you can make use of a steam function whenever you need to tackle stains, and a cold wash mode that'll extend the lifespan of your colored garments and save you even more cash.
To get started, make a list of your priorities. Some machines focus on performance, while others have a spacious drum or powerful spin cycle. Here, the best high-efficiency washers for whatever priorities you may have.
Best Overall, Front Loading: LG Electronics WM4200HWA 27 in. 5.0 cu. ft. White Ultra Large Capacity Front Load Washing Machine
Sleek, closet-depth design
Certified to reduce allergens in fabrics
TubClean system removes mildew and odors
Display screen is hard to read in certain lighting
Door can’t be reversed
If you prefer a front-loading washing machine, one of the best high-efficiency models is this one from LG. The machine has a spacious 5-cubic-foot capacity that can fit a king-size comforter, and it’s packed with useful features that will make laundry day a breeze. For instance, the appliance is Wi-Fi enabled, allowing you to start a cycle, check its progress, and more from the LG ThinQ app, and it has built-in sensors that can detect fabric texture and load size, using the information to select the right cycle temperature and wash motion for optimal results.
This high-efficiency washer has a stainless steel drum that’s incredibly durable and reduces the risk of snagging your clothes, and it offers 14 different wash cycles, including options for activewear, allergens, bedding, and more. There’s even a SpeedWashCycle that washes lightly-soiled loads in just 15 minutes. Plus, if you often forget to move your laundry over for a few hours, the machine has a FreshCare option, which periodically tumbles the laundry to keep it fresh. Because front-load washers are prone to mildew and odors, the appliance features a TubClean system that cleans its own door and gaskets, and its anti-vibration system helps to keep it quiet during operation.
The LG Front-Load Washing Machine is Energy Star certified, and it’s also certified by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, as it’s able to reduce common household allergens in fabrics by more than 95 percent. LG offers matching electric or gas dryer models, and the washer is compatible with the brand’s pedestals, as well.
Best Overall, Top Loading: Maytag 4.2 cu. ft. High-Efficiency Top Load Washing Machine
Advanced vibration control
Auto-sensing optimized water level
Not Energy Star certified
Not the most modern design
Some people prefer top-loading washing machines, which are known for being more spacious and more convenient for stain removal, and a top high-efficiency option is this model from Maytag. It has a 4.2-cubic-foot stainless steel drum, and a central agitator delivers heavy-duty cleaning power, no matter how big the load. This appliance offers 11 wash cycles, including a PowerWash cycle that helps remove stains with heated water and an extended wash time, as well as a deep water option that fills the drum to its highest possible level.
This top-loading washer is a no-frills, basic option that’s ideal for anyone who likes simple appliances. Dials on the back control panel allow you to select the wash cycle, soil level, temperature and spin speed, and you pour detergent right into the drum itself—there are dispensers for bleach and fabric softener, though. Automatic sensing selects the ideal water level for each load, and the washer has a self-clean setting to keep your machine fresh.
Best Budget: Whirlpool 3.5-cu ft Top-Load Washer
Simple, user-friendly design
Able to add in forgotten items
No end-of-cycle signal
Not Energy Star certified
Noisy during spin cycle
The Whirlpool Top-Load Washer is a popular high-efficiency model that won’t break the bank. This budget-friendly washing machine is on the smaller side with a 3.5-cubic-foot capacity, but it’s still spacious enough for mid-size households. The top-load design features a dual-action agitator that helps remove more dirt from your laundry, and its auto-sensing option ensures the machine always uses the right amount of water.
This affordable washing machine is fairly basic, but it still has 12 cleaning cycles, including options for bulky items, delicates, and more. There’s even a 30-minute Quick Wash option for lightly soiled loads. The drum is made from smooth porcelain as opposed to stainless steel—some people find this material to be less durable—and one nice feature is that the lid doesn’t lock right away, allowing you to add in forgotten laundry items after the machine has started.
Best Splurge: GE 5.0 cu. ft. Capacity Smart Front Load Steam Washer
Steam setting helps remove stains
Automatic detergent dispenser
Vent system eliminates moisture
No way to empty detergent from dispenser
If you don’t mind spending a little extra on a high-end appliance, the GE Smart Front-Load Steam Washer is worth the splurge. The well-designed appliance helps to address common painpoints with front load washers—for instance, its interior components are treated with an antimicrobial finish to prevent odors, and the UltraFresh vent system eliminates excess moisture to prevent mildew and mold growth. Additionally, the smart washing machine is packed with useful features, from Wi-Fi compatibility to one-step wash and drying for small loads.
This front-loading washer has a spacious 5-cubic-foot interior, and its door is reversible to swing open in either direction. Its Dynamic Balancing Technology helps to even out loads during the spin cycle to prevent banging, and the unit has a variety of useful wash settings, including sanitizing and PowerSteam for better stain removal. No need to measure out detergent for each load, either—the GE washer has a smart dispenser that automatically adds detergent to each load. You can just pour the whole bottle into the machine, and it will take care of the rest. Plus, the front-load washer comes in several attractive finishes and can be paired with the brand’s pedestals for added storage.
Best High-Capacity: Samsung 5.2 cu. ft. Large Capacity Smart Top Load Washer
Extremely spacious drum
Available with impeller or agitator
Antimicrobial treatment on high-touch areas
Built-in water faucet
Large households will love this top-loading washing machine from Samsung, as its stainless steel drum has a huge 5.2-cubic foot capacity that can accommodate extra-large loads. The appliance is available with either an impeller or agitator, allowing you to select the option that works best for your home, and its “EZ Access” tub is shallower than traditional washers, making it easier for short individuals to each clothing at the bottom. This high-efficiency wash machine has 12 wash cycles, and despite its size, it can often wash a full load in as little as 28 minutes.
This washing machine is reasonably priced, yet it still boasts a number of features often reserved for higher-end models. For instance, it has a built-in water faucet that you can use to pretreat stains, as well as a soft-close lid that prevents it from slamming shut. It can be synced to your home’s WiFi if you want to monitor its progress from your smartphone, and its high-touch areas are even treated with an antimicrobial finish to prevent bacteria growth.
Best Stackable: Samsung WF45T6000AW 4.5 cu. ft. Front Load Washer with Vibration Reduction Technology+
Stacks with compatible dryer
Redesigned control panel offers better readability when stacked
Self-cleaning cycle kills bacteria
Limited smart functionality
Stacking kit sold separately
If you have limited space for your washer and dryer, this front-loading model from Samsung will help make the most of every inch. Not only can it be stacked with a compatible Samsung dryer, but it also has a closet-depth design that makes it easy to tuck into a closet or other compact space. Plus, the brand redesigned the unit’s control panel to make it easier to see when the appliance is stacked. (Keep in mind that the necessary stacking kit is sold separately.)
This front-loading washer has a moderate 4.5-cubic-foot capacity, and there are 10 wash cycles to choose from, including settings for active wear, bedding, delicates, and more. The stainless steel drum has a unique pattern on the sides that extracts more water, and the machine even features a self-cleaning cycle that the brand claims will kill 99 percent of bacteria. While the appliance does technically have Wi-Fi connectivity, the app doesn’t offer as much functionality as other brands—you’re only able to troubleshoot your machine, not control it remotely.
Best Custom: GE 2.4 cu. ft. High-Efficiency Stackable Front Loading Washing Machine with Steam
Small footprint fits in apartments and small spaces
Internal water heater
Steam function helps lift stains
Door can’t be reversed
Low to ground
Whether you just have a single-person household or live in a small apartment, this front-load washing machine from GE is the perfect option for you. The compact design is just less than 24 inches wide, taking up minimal space, yet it still offers an impressive 14 wash cycles and spin speeds up to 1,400 RPM. The washer has a 2.4-cubic-foot stainless steel drum, and you can stack it with a compatible dryer to save even more space in your home.
No matter what clothes or linens you’re washing, this machine will get the job done. It has cycles for heavy-duty loads, active wear, delicates, and whites, as well as a steam option that penetrates deep into fibers to remove stains. The machine has an internal water heater that boosts the cycle temperature when needed, and it can be plugged into a matching dryer for quick and easy installation.
Best All-in-One: LG Electronics WM3998HBA Ultra Large Capacity Electric All-in-One Washer Dryer Combo
No need to transfer clothes to dryer
Steam cleaning technology
Certified to reduce allergens in fabrics
Ventless drying takes significantly longer
Not Energy Star certified
Instead of buying a separate washing machine and dryer, you can simply opt for this all-in-one model from LG. The sleek modern appliance is able to both wash and dry your clothing, eliminating any need for transfer laundry, and its ventless design is ideal for homes that don’t have external venting. (However, the downside is that ventless drying takes quite a bit longer—just something to keep in mind.)
This front-loading washer and dryer has a 4.5-cubic-foot capacity, and it offers 14 different wash cycles with six washing motions to maximize its cleaning performance. The washer has high-pressure nozzles that can cut up to 30 minutes off its washing time, and it even has a steam clean option to help remove stains and odors. The appliance is certified by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, and it can be synced up to your smartphone or a smart assistant like Alexa or Siri, allowing you to control its progress from virtually anywhere.
Best with Steam: Electrolux 4.5-cu ft High Efficiency Stackable Steam Cycle Front-Load Washer
Several stain removal features
Dispenser accepts all types of detergent
Pure Rinse cycle removes detergent residue
No smart functionality
This highly rated front-loading Electrolux washing machine is a top choice for households that deal with a lot of laundry stains. The high-end model offers a large number of stain-fighting features, including its Perfect Steam setting and its StainTreat II option, which optimizes the cycle temperature, tumbling action, and cycle time based on the specific stain selected. This washer has a 4.5 cubic-foot stainless steel drum, and its dispenser can be used with all types of detergent, including liquids, powders, and pods.
In addition to its stain-removal abilities, the Electrolux washing machine offers a number of other advanced features. Its fast wash cycle cleans clothing in just 15 minutes, and the Pure Rinse cycle removes more detergent residue without using more water. The sanitize setting is certified to kill 99% of bacteria, and the machine is also certified by the National Science Foundation to remove 95% of allergens from your laundry. The only downside of this machine is that, despite its high price, it doesn’t feature any smart functionality.
For a high-efficiency front-loading washer, we recommend the LG 5.0 cu. ft. Smart Front Load Washing Machine (view at Home Depot). It has a spacious drum that can accommodate even a king-size comforter, and its self-cleaning system helps to remove mildew and odors—common problems with front-loading appliances. For those that prefer a top-load washer, the Maytag 4,2 Top Load Washing Machine (view at Home Depot) is a solid investment. It has a powerful central agitator, and while the design is simple, it delivers efficient washing power. Or, for something more budget friendly, the Whirlpool 3.5-cu ft Top-Load Washer (view at Lowe's) is a basic, no-frills option with a user-friendly design.
What to Look for in a High-efficiency Washer
The two types of high-efficiency washers you can buy are front-loading and top-loading. These terms refer to the door on the machine, and how you access your clothes. A front-loading model typically has a round, swinging door on the front of the machine, and can be stacked with a matching dryer. A top-loading model has a door, as its name does suggest, on the top of the machine, and is usually more spacious. It's also a convenient choice for households who deal with stains, as it's easy to pre-treat clothes right over the drum.
Deep fill setting
High-efficiency washers not only use less energy during each cycle, but also less water. Most models have automatic load-sensing technology, which recognizes the amount of clothes in a single load, and then adds just enough water to soak them. A deep fill setting gives you the option to bypass this technology, and soak your clothes more thoroughly. It's an effective option if you frequently wash comforters or other bulky items, or deal with stains, but isn't a guaranteed feature.
The spin speed of a washer is measured in revolutions per minute, or RPM. The higher the RPM, the more likely your clothes will come out of the washer feeling wrung out and relatively dry. The types of fabrics you wash and selections you make can alter what speed your washer spins at, so it's essential to consider the maximum spin speed of the machine when buying. Many high-efficiency washers cap at a lower RPM than standard models. For comparison, an average high-efficiency unit spins at about 750 RPM, while standard models spin at about 1,200 RPM. If you plan on washing a variety of fabrics and bulky items, you'll want to find a high-efficiency washer with a spin speed that's closer to 1,000 RPM, opposed to 600 RPM.
An impeller plate is a new substitute for a central agitator column in top-loading washers. It’s built into the bottom of the drum, and works to spin, soak, and mix soap into your clothes in a gentle manner. It doesn’t include attached fins, so it’s a great feature for households that are running delicate cycles often, or want to avoid adding wear and tear to their clothes over time, as the impeller plates churn clothes less than older models with fin agitators did.
A built-in faucet can be found in the drum of some top-loading models. It eliminates the process of pretreating stains in a bathroom or dedicated laundry sink, and then carrying wet items to your washer. It's useful for small households, where a washer may be installed in a closet or tiny mudroom, as well as larger ones who may deal with food, grass, and dirt stains, due to children and athletes.
How do high-efficiency washers work?
Unlike a traditional washing machine, a high-efficiency washer uses less water, detergent, and energy to clean your clothes. It also doesn't have a central agitator, and uses a series of tub motions to move, soak, and spin laundry. After selecting a cycle, adding your detergent and fabric softener, and starting your machine, the washer will activate sensors that "read" the size and fabrics of your load. It'll pour in water according to that reading, and whether or not you selected "deep fill." For more on how this type of washer works, check out our high-efficiency vs. traditional washing machine comparison guide.
Do high-efficiency washers really clean clothes?
Despite using less resources, a high-efficiency washer is still effective at cleaning clothes. Sensors in the washer make sure your clothes are soaked in an appropriate amount of water. They ensure a very thorough wash, but also little waste. Now, a high-efficiency washer can have longer cycle times, since clothes have to be agitated a bit more. However, this type of machine will spin your clothes really well, leave them almost dry, and easily handle large loads.
Can you use a powder laundry detergent in high-efficiency washers?
You can use powder laundry detergent in a high-efficiency washer if it's high-efficiency detergent. If it is, there will be a high-efficiency symbol on the detergent's packaging, signaling that it's safe to use in a washer that uses less water and energy. Most units are compatible with detergent packs or liquid, as well, as long as they're also made for high-efficiency machines. Compared to standard detergent, your high-efficiency detergent—no matter what form it comes in—will create less suds in the tub, making it easier to rinse your clothes with less water. For more details, check out our complete guide on adding detergent to a high-efficiency washer.
Why Trust The Spruce?
Having tested and researched dozens of laundry machines, we looked at functionality, strength, and value when recommending the best high-efficiency washers on the market. We considered capacity, cycle options, and spin speed, in addition to the type of agitator, and the advanced features you can actually work into your regular routine. For additional insight, we spoke with: Marilee Nelson, certified building biologist and environmental consultant, and co-founder of Branch Basics; Felicia Gopaul, certified financial planner, founder of Financial Control Mastery, and creator of the Financial Freedom Fundamentals™ course; and Marguerita Cheng, certified financial planner. We also consulted a review from product tester Shannon Wells.
Marisa Casciano is the large appliance expert for The Spruce and has researched the ins and outs of air purifiers, dishwashers, and more in the home space. She adores her Whirlpool high-efficiency, top-loading washer that's thorough and conserves water. For this piece, she read through dozens of user manuals, verified customer reviews, and articles on third-party websites. She tested the features on her own high-efficiency machine to get familiar with them and decide what's useful. Lastly, she went and checked out the recommended washers in-person.
This article was updated by Camryn Rabideau, a freelance writer and product tester for The Spruce. She spent several hours researching the most popular and top-rated high-efficiency washing machines available today, and she's personally used the GE 5.0 cu. ft. Capacity Smart Front Load Steam Washer (buy at Home Depot), which is our pick for Best Splurge.