Get the Best Results from a Top Load HE Washer

Top load he washer
Courtesy of Whirlpool

Why does a HE Top Load Washer Look so Different?

Americans have used a top load washer for decades. Once the wringer washer gave way to the big white box with a lid, we all learned to do laundry using lots of water and lots of detergent. There was a central agitator with fins that would swish clothes through a tub full of water to get them clean. Then, the tub filled up once or twice again to rinse away all those suds.

In Europe, nearly every home had a front load washer that used much less water and sometimes even doubled as a dryer. Today's high-efficiency front load washers began appearing in the United States in the early 2000s. And, for those buyers who cling to the idea of a top load washer but want to save money on energy costs, nearly every manufacturer offers a top load high efficiency model.

These high-efficiency washers look very similar to the old standard models on the outside; but when you open the lid the inside is entirely different. There is no agitator in the center of the tub; just a wash plate with a couple of little protrusions in the bottom of the washer. And, when you start the wash cycle, the tub doesn't fill with water.

This is not your grandmother's washing machine.

Are Top Load HE Washers the same as Front Load Washers?

High-efficiency top load washers are much more like their front load washer cousins than a standard top load washer.

The inner drum rotates around a horizontal axis like a front loader, but they have a liftable top load lid. They operate and spin just like a front-loader and use half the amount of water required for a standard washer. The top load design has a pair of symmetrical bearings to support the tub rather than a single bearing on one side like a front loader, which helps reduce wear and tear and possibly reduce maintenance costs.

Top load high efficiency washers are typically less expensive to purchase than a front load washer from the same manufacturer.

Top load HE washer dispensers for detergent, bleach and fabric softener operate through gravity and centrifugal force reducing breakable components. On a front loader, the dispensers must be opened by a solenoid valve. The vertical design - and gravity - also make it much more simple to move water in and out of the washer than the actions required for a front load washer. And, because of gravity and drain location, top load washers do not typically hold water after the cycle is finished. They also do not require the folding rubber bellows seal that can trap moisture and cause mold and mildew odors in front load washers. Cleaning a top load HE washer is quite simple.

Why does My HE Top Load Washer Sound Funny?

After years of listening to the sounds of the old standard washer, an HE model may seem like it isn't working correctly. The cycles and timing is quite different and you may hear what seems to be water running all the time and lots of stops and starts. There is a reason for it all.

After you load the soiled laundry into the washer, make your cycle selections and push start, the washer will lock the lid but doesn't spring into action immediately.

This is because the machine is "thinking" or determining how much water to use based on the size of the load. The wash plate will begin to spin without any water in the tub to balance the load. The washer is sensing the size of the load and the weight of the fabrics in the load. By determining how much laundry is in the tub, the correct amount of water will be added. Using less water saves you money.

Now, the first water goes into the tub. If you used the detergent dispenser, more water will be added to flush the detergent into the tub. Then, the water stops even though there is not nearly enough to completely cover the clothes. The water flow stops for a designated time so that the detergent in the water has time to soak into the clothes and begin the cleaning process. You might call this a presoak.

The washer is letting the stain removing properties of the detergent get to work and this is what does a great deal of the cleaning. As the machine senses that the water has been absorbed in the soiled laundry, more is added until the proper amount needed is reached. That's why you hear water running into the tub throughout the wash cycle.

Now, the wash plate will begin to move and push the clothes against each other to help remove soil. The clothes are moved from the center to the outside edges of the tub. As they move, they are dipped into the detergent water for more cleaning. When the cycle is complete and the dirty water is drained away, the wash plate will once again move to balance the load before the rinse and spin cycles.

Now it's time for the final rinse. You will hear the same short movements of the wash plate as clothes move in and out of the rinse water. The water is then pumped out and the spin cycle begins. Most HE top loaders have a very fast spin cycle to remove as much water as possible. It can take up to two minutes for the drum to stop spinning after the motor stops. When the clothes are removed, so much water has been spun away that some areas may feel dry to the touch. This will speed drying time and, again, save energy.

How to Get the Best Results From a HE Top Load Washer

  • Read your washer manual and keep it handy. There is a learning curve to success with a high-efficiency washer.
  • Always use a laundry detergent with the he label. These products are formulated to create fewer suds which is important since so much less water is used. Many manufacturers will not honor the machine's warranty if you have not used the correct type of detergent. You can safely use homemade laundry products because they do not produce extensive sudsing.
  • Use less detergent. More is not better when there is less water in the mix. Most loads only require one to two teaspoons of he liquid laundry detergent or one single-dose pack.
  • If you do not use the automatic detergent dispensers, place the detergent in the bottom of the drum BEFORE you add your dirty clothes. All single dose laundry packs must be placed in the bottom of the washer - never the dispenser. This will give the detergent the longest amount of time in the water to help get your clothes clean.
  • When you load an HE top load washer, do not pile the clothes in the center. Evenly distribute the dirty clothes around the edges of the wash plate. This will help balance the load more quickly and speed the wash cycle.