How to Load a Clothes Washer So It Stays Balanced

person loading a washer

The Spruce / Letícia Almeida

Once you’ve sorted your dirty laundry, pretreated stains, and emptied pockets, it’s time to load the washer. How you do that depends on the type of washer you have in your laundry room, but taking care to load your washer properly can keep it balanced and help prevent it from vibrating while it works. Read on for tips for balancing a washer by loading it the right way.

How to Load a Standard Top Load Washer

Standard top load washers have a center agitator that helps to move the clothes through the water and detergent. For the best cleaning results, it is important to load the clothes around the agitator in a balanced manner without overloading. Proper loading will also help prevent the washer from becoming unbalanced and "walking" from excessive vibrations.

If your washer does not have an automatic detergent dispenser, first add the detergent to the empty washer drum using the recommended amount. This is particularly important for single-dose packs which must remain in the water as long as possible to properly dissolve (never place packs in an automatic dispenser). Now is the time to add any other cleaning additives like liquid bleach or fabric softener to automatic dispensers.

Next, select the proper cycle and water temperature for each load. Then add the clothes, placing them evenly around the agitator. If the items are large like a bedsheet, do not wind or twist it around the agitator. Simply place it on one side and balance with another sheet on the other side. Try to mix large and small items in each load for better washing action. Now, you're ready to start the washer.

adding detergent to an empty washer drum

The Spruce / Letícia Almeida

How to Load a High-Efficiency Top Load Washer

High-efficiency top load washers use much less water than a standard top load washer. To help move the clothes through the lower water levels, they have a drum rotating around a horizontal axis or wash plate rather than a center agitator.

Follow the same steps for loading detergent and other laundry products as with a standard top load washer. Select the cycle and water temperature and then load the clothes. The key step in loading to not pile all the clothes or linens in the center. Evenly distribute the dirty clothes around the edges of the wash plate. This will help balance the load, allow the clothes to move around evenly and give you the best cleaning results. And, never overload the washer with too many garments. If you are cramming down the fabrics, you've added too many.

How to Load a High-Efficiency Front Load Washer

Front-load washers have been used in Europe for decades, but they are relatively new to the American market. Front-load washers work by filling the bottom of the inner tub with water and using a rotation of the tub and gravity rather than an agitator to move the clothes through the water. 

All front load washers use much less water than a standard top load washer. Most have an automatic dispenser for liquid laundry products. They should always be used for everything except single dose packets and dry additives like baking soda or borax. Those should be added directly to the washer drum before clothes are added. 

When loading a front load washer, the clothes should be placed in one at a time making sure they are not tangled. Again, never overload. However, you may find that your washer works more efficiently with a full load rather than just one or two items in the drum.

If you have garments that are more heavily stained, place them in the drum first where they will be exposed to the water/detergent solution longer.

How Much Laundry Will My Washer Hold?

A regular capacity washer (around four cubic feet) can accommodate a load of one or two bedsheets, several pillowcases, two or three shirts and several small items such as underwear. If you still have the manufacturer’s instruction book, you’ll find a recommended maximum or optimum load weight to use as a guide. Fill the washer loosely so that clothes have room to move freely.

If you don't have your manual any longer, calculate the capacity of your washer drum using a formula as a guideline to help prevent overloading.

Bulk counts more than weight. So wash large items like blankets, bedspreads, and rugs separately adding a few towels, if necessary, to balance the load for proper spinning action. Don’t wind large items around the agitator or tub. Load equally on each side to keep the washer in balance.