It was another early morning washing cycle. Once again, I had let all those clothes pile up after being sick the previous week. I headed to the basement to our much older Whirlpool machine. It came with our house and had been repaired four times in the last six months (luckily by hubby).

I loaded up the machine, as always (one of about eight or more loads it seemed). Then the grinding and squealing began. Of course AFTER the water had filled the machine and everything was sopping wet.

At this point, the same part was broken again. It became clear that our machine was not meeting our needs and we were abusing it. This is how I came about my research on washing machines.

What type of machine is best for your family?
There are several types of machines today. The first thing you want to consider is front loading or top loading. There are advantages and disadvantages of each.

Top loading machines drain nicely. If they are cleaned regularly (and even if they aren’t actually) they generally do not have an odor after running the wash. The water doesn’t sit in the bottom and it’s pretty much dry after a run. Top loading machines can be difficult to load and unload for those people who are vertically challenged (uh hum – us short folks). This is easily remedied with a step stool of course, but it might not be something you want to deal with.


Front loading machines have a different setup. They are easier to load and unload, and great for blankets if you don’t want to go to another category – high-efficiency top loading. But they can run the risk of water not draining completely and settling in the basin. Thus leaving a musty odor. With proper cleaning and maintenance, this should be avoided. However, some people still say it smells musty. Front loaders are great for big items and bulky items compared to a traditional top loading machine.

Which brings us to which type of top loading machine is best, traditional or high-efficiency?
Traditional top loaders come in various sizes (cubic feet inside the machine) and have an agitator. Most machines have a digital front interface, but there are still machines that come with a turn-dial system. Of course, the agitator takes up some of the space inside of the machine – lessening the cubic feet inside for laundry.

Traditional machines are great for people who really feel they need deep water and lots of it. It also uses more soap. Some people feel their clothes need agitation from the machine to be clean. These machines do use (generally) more water than a high-efficiency machine. This may increase the drying time needed as clothes will come out more saturated than a high-efficiency machine.

The price tag on these machines can be very small for an appliance. They can be from as little as a $250, on a sale machine, up to thousands of dollars depending on the features.

High-Efficiency Top-Loading Machines
This is where things have changed a lot. There is now a top loading (for many years) high-efficiency machine option. The machine is open inside with no agitator. The machine uses less water and spins the clothes to clean them and drain the basin. It comes with a digital interface with a lot of different settings. They come in various cubic feet sizes as well.

The HE machines use less soap and less water, thus decreasing drying time. The clothes (in my experience) are coming out just as clean as the traditional top loading machine. The HE machine companies boast they are as clean also.

You will need to purchase a HE detergent (like Norwex brand), or you could use the homemade versions I talk about in this article.

You would load the homemade detergent into the basin of the machine before loading clothes if using the homemade recipe above, or the dispenser tray for other liquid or powder HE detergents – like this Norwex detergent. This is rather than the detergent tray on the machine. This is because homemade recipes (such as the one I use) have boosters like Borax and Washing Soda (that are granular). HE purchased detergent can be loaded directly into the detergent tray – like the Norwex detergent.

Want to learn more about Norwex’s awesome brand and how safe and environmentally friendly they are? Next week we do a review of a handful of their awesome products! See how you can be safe with fewer chemicals in your home, and more environmentally friendly.
{Note: A Family Lifestyle was provided a free sample of the Norwex detergent to review. The link provided does not compensate A Family Lifestyle, but rather the consultant that provided us with the free sample}.


A major downfall of this machine is that bulky/sheet settings take far longer to run than a traditional top loader. The washing time varies depending on the settings and types of items in your machine. The machine self-balances through the run and adjusts the time to clean the materials. I have found most regular mixed loads of laundry run at a very similar wash time to my other machine. However, I can run double the load size with the 4.8 capacity machine. Thus getting two loads done in the same time as one previous load.

Other things to consider when looking at high-efficiency machines
The price tag on these machines is several hundred dollars more than the top loading traditional variations. You should recoup your money in less drying time through the course of your first year of use.

Tip: See if your local retailer will sell you the floor model at a discounted rate! We got ours for $250 less! Don’t forget you will need to load this on your own vehicle and take it then to get that deal.

Not all high-efficiency brands and machines can do the same job. They come with a lot of settings. However, a few brands such as Samsung and LG do not allow for waterproof and bulky wash items. The upper-end Samsung machines do offer a bulky setting, but still, come with a warning to avoid washing waterproof items. Those items include outdoor winter apparel, and waterproof bedding materials and more. If you have kids, you have waterproof stuff that needs frequent washing (especially bedding during potty training!).



Some brands do not offer a deep water setting either. This setting allows for the machine to fill with more water like a traditional top loader for especially dirty or stinky items (such as cloth diapers). If your machine doesn’t have that option there are a lot of bloggers talking about how to trick it. But if you are in the market for a new machine, be sure to ask about specifics like waterproof abilities and deep water settings.

Tip: A warning, plan ahead to use a deep water setting. The length of time can run all the way up to a few hours on this setting depending on the heft to the items. The same goes for bedding and blankets. It will be double the wash time of other items so be sure to think ahead.

A great feature many machines come with is a delayed start. If you know the approximate time it will take to do your run, and you don’t want your clothes sitting in your machine for long periods of time, you can delay the start for a time when you arrive home. For example, I see it’s school bus time. I have to go to work after. But I have a huge load of laundry to get running. I load the machine up, choose the delay start for 45 minutes before I am going to arrive home. That way I shop up just at the end of the run and can load it right to the dryer.

How to Get the Most Out of Your High-Efficiency Machine
I found the best way to decrease wash time is to be sure you have nearly balanced the load when you load the machine. The more evenly you place the clothing in the machine the less time it takes to wash. Especially with blankets.

Our machine didn’t come with a great manual. It had basic setting tips, which were nice, but coming from a traditional (very cheap and small) top loading machine I had no idea what this new HE was all about.

A few things to keep in mind:

  • Balance loads
  • Use HE detergent or homemade detergent in the basin of the machine
  • Clean the machine after 30 washes with special machine cleaning detergents (Note: You can try your own homemade but it may void your brand’s warranty be sure to check first).
  • Adjust your spin speed to decrease your wash time, or to decrease drying time. Less spinning decreases wash time but increases drying time as clothes are wetter upon removal. Increase the speed of the spin makes clothes dryer and decreases drying time.
  • Check the size of the machine and be sure it fits your household needs. (4 cubic feet is a smaller machine and may not accommodate all your bedding depending on it’s size).
  • Be sure your machine can handle ALL of the laundry items you want to wash. Such as blankets, pillows, waterproof items, jackets and more.
  • Check special features – such as delay start – to see if they meet your needs

Don’t forget to ask about warranties beyond the manufacturer’s warranty. Many machines are digital today and electronics can be a malfunction problem. You want to be sure you aren’t buying a new machine again in under five years. You can also ask your store if they have a 30-day satisfaction guarantee. Changing from a traditional top loader to any other type of machine is a drastic switch. You may find it’s not for you after a few loads. Depending on the store, they may take it back and help you replace it with something that fits your needs better.

We ended up with a Whirlpool Cabrio machine. I felt very inept at running the machine and had to spend hours researching how to use it properly. Once I did, I began to love the machine, but it’s an adjustment.

Tell us about which machine you have and how it works for you? Tips or tricks?

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Kate Bryant

Kate is a mother, wife, writer, and more! Her writing has been on Huffington Post Parents Blog, The Mighty, as well as other publications.