Agitator vs Impeller Washers: Compared for Homeowners

Ever found yourself wondering about the differences between agitator and impeller washers?

If you’re in the market for a new washing machine, you’ve probably come across these terms and wondered what the difference is and which one is right for you. 

Well, dear reader, wonder no more!

In this article I’ll break down the differences between agitator and impeller washers, the benefits each offers, and which one might best fit your laundry needs. 

Buckle up and get ready to dive into the world of washing machines. Your laundry won’t know what hit it.

Contents show

Agitator Washer: The Classic Cleaning Powerhouse

First up in our laundry showdown is the agitator washer. This classic washing machine design features a central post with paddles that move back and forth, creating a powerful and vigorous cleaning action. 

This traditional top-loading design has been a staple in American homes for decades and is known for its ability to tackle heavily soiled garments quickly.

Agitator washers utilize a central post to dislodge dirt from your clothes effectively. Often equipped with vanes, these machines create friction to eliminate dirt and stains, thoroughly cleaning your garments. Agitator washers are commonly found in top-loading washing machines.

agitator washer
Agitator washers are commonly found in top-loading washing machines

While agitator washers provide a powerful clean, they are more prone to breakage than impeller washers, as they rely on their central columns. Should the central column break or malfunction, it’s essential to consult a professional who can assess and test the washer. 

Issues such as a damaged lid or filter could also cause the problem. If it is determined that your agitator washing machine needs repair, you may need to purchase a replacement central post.

Impeller Washer: The Gentle Giant

An impeller washer is a distinct washing machine with a disc-shaped design to clean your clothes with minimal water and motion. 

This innovative appliance spins your laundry in a circular pattern, driving garments from the outer edge of the wash basket towards the center. Impeller washers remove stains by recirculating water and relying on friction between fabrics.

Compared to agitator washers, impeller washers consume less water and provide a gentler, more efficient cleaning experience. 

These machines also offer more space for accommodating bulky items such as blankets and cushions, as they are specifically designed to allow ample room for laundry movement.

A more modern, high-efficiency washing machine using a low-profile impeller at the bottom of the drum to rotate and tumble clothes through the water gently. 

Impeller washers are known for their energy efficiency, water conservation, and gentle washing action, making them an excellent choice for delicate fabrics or larger loads. Plus, their sleek design often allows for greater capacity and more effortless loading and unloading.

Now that we’ve met our contenders, let’s dive into the details and compare agitator and impeller washers across several key factors: cleaning performance, efficiency, load capacity, noise and vibration, and convenience and flexibility.

Cleaning Performance: Agitator’s Power vs. Impeller’s Gentleness

Regarding cleaning performance, agitator washers have long been the go-to choice for those who require a decisive cleaning action. 

The agitator’s vigorous motion helps remove tough stains and ground-in dirt from heavily soiled garments, making them an excellent choice for work clothes, sports uniforms, or other items that wear and tear.

On the other hand, Impeller washers provide a gentler cleaning action that is more suitable for delicate fabrics, such as lingerie, silk, or lace. 

Their low-profile impeller design creates a gentle tumbling motion that effectively cleans clothes without causing the wear and tear that can come from a more aggressive agitator action. 

While some argue that impeller washers aren’t as effective at removing tough stains as agitator washers, many modern impeller models have improved their cleaning performance through advanced wash cycle options and technology.

Cleaning Performance Winner: Agitator Washer

Efficiency: Impeller’s Energy and Water Conservation

When it comes to efficiency, impeller washers generally take the cake. Their design and motion require less water to clean clothes effectively and tend to use less energy overall. It makes them a more eco-friendly option and can save homeowners money on their water and electricity bills over time.

Agitator washers, by comparison, tend to use more water and energy due to their powerful cleaning action and traditional design. 

However, it’s worth noting that some newer agitator models have made strides in efficiency, incorporating features like automatic water level adjustment and improved wash cycles to reduce water and energy usage.

In the world of washing machines, agitators and impeller washers have unique methods of tackling laundry. 

Agitator washers, usually top-loading machines, submerge your clothes in water during the entire washing process. Unfortunately, this approach requires more water, making them less efficient than impeller washers. 

On the other hand, impeller washers move clothes in a circular motion without fully submerging them in water, resulting in reduced water and detergent usage.

Impeller washers have another energy-saving advantage: their high spin speeds extract more water from the clothes, making them less damp when you remove them. It means your clothes will dry faster, even if you’re using one of the best dryers available. As a result, impeller washers are generally more energy-efficient than agitator washers.

While top-loading washers remain popular and are often more affordable than front-loading options, high-efficiency top-loaders now feature impellers and high spin speeds. However, these washers may need to clean clothes more effectively as front-loading machines since the lack of gravity hinders tumbling.

To enhance the eco-friendliness of any washing machine, consider washing at lower temperatures. Although higher temperatures are necessary for killing bacteria, sanitizing your machine, and combating detergent buildup, using cooler water for regular washes can save energy and be more environmentally friendly.

Efficiency Winner: Impeller Washer

Load Capacity: Impeller’s Roomy Drums

When it comes to load capacity, impeller washers typically have the upper hand. Their drum design allows for larger loads, making washing bulky items like comforters, blankets, or large quantities of clothing easier. It can be a huge time-saver for busy households or those who prefer to do less frequent laundry sessions.

Agitator washers, while still capable of handling a decent amount of laundry, generally have a smaller load capacity due to the space taken up by the central agitator. 

As a result, washing larger or bulkier items can be more challenging and require additional laundry sessions to get through your household’s clothes.

impeller washer
Impeller washers allow for larger loads than agitator washers

Load Capacity Winner: Impeller Washer

Noise and Vibration: Impeller’s Quiet Operation

If you’re sensitive to noise or your laundry area is close to living spaces, an impeller washer might be the better choice. 

These machines tend to operate more quietly than their agitator counterparts, thanks to their gentle tumbling motion and lack of a central agitator that can create additional noise and vibration.

While not necessarily deafening, agitator washers tend to produce more noise and vibration during operation. It is due to the vigorous motion of the agitator and the resulting movement of the water and clothes within the drum. 

If noise concerns you, check the decibel ratings of any washing machine you’re considering.

Noise and Vibration Winner: Impeller washers operate more quietly

Convenience and Flexibility: Impeller’s Easy Loading and Cycle Options

In terms of convenience and flexibility, impeller washers offer some distinct advantages. Their top-loading design and lack of a central agitator make it easier to load and unload laundry, significantly larger or bulkier items. 

Many impeller washers have various wash cycle options and features, such as delay start, steam cleaning, and customizable water temperature settings.

Agitator washers, while offering a good level of convenience, are more limited in wash cycle options and features. The presence of the central agitator can also make loading and unloading more cumbersome, particularly for larger items that need to be maneuvered around the agitator.

Convenience and Vibration Winner: Impeller washers


Regarding the longevity of your washing machine, durability is a crucial factor. With their simple and time-tested design, agitator washers tend to be more durable and long-lasting than their impeller counterparts. 

The absence of complex mechanisms means fewer parts to wear out and break down over time.

Although generally more efficient, Impeller washers can be more susceptible to wear and tear due to their intricate mechanisms. It is not to say that impeller washers are not durable, but they may require more maintenance and repairs than agitator washers.

Durability Winner: Agitator Washer

Wash Cycle Options

Washing machines today come with various wash cycle options to cater to different types of fabrics, stains, and levels of dirtiness. For example, impeller washers offer a wider range of wash cycle options than agitator washers. It is because impeller washers are designed with more advanced technology to handle delicate fabrics, heavy-duty cleaning, and everything in between.

Wash Cycle Options Winner: Impeller Washer

Ease of Use

When it comes to ease of use, agitator washers are more user-friendly. With a traditional top-loading design, it’s easier for users to load and unload laundry without bending down. 

It can be particularly beneficial for older individuals or those with mobility issues. Agitator washers also usually have simpler controls and fewer settings, making them less intimidating for those needing to be tech-savvy.

While offering more advanced features and settings, Impeller washers can be more complicated. The controls may require some time to get used to, and the front-loading design can be more difficult for some users to manage.

Ease of Use Winner: Agitator Washer


Maintenance is essential to owning any appliance, and washing machines are no exception. Agitator washers require less maintenance compared to impeller washers. 

The simple design of agitator washers means fewer components could malfunction or need replacement.

On the other hand, Impeller washers may need more frequent maintenance due to their complex design. 

The rubber gasket on the door of front-loading impeller washers can be prone to mold and mildew buildup, which requires regular cleaning to prevent unpleasant odors.

Maintenance Winner: Agitator Washer

Agitator vs. Impeller Washer: Pros and Cons

Agitator Washer Pros and Cons


  • Agitators excel at removing tough stains and handling heavily soiled clothes.
  • Agitators generally have shorter wash cycles, enabling faster laundry turnaround times.
  • Agitators are often more budget-friendly compared to other washing machine types.
  • Agitators are user-friendly, featuring straightforward controls and settings.
  • Agitators may be preferred for washing heavily soiled items, such as work clothes or sports gear.


  • Agitators can be harsh on delicate fabrics, potentially causing damage or wear over time.
  • Agitators consume more water and energy compared to other types of washing machines.
  • Agitators can cause more tangling and twisting of clothes, potentially leading to damage.
  • Agitators may need more capacity for larger items like blankets or bulky clothes.
  • Agitators can be noisy during operation, particularly during the agitating cycle.

Impeller Washer: Pros and Cons


  • Impellers offer gentle washing action, ideal for delicate fabrics and preventing wear and tear on clothes.
  • Impeller washing machines boast larger drum capacity, accommodating larger laundry loads like comforters or blankets.
  • Impellers consume less water than agitator washing machines, resulting in potential water savings and lower bills.
  • Impeller washing machines generally produce less noise and vibration during operation than agitators.
  • Impellers feature sleek, modern designs that can complement the aesthetics of your laundry room or space.
  • Impellers usually come with various wash cycle options and settings, allowing customization based on fabric types and soiling levels.


  • Impellers may not be as effective at removing tough stains and heavy soiling as agitators.
  • Impellers can be prone to tangling clothes, especially those with loose weaves, long straps, or ties.
  • Impeller washing machines have longer wash cycles than agitators, which may require more laundry time.
  • Impeller washing machines are typically pricier than agitator washing machines.
  • Impellers may not be suitable for washing heavily soiled items, as their gentler washing action may be less effective.
  • Impellers may require frequent cleaning and maintenance to prevent buildup and ensure optimal performance.

Agitator vs. Impeller: Which One Takes the Crown?

Agitator washers are more widespread in both top-loading and front-loading machines. These washers have a central post with paddles that rotate, facilitating the movement of clothes and water in the tub. 

On the other hand, Impeller washers also feature a central post but utilize a small disc called an impeller to circulate clothes and water.

Which one reigns supreme? Here are some factors to consider:

  • Agitator washers might have the upper hand for heavy laundry loads or bulky items, as the paddles effectively maneuver the contents.
  • If pet hair or lint is a concern, impeller washers could be your go-to choice due to fewer moving parts, reducing the chances of clogging.
  • Impeller washers tend to produce more noise than their agitator counterparts.
  • Regarding energy consumption, impeller washers may use more than agitator washers.

How to Load an Agitator Washer

Loading an agitator washer is a straightforward process. To begin, open the lid or door of the washing machine, depending on the design of your agitator washer. Next, sort your laundry by color, fabric type, and level of dirtiness to optimize the washing process.

Proceed to place your sorted laundry, one item at a time, into the washing machine drum. Be careful not to overstuff the drum, which can impede the agitator’s movement and decrease washing efficiency.

For even washing, distribute the clothes around the agitator, making sure not to place all the clothes on one side, as this can cause an imbalance during the wash cycle. 

Then, add the appropriate detergent according to the manufacturer’s instructions for optimal washing performance.

How to Load an Impeller Washing Machine

Loading an impeller washer is an uncomplicated process that can be accomplished by following a few simple steps. 

First, open the lid or door of the washing machine, depending on the design of your impeller washer. Next, sort your laundry by color, fabric type, and level of dirtiness to optimize the washing process.

Then, place your sorted laundry, one item at a time, into the washing machine drum, careful not to overstuff it. 

Ensure you distribute the clothes evenly around the impeller, avoiding placing all the clothes on one side, as this can cause an imbalance during the wash cycle. 

Next, add the appropriate amount of detergent according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Using the right amount of detergent is crucial to prevent excessive suds or insufficient clothes cleaning.

Close the lid or door securely to initiate the washing cycle, and choose the desired wash cycle and any additional settings, such as water temperature or spin speed, based on your preference and garment care label instructions.

FAQs: Agitator vs. Impeller Washers

Are agitator washers rougher on clothes than impeller washers?

Agitator washers, particularly top-loading ones with a center-post agitator, can be rougher on clothes because the paddles create more friction, leading to more wear and tear. On the other hand, Impeller washers are generally gentler on clothes, as they use a tumbling motion to clean garments without the intense agitation of an agitator washer.

Can I wash delicate fabrics in an agitator or impeller washer?

Both agitators and impeller washers can handle delicate fabrics, but you should take precautions, such as using a delicate cycle or a mesh laundry bag, to protect fragile items. Impeller washers may be better for delicate fabrics, as they are typically gentler on clothing.

Can I wash delicate fabrics in an agitator or impeller washer?

Both agitators and impeller washers can handle delicate fabrics, but you should take precautions, such as using a delicate cycle or a mesh laundry bag, to protect fragile items. Impeller washers may be better for delicate fabrics, as they are typically gentler on clothing.

Which type of washer is more water-efficient?

Impeller washers are generally more water-efficient, using a high-speed spinning motion to clean clothes without fully submerging them in water. Agitator washers, on the other hand, usually require more water to immerse the clothes during the cleaning process fully.

Are impeller washers always front-loading, and are agitator washers always top-loading?

While it is common for impeller washers to be front-loading and agitator washers to be top-loading, there are exceptions. Some top-loading washers use an impeller instead of an agitator, providing a more efficient and gentle cleaning experience. It’s essential to check the washer’s specifications before making a decision.

Which type of washer has a faster wash cycle?

Agitator washers typically have shorter wash cycles than impeller washers, as the agitation process can clean clothes more quickly. However, this may come at the expense of more wear and tear on clothing and less water efficiency.

Is adding or removing clothes mid-cycle in an agitator or impeller washer easier?

Top-loading agitator washers generally make adding or removing clothes easier mid-cycle because you can lift the lid and access the drum. With front-loading impeller washers, you usually have to pause the cycle and wait for the door to unlock before accessing the drum, which can take longer.

Are washers without agitators a better choice?

The debate between washers without agitators (impeller models) and those with agitators depends on individual preferences and needs. Some argue that impeller models are superior due to their water and energy efficiency and their gentler treatment of clothes. However, others maintain that agitator washers clean clothes more effectively.

Do impeller washers perform as well as agitator washers?

Agitators and impeller washers each have their unique features. While agitator washers utilize a central post with paddles to clean clothes, impeller washers rely on a small disc at the bottom of the tub, which creates a whirlpool-like action. 

The choice between the two often comes from personal preference, laundry demands, and available space.

How do washers without agitators clean clothes?

Washers without agitators, or high-efficiency washers, use an impeller to clean clothes. The impeller is a small disc that spins, moving clothes through the water. 

This design is more water-efficient than traditional agitator washers, making them an eco-friendly option. However, some argue that impeller washers may not clean clothes as effectively as agitator models, especially for heavily soiled items.


Choose an Agitator Washer if:

  • You need powerful cleaning action for heavily soiled garments.
  • You prefer a more traditional washing machine design.
  • You don’t mind using more water and energy.

Ready to explore the world of agitator washers? Check out our top picks for agitator washing machines and find the perfect one for your home.

Choose an Impeller Washer if:

  • You require gentle washing action for delicate fabrics.
  • You value energy and water efficiency.
  • You want a washing machine with a larger load capacity and easier loading and unloading.

Want to discover the best impeller washers on the market? Dive into our comprehensive guide to impeller washing machines and upgrade your laundry experience.

Thank you for reading.

This article has helped you decide between agitator and impeller washers. Check out our articles below for more guidance on selecting the perfect washing machine for your home. Happy laundering.

Hi there! I’m Craig, and I’m the founder of Appliance Analysts. When it comes to appliances and anything electrical, I’ve always loved opening things up, figuring out how they work, and fixing them. This website is where I share free advice from myself and our experts to help our readers solve their appliance/HVAC problems and save money. Read more