Agitator vs. No Agitator in a Top Load Washer – Which Is Better?

Which type of washer is best? The debate over which type of washer has the upper hand in cleaning clothes can be heated, but in truth, it comes down to personal preference. If you’re in the market for a new top-load washer, you have two options: one with an agitator or one without. Both types come with pros and cons you should consider before making your purchase. 

In this article, we will cover the following:                                            

  • What does an agitator do? 
  • Agitators vs. impellers in top load washers 
  • Advantages of a top load washer with an agitator 
  • Disadvantages of a top load washer with an agitator 
  • FAQs about agitators in top load washers 

What Does an Agitator Do?                          

An agitator is a rotating arm that sits in the middle of the tub. It’s usually attached to a motor that rotates it at high speeds and has propeller-like paddles that create movement and churn the laundry during the wash cycle. This causes the clothes to mix and tumble within the tub, breaking up the dirt and grime so they can be rinsed away with water. 

While modern top load washers with agitators aren’t anywhere close to your grandma’s up-and-down models from the 60s, the cleaning action is the same. However, today’s washers are more advanced, and clients have more choices, including washers with removable agitators. 

And for clients who want something different, there are countless options for no-agitator top load washers that use impellers. 

Agitators vs. Impellers in Top Load Washers 

The newest models of washing machines don’t have agitators, and the ones that do are typically found on older washers. The new models use impellers instead, which look more like fins inside the drum than an upstanding pole. 

One key difference between agitator and non-agitator washers is how they clean clothes: while the agitator turns the clothes and rubs them against itself, impellers work by spinning quickly in a circle and creating movement in the water. The back-and-forth movement of water creates friction, causing the clothes to rub against each other. For the most part, the clothes do not even touch the impeller. 

Advantages of a Top Load Washer with an Agitator 

The use of the traditional top-load washer with an agitator is on the rise. According to consumer reports, top load agitators accounted for 44% of washer shipments in the US in 2020, and the numbers are expected to continue rising. Reasons for that include familiarity, effective cleaning mechanisms, and affordability. 

Familiarity: Washers with agitators are what most people grew up with. Most customers have been using this type of washing machine for years, so they know how it works. This may be different with newer models, which are more technologically advanced and offer different options, such as cleaning cycles and extra programs like steam or stain removal cycles. 

Plus, the mechanics of this type of washing machine are tried and true, and some customers may choose to stick with what’s already familiar to them. 

Affordability: The most obvious advantage of washers with agitators is affordability. While there are pricey options in either category, agitator units typically cost less money upfront than non-agitator models. They usually start at as low as $400 and can go up to $1,300 for newer models. Because they’re relatively inexpensive, even those with lower incomes or tight budgets can afford one. 

Effective cleaning: Agitators offer a powerful cleaning mechanism that can remove stains and grime better, especially on heavy-duty articles of clothing. The rotating motion of the agitator creates an effective force that allows the clothes to rub against each other and the rotating arm, breaking down soil and grime easily. 

Disadvantages of a Top Load Washer with an Agitator 

Top-load washers are generally cheaper than their newer counterparts, but they also have several shortcomings. These include lesser capacity, decreased efficiency, longer dry times, and increased wear and tear. 

Less capacity A major drawback of the top loader with an agitator is probably the lack of space in the drum. The area occupied by the agitator means the washer has less capacity, which could result in needing to do more loads to wash your clothes. This may make it unsuitable for people who have a large family or do many loads of washing per week. It’s also harder to wash large loads like sheets or comforters. 

Decreased efficiency This type of washing machine uses more water than other types of washers because it needs more water to work its magic. As a result, it will cost more money in terms of both water and energy consumption to function correctly. Although you might have bought it cheap, in some cases, your top-load washer may actually cost more to operate. 

The Agitator’s Effect on Clothes – Although clothes are more likely to be cleaner in a washer with an agitator, they’re also more likely to be damaged. Some fabrics get caught and pulled around by the spinning arms or tumbling clothes during washing. That agitation may lead to the tangling of delicate fabric items like lace or silk. 

Longer dry times – Top load washers with agitators usually use more water during the wash cycle, which often means you have to dry your laundry for longer. This may mean running your dryer longer, increasing your energy bill. 

They’re noisier – Generally, washers with an agitator are noisier than other washing machines. This can be pretty loud, but that shouldn’t be a problem if your laundry room is not next to your living room or bedroom. 


It’s 2024, and washers are no longer the same as they were back in the day. Today, washing machines come with a variety of options that allow for more customization when it comes to water temperature, spin speeds, and even cycles. 

Agitators are primarily used on older models because newer machines tend to be made with more efficient impellers. If you want to save money on energy bills and reduce your environmental impact, it’s best to use a front-loading or no-agitator washing machine instead. There’re also water-saving, high-efficiency removable agitator models at lower prices. 

Looking for a new washer? We have lots of high-efficiency models, traditional top-loader washers, and even modern front-loaders at different price points. Browse our catalog to see our full selection of washers. And if you need more assistance before deciding, here’s an in-depth washer-buying guide to help you. 

FAQs About Agitators in Top Load Washers 

Are washers better with or without agitators? 

There is no right or wrong answer as to which type is better—it all depends on what you want out of your washing machine. Agitators in a washing machine do an excellent job cleaning dirty and grimy clothes, but they can also be tough on certain types of clothing, such as delicates and knits. Non-agitator washers are typically more expensive but more efficient and have a larger capacity. 

Most machines in the non-agitator washer category are high-efficiency, meaning they use less water and energy. They also have more capacity, allowing you to do bigger loads of laundry. The lack of agitators also means that less wear-and-tear occurs on your clothing. 

Do top-load washers clean well without agitators? 

Top-load washers without agitators can clean clothes well, depending on what you need to wash. They are excellent for delicate, bulkier, and larger items. The machine operates based on fins inside the drum that make the water spin really quickly, causing the clothes to rub against each other for a faster and more thorough but gentle wash. 

How does a washer with no agitator get clothes clean? 

A top load washer without an agitator is designed to work differently than a traditional one using low-profile wheels, fins, or cones known as impellers. The impellers cause the water to move at high speeds, moving the tub back and forth, like it would in a hand washing cycle, but at high speed and with less water. This saves energy and money by not using as much hot water or electricity as a regular top-load washer and guarantees a thorough, clean wash. 

Do I want an agitator or an impeller? 

The type of washer you purchase largely depends on your personal preferences and needs. Agitators are known for providing excellent cleaning power because they use motion to help break up dirt particles. This makes them great for heavy-duty cleaning and ideal for people who are always outside. Non-agitator models have a larger capacity, are more efficient, and are gentler on delicate clothes. 

With which type of washer the cycle lasts longer, the impeller or the agitator? 

Agitator washers typically have a shorter wash and longer dryer cycles. On the other hand, non-agitator models have longer wash times because of the gentle cleaning cycles. This is beneficial, too, because as the machine is spinning, it can rinse out more water than the agitator model. This makes the drying time shorter for this model than for an agitator model. 

Do agitators make a difference? 

Agitators make a difference in the cleaning mechanism of the washer. An agitator-type washing machine uses some form of mechanical agitation to break down dirt particles, making it perfect for heavy-duty clothes that require more effort to clean. 

But if you’re looking for the most effective way to clean your clothes, you’ll want a non-agitator top-load washer. These models work by churning the water around in the machine to get your clothes nice and clean with less scrubbing. The motion of the tub is better suited for getting dirt out from in between fibers, plus it’s excellent at reducing fabric abrasion.