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Agitator vs Impeller Washers—What’s the Difference?

Top loading washers clean in two different ways: agitator vs. impeller.

While some people purchase washing machines without knowing how it cleans, it’s advisable to know these different working mechanisms so you can choose the washer suited to your needs and lifestyle.

How to Differentiate Between Agitator vs Impeller Washers

The key difference between agitator and impeller washers is how they look.

If you’ve seen traditional washing machines, then you know what an agitator-type washer looks like. Old washing machines make use of tall spindles that are either vaned or finned.

The spindle, also known as the agitator, is located at the center of the wash basket. Impeller washers, on the other hand, don’t have tall spindles at the center of the washtub. What you’ll see instead is a rotating hub or cone at the bottom.

Knowing the difference in their appearance will help you recognize what kind of washer you’re looking at in stores. You’ll no longer find yourself mistaking one washer for another.



How Do These Washers Clean?

When it comes to cleaning prowess, both mechanisms work in different ways. The agitator twists and turns while the cycle is ongoing. This motion moves the clothes around the water, which results in removal of dirt. It helps break down stains and soil for better cleaning.

Meanwhile, impeller-type washers use the cone at the bottom to create turbulent currents in the wash water. As the impeller rotates, it spins the clothes so they rub against each other to remove soils and stains. An impeller doesn’t make direct physical contact with your clothes, unlike an agitator.

Pros and Cons

The disparity in the look and cleaning mechanisms of each washer type means there are distinct pros and cons. While both machines clean clothes, you might prefer one over the other. Choosing a washer still boils down to personal preference.

Some people prefer the more traditional approach of an agitator-type washing machine because they’re more used to how they operate. Since impellers are relatively new and were only introduced 15 years ago, many are unclear on how well they clean clothing.

Pros and Cons of an Impeller

When impellers were first introduced, many people were amazed by it. It even came to a point were fewer agitator models were manufactured, due to consumer preference for impeller washers. But some time afterward, agitator washers returned to the market.

Impellers use less water so that clothes can maximize the friction of rubbing against each other to remove stains and soils. Spin cycles are also quite fast as it rotates at higher speeds, resulting in a shorter dry time. Impellers are less damaging to clothes since they move in gentle yet thorough motions.

Since there is no spindle at the center of the tub, it leaves you more room even for bulky items.

The disadvantage of impeller-type washers that some complain about is they aren’t as powerful as agitators when it comes to removing stubborn stains.

Some impeller washers also tend to tangle clothes with each other while it rotates. This can cause an imbalance as the machine churns. However, most impeller washers nowadays have out-of-balance detection or anti-vibration mechanisms to ensure that the wash cycle will go smoothly.

Pros and Cons of an Agitator

The twisting and turning of the agitator removes dirt quickly and often completely. Agitator washers also boast of shorter wash times compared to impellers. Moreover, the traditional design of agitators is more familiar to people.

On the downside, agitator washers can be more brutal to clothes. The agitator’s mechanism can result in faster wear and tear. It’s also often called out for using more water than what’s necessary for a load. The spindle at the center may result in the clothes getting caught and the machine becoming unbalanced.

However, to help address these downsides, manufacturers have produced high-efficiency agitator top-load washers that consume less water during a wash cycle.

The advancement in technology also allows for impressive cleaning power without being too damaging on your clothes. At the same time, the out-of-balance detection feature is added to make sure that clothes remain in place throughout the cycle.

washing machine


Best Agitator Washers

After learning the pros and cons of an agitator vs impeller washer, you probably now have a clearer idea of what you want in your home. If you think that a washer with an agitator will work best for you, then you might want to check these highly recommended models.

GE GTW465ASNWW 4.5 cu.ft. Top Load Washer 

This GE agitator washer is an affordable pick and a reliable one. The dual-action agitator allows a reversing and powerful wash action for every cycle. It guarantees the ultimate clean.

GE Appliances GTW465ASNWW, White

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It provides a deep fill option as an alternative to filling the tub with water for a better clean. Moreover, the deep clean cycle helps remove tough stains on heavily soiled clothes.


  • With dual-action agitator
  • Auto bleach dispenser
  • Auto fabric conditioner dispenser
  • Speed wash available
  • Made in the USA
  • 14 wash cycles
  • 6 water temperatures
  • 700 RPM maximum spin speed
  • Best for people who like traditional washers


  • No steam option
  • Not ENERGY-STAR Certified


LG WT7305CV 4.8 cu.ft. Top Load Washer—Graphite Steel

For people who love special smart features, this washer is ideal. It features LG’s ThinQ app. You can control your washer anytime, and from anywhere you are as long as it is connected.

LG WT7305CV 4.8 cu.ft. Top Load Washer

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Functionality-wise, this top-load agitator washer is a high-efficiency machine. The agitator features a quad-action mechanism. The 4-way agitator moves clothes up and down and left and right for better yet gentle cleaning.


  • 4-way agitator
  • 6 different wash motions
  • ThinQ Technology with Proactive Customer Care
  • Rust-resistant stainless steel tub
  • Direct drive motor with 10-year limited warranty
  • Energy Star Certified
  • 950 RPM maximum spin speed
  • Compatible with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant


  • No steam function
  • No internal water heater and interior lights
  • No pre-wash detergent dispenser
  • Requires an HE detergent


Whirlpool WTW5105HW 4.7 cu.ft. Top Load Washer with Pretreat Station

This Whirlpool WTW51505HW model is not only aesthetically pleasing; it’s also reliable and functional. It has a two-way wash action agitator that gives your clothes a deep yet gentle clean.

Whirlpool WTW5105HW 4.7 cu.

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The agitator moves one way while the basket moves another, creating gentle friction on clothes and minimizing wear and tear.


  • Pretreat station
  • Automatically senses the size of the load
  • Automatic presoak option
  • Automatic temperature control
  • Deep water wash option
  • With out-of-balance detection
  • 750 RPM maximum spin speed
  • UL Listed


  • Not Energy Star Certified
  • No steam function


Best Impeller Washers

If you feel that, between agitator vs impeller washers, impellers are the winners, then these impellers are worthy of your consideration.


Samsung WA54R7600AC 5.4 cu.ft. HE Top Load Washing Machine with Super Speed and Steam

What we love about this Samsung impeller washer is its aesthetics. It has a Champagne-colored body exterior.

Samsung WA54R7600AC 5.4 cu.

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It gives your laundry room a certain elegance, which you can’t find in common white- and black-colored washers. Functionality-wise, it’s also accessible and can be used by everyone as it comes with AUI and Braille features.


  • Washes full load in as fast as 36 minutes
  • Large capacity perfect for one big family
  • Active water jet for pre-treating heavily soiled clothes
  • Deep fill
  • Quiet operation
  • Out-of-balance detection
  • Automatic temperature control
  • Self-clean
  • Accessible to use for everyone
  • High-efficiency washer


  • Not fingerprint-resistant


Kenmore 31312 4.8 cu.ft. Top Load Washer with Built-in Water Faucet

Kenmore’s 31312 is probably the most reliable of all impeller washers as it comes with a triple-action impeller. It has a spraying action where nine spray jets target dirt and grime from every angle.

Kenmore 31312 4.8 cu. ft. Top Load Washer

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The wash basket action moves the soiled garments in a circular pattern, while the impeller action moves the wash basket back and forth. These three unique mechanisms help clear out soil and stubborn dirt.


  • High efficiency (HE) washer
  • Built-in water faucet
  • Deep fill
  • LCD screen has capacitive touch controls
  • With adjustable legs
  • Delay wash
  • Auto temperature control
  • 750 RPM maximum spin speed
  • Auto dispenser for bleach, detergent, and fabric softener
  • Drain hose and power cord included


  • Not Energy Star Certified
  • No steam option
  • Fill hose not included


LG WT7900HBA 5.5 cu.ft. HE Mega Capacity Smart Top Load Washer

An impeller washer that works the best for people with allergies is this LG WT7900HBA.

LG WT7900HBA 5.5 cu.ft.

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Its unique Allergiene Cycle lessens common household allergens on fabric by more than 95%. It’s certified by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) to be an asthma- and allergy-friendly washer.


  • Allergiene Cycle for asthma and allergy relief
  • TurboWash3D Technology cleans clothes without damage from an agitator
  • LG SmartThinQ Technology
  • WiFi enabled
  • Troubleshooting features
  • TubClean Cycle for self-cleaning
  • Steam technology
  • TrueBalance anti-vibration system
  • Rust-resistant and durable tub
  • Direct drive motor
  • 950 RPM maximum spin speed
  • Energy Star Certified


  • No automatic temperature control
  • No interior lights
  • Fill hoses not included


Agitator vs Impeller Washers for Small Apartments

If you live in a small apartment, you can still pick between an agitator or an impeller washer. For the best compact agitator washer, we recommend the RCA RPW302 3.0 cu.ft. Portable Washing Machine.

Meanwhile, one of the best compact impeller washers is the Panda PAN50SWF2 1.60 cu.ft. Compact Washer. These two are reliable choices for people with small laundry spaces.

Whether you choose an agitator or impeller, we hope it’ll make your laundry experience easier and more convenient.