Using a top-loading washer with an agitator smacks of nostalgia. Top-loading washing machines with pole agitators have been around for roughly a century. Your parents and grandparents used them.
Now, as a homeowner, you may just like to use one too: there's something comforting about doing household chores the same way as you saw them done while growing up. What's more, some high efficiency front-load washers, though newer, still have issues with odor build-up and loud vibrations.
Time hasn’t stood still for pole-agitator models. Many major brands use the top loader's time-tested design and have improved on it by adding stainless steel wash tubs, soft-close hinges, and dual-action agitators.
We’ve been testing washing machines in our labs for years. We’ve put hundreds of washers to the test to see how well they remove stains, what their water usage is, and how gentle they are on clothing.
When it comes to traditional washing machines, the Whirpool WTW8127LC(available at Lowe's) is the best top-load washing machine with an agitator. It has the ability to blend modern features with old-school cleaning. If you're looking for a pole agitator, this is the one to buy.
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These are the best top-load agitator washers we tested ranked, in order:
If you want a washer that is easy to use, provides a good clean, and has a pole agitator, the Whirlpool WTW8127LC is a solid choice.
This Lowe’s exclusive has three unique features that set it apart from the rest of the pack. First, it has a removable agitator for when you need extra space or a more gentle wash cycle. All you need to do is squeeze the handle on top of the agitator and the whole pole pops out. This top-loading machine also comes with a built-in pretreating station—there is a faucet that can dispense hot and cold water and a specialized brush for scrubbing stubborn stains. Finally, instead of having vague cycle names, the WTW8127LC has the “What to Wash / How to Wash” system. Knowing exactly what your washer is doing to your clothes helps cut down on confusion and frustration when it comes to laundry day.
We think a washer that has a pole agitator, a washer plate, and a utility sink is worth checking out.
We have plenty of experience testing these products in the lab, but we've also used them like normal people would in the course of their daily lives, which means that we have a great sense for what appliances are bargains at their price points, and which appliances have really useful extra features (as opposed to the kitchen-sink approach to features).
Every washing machine that comes into Reviewed’s labs gets put through the same testing regime, which addresses both performance and user-friendliness. Performance tests include:
• Stain removal – on a strip of AHAM-approved stains (which includes cocoa, sweat, pig’s blood, red wine, and oil), how much of each stain can this washing machine remove?
• Wear and tear – during a given cycle, how hard is the mechanical action of the washing machine on your clothes?
• Water retention – how much water does your washing machine spin out at the end of the cycle?
• Cycle time – how long is each washing machine cycle?
The best washing machines have solid stain removal abilities, do not damage your clothes, retain little water, are Energy Star certified and efficient, and have short cycle times.
Beyond these performance tests, we also assess the usability of each washing machine, based on our experience, both during testing and during more casual use (one perk of working at Reviewed is that there is plenty of laundry machines on premises!). Our main goal is to get the answer to one question: how easy is it to actually use this washing machine? This involves cumulatively assessing the control panel, the door, the detergent dispenser, and any smart features that are included.
By combining the performance data with our own observations, we can make solid recommendations for someone looking for any type of washing machine at any price point.
What You Should Know About Top-loading Washers
Which is better, an agitator or impeller washer?
We've got some bad news for top-loader and agitator fans.
While top-loaders with pole agitators are still popular, they’re a somewhat old-fashioned design. Obviously, personal preference is going to be a huge factor in what washer works for you, but according to our data this competition isn’t particularly close.
The top-ranking washers are almost universally front-loaders, with some top-loading impeller washers starting to get sprinkled in outside the top 10. The highest-ranked pole agitator washer we’ve tested is #34 on our list of all washing machines—and that’s primarily because you can remove its agitator.
There’s a lot of reason for these results, but primarily the issue is that, while the pole can definitely add some powerful torque to the scrubbing action, its presence in the center of the washer’s tub means laundry is only going one of two ways: clockwise or counterclockwise. Other top-loaders can use impellers to get laundry tumbling throughout the whole drum, which is both gentler on your clothes and also does scrub them more completely. Even better? A front-load washer, which really gets your laundry tumbling around, uses a lot less water.
The older design may feel familiar or nostalgic, or newer designs might not make as much intuitive sense, but stain strips don’t lie: As of right now, top-loaders with pole agitators can’t get your laundry as clean as a front-loader. They can get them almost as clean, but over time your clothes will look dingier, faster.
How do you remove a washing machine agitator?
You don’t! Outside of some very specific models, like the Whirlpool WTW8127LC, that pole agitator needs to stay in the washer. Without it, the washer won't be able to create any sort of turbulence in the water to move your clothes around.
How Do You Load a Top-load Washer with Agitator?
This is one of the most frequently-asked questions about top-loaders with agitators, but it’s fortunately got a pretty easy answer. There’s nothing special to consider when loading clothes into your top-loader. You just distribute your clothing more or less evenly around the central pole agitator.
How Do You Clean a Top-loading Washing Machine with an Agitator?
While you could check out a more in-depth guide on this subject, the short answer is with baking soda and vinegar. Mix some baking soda with warm water and give the machine a scrub down, then pour in two cups of vinegar and run a normal load at high heat.
Other Top-load Agitator Washers We Tested
GE obviously has its finger on the pulse of what Americans want in a traditional top-load washing machine. The GE GTW685BSLWS has built time-tested features into a modern machine. Its soft-close glass lid is a nice bonus, and it allows you to monitor the wash as it agitates. All you need to do to turn on the machine is to lift up the lid.
A single knob lets you dial up a wash cycle; because they’re clearly labeled, it’s a breeze to pick the one you need. You can have granular control over each wash load by choosing the soil level, water temperature, spin, and rinse. Once you’ve set it, you can save it using the My Cycle feature.
Our tests didn’t show the stain guide feature to be particularly helpful on this washer. Stick with the Normal cycle, and you’ll be happier. The Deep Fill button gives you extra water when you want it.
For this top-loading agitator machine, getting clean laundry is a successful balancing act between old-school and high-tech.
Has a warm rinse setting so no cold laundry
Deep Fill option adds extra water
Good stain removal
Detergent sometimes left behind in dispenser
Tough on laundry
Laundry purists may stand behind a traditional washing machine design—a top-loader with a pole agitator—such as the new LG WT7305CV, but those who can also geek out on special smart features will love this modern machine.
The WT7305CV comes outfitted with LG's ThinQ app, which lets you control the washer remotely, and, through LG's ProActive Care program, it uses AI and wifi to send LG usage diagnostics and appliance problems. It also has some other great features that actually add functionality, like its soft-close lid and a deep fill feature, which is great for users who get their clothes really, really dirty.
When it comes to cleaning power, the WT7305CV holds its own, but we would've liked to see a bit more stain-fighting power from a washer in this price range. That being said, the WT7305CV is more than capable of handling the average load of laundry—just be careful around red wine and chocolate.
The Maytag MVW7230HW top-loader carries a premium price, but if you can get it on sale it offers some decent performance for a traditional top-loader. On our tests, we found it performed about as well as the average washer and also had some nice extras like a built-in faucet and an impressive, decade-long warranty.
If you're in the market for a mid-range washer, the Frigidaire FFTW4120SW top-loading washing machine makes an appealing option. It has an understated design, a clear top so you can look in and see all stain-scrubbing action, and a soft-close lid that saved our fingers from a slam on more than one occasion.
The made-in-America Maytag MVWC465HW washer is perfect for people who want a traditional white top-load washing machine with an old-school pole agitator.
The PowerWash cycle does a good job removing stains, but its cycle time is a bit long, clocking in at an hour and 24 minutes. You can try the normal cycle, which has a shorter run time of 47 minutes, but your clothes might not get as clean.
This machine lets you add more water to a cycle with the "Deep Water Wash" option, and the "Deep Rinse" option sprays water on the wash drum itself, cleaning the washer of leftover detergent and stain residue, which means you're not transferring dirt from one load of laundry to another. We think this washer will work well for a smaller, cleaner family.
The Maytag MVWC565FW washer is a good value—less expensive than its sibling, the Maytag MVWB765FW, but similar in important ways.The spacious, 4.2-cu.-ft. tub lets you do a lot of laundry at once, and the central corkscrew agitator and lengthy PowerWash cycle work together to produce very clean clothes.
This model also includes a Wrinkle Control cycle (basically a Delicate cycle with warm water) that purports to help clean and mitigate wrinkles on fabrics that might be more difficult to iron, like sports jerseys or clothes made with blended fabrics.
This washer’s five knob interface won’t win any design awards, but whether you’re a laundry expert or you’ve never done a load before, you’ll find every control easy to use. The temperature settings are numerous, you can choose a deep water level for really dirty clothes, and with a turn of the dial, select whether you want one rinse or two.
If you like old-school washers, the Maytag MVWP576KW is a solid choice. It’s a straightforward commercial-grade washer with intuitive controls and an aesthetic reminiscent of the washers from a few decades ago. With a solid metal construction, this top-loader is certainly built for punishment, and its motor comes backed by a 10-year guarantee.
In terms of cleaning, the MVWP576KW didn’t impress us as much as some other Maytags have, but it should be able to handle the average load of laundry.
We’d recommend the Maytag MVWP576KW if high durability is your main concern.
The GE GTW335ASNWW is a solidly good top-loader. It might not be the greatest we’ve ever tested, but it’s a reasonable price for what it offers. If you’re just looking for an inexpensive, old-school-style washer, this one is a great pick.
Part of the GTW335ASNWW’s low price is due to its feature-light design: If you’re looking for bells and whistles, this washer isn’t for you. If you don’t want a bunch of extra features you won’t use, however, you can save some money by opting for the GTW335ASNWW.
Good cleaning performance for its price
If you're looking for top-notch cleaning, look elsewhere
Julia is the Senior Scientist at Reviewed, which means that she oversees (and continually updates) the testing of products in Reviewed's core categories such as televisions, washing machines, refrigerators, and more. She also determines the testing methods and standards for Reviewed's "The Best Right Now" articles.
Jonathan Chan currently serves as the Lab Manager at Reviewed. If you clean with it, it's likely that Jon oversees its testing. Since joining the Reviewed in 2012, Jon has helped launch the company's efforts in reviewing laptops, vacuums, and outdoor gear. He thinks he's a pretty big deal. In the pursuit of data, he's plunged his hands into freezing cold water, consented to be literally dragged through the mud, and watched paint dry. Jon demands you have a nice day.
Our team is here for one purpose: to help you buy the best stuff and love what you own. Our writers, editors, and lab technicians obsess over the products we cover to make sure you're confident and satisfied. Have a different opinion about something we recommend? Email us and we'll compare notes.