Our top pick, the GE GTW485ASJWS, has been discontinued. As such, we've elevated our second-place winner, the Maytag MVWB865GC to become our recommended traditional top-load agitator washing machine. We'll be updating this guide, with new content, in the near future.
Using a top load washer with an agitator smacks of nostalgia. If you were born in the last two or three generations, a top-loading washing machines with a pole agitator have been around for roughly a century. Your parents and grandparents used them. Now, as a homeowner, you might 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, 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 use the top loader's time-tested design and improved on it with the addition of modern improvements such as stainless steel wash tubs, soft-close hinges, and dual-action agitators.
We’ve been testing washing machines in our labs for the better part of a decade. We’ve put hundreds of washers under the microscope to test how well they remove stains, their water usage, and how gentle they are on our clothing.
The Maytag MVWB865GC is the future of top-load pole agitator washing machines. With its beautiful metallic slate finish and its sleek, streamlined interface, it's a good-looking machine that you won't mind showing off to guests. In a handy combination of tech and legend, this Maytag washer lets you select the cycle with a dial, and punch in cycle options (such as soil level, water temperature, and spin speed) by tapping touch-sensitive buttons on the display.
We were very pleased with the cleaning performance on this washer; the PowerWash cycle is up to the task of defeating your most stubborn stains. Even better, this washer did a great job of minimizing wear and tear on our test laundry load, which is an impressive feat for a washer with a pole agitator. You can't go wrong with the Maytag MVWB865GC washer.
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).
With all this in mind, you can feel confident that when we recommend a product, we're giving it our Reviewed stamp of approval, which means two things: firstly, this appliance performs well, and secondly, this appliance is easy to use. We're always reviewing new products, so stay tuned for our reviews and roundups of the latest products in laundry, refrigerators, dishwashers, and vacuum cleaners.
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 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 Agitator Washers
While recent studies indicate that front-load washing machines are overtaking top-load washers in the laundry popularity contest, some shoppers prefer to stick with what they know—top-loading washing machines with pole agitators. The sentiment isn't misplaced; getting a machine similar to one whose layout and logic you're used to will make your laundry life easier, even if most top-load agitator washing machines have gotten a tech-induced face-lift, and will probably look slightly different than the one in your mom's basement.
Lastly, top-load washers have different ergonomics than front-loading washers. If you prefer to just drop laundry into the washer from a standing position, and don't want to crouch down to get your clothes into and out of a front-load washing machine (or have to stack your front-loader so that accessible while standing), then you're probably better off with a top-loader. The washing machine type and feature set are just two of the things to consider when you're buying a washing machine, but knowing that you prefer a top-load over a front-load washer will help to narrow down your choices considerably.
Other Pole Agitator Top-Load 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.
With its generous 4.7-cu.-ft. capacity, the Maytag MVWB765FW is ready to tackle huge loads of dirty clothes, vanquishing stains with its corkscrew agitator and long PowerWash cycle. It does a good job cleaning, is fairly gentle on clothes, and makes it easy to select a cycle with a single knob.
The glass lid lets you spy on the wash as it agitates, and you can use the Deep Fill feature to add more water to the wash, which is perfect for really dirty loads of laundry.
Don’t start the wash if you’re in a hurry—this machine’s cycles are slow. But since you can wash so much laundry in the giant tub, it uses the time well.
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.
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.
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.
Cindy Bailen loves writing about major appliances and home design and has spent over 15 years immersed in that. In her spare time, Cindy hosts pledge programs for WGBH-TV in Boston and other public television stations.
We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.