Best Traditional Top-Load Agitator Washers of 2019By Cindy Bailen, Jonathan Chan, and Julia MacDougall, Updated May 07, 2019
Like cooking, laundry is one of those tasks we like to do just like Mom did. That’s probably why top-load washing machines with pole agitators still have strong sales a hundred years after their invention. And why not? Front-load washers still haven’t totally solved their issues with odor and vibrations.
However, time hasn’t completely stood still with these pole-agitator washers. Many models combine the modern conveniences, like soft-close hinges, with the true-and-true method of stain removal.
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 clothing.
Through the years, the GE GTW485ASJWS (available at AppliancesConnection for $695.00) has remained as the best traditional washing machine. If the GTW458ASJWS isn’t available, we tested plenty of other great washers with pole agitators.
Here are all the best ones we tested in ranked order:
- GE GTW485ASJWS
- GE GTW460ASJWW
- GE GTW685BSLWS
- Maytag MVWB765FW
- Speed Queen AWNE92SP113TW (Discontinued)
- Maytag MVWC465HW
- Maytag MVWC565FW
GE GTW485ASJWSBest Overall
The GE GTW485ASJWS is the winner in the top-load agitator category. It combines traditional methods and current technology to clean your laundry.
Want to fill it to the brim with water? You can do that with the Deep Fill button. Would you rather let the washer calculate how much water the load needs? Sure, no problem, just pick a cycle and run it. There’s plenty of room for laundry in the 4.2-cu.-ft. drum, and this machine meets Energy Star guidelines.
The washer provides a dozen cycles to choose from, and the stain guide feature lets you specify the type of stain you want the washer to deal with. It will figure out the temperature and spin needed to remove it.
However you prefer to do your laundry, the GE GTW485ASJWS will help you get it done.
The GE GTW460ASJWW is a washer that is a mix of new and traditional. It gives you a choice—whether you want the tub filled up, or are content to let the machine select the precise water level for maximum efficiency. The controls aren’t fancy—just five knobs to let you set load size, temperature, cycle type, extra rinses, and soak time.
Stain removal is average with this basic washer, but the cycles are conveniently short, so for under $500, this could be your dream machine.
How We Test
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, 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.
Why would I want a traditional top-loading washer?
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.
Additionally, top-loaders, in general, are somewhat less efficient than their front-loading counterparts with respect to water and electricity usage, but some people like having the option to use more water in really dirty loads of laundry, even if it doesn't necessarily mean your clothes get any cleaner. That's why GE, the brand behind our favorite top-load washer with an agitator, added in the Deep Fill option so that users can easily add more water to a wash cycle.
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 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 the time-tested features in a more modern context. 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.
Where To Buy$804.10 AppliancesConnection Buy $677.70 Home Depot Buy $679.00 Abt Buy $679.99 Best Buy Buy
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.
Speed Queen AWNE92SP113TW
Speed Queen AWNE92SP113TW
Speed Queen washers have a reputation for being durable, long-lasting, and easy to repair. The Speed Queen AWNE92SP311TW, a residential version of the commercial washers you see at laundromats, is tough. To prove it, Speed Queen gives you a five-year warranty including parts and labor, and a 15-year warranty on its all-steel transmission.
This washing machine sports features that have mostly gone missing on the recent crop of washers—namely, the Spin Only cycle. Also, just like on older washers, you can open the lid at any point in the cycle—the machine will come to a stop.
The design of this washer is as old-school as they come. It has a small (3.3-cu.-ft.) drum, along with a pole agitator that puts lots of wear and tear on fabrics. It doesn’t remove every stain, as well as more modern washing machines, do, but this Speed Queen is in it for the long haul.
Although the Speed Queen might not seem like a budget-friendly washer when you buy it, you can expect to amortize that expense over its long, long lifespan.
Where To Buy$624.10 AppliancesConnection Buy $629.10 Home Depot Buy $629.00 Abt Buy $629.99 Best Buy Buy
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.