There are washers you can buy for less. And if you want to invest in a washer that's practically indestructible, Speed Queen, an agitator washing machine once found mostly in laundromats, makes residential machines, too. The GTW685BSLWS falls in the middle.
Part Old-Style, Part New Technology
The sibling to our #1 top loader, this new 4.2 cu.-ft. high efficiency washing machine incorporates similar technology and features, but swishes the wash with a pole agitator.
This old school method has the advantage of better cleaning on really dirty clothes. The downside: agitating to get those stains out causes more wear and tear on clothing.
And, like any washer with an agitator, a load can get unbalanced if you aren't careful about how you put the dirty clothes in. When a load gets out of balance, because something got wrapped around the agitator, you have to manually unwind it. That's no fun.
We tested the GTW685BSLWS washing machine in our labs to evaluate its effectiveness. Could this combination of modern and traditional elements clean the clothes? We found that it did an okay job of washing, and was easy to use.
The design is classic. The GTW685BSLWS looks like a familiar white washer at first glance, but GE added a soft-close glass lid, good for monitoring a load in progress. Opening or closing the lid turns the washer on. It'll work to open it while it's filling. There's a pause button you can press if you need to open it in a later cycle, and a light goes on to notify you when the lid is locked.
The controls are clear and straightforward. There's one knob, with 12 wash cycles to choose from, one cycle that cleans the tub, and one that rinses and spins. Choices like Whites, Colors, and Jeans make the cycle decision effortless. To do the wash, pick a cycle, open the lid, add clothes and detergent, lower the lid and tap the Start button. Simple and intuitive.
This design required us to bend at the waist to retrieve the laundry at the bottom of the 4.2 cu.-ft. drum. (The agitator takes up some space, so you don't get all 4.5 cu.-ft.) If you’re petite, you may have to keep a stool in the laundry room to give you a boost when you unload the clean clothes.
GE slipped some modern features into this top-loader:
• A water spray is supposed to rinse out the detergent dispenser. It's barely strong enough, and sometimes it left powdered detergent stuck to the tub. It was easy to wipe off, but it shouldn't have happened.
• You can customize a 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. That’s a convenience if you wash the same kinds of loads often.
• As for the Stain Guide selector, don't expect much. In our tests, it didn’t do as well as the Normal cycle in removing wine stains, and it took 20 minutes longer.
• The Sanitize cycle kills bacteria, but requires Oxi to do the job, since the washer uses your home's hot water without heating it further.
• The Deep Fill button drops an additional bucket of water into the drum. Each time you press it, you get six more gallons, till the drum is filled up. Adding more water won’t necessarily give you cleaner laundry, since it literally waters down your detergent. But if you want more water, you can have more water.
Adding more water won’t necessarily give you cleaner laundry.
• Deep rinse makes more sense, since it adds the extra water at the end of the cycle, where it can wash out any residue from fabric softener.
• Warm rinse prevents that clammy feeling you get from touching cold, wet clothes. Handling wet laundry that is warm to the touch is more comfortable, especially if you have arthritis in your hands.
As with all high efficiency washers, you need to use HE detergent in this machine. It may look less sudsy than you expect when you peek through the glass lid, but it's working.
In our tests, we found this washer to be something of a water guzzler, using about 8,300 gallons a year. We calculated a total estimated running cost of $62.25. That's about twice what an efficient front-loader would use.
Cycles run rapidly. When we tested, Speed Wash took 19 minutes. The Normal cycle ran in 38 minutes in our labs. We made sure to balance the load to get those times.
The Bottom Line
The American-made GE GTW685BSLWS washer is a good value at the $499 sale price. In our tests, it did an acceptable job on the laundry, though not quite as good a job as this non-agitator machine. GE made this model to combine current technology with a pole agitator that works hard to get dirt and stains out, plus it offers opportunities to customize the water level.
Very few consumer reviews are posted for this brand new washing machine, but the glass lid looks like a winner already.
If you're a top-loader fan who has to have the agitator, and does a careful job distributing the load inside the washer, this washer can strike the right balance of tradition and technology in your laundry room.
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.
Jonathan Chan currently serves as the Senior Lab Technician 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.
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.