Do front loading washing machines actually clean clothes?

I’ve had need, recently, to soak two pairs of jeans that I wear pretty frequently. Both had spots that I had treated but weren’t coming out, so I left them in a bucket with Oxyclean for 24 hours, hoping to coax the stains from the fabric. Both times, the water in the bucket the next day was so, so dirty.

The jeans looked clean before they soaked (except for the stains, of course), but the dark brown water told a different story. It makes me wonder how dirty the rest of my clothes are.

I knew, from my years of cloth diapering, that front loaders did not do as good a job of cleaning clothes because the clothes are never fully immersed in the water (as they are in top loaders). That is how they save water, which is important. In fact, I’ve been soaking my workout bras every couple of months for the last year because they started getting funky after a while, and I could smell them before I even started to sweat. So it’s not like I didn’t know that my washing machine had its limits. But it’s disheartening to realize that it is so very inferior to top loading machines.

{I also wondered if I’m putting too many clothes in the machine at once, but I wash the jeans separately and all our pairs together isn’t even a full load, so I don’t think it’s that. I also rarely have a full “perm press” load, which is how I wash my sports bras.}

I guess I’ll have to start soaking the clothes I wear a lot every few months. Just what I need–more laundry!

Does your front loading washing machine do a good job? Is there any way to improve its performance?


  1. My friends (4 of them) who have front loaders are getting rid of them in favor of the agitator-free top loading HE washers. I’ve been thrilled with our HE top loading no agitator washer and will be sad to see it go in the upcoming move. That said, I don’t ever use OxyClean so I have no idea if there’s comparable previously undiscovered filth on our clothes.

  2. Mine did. But MOLD. We’re on our 2nd top loader agitator-free (1st was a Samsung-recalled). IMHO they don’t clean any better, maybe a little worse (we currently have an LG). But at least no mold. I seriously go thru almost an entire spray bottle of shout per week with my kids clothes.

  3. I am very curious about this post and interested in responses. Know I hate the mold issue with front loaders and the stooping to load them. Wondering if the brown in the water might also be related to fabric damage or color being fading? OR do you wear the jeans in dirty places so literal dusty dirt might be on pants? You might try white vinegar to get stinks out of clothes…. White vinegar is also used to ‘set colors’ in new material/clothes also I believe…… or at least that used to be true.

  4. We have a front loader and while the mold on the rubber gasket bugs me, I think it did a decent job until I started using Charlie’s Soap. I’ve noticed deodorant isn’t coming out of my workout clothes very well, but I’ve got like a bag and a half of that left before I can try another one. Maybe it’s the detergent you use. Doesn’t hurt to try another one!

  5. It is Sunday. I am thinking of you and your regular readers and wishing all of you a Wonderful Mother’s Day filled with laughter and happiness …. in addition to the normal parenthood world. You all are doing fabulously!

  6. I live in a wetter area of the bay than you, the Santa Cruz mtns. We got 90 inches of rain since Jan 1 st. So I know mold ;). I put a lot of white vinegar through the wash. Also, for towels, an electric warming rack is magical. Sounds wasteful, but keeping them dry keeps them clean and fluffy for so much longer.

  7. I feel like my front load does a good job (even on cloth diapers), though I haven’t tried soaking post-wash as you describe. Also, no mold issues so far for us (almost three years in), but I’ve been very careful since day one to leave the door open post-wash until any excess water has dried up.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *