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The best type of washing machine for saving water

Do top loaders or front loaders use less water?

best water saving washing machines
Last updated: 31 May 2019


Checked for accuracy by our qualified fact-checkers and verifiers. Find out more about fact-checking at CHOICE.

As of Saturday 1 June, water restrictions will be in place in greater Sydney for the first time in over a decade as a response to the ongoing NSW drought. 

The level 1 restrictions generally apply to hosing hard surfaces, such as watering gardens, washing cars, boats and building as well as filling pools. 

Elsewhere around Australia, most capital cities have permanent and enforceable water-saving guidelines in place, restricting such things as the days and times you can water your garden, for example.

But even if you're not affected, or you rely on tank water, you may want to look at other areas of the home where you can save water – such as in the laundry. 

The good news is that choosing a water-efficient washing machine isn't just good for saving this precious resource, it'll save you money on your water bills too. 

But which type of washing machine uses less water: top loader or front loader? 

front loader washing machine in laundry

Front-loaders use up to 70% less water than top loaders.

Front load washing machines use less water than top loaders

Front-loading washing machines can use up to 70% less water than the same size top loader.

That's because they're able to wash clothes by picking them up and dropping them into the wash water repeatedly, unlike top loaders which wash clothes by having them float around in water. 

But there is a downside. Because front loaders use less water, the wash cycle usually takes longer. 

So if time is of the essence, look for a front loader with a 'fast wash' cycle (but be aware this option may may not be suitable for very full or heavily soiled loads). 

Other water saving tips for washing machines

1. Pre-soak or pre-treat heavily soiled items

That way you won't have to wash them twice.

2. Only run a cycle when you have a full load

It usually takes just as much water to wash a full load as it does a half load, unless the machine has auto-sensing options. Most of us only wash around 3.5kg of clothes at a time, regardless of the capacity of our washer, but filling it completely can save you water, as well as detergent – the biggest cost of doing your laundry. 

3. Choose a model with an auto load-sensing or reduced-load function

For those times when you do only need to wash a smaller load, these water-saving features let the machine adjust the water level to the size of the load. 

4. Use an eco program

Many washers now come with an eco program, designed for washing lightly soiled items by using as little water and electricity as possible. 

5. Choose a spray or eco rinse

This typically uses less water to rinse your wash load than a traditional rinse. 

waterrating label

The more stars on the label, the more water-efficient the washer.

6. Check the number of stars on the water rating label

This is a guide to how efficiently the washer uses water. The more stars, the more efficient it is. 

It's worth noting that the label is calculated on a very specific program, washing a full capacity load. 

Depending on which program you choose, you'll usually get better water economy than the sticker indicates, particularly if you're washing a partial load, and especially if the machine has an auto mode.

How much can you load into your washing machine?

Most Australians don't actually ever load their washing machine as much as they could. 

See our washing machine reviews for models with the highest water-efficiency scores.

We care about accuracy. See something that's not quite right in this article? Let us know or read more about fact-checking at CHOICE.

Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.