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How much can you save by choosing a water-efficient washing machine?

Spending a little more upfront can actually save you water and money over time.

illustration of top loader vs front loader
Last updated: 08 August 2019

Need to know

  • Front-loading washing machines use far less water than top loaders
  • We calculate the money and water savings you can make by choosing an efficient front loader over a water-guzzling top loader
  • Using a front-loading washing machine can save hundreds of thousands of litres of water over 10 years

With the drought worsening across Australia and water restrictions becoming stricter in certain areas, many of us are changing our habits to decrease our daily water use.

But how much difference does your choice of washing machine really make? 

We compared a water-guzzling top loader with a water-efficient front loader, then crunched the numbers to find out just how much water (and money) you could save. 

What we found

By choosing a water-efficient front loader over a water-guzzling top loader, we calculated that you could save 467,200L of water over 10 years – that's 103,822 toilet flushes*, or 4672 showers**.

But wait, there's more! While the front loader might cost you more upfront, it's a worthwhile investment: after 10 years, you're likely to actually be better off. 

By our calculations, you'd be $525 better off with the Whirlpool front loader than the Panasonic top loader – not to mention how much better off the environment will be.

But by far the biggest saving you'll make is water use. Over that 10-year period, the Panasonic top loader will use a whopping 620,500L of water, while the Whirlpool front loader will use just 153,500L. (That's assuming one load of washing per day; your usage may vary.)

*Based on a 4.5L toilet flush. **Based on a 10-minute shower using 10L of water per minute.

What the expert says

"Choosing a water-efficient front loader over a thirsty top-loader is not only better for the environment and your hip pocket, it will also give you cleaner clothes," says CHOICE's laundry expert Ashley Iredale. 

"Over years of testing we've found front loaders consistently perform better than top loaders in our tests: they wash better, and they're gentler on clothes. The only trade-off is they typically take longer to complete a cycle."

Choosing a water-efficient front loader over a thirsty top-loader is not only better for the environment and your hip pocket, it will also give you cleaner clothes.

Ashley Iredale, CHOICE laundry expert

So making a wiser choice when it's time to buy a new washing machine could save you 467,200L of water and $525 over 10 years – and you'll get far better washing results. It's a no-brainer: good for your clothes, good for the planet and good for your back pocket.

How we crunched the numbers

We compared water use, purchase price and running costs for these Panasonic and Whirlpool washing machines.

Savings from choosing the Whirlpool front loader
  Top loader Front loader Savings
Price $999 $1398 -$399
Running costs (10 years)* $1349 $425 $924
Purchase price +
running costs (10 years)
$2348 $1823 $525
Water used per cycle 170L 42L 128L
Water used over 10 years** 620,500L 153,300L 467,200L

*Running costs = approximate cost over 10 years for one daily load on a 'normal' cycle, based on 30c/kWh for electricity and $2 per 1000L for water. Excludes detergent. 

**Water use over 10 years = assumes one daily load on a 'normal' cycle, over 10 years.

How did the machines compare in performance?

There can often be a trade-off between water efficiency and performance: some water-efficient machines won't get your clothes particularly clean, and sometimes machines that are excellent at cleaning use lots of water. But it's not always the case. 

The Panasonic top loader received an excellent score for rinse performance, but it used a lot of water (170L per cycle, to be exact) to achieve this. It also failed to do its one job: clean clothes. It scored a grubby 52% for dirt removal, which is pretty poor in anyone's book. (We use a spectrophotometer to measure how clean the fabric is once it's gone through a cycle in the machine, so it's highly accurate.)

The Whirlpool front loader also scored highly for rinse performance, but it managed a 77% dirt removal score using just 42L of water per wash – efficient and effective.

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.