Agitator vs. Impeller Washing Machine – Which is the best?

If you are in the market for a washing machine, you may be considering between an agitator and impeller style machine. While both is found in top-loaders, and will get your clothes clean, which is best?

Both machines have advantages and disadvantages which you should take into account before making your final decision. Both agitator and impeller-style washing machines work by spinning clothes around in the drum to help separate dirt particles from fabrics.

The difference is how they spin; where an agitator moves back and forth within the drum, an impeller uses a circular movement. Keep reading to find out the pros and cons of both types, as well as how to select one that will fit your home washing needs.

Washing Machine: Agitator Agitator

The agitator style washing machine has a vertical, spindle-shaped shaft that sticks up into the middle of the machine’s main tub. When turned on, it pushes around clothes, so they are repeatedly pushed down against the sides of the machine and then moved back up into the center. The addition of an agitator to a washing machine can increase its cleaning power, thus taking care of the more stubborn stains.

Washing Machine: Impeller

An impeller is a small plastic blade (or blades, depending on the model) that spins around near the bottom of your washing machine. It is like a mini version of an agitator and does roughly the same thing: move clothes around in the washing machine so they are pushed down and then lifted back up into the wash water.

However, impellers require less water than an agitator because all that force exerted by the spinning blade creates just enough outward pressure to push clothes against the walls of the washing machine.

Pros and Cons of an Agitator Washing Machine


  • It has familiar functionality; works just like the washing machine your grandmother used to use.
  • No need to reach into deep water or risk getting wet when loading and unloading.
  • The agitator rotates in multiple ways, rubbing against the clothes, and thus provides a deeper clean on tougher stains compared to impellers.


  • Uses more water than an impeller.
  • Some believe that it provides a ‘harder’ wash compared to impellers.

Pros and Cons of an Impeller Washing Machine


  • Uses up to 20% less water compared to the equivalent agitator sized model; less water equals less money spent.
  • Equipment ‘interacts’ less with the clothes, and thus provides a gentler wash.
  • Spins at higher speeds compared to agitators, making it a highly efficient appliance.
  • Less issues with smaller clothing articles getting stuck during washing cycles.


  • Because of the technology, impeller washing machines tend to be a bit more expensive than agitator style machines.

Washer agitator vs impeller – Which type is the best?

Generally speaking, an impeller washer will provide just as much cleaning power as an agitator washer, but with less water.

However, if you only occasionally need to run large wash loads, you will save money by purchasing a washing machine with an agitator, as it is cheaper in the market.

If you only do small loads, the extra effort that is required to use a regular top-load washing machine with an agitator might not be the most practical choice.

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Final thoughts

Whether you choose an impeller washing machine or one with an agitator, consider your household size and how often large loads are washed before making your purchase.

It depends on your household needs, but generally speaking, impeller washing machines use less water, are more energy efficient and will be gentler on your clothes.

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