Front load washers get higher ratings from experts than top loaders because they are able to clean clothes just as effectively as a front loader while using less water in the process. Front loaders tend to be more expensive up front, but the cost of ownership over time will be lower. They're also gentler on clothes, so you may want to take that into account as well.
Among front-load washers -- and, indeed, washing machines of all types -- no model earns more acclaim than the white Kenmore Elite 41072 ($1,000) and its metallic silver identical twin, the Kenmore Elite 41073 (Est. 1,100). The washers are recommended across the board by every expert who has reviewed them, including ConsumerReports.org, which awards the 41072 an Excellent for washing performance.
This Kenmore washer is energy efficient, gentle on clothes and its 5.2 cubic-feet capacity means that it holds lots of laundry, even king-sized comforters will fit, which owners say saves them time and money compared to having to take them to a separate laundry facility. "Having a 5.2 cubic foot interior that can easily fit 16 pounds of clothing means you get to clean vast amounts of laundry at once," says Jonathan Chan at Reviewed.com. Users agree, and we saw a number of comments that the washer saves them so much time that they feel that it increases its overall value. However, Chan warns, be sure it actually fits in the space you have -- it's a giant washer with a big footprint, too.
The control panel on the Kenmore Elite 41072 has a simple, but stylish-looking user interface that's appreciated by the experts at Reviewed.com and Good Housekeeping. In fact, it's the top rated washer overall at Reviewed.com, with a perfect score of 10 out of 10, and earning both Best of Year and Editors' Choice awards. "Quick cycle times for moderately sized loads and powerful cleaning performance make this a machine to be reckoned with," Chan says. "Either one is a good choice."
While you can put a lot of clothes into the Kenmore 41072/41073, there are front-loading washers that can hold even more. Among those, the Samsung WF56H9100AG (Est. $1,400) is perhaps the most notable. Like the Kenmore washer, the Samsung WF56H9100AG earns raves from virtually every expert. Good Housekeeping awards it a 4.5-star rating, Reviewed.com grants it an Editors' Choice award, and others make it a solid "Recommended" choice in comparative roundups. This Samsung washer was not part of the recent recall, which applied only to top-loaders.
Reviewed.com says that the Samsung WF56H9100AG is the "world's largest residential washing machine," able to hold 5.6 cubic feet of laundry. Size could be a curse as well as a blessing, though -- it measures a considerable 30 by 42 by 33 inches. That leads Chan to recommend it mainly for families that have unusually large laundry needs.
Reviewed.com is a little less impressed with washing performance, which other reviewers describe as very good or better. No one disputes that the washer is fast, and one report states that engaging a SuperSpeed option cuts washing time by an additional 15 to 20 minutes.
Owners of the Samsung WF56H9100AG, many of whom who bought it precisely because of its generous capacity, are overwhelmingly pleased. We did see plenty of comments that they take up a lot of space, but, on the flip, side, much happiness that they could dispense with of a week's worth of laundry quite quickly -- many note that what used to be three loads is now just one. Users also praise the WF56H9100AG's plethora of wash options and say it's very quiet for such a behemoth.
Among this washer's features is Self Clean+, which earns kudos from Good Housekeeping testers. That feature steam cleans the drum and gasket to cut back on mold and mildew -- one of the chief drawbacks to front loaders. A reminder to clean the washer after every 40 cycles is also provided. Efficiency is excellent, and the washer is Energy Star Certified. The Samsung WF56H9100AG is covered under a one-year basic warranty, with coverage extending to two years on the control board, three years on stainless steel drum, and 10 years on the motor. The WF56H9100AG comes in Onyx (black). The same washer is available in white as the Samsung WF56H9100AW (Est. $1,300).
If your family is a bit smaller, or you don't really have the need to wash the biggest, fluffiest, comforters, we recommend taking a look at the 4.5 cubic foot Maytag Maxima MHW5500FW (Est. $800). It's earns a Recommended nod at ConsumerReports.org, with a rating of Excellent for washing performance and both water and energy efficiency. Jonathan Chan at Reviewed.com calls it "a powerful machine that doesn't deal in fustiness." What he means by that is that the Maytag MHW5500FW isn't the fanciest-looking machine around, but more than makes up for its Spartan appearance with great washing performance.
Chan in particular praises the Maytag Maxima MHW5500FW's PowerWash cycle, which, though very slow at two-and-a-half-hours, offers extremely effective cleaning for your dirtiest duds. Users agree that this Maytag's cycles are slow, but they don't care -- giving it top scores across the board for its ease of use and great cleaning power. It features 11 wash cycles, not as many as some other washers in this size class, but sufficient, owners agree for pretty much anything you want to clean. One popular option is the My Cycle, which enables you to set a preferred combination and access it at the touch of a button. This washer is white, but it also comes in metallic slate as the Maytag Maxima MHW5500FC (Est. $850). Both washers are Energy Star Certified.