Wondering what type and size washing machine you need? This washing machine buying guide breaks down the different types of washing machines, sizes and features to help you decide.

What are the different types of washing machines?

The main washing machine types include front-load washing machines, top-load models with an agitator or impeller, stacked laundry centers, all-in-one combination washers and dryers, as well as compact or portable washing machines. Some washing machine models are also energy-efficient or Energy Star certified.

Model shown: WFW8620HC

Wet clothes tumbling in a front load washer with arrows showing the direction

1. Front load washing machines 

This type of washing machine features a door on the front of the unit to load and unload clothes. In order to clean fabrics, front-load washers tumble laundry in a horizontal drum which creates friction between the items. This washer type also generally uses less water per wash cycle compared to top-load washing machines. 

Since you access this type of washer from the front, you can use a stacking kit to place a dryer above it for a space-saving stacked setup.

Front load washing machines come in a range of capacities from compact models that offer around 1.9 cu. ft. to large capacity 5 cu. ft. models, and beyond. Standard-sized front load washing machines are usually around 40" high x 28" wide x 31–34" deep, but this can vary by make and model. You can also add a pedestal to front load washers, which can increase overall height by about 15 inches.

Model shown: WFW862CHC

A front load washer and dryer pair in a modern laundry room

Pros of front load washing machines:

  • Wash action provides a thorough but gentle clean

  • Typically uses less water per load compared to top load washer models

  • Higher spin speeds can help wick away moisture and lead to shorter dry times

  • Often available with greater capacity than other types of washers

  • Available in energy efficient and ENERGY STAR models

  • Available in compact or large capacity models

  • Save space by stacking select models, including stackable options from Whirlpool brand.

Cons of front load washing machines:

  • Sometimes have longer wash cycles than top load washing machines

  • No deep water soak settings

  • Might need to be cleaned more frequently 

  • May need to bend over lower to access, though pedestals are available for select models

  • Model prices can be higher

Shop Whirlpool® Front Load Washers

Find the right front load washing machine for your family with compact and large capacity options from Whirlpool. Choose from a range of features and sizes to help you get the ideal fabric care and cleaning for your laundry in a streamlined look.

Model shown: WTW5105HC

A top load agitator washing machine open with clothes inside

2. Top load agitator washers

Top load washing machines have a door on the top of the unit where you drop in or lift out loads. This type of top load washer uses an agitator to move clothes within the wash basket. An agitator is a tall spindle, vaned or finned, in the center of the wash basket that twists back and forth, rubbing against clothes to help break down loose soils. 

This vertical setup allows for options like deep water wash that you won’t find on a front load washing machine. Learn more about the differences with our guide to front load washing machines vs top load washing machines.

Top load washing machines are usually available with capacities ranging from around 1.5 - 5.5 cu. ft. In general, standard top load washing machines are about 40" high x 28" wide x 31–34" deep, but vary by make and model.

Model shown: WTW5105HC

A top load washer and dryer pair in a modern laundry room

Pros of top load agitator washers:

  • Wash action provides a thorough clean

  • Generally has shorter wash times than front load washing machines

  • Water levels can usually be adjusted

  • Deep water wash and soak options on select models

  • Familiar functionality, this style has been around for many years

  • Models generally have a lower price point vs front load washers

Cons of a top load agitator washer:

  • Generally uses more water than front load models

  • Less room for bulky items to move around inside

  • Cannot be stacked with a dryer

Shop top load washers from Whirlpool

Give clothes a deep clean with select Whirlpool® Top Load Washers featuring a two-way wash action agitator which turns one way while the basket turns the other. This cleaning motion moves fabrics smoothly through the wash to help you care for all of your family’s fabrics.

Model shown: WTW5100HC

A top load impeller washing machine open with clothes inside

3. Top load impeller washers

For this washing machine type, you’ll load and unload clothes from the top just like top load washers with an agitator. The difference is that the washing action is facilitated with an impeller instead of an agitator. An impeller is a low-profile cone or disc that spins to rub clothes against each other to get them clean. 

The dimensions for top load impeller washers are generally the same as agitator models. However, impeller washing machines sometimes offer a little more capacity since the impeller takes up less space inside the wash basket than an agitator. This can make them a good choice if you frequently wash large or bulky items. 

Learn more about agitator vs impeller washing machines.

Model shown: WTW6120HW

A white top load washer and dryer pair in a modern laundry room

Pros of top load impeller washing machines:

  • Wash action provides a thorough, gentle clean

  • Generally uses less water than older agitator models

  • Deep water wash and soak options on select models

  • More room in the wash basket for bulky articles and easy loading/unloading

  • More large capacity options are usually available

  • Available in energy efficient and Energy Star models

  • Models generally have a lower price point vs front load washers

Cons of a top load impeller washer:

  • Generally uses more water than front load models, though less than older agitator models

  • Loads can become off-balanced if not loaded carefully

  • Deep fill may not be available on all models

  • Cannot be stacked with a dryer

Shop Whirlpool® Top Load Washers

Give clothes a thorough yet gentle clean with Whirlpool® Top Load Impeller Washing Machines. Smooth impellers on select models are designed so clothes have more room to move. The seamless surface and vanes also help drive clothes from the outer rim to the center, where the deepest cleaning happens. Select models feature deep water wash options that let you customize your water level.

Model shown: WTW8127LC

A Whirlpool 2-in-1 removable agitator washer with a window cutout

4. Top load washers with 2 in 1 agitator and impeller 

Select top load washing machines let you switch up the washing action with a 2-in-1 agitator and impeller design. These types of washing machines usually feature a removable agitator with a permanent impeller disc. Whirlpool brand offers an industry-first 2 in 1 removable agitator that lets you customize any load to care for your clothes the way you want by easily swapping the agitator post in or out. With two ways to wash, it’s twice the washer you have at home.

Pros of 2 in 1 agitator and impeller washers:

  • Removable agitator provides greater flexibility

  • No need to choose between agitator or impeller

  • Can remove agitator to wash bulky items like comforters 

  • Provides all the pros for both impeller and agitator models

Cons of 2 in 1 agitator and impeller washing machines:

  • Generally uses more water than front load models

  • Loads can become off-balanced if not loaded carefully

  • Can’t be stacked with a dryer

Shop Whirlpool® 2 in 1 Removable Agitator Washer

Customize your loads the way you want in the Whirlpool® Top Load Washer with 2 in 1 Removable Agitator. This innovative washing machine also features Whirlpool® Load & Go Dispenser that lets you skip adding detergent every time. A pretreat station features built-in, dual temperature faucet and brush so you can soak, scrub and wash all in one spot.

Model shown: WET4124HW

A stacked laundry center washing machine open with clothes inside

5. Stacked laundry centers

Stacked laundry centers usually feature a top load washing machine and dryer built into one continuous frame. If you prefer a top load washer but only have space for a stacked setup, this is a great option. This combined appliance simplifies installation with no need for a stacking kit since the washer and dryer are already built as one unit. 

You can find different types of washing machines in laundry centers including agitator and impeller styles.

Illustration of a stacked laundry center with dimension measurement marks


These units typically offer smaller capacity ranges than stand-alone units with between roughly 1.5 and 3.5 cu. ft. washer capacity. However, you’ll also usually find smaller outer dimensions, making stacked laundry centers a popular choice for apartments or other small spaces. Make sure you have roughly 74-76 inches of vertical space, 27-33 inches of depth and 24-28 inches of width to install this type of washer and dryer center.

Model shown: WET4027HW

a white stacked laundry center tucked into a closet in a modern house

Pros of stacked laundry centers:

  • Fits into smaller spaces and those requiring vertical stacking
  • Offers a stacked option with a top load washing machine

  • No stacking kit needed

  • Usually lower priced than purchasing a washer and dryer separately

Cons of stacked laundry centers:

  • Typically has fewer options and features than other types of washers
  • Can have a smaller range of capacities than other styles

  • Can’t separate the units for alternate configurations

Shop Whirlpool® Stacked Laundry Center options

Get the capacity you want in the space you need with a stacked washer and dryer combination in gas or electric. Select models feature dual action agitator cleaning with a convenient fabric softener dispenser and an AutoDry drying system that senses when clothes have reached the right moisture content and stops the cycle.

Model shown: WFC8090GX

An all-in-one combo washer and dryer open with clothes inside

6. All-in-one combo washer and dryer

A combo washer and dryer is a type of washing machine that also dries laundry in the same drum. This eliminates the need for two separate appliances and provides an excellent space-saving option. All-in-one combos usually feature a front-load design and include more settings and options than stacked laundry centers.

Combo washer/dryers may have similar dimensions to a front load washer, but there are also more space-efficient versions available. The Whirlpool® Smart All-In-One Washer & Dryer provides a compact option at 33 ¼ inches high, 28 inches deep and 24 inches wide with a capacity of 2.8 cu. ft.

Model shown: WFC8090GX

An all-in-one combo washer and dryer tucked into a closet in a modern house

Pros of an all-in-one washer and dryer combos:

  • Space-efficient design combines two appliances into one

  • Whirlpool offers a ventless design that can be installed nearly anywhere1

  • Compact models available

  • Typically more options and settings than stacked laundry centers

  • No need to transfer loads from one machine to another

Cons of all-in-one washer and dryer combos:

  • Can’t wash a load while another dries

  • Generally offers less capacity than some stand-alone options

  • Dry cycle times may be longer

Shop Whirlpool® Smart All-In-One Washer & Dryer

Reinvent your laundry routine with the 24" Smart All-In-One Washer & Dryer. This compact two-in-one combo fits in small spaces to replace an apartment washer and dryer. The ventless design allows installation virtually anywhere.1 You can even do laundry from your smartphone2, and the Load & Go Plus dispenser lets you skip detergent and fabric softener refills for 20 loads.3

Model shown: WTW2000HW

A portable washing machine open with clothes inside

7. Compact and portable washing machines

If space is at a premium, compact and portable washing machines may be the best type of washing machine for you. You can usually find a compact option among different types of washers including top and front load, stackable, stacked laundry centers or all-in-one to fit your preference. 

Portable washing machines are usually the smallest option and are designed to be stored in a closet or other area until needed, though some can be installed permanently. They typically feature an inlet hose that connects to kitchen or bathroom faucets along with a drain hose you can set inside a tub or sink. 

Portable washer sizes vary widely but can come with as little as 0.9 cu. ft. capacity for very tight spaces.  Whirlpool offers a portable washing machine with 1.6 cu. ft. of capacity and a narrow 21-inch width design. Compact washers generally offer between 1.5 and 3.5 cu. ft. of capacity with widths of around 24 inches. These tend to be permanently installed options.

Model shown: WFW3090JW

A stacked compact washer and dryer tucked into a closet in a modern loft

Pros of portable and compact washers:

  • Saves space in an apartment or small laundry area

  • Front load models can be stacked with a dryer

  • Portable washers can be disconnected from hookups and stored away when not in use

Cons of portable and compact washers:

  • Offers less washing capacity than other types of washers

  • Cannot wash large loads or bulky items like a comforter

Shop Whirlpool® Compact Washers

If saving space is the most important factor for your household, Whirlpool has plenty of compact washer options to choose from. Find 24-inch-wide washers, all-in-one options, and stacked compact pairs, all with a range of options and cycles to take on your daily loads.

What are common washing machine sizes?

Washer sizes run from space-saving compact options to large capacity models. In general, here are some capacities you can expect to find with each size washing machine:

Compact: 1.5 -3.4 cu. ft. 

Standard (or medium): 3.5-4.4 cu. ft.

Large: 4.5+ cu. ft.

Standard-sized washing machines can usually wash a full 2-bushel laundry basket of clothes per load, while some larger capacity washers can fit three baskets or more. For example, 5.0 cu. ft. front load washers from Whirlpool clean over three baskets of clothing4 in a single load.

Model shown: WTW7120HC

A woman with a laundry basket looking inside a top load washer

What size washer do I need?

Consider the size of your household, the largest or bulkiest items you’ll wash and the space available for installation to decide what washer size is best for you. Consider these factors before buying a washing machine:

How large is your family?

A household of 1-2 can likely opt for a space-saving compact washing machine. A family of around 3 or 4 may want a standard-sized washer to keep up with everyday laundry needs. A large or active family might opt for a large-capacity option to make sure soccer jerseys, workout clothes and office shirts are always clean and ready to wear.

Number of laundry loads per week

If you only do a few loads each week, a standard or small capacity washer is probably enough. However, if you do more than 7 loads per week, consider a large capacity washer that will let you combine loads and help cut down on time spent in the laundry room. Get help choosing a large washing machine from Whirlpool with our guide, or get more information on all washing machine sizes

How many towels do you wash in a load?

To help translate capacity per cubic foot in terms of laundry, think about how many towels you might wash in a load. A number of factors like type of washing machine or the exact size of your towels can affect how many you can fit per load, but here are some general ranges:

  • A 3.5–4.4 cu. ft. washing machine can hold approximately 9–15 full-sized bath towels. 

  • A 4.5–4.9 cu. ft. washing machine can usually hold between 11–19 full-sized bath towels. 

  • A 5–5.3 cu. ft. capacity washer can typically hold between 12–21 full-size bath towels.

Do you frequently wash large, bulky items like blankets or king-sized comforters? 

If so, opt for a large capacity washing machine with an impeller or a front load model to maximize usable space in the washer drum.

How big is your laundry room or installation space?

If space is limited, consider front load stacked options, a laundry center or an all-in-one combo that may provide a little extra washing and drying capacity per square foot. Need more help choosing a washing machine size? Follow our easy 3 step guide to find the right washer and dryer dimensions for your home.

Laundry detergent being poured into a Whirlpool Load & Go dispenser

What features are available in washing machines?

Features vary widely depending on type of washer, brand, size and more. You can find everything from basic budget-friendly models that help you keep up with everyday laundry needs, to advanced smart appliances that help streamline your routine. Here are some things to consider when choosing the best type of washing machine for your household:

Cycles and options

Every family has different laundry needs whether it’s a sanitize cycle to help fight bacteria on workout clothing, or deep water wash options for heavily soiled loads. Select Whirlpool washers feature both options plus quick wash cycles for small or lightly soiled loads. You’ll also find select models with specialized cycles for delicates, bulky items, towels and more. Some models also have a clean cycle to clean the washing machine itself in-between uses. Check the cycles and options for whatever washer you’re considering to make sure it meets your laundry needs. 

Intuitive touch controls

Easily find the right cycle with intuitive touch controls on select Whirlpool washing machines. Let the washer guide you to the right cycle combinations or customize up to 36 of your own to get the right type of fabric care for whatever you’re washing.

Convenience features

Spend less time on laundry with features that help you finish chores sooner. 

  • Smart or wifi-connected appliances can enable you to control your washer remotely. Smart capable washers from Whirlpool guide you to the right cycle combinations or let you customize your own and manage laundry from your smartphone to stay connected from anywhere.5

  • Choose top or front load washers from Whirlpool with a Load & Go dispenser that holds 20–40 loads of detergent to skip adding it every time. If you wash five loads per week, that’s up to two months' worth of laundry on select models.6

Pretreat station

Some washers feature built-in faucets to help treat stains, soak garments or scrub trouble spots. Select Whirlpool® washers feature a pretreat station or pretreat station plus that lets you soak, scrub and wash all in one spot. The pretreat station plus features a built-in, dual temperature faucet and pretreat brush for quick, easy access to tools that help you get it all done at once. Plus, you can add detergent to the water stream to spot-treat stains before they set in.

Pedestals for extra storage and height

If you opt for a front load washing machine, consider adding a pedestal to make access even easier. A pedestal will raise the height of the door so you can load and unload laundry with less bending. Pedestals from Whirlpool also function as storage drawers to help you keep organized.

Model shown: WFW6620HC

a hand pressing cycle buttons on a front load washing machine

Overall, which type of washing machine is best?

The best type of washing machine for you depends on your family size, lifestyle, budget, and how much space you have for a washer and dryer. Whether it’s a compact all-in-one option for an apartment or a large capacity top load washer with smart, connected features, you have plenty of options to choose from. 

Need more help deciding? Our appliance finder can help you choose the best Whirlpool® washer for you.  Or shop all Whirlpool® washing machines to browse our full lineup.

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1. 240V electrical connection required.
2. Appliance must be set to remote enable. WiFi & App Required. Features subject to change. Details and privacy info at whirlpool.com/connect.
3. Based on an 7-lb load.
4. Based on 7-lb per basket.
5. Appliance must be set to remote enable. WiFi & App Required. Features subject to change. Details and privacy info at whirlpool.com/connect.
6. Based on an 8-lb load. Actual dispenser capacity varies by model.