Types of Washing Machines – A quick & easy guide for you!

There is no doubt that all types of washing machines available today do a decent job of washing clothes. That is what they are made for anyways. What confuses or baffles me as a consumer is – the variety.

No, I am not talking about a hell lot of brands to choose from. I am talking about almost half a dozen different types of washing machines available in the market.

As you or as any other buyer out there, I would first check which type of washing machine would be better suited for my situation. Every family has different needs. And who likes wasting money on an appliance which doesn’t fulfill their requirements?

For readers in a hurry – let me list out the types, and then I will describe each one.

Types of washing machines

Types of washing machines

That was a super quick overview of the types of washing machines available for us to chose from in the market.
Let us now dig in a bit further into the research before I give you a brief overview of each kind of machine –
Or you can simply jump to the types.

How do washing machines work?

Washing machines work in a 3 step process –  

Step 1 - Wash
Washing machines work by agitating the clothes. Agitate in washing lingo means – violently moving clothes. Violently! What the heck! Yes, washing detergent loosens the stain causing dirt particles stuck on the cloth. Agitating causes loose dirt particles to separate from the fabric. The intensity and duration of the agitation are selectable as per need. Most of the times this is automatically decided by the washing machine! Smart.
Step 2 - Rinse
Soapy water becomes dirty after the loose dirt particles mix in it. Dirty water is then drained out through a drain pipe. After draining, washing machine fills fresh & clean water to rinse out remaining detergent and dirt particles.
Step 3 - Spin/ Dry
After rinsing clothes, washing machine drains out the remaining water. It then spins super fast to throw out most of the water from wet clothes. It works on centrifugal force and warm air. Of course, spinning does not dry clothes 100%. But this is much much better compared to squeezing or twisting by hand to remove water from wet clothes.

Together, these three steps are called a Wash Cycle.

Wondering how washing machines looked like in the old days?
An old hand operated washing machine

Picture of a vintage washing machine

Picture of Staber's System 2000 washing machine

Staber’s System 2000 – The first automatic washing machine

What are different washing systems (agitators)?

Now that we know that agitating the clothes removes dirt; let’s have a look at what are the different technologies that help machines agitate or move clothes violently!

Pictures speak more than 1000 words. So instead of writing 1000 words, let me show you the picture. Oh, yes – I am lazier than Garfield. :mrgreen:
Agitator: An agitator system has a rod protruding from the center. It is quite a cumbersome task to separate wet clothes wrapped around the agitator.
Picture of Garfield the cat

Off the topic – Laziness comparison – Me>Garfield

Picture of a washer with an agitator

An AGITATOR with a rod!

Impeller/ pulsator:

A picture of an impeller (also known as a pulsator)

Impeller (also known as a pulsator)

The basic difference is that the agitator has a rod at the center while impeller is almost flat. Impeller system is much more modern. Almost all of the top loading machines available in the market today come with this system of removing the dirt out of the clothes.

Tub/ Drum/ Tumbler:

Picture of a washing machine tub/ drum

Tub/ Drum in a washing machine

The front-loaders come with tub/ drum/ tumbler system to agitate the clothes. Few machines have steel drums while others have plastic drums.
Rod-like agitators are not in fashion anymore.
Why was that dodo even mentioned in this article?
If someone is trying to sell you a washing machine with the old fashioned agitator – avoid it! It is probably very old.

How to dryers work?

More than washing, I think drying is the most useful function of a washing machine

Why? You may ask…

Washing clothes in a washing machine can save your – hard work and some time. Maybe an hour of time.

Drying clothes in a washing machine can save your hard work and LOADS OF TIME! Drying clothes on a clothesline may take hours and hours, a dryer can reduce that time significantly.

It happens to me a lot. Being not so fashionable, I have very limited clothes.

Suddenly!!! While I am lazily lying on my bed doing… NOTHING! I get a call – from a friend.

What the…

An unplanned plan to go to someplace…

And that favorite T-shirt of mine is in the laundry basket! And that’s the only T-shirt that fits me, without showing my bulging tummy.

A washing machine comes to my rescue.

I select quick wash cycle to wash that T-shirt and spin it in the dryer. Within no time I have a clean and almost dry T-shirt.

Since I have a mid-range washing machine, the clothes don’t come out 100% dry – I would say they are 90% dry. So, a quick round of ironing makes them 100% dry.

Yeah, everything has to be quick. Or my unfriendly friends will kill me (not literally).

I seriously don’t want to be agitated by my friends.

Ok, back to the question – How do dryers work?

Centrifugal action! & hot air (in most of the dryers)

Heard about it in science lessons at the school?

Can’t recollect? Never mind…

The tub inside the washing machine spins so fast that it forces the water out of the clothes. The tub has perforations or tiny holes! Stop imagining black holes or other types of holes… Let’s get back to washing machines…

Water is pushed out of the tub through tiny holes and is drained out through the drain pipe. Hot air in some models of dryers further helps by evaporating the water from clothes. This water vapor laded warm air escapes through vents in the machine.

Of course, it cannot dry clothes 100%. But spinning for a long time can dry laundry up to 90% dryness.

There are three types of dryers –

  1. Gas dryers: They use gas to heat the air inside the drying tub. Depending on where you live, the gas-based dryer may be cheaper to operate in the long run. Gas needs regular refilling for them to function correctly.
  2. Electric dryers: They are the more convenient as they are plug and play. No need for our forgetful brain to keep track of refilling gas, they merely work off electricity. Electric dryers are more popular than the gas dryers. For a simple reason – no hassles of gas refills.
  3. Ventless dryers: Ventless dryer can either be gas based or electricity based. What is “ventless” then? The hot air inside the dryer needs to be thrown out. Just like a chimney helps throw out smoke, a vent in the dryer helps throw out steamy hot air. Some of us may like to keep washing machine/ dryer in the basement or someplace with no access to vent. This situation is when ventless dryers are useful. They circulate the hot air within the dryer without needed to expel it out. Ventless dryers have a mechanism to cool the warm and moisture-laden air. It then drains out water vapors and reheats this cool, dry air to be used to steam out even more water from the clothes. The cycle continues till clothes are almost dry.

Since ventless dryers have this complex system to cool and reheat air, they are costlier.

How Does A Gas Dryer Work? — Appliance Repair Tips

The above video demonstrates how gas dryers work.

The below image demonstrates how old method of drying was… or is…

A picture of a clothesline

Clothesline – the old way of drying clothes

Now let’s talk about different types of washing machines in its entirety..!

Types of Washing Machines

1. Semi-Automatic top-loading

As of today, only selected top-loading models are semi-automatic.

Picture of a 2 tub semi-automatic washing machine

Semi-automatic washing machine. Noticed the two tubs?

Semi-automatic washing machines have two tubs.

But you cannot wash and dry clothes at the same time.

Only one tub works at a time.

Washer and dryer are separated but in the same body. That’s what makes it “semi-automatic.”
As discussed previously (only if you were paying attention), the entire laundry process has three steps – washing, rinsing & drying.

A semi-automatic system requires manual action after each step.

Manual action! And how complicated is that?

My bad. By manual action, I meant…
After the machine washes the clothes with soapy water, we need to go near our washer machine and switch a nob to drain off dirty water.

We then have to wait…

After a bit of waiting, we turn another nob to put clean water again (for rinsing).

That’s not it.

After the rinsing completes, we need to turn the nob once again to drain off rinsed water.

And the most challenging part.

We also need to lift up and transfer the clothes to the drying section.


These machines have some benefits too…

Semi-automatic washing machines are the cheapest cost wise.

You can even pour water with a bucket if you do not have access to a tap.

Yeah, if you are wondering.. some places in the world do not have access to tap water yet.

A picture of Indian village women carrying water

Village women carrying water from the river to their houses

2. Fully Automatic top-loading

A picture of a fully automatic top-loading machine from Whirlpool

A fully automatic top-loading machine from Whirlpool

These are my favorite. The type of washing machine my family uses.

They are cost effective (although not as cheap as semi-automatic), very easy to use and time-saving.

Fully automatic top-loading washing machine provides the right balance between price and features.

Its like, you put dirty clothes and switch it on.

It will do everything automatically without even you being present around it. It can automatically decide how much water it requires and even fills the tub with the necessary quantity of water. Rinsing is also automatic, and so is drying part.
All that you need is suitable plumbing – a tap with flowing water and a drain pipe to drain off the water.

They come with at least a dozen different washing programs to suit your needs. Example – quick wash, heavy garments wash, sensitive clothes wash, wool wash and many more such programs.

These programs or wash cycles are customized as per time and type of fabric. Then, of course, you have the automatic program which chooses the best settings AUTOMATICALLY.

3. Front-loading washing machine/ washer and dryer combo

Front-loading washing machines are very popular in America. This section will give you information about the all in one or washer and dryer combo type of washing machine.

A picture of front-loading washer and dryer combo from LG

A front-loading type of washing machine from LG

The tub opens in the front, in case you didn’t notice.

Again, they are fully automatic with different wash and dry programs to suit your needs. Yeah, just like their top-loading fully-automatic counterparts.

The average cost of a front loader is higher than a top-loader. But in the long run, front-loaders tend to be more cost-effective. Water and electricity consumption is lesser compared to top-loaders.

There are a few apparent cons though.

You cannot add clothes mid-cycle as the laws of physics would prevent you from opening the front door. (Unless you want your house immersed in water).

Secondly, you would want to avoid buying a front loader if the family member who usually operates the machine cannot bend for too long. (To add and remove loads of clothes).

Coming back to the pros –

Front-loaders can be stacked one above another – to save space. Also, they can be fit into cabinets to save space and to hide them when not in use.

Specific models use ventless dryer which can be helpful if you do not have access to vents near your washing machine.

In short, they can save a lot of space if placed smartly.

4. Front-loading washing machine/ Stackable with separate washer and dryer

Picture of a stackable washer and dryer in vertical arrangement

Stackable washer and dryer in a vertical arrangement

Again, these machines open from the front (being dumb proof).

You might think…
and then ask…

Why do we need separate washer and dryer when we can get combo machines and save money?


For sheer speed.

You can wash and dry clothes at the same time and hence save time.

Especially if you do laundry once a week (like me), you may want to wash clothes in batches. Once the washing part completes for the first bunch of clothes, you can put them in the dryer and at the same time… you can wash another set of clothes.

Specific models use ventless dryer which can be helpful if you do not have access to vents near your washing machine.

The drawback is –

Space. Separate washer and dryer will take more space.

I do not prefer separate washer and dryer.

What if you have a large family and want lots of laundries to be done fast?

If you have a large, loving family; I can imagine loads of dirty laundry, especially children’s muddy clothes 🙂

Then, my recommendation would be to stick with combo washer and dryer. And if you want a separate dryer, get another washer and dryer combo and stack 2 of them together. This way you would be able to wash loads of clothes together without a need to switch clothes from washer to dryer.

5. Integrated washing machine

A picture of an integrated washing machine

Integrated washing machines – optimum use of space

I love the concept. Among all of the types of washing machines available, integrated washing machines look the most classy because it is difficult to look at them. Seriously.

Integrated washing machines are space saving and aesthetically appealing. You won’t even notice it, but it will get your clothes washed whenever you require. It’s like – it is there for your family but not visible.

They fit perfectly into a cabinet, and you can close the cabinet when the machine is not in use.

As you might have already guessed,

Integrated washing machine requires quite a lot of setup work.

Thankfully, dimensions are universally standard for all the brands and capacities. This has been done to ensure you can easily swap machines when the older one is not good anymore. Because of the standard size of all the brands – you won’t need to redo the furniture to fit the new one into the cabinet.

The standard dimensions for integrated washing machines are around 825 x 595 x 540 mm (H x W x D) or almost 32.5 x 23.5 x 21.3 in inches (H x W x D).

All that you need to enjoy an aesthetic washing machine setup is – one-time furnishing and plumbing. It has to be as per the dimensions of an integrated washing machine mentioned above.

If you have enough money to splurge for that unnoticeable setup of a washing machine – integrated washing machine should be your choice.

Of course, they are also fully automatic for a hassle-free laundry experience.

6. Compact washing machine aka portable washing machine

Yes, they are small in size and portable.

Few compact washing machines also come with a handle which makes them easy to carry around.

A picture of a compact/ mini washing machine

A mini washing machine from Costway. Notice the handle for easy portability?


If you have a second home or if you change home too often.. a compact and portable washing machine will be very convenient.

Capacity will be a tradeoff. Being small, compact washers cannot wash too many clothes at a time.

It is suitable for bachelors staying in a hostel/ dorm or as a paying guest. That way you avoid visits to laundromats or common washing area of a dormitory.

These type of washing machines are also suitable for campers, RV and use in a motorhome.

To my surprise, some compact models also come with dryer functionality. Wow, how convenient is that?

Real estate costly in few major cities of the world – and all the major cities in India! A compact washer and dryer combo can save expensive floor space in the small studio apartment of such cities.


  • Semi-Automatic
  • Top-loading
  • Front-Loading
  • Stackable
  • Integrated
  • Compact

  • Separate tubs for washing and drying in 1 body
  • Not automatic
  • Cost is cheap, easy on the pocket
  • Can wash and dry clothes
  • Works without tap water
  • Operating requires efforts
  • Consumes more water & detergent
  • Two machines cannot be stacked one above another as it opens from the top and buttons are also located on the top
  • Requires manual intervention after each step of laundry (washing, rinsing, and drying)

  • Washing/ drying compartment opens from the top
  • Only 1 tub for both washing and drying
  • Fully automatic operation
  • Value for money – cost is in between semi-automatic and front-load washing machine
  • No need to be near the machine after loading clothes. Washing, rinsing, and drying is all automatic
  • Cannot be hidden for aesthetic appeal
  • Consumes more water & detergent
  • Two machines cannot be stacked to save floor space as it opens from the top and button panel is also located on the top

  • Washing/ drying compartment opens from the front
  • Only 1 tub for both washing and drying
  • Fully automatic operation
  • Can be stacked to save floor space
  • No need to be near the machine after loading clothes. Washing, rinsing, and drying is all automatic
  • Consumes lesser water
  • Consumes lesser detergent
  • Can be hidden in a cabinet but requires furnishing as per the size of the machine (washing machine-size dimensions are not standard)
  • The person operating the washing machine needs to bend to put and remove clothes as the tub opens from the front

  • Washing/ drying compartment opens from the front
  • Only 1 tub for both washing and drying
  • Fully automatic operation
  • Can be stacked to save floor space
  • Gets laundry done quicker as two machines can work at the same time
  • No need to be near the machine after loading clothes. Washing, rinsing, and drying is all automatic
  • Cannot be hidden in a standard cabinet. Requires tall cabinet because stacking doubles the height of the machine
  • The person operating the washing machine needs to bend to put and remove clothes as the tub opens from the front

  • Washing/ drying compartment opens from the front
  • Only 1 tub for both washing and drying
  • Fully automatic operation
  • Can be hidden in a cabinet for aesthetic appeal. Washing machine size dimension is standard for all integrated machines
  • No need to be near the machine after loading clothes. Washing, rinsing, and drying is all automatic
  • Two machines cannot be stacked to save floor space
  • The person operating the washing machine needs to bend to put and remove clothes as the tub opens from the front

  • Washing/ drying compartment opens from the top
  • Only 1 tub for both washing and drying
  • Fully automatic operation
  • Compact in size, easy to carry and move
  • No need to be near the machine after loading clothes. Washing, rinsing, and drying is all automatic
  • Amount of clothes it can wash at a time is very less due to the small size
  • Functions are basic due to small size. Dirt removal may not be as effective as full-size washers

I hope you learned few things from this article about the types of washing machines. Yes, it is lengthy and in-depth. Now it is easier for you to decide what type is suitable for your sweet family.

To look at just the differences between front-loading and top-loading washing machine read this article.

Share your personal experiences, tips, and suggestions for types of washing machines below: