Agitator or No Agitator?

by Vesna Petrova on April 1, 2014

Top loader

Your machine has probably washed your clothing hundreds of time, but have you wondered how does this appliance work?

We have already discussed about whether you should opt for top load or front load washing machine. Now, those who are planning to buy a top loader have one question on mind: agitator or no agitator?

After a longer research I came to the conclusion that the best top load washers are:

Agitator or no agitator seems like an easy decision, but still, you have to consider many factors in order to make the best out of your washer.

What does the agitator do?

As you already know, this mechanism makes the washer shake and rotate. It also rubs the clothes together during the washing cycle to make the cleaning process better. However, when washing delicate clothes, the agitator can beat them a little too hard. When washing knits, you should know that the agitator might stretch them. Although your clothes will be clean and stains-free, this is a deal breaker for agitator washers.

Washing machines that have no agitator have more room, which is great when you need to wash quilts or blankets. Moreover, taking your clothes out of the washer is easier, since you won’t have to “fight” with the garments that are stuck around the agitator. However, if you opt for a washing machine with no agitator, you might find yourself using more products for removing stains which can become quite costly. You may even need to rewash your clothing or use the soak cycle more often.

Top load agitator

After all, choosing between a washing machine with or without an agitator is not easy. If you have children, you may need a washing machine with an agitator because we know how messy kids can be. If you own more serious and business attire, you should opt for a washing machine without an agitator.

Washing machine without an agitator

We know that the agitator turns and twists the clothing to get them clean, but what happens in machines with no agitator? Instead of agitator, these machines have wheels, plates or discs that cause the tub to gently juggle or spin the laundry. The washing speed is fast enough to pull more water from the laundry, which means the drying time will be reduced, as well as the energy use. High-efficiency washing machines require detergent that is created for that type of washer. Regular detergents cause excess suds that may reduce the cleaning power. A high-efficiency detergent works great in small amounts of water. As for stain-removal, fabric softener, or water softener, you must make sure that you’re using the correct amount in the right way.

Due to the design of having no agitator, when laundry falls over the center of the “agitator” it doesn’t get clean. This isn’t a problem with clothes. Twin-size sheets and comforters on the other hand, are too large and bulky so when they fall over the center, the “agitator” isn’t powerful enough to rotate them off. There’s also too little water to properly clean comforters.

If you opt for a washing machine with agitator, make sure to clean the area under the agitator because the smell can seep into your clothes. This annoying smell is a result of mildew or mold growing in your washer’s tub. The area under the agitator is a damp and warm place – perfect for these organisms to grow. So that’s why you must regularly clean this area.

So, that’s pretty much everything you need to know about the agitator/no agitator question. Consider these factors before making the final decision.


Unlike many people, Vesna enjoys spending time in the laundry room of her house. She is not a fan of strong perfumes, which is why she has learned plenty of smelly laundry tips and became a mad scientist when it comes to removing stains from clothing. In her spare time, you can find her drinking cappuccino on her balcony, watching French movies or eating chocolate when no one’s watching.

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  • Jeff

    Waterproof items usually cannot be washed in a machine without an agitator. The manufacturers warn against doing this as it could damage the machine.

    • Thanks Jeff for pointing that out, it’s actually true. Water-resistant items may cause the load to become unbalanced, which can lead to excessive shaking and damage of the washer.

  • Melissa Calo-oy

    I think it’s also important to make sure you’re using the right soap. Rockin’ Green Soap works so well for me in every machine I’ve tried and also when I’ve just washed clothes in the sink. Definitely spend some time researching washing machines before you buy one, but follow it up with getting some excellent soap from Rockin’ Green!

    • Thanks, just a note for other readers, I posted a link where you can find buy that soap in the comments section of the article dedicated to detergents:

    • Christine

      Rockin’ Green is nothing but water softeners and boosters. It doesn’t contain any detergents and won’t get your clothes clean. In the long run, your clothes will end up dingy and stinky.

  • Disappointed Viewer

    This is a joke of a review. It does not give you a strong case either way. What I get from this is – with an agitator, expect to stretch an wear out your clothes faster. Without an agitator expect to get a poor washing. I don’t see any technical facts here, no real life tests, or comparisons. Just someone opinion based on very few un-comparable tests.

  • Don Carter

    I think that the article about the difference between agitator top loading washers and non agitator top loading washers is very informative. I have been asking these questions when I view the fact that my current washer might one day need to be replaced. I have an agitator general electric. The agitator is soft plastic rubber and my bra straps get tangled about it and so do regular socks, tube type socks. Also due to the shaking, some of the clothes that are long like nightgowns and towels tend to bunch together and get knotted. However, the cleaning power of having an agitator is superior to no agitator at all.

    • Hi Don, I’m glad you found this article helpful. Thanks for your words!

    • r t

      i think your agitator vs. agitator less article is a load of crap and highly misleading. The clothes dont circulate as stated and dont get clean. Ill never trust this site again.

      • Dear rt, they actually do circulate as stated (of course I cannot make a guarantee for all brands, etc.). The thing is that the washers without an agitator are not suitable for certain types of clothes, the same applies for machines with an agitator – but the reason here is different – the agitator might be rough for some weaker materials. All this has been discussed here many times. Actually, you prove it for yourself right now in a second if you just click a link in my article to the 3 selected washers. You’ll find how satisfied people are with them in the reviews.

        • Gary Lee

          Think rt alias Don Carter having a Bad Day

  • Sally

    How does one clean under the agitator anyway? The smell is killing me!

    • Sally, it’s pretty easy. Although there are more types of washers, the system is more-less the same. Please have a look at the video in my FAQ section, Question #28:
      hope that helps..

  • gtabme

    Just got my LG top load washer without the agitator. The load was only barely half full. The clothes on the top never got pulled under the water. It only got wet because the water was pored on the top. So how do the clothes get cleaned if they never get moved around under the water? I have glass top lid so I can see the wash the whole time. I think these no agitator washers are just a fad of time.

    • Hi, I have just added a video and a paragraph below it talking about how washers without agitator actually work and their efficiency.

    • Holland Shoaf

      Mine is going back and trading it on an agitator type ! I did another load ( not seen in this video ) and a yellow shirt that was on top of the clothes ( not submerged in water ) stayed UNSUBMERGED the whole wash cycle ( until the rinse and spin cycle). These washers are crap and thanks to the see through top I noticed this ! O and the HE detergent leaves your clothes having NO clean fresh smell at all !

      • Hi Holland, I understand what your frustration. I would say that washers without an agitator are especially for people who have mostly light and sensitive fabrics. Although I still think that there might be something wrong with your washer, maybe too little water coming in?

      • merlin1935

        Thank you so much, Holland Shoaf. You’ve done a great service to people like me who wanted to buy one of these so-called HE top loaders without agitator. Pictures and videos speak louder than words.

        • Thank you merlin. You’re right, that’s exactly the purpose of my website – to make it as easy and quick to understand as possible. I’ve always felt that this kind of clear information is missing on the internet.

      • Barbara Duncan

        We’ve had our no agitator washer for almost two years and I am so sorry we bought it. It’s the only washer I’ve ever owned that I hope will break down irreparably. If I had to do it again, I would buy a washer with agitator. We have to use a double rinse on all loads to get all the soap out, so I am not sure we are saving water. Other women I know wash everything on the deep-fill cycle on their low agitators for the same reason. We’ve tried several HE detergents and have found that using 50-75% of what is recommended helps rinse soap from the clothes much better – in addition to the extra rinse cycle. Some small loads of clothing takes 60-85 minutes – it requires extra time to clean the clothes because of the low water and for using cold water. Since everything is computerized, forget adding an extra rinse cycle once the washer has started. You need to start from the beginning again. No way to add more time to the agitation (which is recommended if you use a washer to dye something). Sheets don’t fare well in these washers since they cover the agitator and that is a no-no. But there is no way to stop that. it may save energy, but every load takes twice as much time as the old fashioned way. We just visited some out of town friends and had to do a small load of clothes. She has a Maytag washer that is over 30 years old. Took 25 minutes for the complete cycle and everything was clean and rinsed well. Low agitators are a step back.

        • Hi Barbara I can imagine how annoying that can be. In your case, I’d probably keep experimenting with different detergents + combine it with vinegar. You can read on forums that people have great experiences with it.

  • archimedes

    We recently bought a new HE top loader (no agitator). It handles larger loads like bedspreads better than our old top loader. It does well with my wife’s clothes too. However, it does a poor job on clothes that are actually dirty like mine. For my clothes, we’ve taken to doing small loads with all the settings at maximum, which generally does OK. However, sometimes I need to send them through a second time to get them clean. I’m fairly certain that the HE machine is using a lot more water and energy to clean my clothes than the old machine.

    We’ve also noticed that the HE machine doesn’t rinse clothes as effectively as the old machines. Ours has the option of running a second rinse cycle which we now use for all loads.

    My take is that if your clothes are not dirty, a HE top loader is probably everything as advertised. However, if your clothes are actually dirty, the HE top loader is a step backwards.

    • Hi archimedes, thank you for the great contribution to our page. I’m sure that many people will find it useful. Machines without an agitator are in general a little less efficient in cleaning of very dirty clothes as they don’t tumble inside so much, which is why many people prefer these over the regular ones when their number one priority is to be gentle co the material.

  • ArumBouyed

    Basically, the whole green movement and save the planet wackos have given us lousy light bulbs, toilets, and now washing machines. Does anyone remember their moms washing machine that lasted 20 years and actually friggin’ worked? I’d rather use a few extra gallons of water and not have to walk around with stiinky clothes. Guess that means I don’t “care enough” about dear mother Earth.

    • 🙂

    • karretop


  • Vickie Smith Mooneyham

    I have been having my fluffy towels develop holes from my agitator washer. It did it with a washer I had before too.

    • I’m sorry for that Vickie, it looks like those towels are of a especially sensitive material as I don’t remember hearing such experience from other users.

  • Regis von Wagner

    If you have pets (cats in particular) don’t expect an agitator-less machine to remove hair from fabrics. Some manufacturers still offer agitators. Unfortunately, big box retailers often offer only a small selection if any. We recently bought an agitator-less and it does the job of cleaning our cloths which are usually not really dirty. My “yard cloths” are the exception and it doesn’t do all that well with them. My problem has been that “hot” means “warm” on Whirlpool. I know it mixes in cold water because I cut off the cold line and it would not fill.

    • Thank you very much for sharing your experience Regis. Yes, you’re right, machines without an agitator may have problems with hair removal, especially if you have dogs or cats it might a problem.

  • Rich Fowler

    I heard that you cannot add anything to the washer after the wash cycle has started on a washer without an agitator. Like say a sock or shirt you find after you have started a load. Is this true ?

    • Hi Rich, I wouldn’t say that it is a rule. It depends on the brand and model you buy.

  • Tammy Bashline

    I HATE my new washing machine with NO agitator..I doesn’t clean well at all. My husband bought it at home depot and they told him it works better.HaHa Biggest Lie Ever. It’s a whirlpool. Don’t buy one. I wish they would take mine back!!!!!!

    • I’m sorry to hear that, I’d say that the purpose of machines without an agitator is making sure that your delicate clothes that are not so dirty, don’t get smashed too much and stay like new as long as possible. It’s definitely not for very dirty clothes of tough fabrics, etc.. But thanks for sharing your experience.

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