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Agitator VS Impeller Washing Machines

There are many types of washing machines based on different types of classifications. Based upon the operation type, we have semi-automatic and fully-automatic machines. Based on loading type, there are top-load and front-load machines. But in this segment, we will discuss the types based on the technology used for washing. We have two types of technologies namely agitator and impeller.

The main difference between an agitator washing machine and impeller washing machine is what sits at the middle of the machine body. In an agitator, a tall vertical spindle does the work, whereas in an impeller, it’s a low-profile cone or a disc with fins.

Before we discuss how this difference impacts the performance of these machines, let’s look at what’s common between them.

Built-in water Spray

One thing that both the types of machines have in common is an inbuilt water spray that helps the clothes move around. Both elements, agitator and impeller have small orifices that sprays water at the clothes that helps them move and rub against the elements and other clothes to remove dirt.

Reusing water

Another thing both impeller and agitator do similarly is the ability to reuse the water from the rinse and wash cycles in order to soak clothes. So you don’t have to worry about which one is better when it comes to saving water and being environment-friendly because both serve the purpose brilliantly.


Another similarity; a rather disliked one is the operating noise of the two types. Any top load washing machine, be it the one with an impeller or agitator makes its presence known to the members of your household through its vibration and noise.


A vertical-axis spin washing machine, no matter an impeller or an agitator will tangle your clothes. The levels of tangle might differ in the two types, but it is one of the most serious drawbacks of a top-load washing machine.

Cycle Duration

When it comes to the total wash time, both agitator and impeller cross the finish line at the same time. Both the types take less time than a front-load machine does thanks to their high spin-speed.

Note: The high spin-speed can cause vibration and disbalance in a machine

Adding clothes during cycle

If it’s a top-load washing machine, it will always allow you to add clothes after the wash cycle has started, irrespective of whether it has an agitator or an impeller.


Due to the big spindle in the middle of the washing machine space, an agitator washing machine of the same size as of an impeller washing machine accommodates lesser clothes. Also, this restricts the movement of clothes. The size restriction also makes an agitator a not-so-ideal candidate for washing blankets.


The agitator machines are the oldest existing machine type. Nowadays, impellers are ruling the market thus the price difference between the two is significant. However, both the types are more affordable as compared to a top-load machine, agitator is a more inexpensive option when we compare just these two.

Wash Quality

When it comes to removing dirt and grime, an agitator takes a significant lead over an impeller, but that’s not the case when we talk about the overall wash quality. Impeller is gentler on clothes, whereas there is a possibility of tearing and snagging of clothes due to friction in machines using agitators. An impeller would give your clothes a safe wash as it uses its fins or discs that rotate to gently rub clothes against each other and not against the vanes. However, an agitator would be an ideal option for denims, canvas, and clothes with tough stains. Though the agitators provide a deeper cleaning, but on one condition, that is the clothes need to get into direct contact with the spindle which again increases the chances of tearing.

Note: Both agitator and impeller tangle the clothes; the levels of tangling may differ.

Water and Energy Efficiency

Although both impeller and agitator machines save water by reusing it for soaking, the impeller does it a little better than the agitator machine. When it comes to energy efficiency, the impeller is much better than an agitator machine. However, the front-load tops the chart when it comes to energy and water efficiency.

Aspect Top-Load Agitator Top-Load Impeller Front-Load
Price Low Moderate High
Noise Loud Loud Silent
Ideal for Heavily soiled clothes All clothes Lightly soiled clothes
Wash Quality Hard on clothes Gentle wash Gentle wash
Cycle Duration Less Less More
Overall Water Efficiency Low Moderate High
Energy Efficiency Low Moderate High
Tangling of clothes Yes Yes No
Blanket and heavy clothes washing Not good Good Ideal
Can add clothes during wash cycle Yes Yes No
Loading/Unloading Moderate Easy Hard

Both impeller and agitator machines have their fair share of advantages and limitations. Compare the features and benefits of the two before selecting your ideal machine. An agitator machine has been a trusted washing companion for many years, but with a gentler wash, good capacity, and a decent energy and water efficiency, an impeller makes a compelling case.