Jump to navigation links Jump to main content Jump to footer links
Impeller vs. Agitator Washer: Which Should You Pick?

Impeller vs. Agitator Washer: Which Should You Pick?

Woman putting clothes into a washing machine

You’ve had it with laundry mishaps. You’re done asking, “Do I need a new washing machine?” You’re finally ready to shop for a new washer, but you want to ensure you’re getting the best top-loading washing machine for your home and family.

Should you choose an impeller or agitator washer? And what’s the difference, anyway? Check out this comparison of impeller vs. agitator washers to determine which one best suits your needs.

Agitator vs. Impeller Washing Machines: What’s the Difference?

There are so many choices when shopping for a washing machine. Front load or top load washers? Impeller or agitator? Digital display or manual dial? Some washing machine features are simply a matter of personal preference, but agitator and impeller washers actually function differently on a fundamental level.

Typically, front load washers don’t need an agitator or impeller to move clothes, but top loaders will have one or the other. Simply put, these washing machine components sit in the center of the wash basket and move your clothes to help break up stains and dirt.

Both have built-in spray action to move your clothes during the wash cycle. But, while they have the same basic purpose, impeller vs. agitator washing machines both have pros and cons all their own.

What Is An Agitator Washer?

Agitators are spindle-like devices (they will have either vanes or fins) that are secured in the center of the wash basket in the washing machine. During the wash cycle, they twist, turn, and move clothes through the water — “agitating” them — to loosen dirt quickly. The agitator’s motion will vary depending on the type of wash cycle — delicate, standard, or heavy wash. But even with a specific wash cycle, agitator washing machines aren’t always gentle on clothes.

Agitator Washer ProsInside of an agitator washer

  • The vanes and fins twist and turn, ensuring the whole load gets enough detergent and water.
  • In washing machines with agitators, debris and dirt are loosened up and removed more effectively.
  • Clothes are cleaned quickly, making for shorter cycle times.
  • Energy-efficient models with agitator washers are available — just look to see if it’s ENERGY STAR® certified.

Agitator Washer Cons

  • Generally, agitator washers have less room than impeller washers for washing bulky items like blankets and pillows since the agitator column takes up space. However, there are high-capacity agitator units available.
  • Items can get snagged on the agitator itself and potentially tear.
  • Since there is greater friction on your clothes during wash motions, agitators may increase wear on your clothing fabrics over time.

What is An Impeller Washer?

Instead of a tall agitator column, washing machines with an impeller use currents in the water to rub the clothes against each other. Impellers are shaped like low-profile cones, often with small fins or vanes that spin to move water, creating cleaning currents. Impellers are common in high-efficiency washing machines and are thought to be gentler than agitators since they never actually make physical contact with the clothes.

Impeller Washer Pros

Top view of black impeller washing machine

  • Impellers help preserve your fabrics. They avoid rough physical contact with clothes for a gentle clean.
  • There’s more room in the wash basket for bulky items like blankets or pillows since there is no tall agitator column in the washer.
  • Impeller washers generally use less water and have high spin speeds. Both of these features can help you save money on laundry day by reducing energy costs. To find an energy-efficient impeller washer, look for the ENERGY STAR® certification.

Impeller Washer Cons

  • Because of their gentle washing motion, impeller washers may not always get clothes as clean as an agitator washer.
  • During high spin speed cycles, clothes can get twisted in the center of the wash load, throwing off the machine’s balance.

Impeller vs. Agitator — Which is Better?

When shopping for a new washer, consider the advantages and disadvantages of each option, and decide which one is best for your lifestyle. Both an impeller and agitator washing machine will get your clothes clean. They just do it in two different ways.

On one hand, agitator washers are great if you commonly deal with tough dirt and grime and need to aggressively get your clothes clean. However, the lack of room in the drum from the agitator column could mean smaller loads and higher energy costs.

On the other hand, impeller washers are more gentle on your clothes and can help you save on detergent, water, and energy. But because they are more gentle, they might not be as effective when deep cleaning your clothes.

Cleaning Features Agitator Washing Machine Impeller Washing Machine
Gentle on Clothing? Mostly, but can be rougher on them Helps clothing last longer
Cleaning Performance? Gets tough stains out in less time May not get out deep dirt the first time
Wash Cycle Speed? Faster Slower
More Space for Large and Bulky Loads? Not typically, unless you choose a high capacity machine Yes
Energy Efficiency? Good Best


Find the Best Agitator vs. Impeller Washing Machines at Rent-A-Center

Are you apt to choose an agitator? Compelled toward an impeller? Can’t decide? Whatever the case, Rent-A-Center has what you need. From the best impeller washers from Maytag, Amana agitator machines, and even the 2-in-1 impeller AND agitator washer from Whirlpool, Rent-A-Center carries the brands you love at a price you can afford.

Only Rent-A-Center offers name brands like Whirlpool and Maytag with no-credit payment plans, free repairs through the life of your contract, and the ability to upgrade anytime! Find your brand-name washing machine online or at your local Rent-A-Center today.

About Us

The good things in life don’t have to be out of reach. Rent-A-Center is here to make the things you want and need accessible, and Front & Center is your resource for living well on a budget.

Each week, we’ll bring you tips and tricks for infusing simplicity, style—even a little fun—into every aspect of your life and home. From decorating advice to money-saving strategies to opportunities to share with others like you, we’ll give you ideas that inspire. Live well, friends. And send your submissions, suggestions and questions for the blog to blog@rentacenter.com. For all customer service inquiries, please contact our Solution Center team at 1-800-422-8186.