Agitator or Impeller?

Whirlpool WTW4855FW

Are you in the market for a new top load washing machine? You will quickly notice there is more than just deciding what brand you want to try. You find yourself asking a laundry *ahem, thank you* list of questions. What style of controls best suit me? Digital or dials? Simple features or do I want total control over every load? Do I want “Late Lid Lock”? Do I want “Deep Water Wash”? Porcelain or Stainless Steel tub? Then there is the question that is on everyone’s mind. Do I want an Agitator, or an Impeller?


An agitator is a spindle that is located in the center of a washing machine’s drum. The agitator is usually equipped with fins, and it twists and turns during the machine’s wash cycle, moving clothes through the water and, ideally, removing dirt from them. The motion of the agitator varies depending on the selected wash mode, so a delicate wash cycle is gentler than a standard wash cycle. In general, agitators are hard on clothes.


An impeller is a low-profile rotating hub that replaces the agitator in some washing machine models. The vanes of the impeller create turbulent currents in the wash water as the impeller rotates. In theory, these currents move the clothes through the water and clean them without the impeller making physical contact with the clothes. The clothes rub against each other creating the friction that is necessary. The impeller also takes up less space in the center of the drum, making impeller machines easier to load than agitator machines.

Higher Efficiency?

Impellers are often found in high-efficiency washing machine models that use less water than traditional models and rotate at higher speeds during spin cycles. The higher spin speeds extract more water from the clothes, so drying times are reduced. The combination of water and energy savings makes these washer models significantly more efficient than traditional models. However, the impeller itself does not add to the machine’s efficiency, so unless it incorporates other efficient features, an impeller machine is not necessarily more efficient than an agitator machine.


Impeller machines are potentially less damaging to clothes, but because of the gentler motion, they may not clean clothes as effectively as agitator machines. Agitators are relatively brutal with clothes, but their twisting and turning tends to remove dirt quickly and completely. Some impeller models are also prone to tangling clothes as the impeller rotates, which can throw the machine out of balance, particularly during the high-speed spin cycle of high-efficiency machines.

Detergent Differences

With a traditional top-loading machine that has an agitator, you can use any type of laundry detergent. With an HE top load washer, you need to be a little more picky. High-efficiency washers require detergent created for that type of machine. Don’t use regular detergent. It causes excess suds that can cut down on cleaning power or even make the machine overflow. High-efficiency detergents work especially well in small amounts of water, which is important, because high-efficiency washers use as little as a fifth of the water of traditional machines. You will need to read the owner’s manual and directions on the detergent container to determine how much to use and whether to use a dispenser.

The Beacon Difference

With all these different options, the last item to consider is where to go to make your purchase. If you need some help sorting your colors, *ahem* I mean options, Beacon has trained and knowledgeable staff who are customer advocates, and always happy to assist you. We can help make sure you get the machine that will match all of your laundry requirements and budget.

Give us a call for assistance at 352-726-7530 or visit us at www.BeaconSaves.com.

Beacon Services & Appliances | Beacon Air & Heat, Inc.

Striving For Excellence In All We Do.

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