Skip to Content

Agitator vs. Impeller Comparison: Which Is Better?

Agitator vs. Impeller Comparison: Which Is Better?

When choosing a top-loading machine, there are several things, including budget and brand, that you should consider. One key aspect among these is whether you want one with an agitator or impeller.

So, agitator vs. impeller—which one should you choose?

This article will give you a clear insight into these components and what they offer for your washing experience. 

Agitator vs. Impeller Differences

Agitators tend to beat clothes while impellers spin them. Both types of washers have different washing methods that sometimes lead to different cleaning performances with varying degrees of efficiency.

A key difference between the two components is their function. This is evident from their design. Whereas the agitator swings and rotates to clean, impellers have more than one blade that rotates in a water-filled drum. 

They work differently to achieve the same purpose: mixing clothes with water, detergent, and other washing additives to get a thorough wash.


Washing machine agitator vs impeller featuring an agitator sticking up from the bottom of the drum


These are revolving and sometimes pivoting rods found in the washing drum’s center or outermost part. They have handles that push up or down to switch directions.

Their key purpose is to thoroughly mix wash water among clothes and break up and suspend heavy items like rocks or rags. Agitators are most commonly found in top-loading washing machines but are sometimes found in front loaders. 


Image of a washing machine impeller at the bottom of a drum to compare this to a rotating agitator


These are rotating alternatives to the agitator. Their main function is similar to that of an agitator’s, mixing clothes during the wash to achieve uniform cleaning and soil removal. You can quickly identify them by the two or more blades that cover the central axis.

Cleaning Action

One of the primary differences between washing machines that use agitators and those that use impellers is the cleaning action. With the latter, cleaning occurs as the agitator rubs against dirt and stains to loosen and break them apart.

The more it rubs, the greater its cleaning action. On the other hand, impellers use discs, cones, fins, or wheels. These rotate gently to rub clothes against each other to loosen dirt and stains. 

Agitators are great at breaking down heavy items, like rags and rocks, while impellers do a better job of screening out small particles.

As such, when choosing whether to use an agitator or an impeller, you need to consider the type of clothes you will be washing and your preference. 

What Are The Pros and Cons of Agitator vs Impeller?

Advantages and disadvantages on washers with an agitator vs an impeller

Andrey Burmakin/Shutterstock

There are advantages and disadvantages to using a washer with an agitator vs an impeller. Here’s a breakdown of each machine and what you can expect:

Agitator Pros

  • Removes tough stains
  • Heavy-duty washing machine
  • It may provide quicker wash cycles

Impeller Pros

  • Eco-friendly washer that doesn’t use as much water overall
  • It offers a gentle and thorough cleaning action
  • More space is available for the simple loading and unloading of bulky laundry items

Agitator Cons

  • Not as gentle on delicate fibers because the agitator removes soil by running against the clothes directly
  • It uses a lot of water
  • There is less room in the basket for laundry

Impeller Cons

  • May not clean heavily soiled fibers as well
  • The machine’s balance gets thrown off sometimes during high-speed cycles because the clothes are twisted around each other inside

Factors To Choose The Right One 

Washing machine agitator vs impeller image showing a woman shopping for a new appliance

Vermont Art/Shutterstock

There are a few things you need to consider when choosing between the two. These include:

Your Budget 

Before you even begin choosing the type of washer you’ll purchase, there’s one major restricting factor: your budget. In this regard, top loaders that use agitators tend to be cheaper than their front-loading counterparts that use impellers. 

If you’re looking for an affordable option, an agitator will be your most likely option. On the other hand, if your budget isn’t as much of a concern, then you’re better off choosing a front-loading machine with an impeller.


Like any other product, some brands produce washers with both agitators and impellers. However, different brands offer varying quality products, features, and warranty terms.

If you’re a brand loyalist who’s looking for the best of your favorite brand, then an agitator will most likely be your choice.


Agitators and impellers not only differ in their cleaning action, but they also offer a different range of features. For instance, agitators can come with attachments like scrubbers that enhance their cleaning action.

On the other hand, front-loading washing machines with impellers usually come with more advanced features, like digital displays. If you prefer a washer with advanced features, then you’ll likely end up with a washer with an impeller.


If you live in a large household and have more than two people, a washer with a high capacity will serve you best. Agitators are better at handling heavy items like rags and rocks, while impellers excel at screening small particles. 

If your clothes tend to get dirtier than others, an agitator will be your best option. On the other hand, washers with impellers allow you to fit more clothes into a wash cycle.

Types of Clothes 

Before deciding whether to purchase a washer with either one of the two components, you need to consider the type of clothes it will wash. Agitators do a better job breaking down heavy items like rags and rocks, while impellers are better at washing delicate garments.

If you’re looking for a washer that can handle cleaning dirty work clothes, then agitator-equipped washers are for you. If you want to wash delicate clothes with optimal cleaning performance, then an impeller-equipped washer will be better suited for your needs.


Both washing machines have a standard warranty of one year that covers the parts but does not deal with labor or service calls for free. However, some manufacturers may exclude deterioration from wear or tear and damage caused by disasters like floods.

If you want to get a washer with the best warranty terms, check the manufacturer’s warranty terms and how they define “warranty” in their language.


Agitator-equipped washers tend to use more detergent than impeller-equipped washing machines, which reduces their overall operating cost.

Purchase a washer with an agitator if you want to reduce electricity bills and save on your power bill. If you want to spend less money on your detergent, purchase a washing machine equipped with an impeller.


Generally, agitator-equipped washing machines are available to handle 5 lbs/2.25 kg of clothes, while impeller washers only hold 4.5 lb/2 kg of clothes.

If you want a large machine capable of handling your frequent laundry needs or have many people in your household, an agitator is your best option.

Is an Impeller More Reliable Than an Agitator?

Guy installing a washing machine agitator in a top-loading washer

David Spates/Shutterstock

Whether or not an impeller is more reliable than an agitator depends on your preferences. For example, a person concerned with energy consumption will find having an impeller more reliable.

Impellers need far less water to operate and can clean moderately soiled clothes with less energy than an agitator.

Conversely, if your clothes are soiled, an impeller won’t be as reliable as an agitator. This is because agitators are more potent than impellers.

They actively work the dirt loose without relying on the friction from the spinning clothes in an impeller to do most of the heavy lifting.

Moreover, agitators submerge your clothes entirely in the water, allowing them to soak to loosen the dirt more efficiently.

Are Washers Without Agitators Better?

A washer without an agitator is more beneficial to energy-conscious individuals. People who want to be green will be happy to learn that washers without agitators are more energy efficient than those with agitators.

Agitators require more water to operate, so their energy consumption is smaller compared to impellers. However, if by better you mean which washer is more proficient at cleaning clothes, then having a washer with an agitator is the best choice.

Agitators generate torque specifically designed to remove dirt and don’t rely on friction between spinning clothes to remove dirt. Because of this design, agitators are better at cleaning clothes.

Our Pick
Kenmore 28" Top-Load Washer with Triple Action Agitator
Check Latest Price
We may earn a commission when you click this link, at no extra cost to you.

Which Is Better: Agitator or Impeller?

Since agitators and impellers are both effective for different types of cleaning, the ultimate decision of which one is better comes down to the specific buyer.

It’s better to purchase a washer with an agitator if you have a lot of challenging and thick fabrics that’ll require a rougher, more intense cleaning action.

Items that tend to get heavily soiled are more likely to come clean when an agitator is used. With this type of machine, you will have less space available, but you should also have fewer overall loads to neutralize that factor.

You’ll choose an impeller washer if you want a more eco-friendly choice that easily handles your everyday clothes. While you can still use it to clean fabrics such as denim, an impeller washer may not be as effective against heavy stains.