How much water does the average top load washing machine use?

Quick Answer

The average top load washing machine uses between 30 and 45 gallons of water per load. However, water usage can vary considerably based on the machine’s age, capacity, settings, and efficiency. Newer, high-efficiency top loaders use 15-30 gallons per load.

How Washing Machines Use Water

Top load washing machines require water to wet the clothes, dissolve detergent, and rinse away dirt and soap. Water enters the wash tub from the bottom through small holes in an agitator or impeller. The amount of water needed depends on:

  • Machine capacity – Larger tubs need more water to wet the clothes.
  • Water level settings – Most machines have various water level options.
  • Wash cycle settings – Bulky/heavy duty cycles use more water.
  • Agitator vs impeller – Impellers require less water than agitators.
  • Age – Newer washers are more water-efficient.

During the wash cycle, an agitator oscillates or an impeller spins, mixing the detergent and water with the clothing. The movement helps loosen dirt.

After washing, drain pumps remove the soiled water, sending it through the drain hose. The washer takes in fresh water to rinse the clothes multiple times. This clears away detergent residue and remaining dirt particles.

Water Used by Conventional Top Load Washers

Traditional top load washing machines built before the 2000s typically use between 40-45 gallons of water per full load. Each load option on a conventional washer uses different amounts of water:

Load Size Gallons of Water Used
Small 25-30 gallons
Medium 30-35 gallons
Large/Full 40-45 gallons

These inefficient washers have limited options for water levels. Even small loads use a substantial amount of water.

Some key things to know about conventional top load washers:

  • Most have a standard agitator in the middle of the wash basket.
  • They lack sensors to detect load sizes and customize water levels.
  • Water often needs to fully submerge the clothes.
  • Rinse water is not recycled between cycles.
  • They operate on a simple fill-agitate-drain process.

Water Used by High-Efficiency Top Loaders

Since the 2000s, federal standards require new washers to use less water and energy. High-efficiency (HE) top loaders use advanced technology to optimize water usage across load sizes:

  • Low-water wash action – HE wash plates or impellers use less water than traditional agitators.
  • Auto water level sensing – Sensors detect the load size and add the right amount of water.
  • Recirculating wash/rinse water – HE washers reuse water multiple times.

On average, an HE top loading washer uses 15-30 gallons of water per load. Exact usage depends on model, settings, and load size:

Load Size Gallons of Water Used
Small 15-20 gallons
Medium 20-25 gallons
Large/Full 25-30 gallons

Compared to conventional designs, HE top loaders use anywhere from 33% to 50% less water.

Water Usage by Washer Capacity

The tub capacity or drum size also impacts total water usage:

  • Standard size – Most full-size washers have capacities of 3.5-5 cubic feet. Their average water use ranges from 30-45 gallons per load.
  • Large capacity – Jumbo washers with 5-6 cubic foot tubs use 35-50 gallons per load.
  • Compact size – Washers under 3 cubic feet have capacities for 15-25 pound loads. They use just 15-30 gallons per load.

Larger wash tub volumes need more water to wet the clothes. Compact washers require less water overall.

Water Efficient Washing Machine Brands

Some top brands making high-efficiency top load washing machines include:

  • LG – TurboWash models with AI technology adjust water levels for each load.
  • Samsung – Ecobubble washers and AI technology reduce water usage.
  • Whirlpool – Cabrio models use As Low As setting to match water to load size.
  • Amana – Triple Action Impeller washing machines are very efficient.
  • Speed Queen – TR7 models have automatic water level settings.

When shopping, look for washers certified with the ‘ENERGY STAR Most Efficient’ designation. These models represent the top tier of water and energy efficiency.

Factors That Impact Water Usage

Several washing machine settings and use factors affect the amount of water used per load:

Wash Cycles

Water-intensive cycles like Heavy Duty, Bulky Items, or Deep Fill use more water. The opposite is true for light/delicate cycles.

Load Size

Smaller loads require less water. Fully packed washers use the most.

Soil Level

Heavily soiled laundry may need extra rinse cycles and water to remove detergent residue.

Water Pressure

Homes with high water pressure fill machines faster, potentially using more water.

Detergent Type

Liquid detergents rinse away more easily than powders, requiring less water.

Fabric Softener

Softeners can leave behind residue, requiring additional rinse water.

Water Supply

In hard water areas, more rinses may be needed to prevent mineral buildup.

How to Reduce Washer Water Usage

You can take steps to decrease water consumption on your top load washing machine:

  • Only wash full loads when possible.
  • Select the proper wash cycle and settings for each load.
  • UseLess detergent to reduce rinse requirements.
  • Install a water-efficient low-flow faucet.
  • Inspect hoses and valves for leaks.
  • Compare water usage when buying a new washer.
  • Upgrade to a high-efficiency model.

Simple changes in operation and maintenance go a long way in saving water.

Average Water Used by Washing Machines in the US

The Alliance for Water Efficiency estimates that the average washing machine in the US uses:

  • 41.6 gallons per load for conventional top load washers
  • 28.3 gallons per load for ENERGY STAR top loaders
  • 15.3 gallons per load for ENERGY STAR front load washers

Based on an average of 295 wash loads per household annually, the total yearly water used equates to:

  • 12,272 gallons for conventional top load washers
  • 8,339 gallons for ENERGY STAR top loaders
  • 4,514 gallons for ENERGY STAR front loaders

High-efficiency washers can save homeowners between 4,000-8,000 gallons of water per year compared to conventional models. This reduces waste and utility costs.

Global Water Usage Comparisons

Top loading washers in North America generally use more water than front loading European or Asian models:

Washer Type Average Water Used Per Load
North American Top Loader 40-45 gallons
European Front Loader 15-30 gallons
Asian Front Loader 10-20 gallons

Cultural washing habits and sizes, consumer expectations, energy costs and water availability all influence regional washer designs.

Water Usage by Commercial Washers

Commercial washing machines in laundromats, apartments, and laundries use more water than residential washers. High-capacity commercial top load washers use about 100-150 gallons of water per load. Other commercial washer types average:

Washer Type Average Water Used Per Load
Stacked Washer/Dryer 45 gallons
Coin-Operated Top Loader 40-50 gallons
Multi-Housing Top Loader 30-40 gallons
Commercial Front Loader 25-30 gallons

There are over 5 million commercial washers in the US. Replacing older inefficient models with high-efficiency washers can realize significant water savings.

Future Washer Technology Improvements

Washing machine companies are innovating with smart technology to optimize wash cycles and further reduce water use:

  • Load sensing – Sensors provide real-time feedback to add precise amounts of water.
  • Soil sensors – Optical sensors detect how dirty laundry is to customize wash cycles.
  • Leak prevention – Smart diagnostics detect potential leaks to prevent water waste.
  • Remote monitoring – Mobile apps notify owners about washer faults and problems.

Continued improvements in wash systems, motors, pumps and controls will increase efficiency. Next-generation washing machines could use up to 70% less water than current conventional models.


On average, conventional top loading washing machines use 40-45 gallons of water per load. High-efficiency models average 15-30 gallons per load. Wash settings, load size, soil level and other factors influence water consumption. Proper washer operation and maintenance can optimize water efficiency. Washing machine manufacturers continue innovating with smart technology to reduce water waste and costs.

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