Top-Loading Machines vs. Front-Loading Machines

  • Front loading machines, like the ones here at Middlebury, use less energy and water.
  • About 85% of the energy consumed by a washing machine goes to heating the water, so switching to cold water saves more energy!
  • Wash agitators in top-loading machines require more energy and induce more wear and tear on clothing, while also providing less room for larger items like rugs and comforters.


  • Emissions from washers and dryers include components have been shown to classify as hazardous air pollutants and known/probably carcinogens.
    • In a 2011 study, investigators identified 29 volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the dryer-vent emissions.
    • The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classifies seven of the VOCs found in dryer-vent emissions–acetaldehyde, benzene, ethylbenzene, methanol, m/p-xylene, o-xylene, and toluene–as hazardous air pollutants.
  • One laundry detergent brands’ acetaldehyde annual emissions is 1,660lb. Automobile emissions of the same chemical are approximately 56,000lb/year. Looking at the top 5 laundry detergents, emissions of acetaldehyde represent 6% of automobile emissions.
  • Mice exposed to emissions from fabric-softener products experienced trouble breathing and other irritation.

What You Can Do

  • Do fewer laundry loads!
    • This will use less water and less energy.
  • Switch to cold water (save energy!).
  • Continue using front-loading washers.
  • Stop using fabric softeners, or switch to more environmentally-conscious brands.
  • Stay away from laundry products packaged in plastic.

Boronow, K.E., Brody, J.G., Schaider, L.A. et al. Serum concentrations of PFASs and exposure-related behaviors in African American and non-Hispanic white women. J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol 29, 206–217 (2019).

Kessler, Rebecca. “Dryer vents: an overlooked source of pollution?” Environmental Health Perspectives, vol. 119, no. 11, 2011, p. A 474+. Gale OneFile: Environmental Studies and Policy, Accessed 19 July 2021.

Lamarre, Leslie. “The new line on laundry.” EPRI Journal, vol. 22, no. 6, 1997, p. 14+. Gale OneFile: Environmental Studies and Policy, Accessed 19 July 2021.

Steinemann, A.C., Gallagher, L.G., Davis, A.L. et al. Chemical emissions from residential dryer vents during use of fragranced laundry products. Air Qual Atmos Health 6, 151–156 (2013).