While the washing machine has been around since the late 1600's, it was not until the 1950's that it began to resemble what we now have in our homes. Early washing machines were little more than a primitive washboard and wringer. However, following World War II, the industrial might of the United States of America turned its efforts towards modernizing the washing machine. The first modern washing machines featured electric drums and agitators arranged in a top-loading format. These early automatic washers were expensive and outside the financial reach of many consumers. However, by 1953 sales of automatic washing machines had exceeded those of the more primitive wringer-type electric washers.
At the same time that top-loading washers were beginning to become popular in the United States, front-loading washers were taking off in Europe. It would take another four decades before the front-loading washer's popularity would bring it back across the Atlantic Ocean to North America. Surprisingly, the modern top-loading washing machine is actually a much more complicated machine than its front-loading rival. This is primarily due to the gearbox drive that is necessary to rotate the wash drum and agitator separately. However, thanks to its vertical orientation, the rest of the washing process is aided by gravity. The large upright drum of a top-loading washer gives it excellent capacity to wash generous amounts of dirty clothes in a single cycle. However, this capacity comes at a price as the drum must be completely filled with water to accommodate these loads. The agitator is designed to draw clothes into the center of the drum and downwards in a cyclical pattern during the wash cycle. Large or buoyant items like pillows and sleeping bags often do not submerge fully and as a result are better washed in front-loading machines.
Overall, the top-loading washing machine has reached the maturity of its technology. Today's top-loading washing machines are significantly larger, quieter, efficient and reliable when compared to their earliest predecessors over 60 years ago. Find out more about Top-Loading Washing Machines.