The front-loading or horizontal-axis clothes washer is the dominant design in Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Africa, and much of the rest of the world. In the US and elsewhere, most "high-end" washing machines are of this type. In addition, most commercial and industrial clothes washers around the world are of the horizontal-axis design.
This layout mounts the inner basket and outer tub horizontally, and loading is through a door at the front of the machine. The door often but not always contains a transparent window. Agitation is supplied by the back-and-forth rotation of the cylinder and by gravity. The clothes are lifted up by paddles on the inside wall of the drum and then dropped. This motion flexes the weave of the fabric and forces water and detergent solution through the clothes load. Because the wash action does not require the clothing be freely suspended in water, only enough water is needed to moisten the fabric. Because less water is required, front-loaders typically use less soap, and the repeated dropping and folding action of the tumbling can easily produce large amounts of foam or suds.
Front-loaders control water usage through the surface tension of water, and the capillary wicking action this creates in the fabric weave. A front-loader washer always fills to the same low water level, but a large pile of dry clothing standing in water will soak up the moisture, causing the water level to drop. The washer then refills to maintain the original water level. Because it takes time for this water absorption to occur with a motionless pile of fabric, nearly all front-loaders begin the washing process by slowly tumbling the clothing under the stream of water entering and filling the drum, to rapidly saturate the clothes with water.
Front-loading washers are mechanically simple compared to top-loaders, with the main motor (usually a universal motor) normally being connected to the drum via a grooved pulley belt and large pulley wheel, without the need for a gearbox, clutch or crank. But front-load washers suffer from their own technical problems, due to the drum lying sideways. For example, a top loading washer keeps water inside the tub merely through the force of gravity pulling down on the water, while a front-loader must tightly seal the door shut with a gasket to prevent water dripping onto the floor during the wash cycle. This access door is locked shut during the entire wash cycle, since opening the door with the machine in use could result in water gushing out onto the floor. For front-loaders without viewing windows on the door, it is possible to accidentally pinch fabric between the door and the drum, resulting in tearing and damage to the pinched clothing during tumbling and spinning.
Nearly all front-loader washers for the consumer market must also use a folded flexible bellows assembly around the door opening, to keep clothing contained inside the basket during the tumbling wash cycle.Шаблон:Citation needed If this bellows assembly were not used, small articles of clothing such as socks could slip out of the wash basket near the door, and fall down the narrow slot between the outer tub and basket, plugging the drain and possibly jamming rotation of the inner basket. Retrieving lost items from between the outer tub and inner basket can require complete disassembly of the front of the washer and pulling out the entire inner wash basket. Commercial and industrial front-loaders used by businesses (described below) usually do not use the bellows, and instead require all small objects to be placed in a mesh bag to prevent loss near the basket opening.
The bellows assembly around the door is a potential source of problems for the consumer front-loader. The bellows has a large number of flexible folds to permit the tub to move separately from the door during the high speed extraction cycle. On many machines, these folds can collect lint, dirt, and moisture, resulting in mold and mildew growth, and a foul odor. Some front-loading washer operating instructions say the bellows should be wiped down monthly with a strong bleach solution, while others offer a special "freshening" cycle where the machine is run empty with a strong dosing of bleach. In the past, suggested remedies have included adding vinegar to the laundry detergent, running an empty cycle with bleach every few weeks, wiping the door gasket with a diluted bleach solution every other week, and leaving the front-loading washer door ajar between loads.
Compared to top-loading washers, clothing can be packed more tightly in a front loader, up to the full drum volume if using a cottons wash cycle. This is because wet cloth usually fits into a smaller space than dry cloth, and front loaders are able to self-regulate the water needed to achieve correct washing and rinsing. Extreme overloading of front-loading washers pushes fabrics towards the small gap between the loading door and the front of the wash basket, potentially resulting in fabrics lost between the basket and outer tub, and in severe cases, tearing of clothing and jamming the motion of the basket.