Note to readers:
After the email asking about fulling in top vs front loaders, I received some informative feedback.
I'm a different Margaret than the one asking the question about fulling. I have a top loading washer with a glass top and it is very interesting to watch the wash. It is a high efficient washer (HE) which uses much less water and much less detergent, bleach, etc., than the old ones. It is unbelievable that the clothes get clean with the small amount of water used—hence the "interesting" in watching it wash. Just wanted you to know. Thanks for your column.
If you look at the action of a front loader, you will see that it does not appear to agitate at all. My Maytag has a rolling motion, not the up and down and spin agitation of the top loaders. You can truly do an equivalent of a handwash in them. I have yet to felt a sweater with it and use it for cleaning vintage crochet work and deconstructed silk ties. I am about to hook up an old top loader as a secondary washer just for fiber work. You can wash raw wool, bypassing the agitation cycle. You can use it for more control on fulling. I will use it for dye experiments. These are two different tools with different qualities.
Front loading washers are GREAT for fulling handwoven fabric! I have only owned front loaders since 1962. You can open them any time you want during a cycle although the process does vary with the brand of washer. My first one, back in the 1960s was a Westinghouse which had a wait time for the machine to unlock after hitting the stop control. It was about a 4 minute wait which wasn't too bad. After the Westinghouse I had a Maytag and currently have a Bosch, both of which open without a waiting period of that duration. No, the water will not fall out! The front loading tubs are designed with a bit of a backward tilt and since they are a low water machine there is no problem. This is a great factor if you are a city dweller and must pay for your water supply. The fulling process in the front loader gives a more even fulling of fabrics— think of the tumbling motion of the washing tub in this model. The tumbling motion is why this model also is rated much higher in cleaning ability than top loading machines. I would never consider a top loading machine for several other reasons: clothing gets easily tangled, the agitator causes more wear on fabrics, the cost of the water and detergent (more detergent is needed in top washers). You would love a front loading machine!
(Retired Home Economist)