Are Portable Washing Machines Any Good?

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Written By Jay Clatworthy

Off Grid Camping contributor.

What are portable washing machines?

Portable washing machines are smaller, more compact versions of what is normally used in households. It is especially useful when going on camping trips where the campsite doesn’t offer clothes washing facilities. Portable washing machines make washing clothes easier they are also convenient:

  • Small 
  • Lightweight and easy to move
  • Do not need a permanent water line, just a faucet

Portable washing machines provide an easier way for you to get your clothes clean pretty much anywhere you find yourself.

Where can you use a portable washing machine?

As you can easily transport a portable washing machine, you can use it almost anywhere:

  • Camping 
  • Caravanning 
  • In your apartment  (if your landlord allows it)

How many kilos can a portable washing machine hold?

Portable washing machines are more compact versions of the usual washing machines, this means that you can only wash a limited amount of clothes in a single wash cycle.

It can hold up to 2 to 5 kg of clothes which includes the amount of water you can put in during washing. It also comes with easy-to-follow manuals on how to properly operate and care for it so always read the manual before using your portable washing machine.

Portable washing machines and alternatives

There are two types of portable washing machines: single tub and twin tub. Getting the right type for you depends on:

  • Your needs – A portable washing machine offers convenience even in places with no clothes washing facilities. Do you frequently go to these places? If so, a portable washing machine may be for you.
  • Budget – Portable washing machines usually go for 100 dollars and above, you can get the more high-end ones without breaking the bank
  • Space – Consider the space inside the vehicle you will use to transport the washing machine. RVs or trailer cars can accommodate the larger ones and in case of limited space, there are foldable alternatives.
  • Regular washing load – Remember that portable washing machines do not hold much in terms of water and dirty clothes. When using one, try to limit the clothes that you use so that you can do laundry in one wash cycle.

Single tub vs. twin tub

A single tub portable washing machine offers the following:

  1. Clothes wash function
  2. Smaller size = portability
  3. Requires less water

While the twin tub has the following functions:

  1. Clothes wash function
  2. Spin dryer function
  3. Requires less water
  4. Larger than single tubs

The bottom line: single tub washing machines are more portable but do not offer clothes drying options while twin tubs have washing and drying but are larger, which affects portability.
BCF offer this Camec single tub option and there are other options available at My Generator as well.

Alternative for portable washing machine

Portable washing machines are convenient but in the end, they are only usable in places where you have a faucet or if you have the space to bring it.

For those times when your circumstances do not allow you to have a portable washing machine here are a few alternative options that will still help you clean your clothes:

DIY washing machine

Making your own washing machine is certainly cheaper than buying one straight from the store. For this you will need: 

  • 2 five gallon buckets
  • 2 new toilet plungers
  • A drill with ¾ drill bit

With your materials and tools follow these instructions:

  1. Drill holes in the bottom and side of the buckets
  2. Drill a bigger hole for the bushing in the lid
  3. Drill three holes in the plunger. This becomes the agitator for your DIY washing machine.
  4. Put the plunger inside the bucket and insert the handle on the spot on the lid
  5. Put the bucket into another bucket with no holes

To use your DIY washing machine:

  1. Put your dirty clothes, detergent, and water into the bucket.
  2. Close the bucket with the lid.
  3. Create movement by moving the plunger up and down.
  4. Discard the used water properly.
  5. Pour in clean water and follow steps 1 to 4 to rinse your clothes.
  6. Wring out the water from your clothes.
  7. Hang your clothes on a drying rack or clothesline.

A DIY washing machine is easy to make with little to no cost at all. It is a great option for any camping trip as it’s also easy enough for even children to use.

Foldable washing machine

Foldable washing machines are fairly new on the scene. Some even have basket attachments that allow it to have a spin dryer function. It’s foldable so it occupies less space. To use it, you just need to:

  1. Put your clothes inside
  2. Add soap, water, and detergent
  3. Drain the water and use the spin dryer function (if it has one)

Despite it’s convenience, there are some downsides to this type of portable washing machine: 

  • It can only wash underwear, socks, shirts, and baby wear but not heavy clothes like jeans or sweaters.
  • It has a small capacity
  • The spin dryer function does not completely dry clothes, just enough so it does not drip
  • You will need to connect it to an outlet, which is a problem if your campsite does not have electrical outlets. 

If you decide to buy one, here are a few recommendations that can be found on Kogan.

Hand-operated washing machine

These washing machines are hand-cranked in order to agitate the clothes inside. Hand-operated washing machines are portable and use little space, so they can be carried anywhere, which makes them perfect for camping trips especially when it is difficult to wash your clothes. 

To use, all you need to do is:

  1. Put your clothes inside the washing machine
  2. Add water, soap, and detergent
  3. Spin the handle outside
  4. Drain the water.
  5. For the rinse cycle, put in the appropriate amount of water.
  6. Spin the handle to agitate the clothes.
  7. Drain the water and repeat steps 5 to 7 as necessary.

Washing machines like these, do a good job of cleaning your clothes. However, be prepared to do some wringing before hanging your clothes. This machine does not dry your clothes, it only does a wash and rinses cycle. If it fits your needs and lifestyle you can buy a hand-cranked washing machine here.