Off-Grid Washing Machine: How to Wash Clothes Off the Grid

by Oliver Guess | LAST UPDATED June 3, 2021

Clothes hanging to dry
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Solar and wind power are making strides to improve energy production and consumption numbers by the year.

However, the unfortunate truth is that they are still pretty far from being able to reliably provide enough power to cover even half of the everyday electricity consumption of the average house.

This is the main reason why the first thing that most people do when they convert their home for off-grid living is get rid of all of the devices that might draw too much electricity. On the top of that list are household appliances like microwaves, air conditioners, and the subject of today’s article - washing machines.

Is it Really Impossible?

Strictly speaking - no, it isn’t impossible to power a washing machine purely off of solar power.

However, the sheer amount of electricity that’s required to get through even one wash cycle is probably going to drain a lot of the power at your disposal and leave you without electricity for that day.

Aside from that, standard electric washing machines are also known for using a large amount of water to wash a single load of laundry.

The excess water usage combined with the less than energy-efficient nature of the appliances makes them a virtual nightmare for any homesteader.

Luckily, a few off-grid washing machine options can mitigate most of the issues that the standard models have and will allow you to wash your clothes without worrying about wasting all that water or electricity.

Off-Grid Washing Machine Options

Fresh laundry

Don’t worry; we won’t just give you a list of washboards and hand-crank clothes wringers that you can use to wash your clothes.

While those items will appear on the list due to their practical nature, there are also a lot of water and energy-efficient washing machines that you can go for as well.

Those are usually more compact mini washing machines that will provide you with everything you might need to get the dirt off of your shirts. The only thing that you should keep in mind is that due to their smaller size, a large family is going to need to do several small loads before they’re able to get all of their laundry sorted out.

Aside from that, each washing machine will have its own strengths and weaknesses, but we’ll get to those in the sections below.

No Washing Machine at All

The first thing that probably popped into your head is - laundromat.

And yes, using a laundromat allows you to have a place where you can wash your dirty clothes without having to resort to hand washing or buying some sort of portable washing machine. This is a pretty easy solution if you have a problem with your pipes or if your washer is on the fritz, but otherwise, it’s generally a bad idea in the long run. Laundromats are pretty cheap, so you don’t have to worry about the cost of washing clothes; however, there are other issues.

Your off-grid home more than likely is going to be located pretty far from town, meaning that you’ll need to drive quite a ways and waste a lot of fuel just to be able to have clean clothes.

Another option is to do the laundry when you’re in town on other business, which means that if you don’t go into town for a while, you’re just going to have a pile of dirty clothes sitting in your house for weeks.

Let’s say that your house is a 5-minute walk from town; there’s still the high possibility that your city simply might not have a laundromat that you could use. Laundromats are actually pretty rare in small towns, so it wouldn’t surprise us if that were the case.

If all of the potential issues we raised don’t bother you or don’t apply to you, then a laundromat is the way to go, and you should feel free to skip the rest of this article.

However, in our opinion, there are quite a few much better and much more sustainable long-term off-grid washing machine options that are available to you.

The Laundry Alternative Wonderwash Non-electric Portable Compact Mini Washing Machine

Off-grid washing machine - Wash

This is a pretty well-loved portable washing machine due to its small size, ridiculously cheap $60 price, and usefulness.

The Wonderwash is a non-electric hand-crank-powered washing machine, which means that it’s a perfect fit for your off-grid laundry needs.

Since it lacks a motor or any moving parts, this particular clothes washer is likely to serve you well for years and years without needing repairs or maintenance.

The vertical lever attached to this off-grid washing machine allows you to set the spin cycle speed yourself.

You can turn the level a bit more rigorously to take care of stubborn stains faster, or you can go gently for any softer fabrics.

While this will require a bit of elbow grease, it’ll allow you to wash your clothes without any fear of the colors getting damaged by the rapid spinner motion that a lot of washing machines have.

The Laundry POD

Off-grid washing machine - Laundry Pod

The Laundry POD is almost identical to the Wonderwash in terms of both function and loading procedures.

Both are hand-operated manual washing machines that are loaded from the top by placing your clothes, a few gallons of water, and a small amount of laundry detergent in the opening.

They’re both rotated so that the soapy water that’s generated inside can remove the stains and the dirt from your clothes.

Both will also require a small tub or a sink where the hose can be placed so that the water can be drained after the wash cycle.

The main difference between the two is the handle’s location and the movement of the machine itself.

The Wonderwash is turned forward or backward with the handle, and the whole machine is situated on a stand that holds it in place while all of this is going on.

On the other hand, the Laundry POD uses sideways or spinning motions to turn the cage that’s inside of the machine where all of the clothes are loaded.

This laundry loading area inside the washing machine is also called an agitator, which is essentially a term that means “a device that stirs liquids.”

Both are great options, with the Laundry POD coming in at around $10 more in most stores, but the ultimate decision between the two will come down to which agitator motion is more comfortable for you.

Yirego Drumi - Portable Manual Washing Machine

Off-grid washing machine - Yirego Drumi

While we’re on the subject of comfort, the Yirego Drumi is probably the easiest hand-operated washing machine you can find on the market. More precisely, we should probably say that the Yirego Drumi is the easiest-to-use foot-operated washing machine.

This particular off-grid washing machine has a hatch at the top and a foot pedal in the front, meaning that it sort of resembles a small round trash can.

You agitate the clothes by stepping on the pedal with your foot, allowing you to add a lot more leverage by using a lot less force.

The circular agitator on the inside turns forward as you repeatedly press the pedal to control the overall speed of the wash cycle.

The size and overall functionality of the Yirego Drumi allow it to more thoroughly wash your clothes by using less water and less overall effort on your part.

However, the major downside of this option is that it costs a staggering $370, which is about five times the price of our previous entry.

If you have the funds, this will make doing the laundry a lot easier on the wrists, but otherwise, we’d recommend skipping it.

Lavario Portable Clothes Washer

Off-grid washing machine - Lavario

At a price tag of $140, the Lavario Portable Clothes Washer isn’t the cheapest option on our list, but it’s not all that expensive either.

The manual washing machine has two components - a 5-gallon bucket and a clothes basket with a long upward handle.

The procedure is pretty simple; all you have to do is fill up the clothes basket with your dirty clothes and fill the water bucket up to the halfway point.

Then, you’re going to add a detergent to the water, place the full clothes basket into the soapy water, and wait for around 20-30 minutes for the water to soak through the clothes.

After that, you’re going to grab the basket by the handle as a sort of plunger and use upwards and downwards motions to provide the momentum that’s necessary for the clothes to wash.

There are holes on the lid at the top of the basket that rinses the clothes as you move the handle up and down.

EasyGo Hand Powered Clothes Washing Wand

Off-grid washing machine - EasyGo

The old-school method of manually washing your clothes involves getting a plunger, a washtub, some laundry detergent, and putting in a bit of elbow grease.

You simply pile all of your clothes in the tub, pour in water and a detergent, and use the plunger to push the clothes down into the water and work out the dirt.

This tried and tested method is still alive and well today, but the EasyGo Hand Powered, Clothes Washing Wand, makes it quite a bit easier.

The ergonomic design and the overall shape and functionality of the nozzle make it much easier to use, with as little strain on your muscles as possible.

At an average price of around $30, this is also one of the cheapest manual washing options available to you.

Additionally, the size of the laundry load that you can wash is limited only by the size of the tub you use, and you can easily handle as much laundry in a single go as a twin tub washer. This is a pretty stark contrast to other off-grid washing machines, which have a minimal capacity.

The only downside to this option is that it’s the least convenient method in terms of how much effort you’ll actually need to put in to wash all of your clothes properly.

However, if you think of this as getting a workout at the same time as doing your chores, then it’s a win-win.

Lehman's Own Laundry Agitator Hand Washer Tub and Wringer

Off-grid washing machine - lehmans

Continuing with the old-school theme, Lehman's Own Laundry Agitator Hand Washer Tub and Wringer is the closest thing to the way that our forefathers did things that you can get.

This machine embodies the DIY clothes washing mentality so well that we’re pretty sure the Amish community would approve it.

The washer comes with a washtub that’s attached to a hand-crank wringer. You simply add water and detergent to the washtub, use the agitator to wash your clothes after they’ve been soaked for a little while, and start wringing them through one by one.

It doesn’t exactly have a spin-dry function, but in fairness, this is the closest thing to a built-in spin dryer that you’re likely going to get from a non-electric washer.

The biggest flaw with this machine is undoubtedly going to be its absurd price tag.

You can find it on Amazon, Walmart, and many other stores, but the price will always sit somewhere along the lines of $900.

The wringer by itself might be worth it if you buy it for its $200 solo price, but the rest of the components of this off-grid washing machine are usually deemed too pricey by most people.

Additionally, while it might drastically cut down on the drying time, you can simply use a clothesline instead of a wringer and save even more money.

Conclusion

off grid washing machine conclusion

There will be high-efficiency washing machines that use far less water and power than a standard model on the market.

However, homesteading is characterized by preparedness, and it’s honestly doubtful that you’ll be able to run even a small washing machine in a tiny house without installing a huge solar panel array.

The options that we’ve laid out might not be as easy as the load-and-press method of standard washing machines, but the other advantages that they provide are undeniable.

The 6 Best Off-Grid Washing Machines: 

  1. The Laundry Alternative Wonderwash Non-electric Portable Compact Mini Washing Machine
  2. The Laundry POD
  3. Yirego Drumi - Portable Manual Washing Machine
  4. Lavario Portable Clothes Washer
  5. EasyGo Hand Powered Clothes Washing Wand
  6. Lehman's Own Laundry Agitator Hand Washer Tub and Wringer

Buyers Guide

Let’s walk you through some of the key points to consider when buying an off-grid washing machine.

Dimensions

The importance of the dimensions of your off-grid washing machine are twofold. It must be small enough that it doesn’t take up too much space in your home. But on the flip side, it must have a big enough capacity to accommodate a whole load of laundry in one sitting.

This is pretty easy to achieve if you live alone, but those with medium to large size families may struggle. To see the dimensions of each of the machines we reviewed, simply click on the link for more information.

How It’s Powered

When living off grid, it makes sense to invest in a generator for times when you need some electricity. However, you want to avoid using the generator as much as possible so that you don’t keep running out of fuel to run it.

For that reason, it’s worth looking into washing machines that don’t run on electricity. In case you missed it earlier, we can confirm that such machines do exist. They are referred to as manual washing machines.

Want to know how exactly they work? That leads us nicely onto our next section.

Easy To Use

One of the clear advantages of manual washing machines is that they don’t tend to feature an overcomplicated array of buttons and dials that you often see on electrical washing machines. Instead, they are much more straightforward to use.

However, they will of course require some manual effort on your part. There are two main types of manual washing machines. But they all work on very similar principles. You add water and detergent into some form of tub and agitate the laundry within the tub so that the detergent can get to any stains and odors and work its magic.

Types Of Manual Washing Machines

The two main types of manual washing machines include hand-crank ones, which require you to turn a crank or repeatedly push down a lever.

Examples include our number one pick, the Wonderwash, our number two pick, the Laundry Pod, our number 4 pick, the Lavario washer, and our number 6 pick, the Lehman's Own Laundry Agitator Hand Washer Tub and Wringer.

The other main type of manual washing machine is one that requires you to push a pedal to agitate the laundry in the tub. This tends to require far less effort and exertion than hand crank models. If this is of particular interest to you, we can recommend our number 3 pick, the Yirego Drumi.

Easy To Maintain

Ideally, you don’t want to have to take long trips into town to get your machine repaired if it starts to cause problems. Ideally, you want to be able to take care of any maintenance issues that arise without having to call someone out to do it all for you.

Machines that don’t feature a motor or too many moving parts are much easier to maintain than their counterparts, and you will get a good, long lifespan from them. And luckily, this is a common feature of all of the off-grid washing machines that made our shortlist.

Efficiency

Manual washing machines can be quite exhausting to use. You often have to expend considerable effort to wash your laundry with them. And more effort again if the items included are quite dirty or quite stubbornly stained.

Washing As Much Laundry In One Go As Possible

So, washing machines that can wash as many clothes as possible in one sitting are preferable. And if this is of particular interest to you, we can recommend our number 5 pick, the EasyGo Hand Powered Clothes Washing Wand.

This is because you can use the wand with any tub of your liking. Including very large tubs, or even bathtubs, enabling you to get quite a lot of laundry cleaned in one sitting, which is perfect for those of you with large families.

Using As Little Water As Possible And Detergent As Possible

Some off-grid washing machines require less water than others. But to be honest, how much detergent you will need depends very much on how dirty, sweaty or stained the laundry happens to be.

Drying The Clothes After Washing

Another thing to consider is the drying of the clothes. Before you get set to dry the clothes on the line, you must first drain the tub of dirty water, and wring the clothes dry as best you can. Because you can’t always rely on the weather being sunny enough to dry clothes that aren’t first rung dry.

To that end, we can recommend our number 6 pick, the Lehman's Own Laundry Agitator Hand Washer Tub and Wringer.

Warranty

Several of the off-grid washing machines that made our shortlist come backed by a decent manufacturer’s warranty.

Being backed by a manufacturer’s warranty is a good sign of quality, and will give you confidence that you are buying a good quality product that is designed to last.

Value For Money

Please don’t spend any more money on your off-grid washing machine than you really need to. We encourage you to go ahead and check the prices of all the machines that we’ve shown you here today. Decide on your budget and try to stick to it as best you can. Money doesn’t grow on trees.

You may have noticed that in our washing machine reviews, we tried to select options for a variety of budgets.

But we should point out at this point that even the more old-fashioned seeming options, such as the Lehman's Own Laundry Agitator Hand Washer Tub and Wringer, can actually work out at a much more expensive price than you might expect.

But, if you’re aiming to save as much money as possible, the most affordable option in our shortlist is our number five pick, the EasyGo Hand Powered Clothes Washing Wand, which costs a mere $30. Though, you will also need a tub.

Further Information

For further information on sustainable living, including the use of manual washing machines, please check out this Wikipedia link.

Oliver Guess
Oliver is an off-grid living enthusiast currently residing in the mountains of New Mexico. His interests in sustainability originally lead him down the path of an off the grid lifestyle. When he's not tinkering with his broken solar panels, Oliver enjoys searching out hot springs, whittling and cooking.

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