Portable washing experiments

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conwy
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Portable washing experiments

Post by conwy »

So I purchased a portable washing machine (USB-powered) out of curiosity of whether I could realistically do my washing this way.

This disc-shaped device is fully USB-powered, fairly small (about 12cm / 4.5in diameter), light-weight (270 grams), has a 30-minute timer, and works by churning the water in two opposite directions and emitting vibrations, each at a 1-minute interval.

Image

Some motivating factors:
  • Lower power consumption
  • Ultra-minimalist nomadic lifestyle (i.e. one-bag)
  • Avoiding hassle of buying a washing machine, waiting for a long time at the laundromat, etc.
The results were mixed.

👍 Good: With a very small load, just a few pairs of underwear, and a properly sized container, washing came out clean and smelling good
👎 Bad: With a medium or large size load, the machine won't function. Seems to consume more water than my water-efficient traditional washing machine. Takes longer to dry, even with hand-wringing (1-2 days)

My procedure was as follows:
  1. Stick washing machine to floor or side of container
  2. Add some washing detergent / powder and fill with water half-way
  3. Sprinkle dry dirty clothes with some washing detergent / powder
  4. Dump clothes in and stir so they're submerged
  5. Connect and turn on the washing machine and pray
Experiment 1: Large square container, stuck washing machine to the floor, filled with water, added several pairs of underwear and 2 t-shirts.
Result was not good.

• Clothes barely budged while the machine worked at full-pelt.

• Machine cut out every time it got to the "vibrating" part of the cycle.
I was using an outlet adapter with a regular 5v / 1amp USB connection. Looks like the vibrating cycle requires more power.

Experiment 2: Smaller rectangular container, stuck washing machine to the side, filled with water, added 3 pairs of underwear only.
Result was good.

• Clothes moved around and were agitated correctly
Learning: Use smaller container and fewer/smaller clothing items.

• Machine didn't cut out for the full 30-minute period
Switching to a higher-amp "PD" adapter solved this.
Learning: Use higher amperage power-source.

• Clothes smelled fresh.

• Drying, after gentle hand-wringing, took about 2 days in moderate-warm weather (20 degrees)

Overall thoughts

I'm excited by the prospect that I could be able to do my laundry practically anywhere I live, all with this tiny device. Being USB-powered and low-wattage, I may even be able to run it off a portable battery pack or even my laptop!

While it was disappointing that the large load didn't work, I don't think I need to run such big loads most of the time. My bulkier clothes tend to be things that don't require much if any washing - jeans, jacket. Mid-sized tops like t-shirts and long-sleeve shirts can be replaced with Merino wool which doesn't need much washing; I could just hand-wash them occasionally. Also I don't mind washing 2 times per week with fewer items per load and/or re-using underwear once or twice.

Also the experiment got me questioning... if clothes washing (small-scale) can be as simple as agitating clothing for a 30 minutes, do I even need an electric device at all? Couldn't I just put the clothes in a bucket, fill with water and agitate with my feet while reading a book or working? Sounds like a nice chill exercise routine. :lol: If chemicals are an issue I could use a skin-friendly product like Dr Bronner's soap or put hand gloves over my feet.

Keen to hear any thoughts or questions. Thanks for reading!

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Last edited by conwy on Wed Apr 10, 2024 1:19 am, edited 1 time in total.

DutchGirl
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Re: Portable washing machine experiment

Post by DutchGirl »

I would experiment next by washing clothes just with your hands (or feet). The enzymes in the washing powder would probably eat away at your dead skin cells. If you do it twice a year, I wouldn't bother with protective gloves, but if you do it every week you might want to wear gloves indeed, especially if you have sensitive skin and might get eczema otherwise.

I would also experiment with handwashing by agitating the clothes in the water + washing powder - letting the clothes soak in there for fifteen to thirty minutes - agitate them a little more - drain the soapy water - rinse with several batches of clean water (agitate the clothes in it) until no more soap comes out. Otherwise the remaining soap/washing powder in your clothes might also irritate your skin.

Pros: no machine needed at all . Cons: welcome to pre-1900.

rube
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Re: Portable washing machine experiment

Post by rube »

+1 what DutchGirl says.
I once lived 6 months in a region where washing machines were not available to us and not to 98% of the local population. We just copied the local customs. That is, hand washing in a large bucket and line drying.
We also have frequently did hand washing while traveling. This product seems an electric gadget with little added value to me. A lightweight line (rope) with an adjustable hook to be able to create a line in every room, balcony or garden was something that we always had with us and valued during traveling.

zbigi
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Re: Portable washing machine experiment

Post by zbigi »

DutchGirl wrote:
Sat Mar 30, 2024 1:44 am
I would also experiment with handwashing by agitating the clothes in the water + washing powder - letting the clothes soak in there for fifteen to thirty minutes - agitate them a little more - drain the soapy water - rinse with several batches of clean water (agitate the clothes in it) until no more soap comes out. Otherwise the remaining soap/washing powder in your clothes might also irritate your skin.
This is exactly how my mom taught me to wash socks when I was little. For some reason, I was on socks duty, and had to do it by hand. I think they weren't washed in the machine with the rest of the laundry because soviet-era machines tended to "eat" small items? Or maybe it was just make-work. I have to ask.

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conwy
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Re: Portable washing machine experiment

Post by conwy »

Thanks for the tips DutchGirl!
DutchGirl wrote:
Sat Mar 30, 2024 1:44 am
I would experiment next by washing clothes just with your hands (or feet). The enzymes in the washing powder would probably eat away at your dead skin cells. If you do it twice a year, I wouldn't bother with protective gloves, but if you do it every week you might want to wear gloves indeed, especially if you have sensitive skin and might get eczema otherwise.
I'll be doing it every week just for undergarments, so I'll probably go for washing powder and gloves.
DutchGirl wrote:
Sat Mar 30, 2024 1:44 am
I would also experiment with handwashing by agitating the clothes in the water + washing powder - letting the clothes soak in there for fifteen to thirty minutes - agitate them a little more - drain the soapy water - rinse with several batches of clean water (agitate the clothes in it) until no more soap comes out. Otherwise the remaining soap/washing powder in your clothes might also irritate your skin.
I didn't experience any irritation on my 2nd experiment but I'll try this way you suggest, I guess it could save some time.
DutchGirl wrote:
Sat Mar 30, 2024 1:44 am
Pros: no machine needed at all . Cons: welcome to pre-1900.
It's interesting, this all got me pondering economic history.

It seems that the washing machine, similar to the electric light, basically saved people time by eliminating time-consuming chores.

But maybe we're in a new era again. Clothes are smaller and lighter thanks to advances in manufacturing (e.g. fast-drying finely woven undergarments). And there's more to amuse oneself with while doing repetitive work (podcasts, YouTube, etc).

So maybe it's "back to the future", and washing by hand makes sense once again.
Last edited by conwy on Sat Mar 30, 2024 7:19 am, edited 1 time in total.

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conwy
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Re: Portable washing machine experiment

Post by conwy »

rube wrote:
Sat Mar 30, 2024 3:27 am
+1 what DutchGirl says.
I once lived 6 months in a region where washing machines were not available to us and not to 98% of the local population. We just copied the local customs. That is, hand washing in a large bucket and line drying.
We also have frequently did hand washing while traveling. This product seems an electric gadget with little added value to me. A lightweight line (rope) with an adjustable hook to be able to create a line in every room, balcony or garden was something that we always had with us and valued during traveling.
Interesting, thanks for sharing.

Regarding a line (rope), yes, I'm going to look into that. I have a long shoelace that might well do for my very small amount of clothing articles. Alternately / additionally I'm thinking of getting skipping rope which can double as a clothes line.

ducknald_don
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Re: Portable washing machine experiment

Post by ducknald_don »

conwy wrote:
Sat Mar 30, 2024 7:13 am
So maybe it's "back to the future", and washing by hand makes sense once again.
Not for us, the washing machine is probably the last piece of technology in our house we would give up.

white belt
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Re: Portable washing machine experiment

Post by white belt »

It’s pretty easy to replicate the soak and wash cycle of a typical machine using various low tech methods already mentioned in this thread. However, if you are line drying then you want a way to replicate the spin cycle. This is what gets most of the water out of the clothes so everything can dry in a day or less. Otherwise clothes will drip and take multiple days to dry.

Here is one (of many videos) on a low tech method to wash clothes: https://youtu.be/RtbkXyWFFm8?si=lKAnTzWoEgCh8u-u

There are also videos of household sized systems using a spinning 55 gallon drum with another smaller drum inside. Some hook up to old exercise bikes to use pedal power. The options are numerous and will depend on how often you want to do laundry, the space you have available, what techniques you want to use, etc.

If your clothes line space is indoors, one easy option is a small retractable line that mounts to the wall. I see them commonly in hotel bathrooms when I travel internationally. This allows you to string the line across your inside space when you are drying clothes and then put it away easily when you are done.

rube
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Re: Portable washing machine experiment

Post by rube »

We just wrenched out as much water as possible by squeezing and twisting the clothes before line drying, we didn't had any other options. If you don't do this, it indeed takes way ,way longer to line dry.

We had times when it was raining and very humid outside and inside and it took days to dry. But when we could put our clothes outside in the hot sun and there was a small breeze, it could be dry as fast as just 1-2 hours. Type of clothes and fabric also influence this. In other words, it will vary from situation to situation.

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conwy
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Re: Portable washing machine experiment

Post by conwy »

Regarding drying, I think on next handwash I'll try squeezing/wringing them harder, hopefully it won't damage the clothes.

The other suggestions mentioned all sound good. Only they would require one to be fairly settled in one place. I'm interested in techniques that can be used while travelling and don't involve much / any bulky or heavy equipment.

-----

I also was looking for water-proof containers to wash the clothes in which could be small/light enough to pack on foot and/or on a flight.

After some searching I found this:

Sea to Summit Folding Bucket
https://seatosummit.com.au/products/folding-bucket

Amazingly it weighs only 80 grams! (If the website is to be believed)

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conwy
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Re: Portable washing machine experiment

Post by conwy »

white belt wrote:
Sat Mar 30, 2024 9:23 am
It’s pretty easy to replicate the soak and wash cycle of a typical machine using various low tech methods already mentioned in this thread. However, if you are line drying then you want a way to replicate the spin cycle. This is what gets most of the water out of the clothes so everything can dry in a day or less. Otherwise clothes will drip and take multiple days to dry.
Maybe this could be replicated by putting the clothes inside some of box or bag made of some loosely woven / gappy material and shaking it around. I'd probably look like a weirdo to anyone observing this. :lol:
white belt wrote:
Sat Mar 30, 2024 9:23 am
Here is one (of many videos) on a low tech method to wash clothes: https://youtu.be/RtbkXyWFFm8?si=lKAnTzWoEgCh8u-u
Nice one, thanks for sharing!

Maybe I could replicate this method in a smaller form - I'm thinking of two 2-litre Pepsi bottles (empty). Cut both in half, keep lids on. Punch small holes in one. Put clothes into the one with the holes. Press the one without the holes on top to squeeze out the water.

-----

Then there's always the towel trick I guess..! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uwPLy5LuDyk&t=230s

white belt
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Re: Portable washing machine experiment

Post by white belt »

conwy wrote:
Sun Mar 31, 2024 8:14 am
The other suggestions mentioned all sound good. Only they would require one to be fairly settled in one place. I'm interested in techniques that can be used while travelling and don't involve much / any bulky or heavy equipment.
If you want more specific solutions then it would help if you further clarified your lifestyle situation. If you are traveling and staying at hostels/hotels, the easiest laundry solution is to just hand wash your clothes in the bathroom sink, wring them out, and then hang dry them. If you're talking about off-grid or vehicle travel where you don't have access to a sink area, then you have to factor in limited water resources and space restraints. This forum has individuals who have experience in a variety of lifestyles with corresponding solutions to match.

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conwy
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Re: Portable washing machine experiment

Post by conwy »

white belt wrote:
Mon Apr 01, 2024 2:59 pm
If you want more specific solutions then it would help if you further clarified your lifestyle situation. If you are traveling and staying at hostels/hotels, the easiest laundry solution is to just hand wash your clothes in the bathroom sink, wring them out, and then hang dry them.
My lifestyle situation at the moment is an apartment with an included laundry, so I don't need to do any handwashing just yet.

I'm preparing for a range of scenarios where I might need to handwash laundry.
  • Washing machine breaking temporarily
  • Moving to a new apartment without a washing machine before I have a chance to get a new one
  • As mentioned above, travelling to hotels/hostels, including ones that might not have a suitable sink
  • Multi-day hiking trips
  • Temporary car-living when accommodation is unavailable
Agree with what you write - most of the time simple handwashing in a sink should be good enough.
white belt wrote:
Mon Apr 01, 2024 2:59 pm
If you're talking about off-grid or vehicle travel where you don't have access to a sink area, then you have to factor in limited water resources and space restraints.
Yes good point.

This is partly why I'm looking to reduce my overall amount of clothing and replace bulkier items with wool or similar material which require less frequent washing.

Thinking about the above a new solution came to mind, kind of inspired by this video, I'm thinking of using a large plastic ziplock bag to conserve space and water.

OutOfTheBlue
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Re: Portable washing machine experiment

Post by OutOfTheBlue »

Interesting device (the OP) but I would prefer not to rely on USB-power. I like the Sea to Summit bucket, can't beat that weight!

Personally, I have a Scrubba wash bag (150g I think), which is essentially a dry bag (and can double as that, to protect your valuables from water [rain, sea, river, etc.] but also to keep dirty laundry in your bag) with some additional features (lighter than your typical dry bag, good size, a transparent window to monitor washing and water levels, a flexible inner washboard with a grip surface to improve washing quality, and an air release valve).

It is a good solution (albeit on the pricey side) for added flexibility, but in many situations, you can just get away with using a sink or the shower. The Sea to Summit wash bag sounds good too.

The microfiber towel method is a crucial component for removing excess water and making the result more conducive to line drying.

If you are traveling, besides the washing method, you also need to consider what you will be actually washing: your clothes. Some materials, and heavy/bulky clothes aren't such good candidates.

Wool (esp. merino wool) favors hand hashing anyway, but in warmer climes (I've been on and off three years in SEA) other (synthetic) fabrics work even better and are particularly quick to dry.

For instance, some super-light Uniqlo Airism t-shirts (and boxer-briefs, although I prefer the cheaper, a bit heavier but more durable and less smelly Decathlon ones) can dry overnight while hanging on (or even in) a hostel bank bed. In my experience, not all hostels provide a place to dry clothes on.

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conwy
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Re: Portable washing machine experiment

Post by conwy »

OutOfTheBlue wrote:
Sat Apr 06, 2024 1:57 am
Interesting device (the OP) but I would prefer not to rely on USB-power. I like the Sea to Summit bucket, can't beat that weight!
Yes, agree. After some experiments (see above) I'm settling on the idea of just doing it manually. In that light, I've renamed the thread to "Portable washing experiments".
OutOfTheBlue wrote:
Sat Apr 06, 2024 1:57 am
The microfiber towel method is a crucial component for removing excess water and making the result more conducive to line drying.
Yes; microfibre towels are also fairly lightweight and portable and themselves dry pretty fast.
OutOfTheBlue wrote:
Sat Apr 06, 2024 1:57 am
If you are traveling, besides the washing method, you also need to consider what you will be actually washing: your clothes. Some materials, and heavy/bulky clothes aren't such good candidates.
I think the bulkiest items - jeans and jacket - I'll never or extremely rarely wash.

Slightly bulkier items like wool shirts I'll handwash individually and probably less regularly.
OutOfTheBlue wrote:
Sat Apr 06, 2024 1:57 am
For instance, some super-light Uniqlo Airism t-shirts (and boxer-briefs, although I prefer the cheaper, a bit heavier but more durable and less smelly Decathlon ones) can dry overnight while hanging on (or even in) a hostel bank bed. In my experience, not all hostels provide a place to dry clothes on.
I've seen people hang their stuff off the bunk bed when they occupy the lower bed and done so myself once or twice.

Another thought is to just use a hostel dryer or laundromat dryer, if available. The nice thing about having so few clothes and handwashing them is that it minimises the time and cost of using a public dryer. With such a tiny amount of clothes, I can probably dry them in half the time of a standard load and probably cheaper too since most laundromat dryers charge by time.

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conwy
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Re: Portable washing experiments

Post by conwy »

I did another experiment - a large plastic zip-lock bag with 3 pieces of underwear.

Filled with water, lathered with Dr Bronner soap until the water was soapy, agitated it for a few minutes, zipped it up, let it sit for 30 min in my wash basin, agitated again. Then rinsed with fresh water and squeezed out the water as best I could. The items dried on the line in about 1.5 days in coolish weather and a little sunlight. Passed my visual and sniff test – looks like a success!

The nice thing about these ziplock back is that they're cheap, small, effectively weightless and completely transparent. Also they can be zipped watertight, so they will work with any shape of container, whether a hand basin, a cardboard box or even on the floor.

2Birds1Stone
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Re: Portable washing experiments

Post by 2Birds1Stone »

As a full time nomad traveling the world with 7kg of luggage, I do quite a bit of sink/shower laundry.

Here in SE Asia where it's hot, preferred method is to strip down in the shower after an activity while the clothes are already sweaty and wet and stomp on them while doing normal shower business, a quick rinse and squeeze + sun drying (inside out) means clean and dry clothing a few hours later.

In colder climates I tend to do a batch of laundry in the sink every 2-3 days. DW purchased laundry detergent sheets which come 40 to a package (80 smaller loads) and weight less than a lb for the whole package.

The key to quick drying is grip strength. If you have the grip strength, you can get the clothing 80-90% dry with some good squeezing, if you don't have the grip strength it could take an extra day or two to drip dry.

After a few shower/sink cycles, we'll use a laundry service or stay in a place with a proper washing machine to get a deep clean.

This has worked for us in pretty much every climate/season.

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conwy
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Re: Portable washing experiments

Post by conwy »

2Birds1Stone wrote:
Wed Apr 10, 2024 6:12 am
As a full time nomad traveling the world with 7kg of luggage, I do quite a bit of sink/shower laundry.
7kg is impressive! I'm gradually working towards 7kg carry-on and 4kg hand-luggage.
2Birds1Stone wrote:
Wed Apr 10, 2024 6:12 am
Here in SE Asia where it's hot, preferred method is to strip down in the shower after an activity while the clothes are already sweaty and wet and stomp on them while doing normal shower business, a quick rinse and squeeze + sun drying (inside out) means clean and dry clothing a few hours later.
Sounds good to save on water, time and soap.
2Birds1Stone wrote:
Wed Apr 10, 2024 6:12 am
The key to quick drying is grip strength. If you have the grip strength, you can get the clothing 80-90% dry with some good squeezing, if you don't have the grip strength it could take an extra day or two to drip dry.
Another benefit of physical fitness I guess ("web of goals").
2Birds1Stone wrote:
Wed Apr 10, 2024 6:12 am
After a few shower/sink cycles, we'll use a laundry service or stay in a place with a proper washing machine to get a deep clean.
It seems the key to life is to have redundancy / back-up plans, not one plan to rule them all.

2Birds1Stone
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Re: Portable washing experiments

Post by 2Birds1Stone »

Full transparency, I meant 7kg carry on and still have a small back pack for my laptop, water bottle and some snacks (personal item).

AxelHeyst
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Re: Portable washing experiments

Post by AxelHeyst »

The most ERE way to wash clothes is to put them in a bucket with DIY detergent etc and then take a bus a route that travels over roads with lots of potholes. Sit in the back of the bus because there’s more angular momentum back there.

ETA: actual advice for hand drying:
1. wring out your garment as best you can by hand.
2. Lay a towel down flat.
3. Lay garment on one half of towel.
4. Fold towel in half like a quesadilla. Garment is cheese, towel is tortilla.
5. Roll the towel up, should be 3-4" dia tube now. (Now it's a taquito??)
6. Grab each end of the towel tube and twist hard.
Don't need much grip strength for this move, the twisting exerts tremendous force on the garment and the towel soaks it up.

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