Innovative Foot-Powered Washing Machine Could Alleviate Poverty for Millions (Video)

© Alex Cabunoc & Ji A You

For many around the world who have no access to running water or electricity, the use of an electrically-powered washing machine and dryer is not an option. That leaves millions of families with tedious, long hours of gathering water by foot, hand-washing and air-drying laundry, while risking the development of health problems.

Working in concert with a South American NGO and the Safe Agua Peru project, Los Angeles-based design students Alex Cabunoc and Ji A You created the GiraDora, a compact foot-powered washing machine that drastically reduces the time needed to hand-wash laundry.

The result is based on their field research in a slum of 30,000 located in a water-poor area outside of Lima, where the duo found that up to six hours per day -- three to five times a week -- were used to wash clothes.

© Alex Cabunoc & Ji A You
© Alex Cabunoc & Ji A You

In addition to a good chance of developing tenosynovitis from constantly wringing clothes, chronic back pain from squatting, hand problems from cold water, asthma is also a problem when clothes get moldy from drying incompletely during the winter.

© Alex Cabunoc & Ji A You

Cabunoc tells FastCoDesign that

So much time, energy, and resources are used for basic water chores like cooking and cleaning. It leaves little time for other activities that might help one get out of poverty.

© Alex Cabunoc & Ji A You

Thus in collaboration with residents, the idea for a combined, human-powered washing and drying machine took shape. Targeting families that earn 4 to 10 US dollars a day, the unit costs about $40 US and resembles a water barrel that has a separate, spinning bucket inside.

To operate GiraDora, the user sits on top of the bucket to stabilize the contents, agitating the clothes by a foot pedal. Afterwards, the greywater is drained and reused, and the clothes are spun dry via the same action.

© Alex Cabunoc & Ji A You
© Alex Cabunoc & Ji A You
© Alex Cabunoc & Ji A You

Even better is that this life-changing device might reach millions soon: the pair's school project has now blossomed into a full-blown entrepreneurial mission, garnering praise from the likes of Dwell, Core77, Dell Social Innovation Challenge, and the International Design Excellence Awards and $19,500 funding from NCIIA E-Team.

Could something as simple as an ergonomic, economic and electricity-free washing machine change the world? Only time will tell: both Cabunoc and You hope to launch a pilot program for GiraDora by next year, and are setting their sights on India as well, though people who live off-grid here will surely want to try it as well.

More images over at Alex Cabunoc's website and Design Matters.

Hands In The Mist - Full Length Version from Erik Anderson on Vimeo.

Tags: Designers | Gadgets | Peru

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