Q&A.; Electricity Free Clothes Washing

Q. Hi there, I've been reading your site for about a year now. Good job! Anyway, the washing machines in my condo just went up by a quarter, and so did the dryers. now it's like $3.00 to do a few shirts, some shorts and some underwear. I figure this is a good time to break free of the laundry machine addiction. I tried the old kitchen sink method, but it ain't working too good. So I'm wondering, does Treehugger have any featured products that I can use to do my wash... without electricity and that I can keep in my one bedroom condominium? Thanks much, Justin H.A. Hiya Justin, I thought straight away of a probable solution to your dilemma. The Wonderwash. It’s a power-plug-free washing machine. Hand operated by rotating a handle on the side of the heavy duty plastic barrel. Works like and has the appearance of a small cement mixer. It has a volume of about 25 litres that will accept up to 2.2 kilograms (5lbs) of dirty laundry. (An average top loading washing machine takes about 5-6 kilograms, while a front loader will accept 4.5 with a push.) Although it should suit your needs for stashing away in your apartment, it’s also equally useful for those who do frequent laundry and can’t justify filling a traditional washing machine to maximise its energy usage. For example, it’s gentler on delicate clothes like underwear and lingere.

The Wonderwash operates by stowing your dirty clothes in the barrel, with hot or warm water and a small amount of detergent and fixing the lid in place. A pressure screw in then tightened on the lid. It is this pressure which the key to the performance of the unit. The notion is that the hot water in the completely sealed and pressurised barrel heats up the air trapped inside. This pressure forces the water and the detergent through the fabrics and separates the dirt and grime rapidly. Rotating the barrel with the handle further agitates the mixture of water, detergent, fabric and dirt. About 2 minutes rotation is supposedly all that is required. The pressure screw is released and the dirty water emptied. The Wonderwash can also be used for rinsing laundry. But it is not a mini tumble drier.

When I was lecturing in eco-design, the Wonderwash made a great case study for innovative thinking. Taking the notion of pressure cooking in the kitchen and applying it to the laundry. It can use 45,000 less litres of water per year, compared to a standard top load washing machine, a saving of nearly 80%. There is also a corresponding saving of roughly 65% in energy and 45% in detergent use.

The down sides are that it uses hot water (tsk tsk) and in the past there have been some issues with the longevity of the plastic structure. Maybe these have been resolved since my days of using one as my sole washer. Laundry Alternative offer them for $43 USD and Lehmans have a made in the USA model, called Wonder Clean for about $45 USD. Plus they have the much more robust James Hand Washer for the tidy sum of $450 USD, but this is more than it sounds like you need

May your wash day blues be a thing of the past, Justin.