Perfect for tiny houses, roadtrips, camping, or just low-carbon living, this DIY washing machine is easy to make and use.
We lived in a tiny house for almost six years, and one of the things which didn't fit in our living space that we missed having the most was a washing machine. However, we made do most of the time with a bucket and a "Rapid Washer" from Lehman's, and only traveled to the laundromat when the weather was nasty or we got so far behind in washing cloth diapers that we got desperate.
It worked great for us, and although washing clothes manually did take a bit of physical effort, we also found that it offered a great incentive to only wash things when they were truly dirty, and not just toss things in the hamper after wearing them once. And we got to put all of that greywater from washing clothes back in the soil, which is another great low-tech method of water efficiency at home, and which we still continue to do even after buying an electric washing machine.
If you'd like to have the option of washing laundry manually, for whatever reason, then building one of these DIY washing machines will only set you back about $10 or less, and the only tool you need to make it is a drill and bits. I like this design because not only does it seem to get better water flow around and through the clothes by incorporating a second bucket (also making for easier draining and rinsing), but also because it is designed to be used with a lid on it.
Check out these simple video instructions for building a DIY washing machine:
For a source for free 5-gallon buckets, try asking the kitchen staff at bakeries, institutional cafeterias (schools, hospitals), delis or restaurants, because a lot of food ingredients come in these containers, which usually just end up in the recycling after they get emptied. Steer clear of the buckets used for pickles or sauerkraut, unless that's the way you roll...