Washing Machines That Do It Without Electricity

Those of us living in the first world take clean clothes for granted. Throw them in the washing machine, transfer to the dryer after 45 minutes, and you won’t smell for another two weeks or so. But for people living in areas without electricity, clean clothes are a huge amount of work. Hand washing a family’s clothes is estimated at 6 hours per day, three to five days per week. Here’s a post that looks at some of the different human-powered washing machines out there.

We’ve built our own human-powered machine before using a five-gallon bucket with a hole in the lit to receive the handle of a toilet plunger which acts as an agitator. But that pales in comparison to some of the machines seen here. The concept we like the most is shown above. It’s an MIT project being used at an orphanage in Peru. The bicycle lets you easily power the spinning basket inside of the drum. The rear derailleur has been mounted on the axle so that the rider has a wider range of gears when spinning heavy loads. Take a look at the post linked above to see all of the offering, but we’ve also embedded video of two of them after the break.

If you were looking for a washing-machine powered bike instead of a bike-powered washing machine you’ll want to head on over to this post.

[via Reddit]

26 thoughts on “Washing Machines That Do It Without Electricity

    1. I concur. I call serious bulls**t on that figure. Maybe someone took the average (wasteful) amount of washing of an American family and extrapolated how long that would take by hand.

      1. Speaking as someone who lives in a place where they have to hand wash clothes, yes it is.

        It’s nice to see people doing real engineering and not led arduino circuit #999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999

        FYI: The hand crank design is the most efficient. In a working design there is an internal gear system that switches direction per RPM. The place where most people and makers screw up on these is agetator design; it has to be ~2/4 internal length, ~10% center-width, and have long spiral rounded blades to avoid binding.

        Another subject in need of real hackers and engineers is food storage in places where there is no electricity and no space for known ground storage methods. It most likely has to be chemical/solar-electric hybrid, and not lethal gas based like common manufactured units. Just solar with a efficient peltier unit, and gel cell battery in a spacious but portable unit is probably the only thing doable now..

        There probably won’t be efficient solutions for these things for a long time do to focused research by most nations. Science is pretty much stagnating since computer automation and old inefficient tech just works..

      2. Thanks to focused research it’s the only option besides diluted ammonia based gases which kill humans when exposed :T

        A company actually made a good one by wiring and griding a certain way the middle layer

  1. I like that upstream, but a springy branch would make agitation better, and as for that apartment washer, is it just me or does it look like a salad spinner?

    @ Nick – Wouldn’t you?

  2. Agitation is out, it wears out clothing faster. Horziontal axis machines are fast becoming the standard of how to get this job done. Nice to see this as a hack instead of toilet plunger stuff. Read my comment of the washer powered bike. Like stiffie bikes old school has to graduate.

  3. Even if “6 hours per day, three to five days per week” is a worst case figure, compiled by the volunteers onsite, I wouldn’t have no problem with accepting that figure. Ass firmly planted in chair, keyboard experts most likely don’t have the data to make an estimation. Factors like household size, number of persons doing the chore. What soils the clothing, the quality of the detergent. As much it still does here in the US, I imagine purchase cost determines what is purchased, horizontal or vertical axis machines. Horizontal axis machines are still prohibitively expensive for many in the US yet. All thing being equal I imagine that’ s the same in undeveloped parts in the world as well. I would think a flywheel added to the horizontal machine powered by the woman who’s butt everyone is checking out, would help out a lot. Device a why to fill & drain the drum on the fly. Spin the flywheel up to speed before before engaging the drum functions.

  4. @n0lkk

    here in Germany you have difficulty finding a vertical axis washing machine.
    My best guess would be a museum for household items.

    Vertical axis machines might be more expensive, but almost every household has their own. Only in large appartement blocks there are occasionally several washing machines in the basement instead of one in each of the appartements.

    Wash salons are something we germans only know from american movies.

      1. Except they’re nowhere near that cheap here in the US (more like twice that much or more, where people actually buy appliances), and most people in the US don’t buy appliances off of Amazon, they buy them at either big box home improvement stores, or big box appliance stores.

  5. Hard way of doing it.

    5 gallon pail
    toilet plunger

    drill 5 large holes in the toilet plunger bell.
    put clothes in bucket, put water and soap in bucket.

    plunger for 5 minutes.
    replace soap water with clean water.
    plunger for 5 minutes.
    wring out clothes and hang on line to dry.

    All done, $5.00 total cost for supplies far more compact to store and carry. And has been around for decades for people to wash clothes.

  6. When I lived on a sailboat, I had a hand cranked pressure clothes washer. It was nothing more than a sealed plastic drum with a crank. You add clothes with a little bit of hot water and ammonia or detergent, and crank for a while. The agitation of the hot water caused the pressure to shoot up. It seemed to work alright. I’m surprised those aren’t sold in places like this. Maybe they aren’t big enough for a family.

  7. If these people are washing their clothes, then they probably live near a decent source of water. If that water is a creek or river, why not build a rudimentary water wheel with a horizontal axis drum and just throw your clothes in and come back and get them later, saving your energy. This could be done with similar parts to that bicycle device.

  8. Maybe you should produce alterations for the web page identity for you to some thing appealing.

    I first manifested itself not one but two alternative benefits, even though these people have
    a far better concept. Nevertheless things i necessary I discovered in this article.

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