In a perfect world, with technology from a planet far far away, clothing would be made with self-cleaning material.
We could completely negate the need for electricity and water for cleaning our clothes; not to mention the “sit back and relax” factor.
Sadly, we aren’t there yet… Our laundry still requires some power source, water, detergent, and worst of all, us.
We can still cut our carbon footprint by using washing machines that do not require electricity (or even use very little of).
This is a list of my top ten off-grid washing machines…
The Difference Between Electric, Washing Machines that can be Used on or Off-Grid, and 100% Off-Grid Machines
There are several distinctions between electric, on- or off-grid, and 100% off-grid washing machines and the pros and cons if each. There are pros and cons for each.
|Electric||On- or Off-Grid||100% Off-Grid|
|Can wash larger loads||Can switch between power supplies||Uses no electricity|
|Requires almost no labor||Requires little labor||Labor-intensive|
|Expensive monthly bill||Lower cost||Only cost is the initial purchase|
|Uses more water||Uses less water||Uses less water|
|More damage to fabrics||Less damage to fabrics||Almost no damage to fabrics|
|Kinder to the environment||Environmentally friendly|
|Easy to use||Easy to use||Easy to use|
|Easy to repair||Easy to repair||Easy to repair|
|Allows you to multitask||Allows you to multitask||Not suited to multitasking|
|Easy to manage hot or cold||Easy to manage hot or cold||Easy to manage hot or cold|
|Takes up space||Depending on size, easy to store||Can be easily stored|
|Large, medium, small loads, or delicate loads||Multiple size loads||Compact design means smaller loads|
|Expensive||Some can be expensive||Affordable|
|Has more cycles||Has more cycles||Often is one size fits all|
|Indoors only||Can be used indoors or outdoors|
|Dries quickly||Dries quicker than by hand||Dries more slowly|
|Suitable for small or larger families||Some are suitable for small families||Most are better suited for small families|
|Doesn’t harm your arms and back||Can harm arms and back|
|Easy to maintain||Easy to maintain||Easy to maintain|
Hand-Powered Washing Machines
Of course, I went there, what could be more off-the-grid than hand washing? The time-old tradition of using a bucket – or river – and washboard is far from over.
Families all across the world still do their laundry the good old-fashioned way…
There are, however, hand washing machines that can be used in homes, while out camping, or living off-the-grid.
1. Clothes Wringer
A wringer washing machine has rotating wringers that the clothes are fed through. They are designed to work quickly and efficiently.
Different options exist, you can get electric wringers, wringers that operate off generators, or hand-cranked wringers.
A tub is filled with water and detergent and clothes are agitated in the soapy mix.
The clothes are then fed through the rollers to remove the water from the clothes. The process is repeated using clean water to rinse the clothes.
|✅ Uses less water||❌ Can injure upper body muscles if you have bad posture|
|✅ Uses less detergent||❌ It can be labor-intensive|
|✅ Environmentally friendly||❌ If you don’t pay attention, your fingers can get caught and injured|
|✅ Dries clothes quicker|
|✅ Clothes are not damaged by wringing them flat (clothes wrung by twisting and squeezing are stretched out and the fibers are damaged reducing the life of the garment)|
When you visit a link in this article that takes you to a different website where you can purchase something, I may earn a commission. Read my full disclosure for more details.
Check out this one on Amazon. It’s hardy and efficient. It can be used for all fabrics, thick and thin.
It is fully portable and can be used with a washboard. This wringer is easy to use and it’s 100% off-the-grid!
2. The Rapid Washer
The rapid washer uses a plunger with springs and agitators in a bucket with soapy water.
This is one of the easiest ways to wash laundry without power. The laundry is placed in a bucket with water and detergent.
The plunger is then repeatedly plunged up and down. The water is pulled and pushed through the clothes to clean them.
I used a rapid washer for many years hiking, trekking, and living in an apartment. It’s faster than hand washing and uses very little water.
|✅ Uses less water||❌ Does require physical effort|
|✅ Uses detergent||❌ It’s better suited to small families|
|✅ Cleans and rinses laundry well|
|✅ Clan be used in a bucket, tub, sink, or basin|
|✅ Can be used indoors or outdoors|
|✅ Is great for daily nappy cleaning|
Check out this one for a very good price…
3. Lehman’s Own Laundry Hand Washer with Laundry Wringer
If off-grid is really what you are looking for, this washing machine is the answer to your prayers. I reference prayers because this washing machine is popular in Amish communities.
It requires no gas or electricity and does a great job washing laundry, no matter the size of your family (obviously you will need to do individual loads, but you would have to do this even if you were using electricity).
|✅ Removes water efficiently and effectively||❌ Manual labor needed|
|✅ Good for all fabrics||❌ Is an expensive product but certainly worth it|
|✅ The shape of the agitator keeps all the clothes under water (no floating)|
|✅ Is gentle on clothes|
|✅ Can be used indoors or outdoors|
|✅ Washes clothes well|
You can buy it at Lehman’s.
Mini Washing Machines
If you’re like me and prefer not to sit with your hands in the water doing laundry, there are several mini washing machines that are great for small families or small loads.
Coupled with environmentally friendly washing detergent, these machines can be 100% green. There are many options available…
4. The Wonder Wash
The Wonder Wash is a small barrel washing machine that you add water and detergent into, and then add the laundry and spin it so that rotation can effectively clean and rinse laundry.
It’s fully portable, compact, easy to store, and most importantly, it’s effective and a solid off-the-grid option.
|✅ Compact||❌ Requires manual labor (not much as it washed quickly)|
|✅ Easy to use||❌ Suitable for small families|
|✅ Uses less water than hand washing or washing in a machine|
|✅ Can be used anywhere|
|✅ Uses no electricity|
You can find this washing machine on their website.
Low-Voltage Washing Machines
There are low-voltage options that simply reduce the burden of electricity, i.e., they have a lower carbon footprint.
Low-voltage machines often have ports that can be plugged into your car’s cigarette lighter.
5. The Foldable Washing Machine
There are several foldable washing machines available, with the main difference being capacity.
They can hold any load between 3 to 9 liters. A foldable machine is great for apartments and adventurers alike.
To use it, you add water and detergent, then add clothes. Set the timer and turn the machine on. You then need to open the bottom drain to drain off the water.
You then place the dehydration basket in the machine with the clean clothes and press a switch to drain off the rest of the water.
|✅ Folds up to take up less space||❌ Can be expensive|
|✅ Fully portable|
|✅ Great for use in homes, camping, and trips on holiday or for business|
|✅ Washing does not need to be wrung out to get rid of excess water|
I prefer larger capacity washers therefore my favorite – available at Amazon – is this one.
Pedal-Powered Washing Machines
If you love listening to music while knitting, reading, painting, or even visiting with friends, and you are a foot tapper any time music is played, a pedal-powered washing machine is a great off-the-grid solution.
A master’s student from the University of Cape Town, South Africa, Kai Goodall, recently won an international design award for his pedal-powered washing machine.
This is something to look forward to seeing on the market.
This washing machine is a full-size washing machine powered by the equivalent of a stationary bicycle. So, you can do your laundry while getting in a good workout.
6. Yirego Drumi Foot-Powered Washing Machine
I am very much a multitasker. I am always doing six things at the same time. Laundry in the Yirego Drumi Foot-Powdered Washing machine is so easy to do.
The pedal is much like what you have on a pedal rubbish bin.
Add detergent and water to the bucket and then add clothes. Pedal away for the clothes agitator to do its work.
|✅ Easy to manage hot or cold water||❌ Pretty expensive given it doesn’t have any electrical components|
|✅ Easy to manage|
|✅ Does not put a strain on your back, shoulders, and arms|
|✅ Very little effort required|
|✅ Multitasking while doing laundry is a bliss|
|✅ Cleans thoroughly|
|✅ Takes 15 minutes to do a load|
You can purchase this awesome product from Amazon.
Fully-Portable Washing Machines
If you are looking for a portable washing machine, you are probably looking for something compact. The ability to utilize any energy source would also be a bonus.
How about a machine that’s powered via a USB plug?
7. Portable Mini Ultrasonic Washing Machine
This small washing machine is fully portable and can be powered by any USB power port. You can use a USB port in your car or in your home.
This is a small disk-like machine that agitates the laundry from the side.
It can be attached to the side of a bucket, basin, or sink. Add water, detergent, and clothing, and let the agitator spin to clean the laundry.
|✅ Uses little water||❌ Struggles with heavy fabrics such as denim|
|✅ Uses little power||❌ Requires small loads|
|✅ Is efficient|
|✅ Easy to use|
This machine can be ordered from Amazon.
Which One To Get?
When choosing a good off-the-grid washing machine, consider the following:
- How much does it cost?
- How much can it do at a time (capacity)?
- Will it save on water and detergent?
- How much effort does it require (manual labor)?
- Is it safe? What happens if my children accidentally get a hold of it?
- What fabrics are you going to use in the machine?
- How easy it is to use?
- What power source is available? Can you plug it in in addition to using it in manual mode?
- Do you need a fully automatic, semi-automatic, or manual washing machine?
- What wash settings you are likely to need?
- Does it have a spin cycle?
- How energy efficient is the washing machine you have your eye on? Do your homework and google for testimonies and complaints. Sites like Amazon have a comments function; the comments can be way more truthful than testimonies on the company website.
- How much space do you have to use and store it?
- What material is it made of? Plastic is more prone to breakage than metal.
- Is the machine a top or front loader? Being disabled, this is very important to me.
- How much space do you have for storage and use?
- Is this machine for emergencies only, or is it going to be your full-time washer?
If you’re going off the grid or are already off the grid but looking to upgrade, I hope this article will help you make an informed decision.
Some choices can be expensive, but in my experience, to save money you have to spend money. Choose appropriately for the stage of life you are in.
Going off the grid is one of the best decisions my husband and I have ever made.
I know you will see the value of alternatives to conventional electricity. Let me know what off-the-grid machine you are using and love in the comments below.
Di-Anne Devenish Seebregts was raised in an environment where daily life consisted of hiking, environmental conservation, growing fruit and vegetables, and raising poultry for meat and eggs.
She combined her passion for the writing word with her love of the pride that comes with not relying on others. She raised three children (who are now adults) to value the environment, and understand the value of being self-sufficient.
Find out more about Di-Anne on our About Us page.