Non-Electric Washing Machines - Wave of the Future | Seventh Generation
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Non-Electric Washing Machines - Wave of the Future

Author: greenwrite

Much as I hate to admit it, I’m old enough to remember a time before today’s do-it-all automatic washing machines. My family had an electric wringer washer and doing laundry was a little more hands-on than it is today. I think the highlight of my young mother’s life was getting a “real” electric washer that did all the work for her.

That said, these days more and more people are looking for ways to save water and energy and tread a little more softly on the planet. Maybe they’ve chosen to live off the grid, or they simply want a conscience that’s as clean as their clothes -- conventional washers use a lot of power and up to 50 gallons of water with each load!  Whatever the reason, non-electric washers offer a water- and energy-saving alternative that’s more convenient than handwashing.

There’s a wide variety of non-electric washing machines on the market, and which you choose really depends on the size of your load, the size of your living space, and the size of your budget. Here are a few of the most popular models available.

The Wonderwash is a mini, portable washing machine weighing only 5.5 lbs. Small enough to sit on a countertop, the Wonderwash does a 5-lb. load in under 2 minutes. Its size makes it a good choice for singles, campers and people who find they need to do small, frequent loads like hand washables and diapers. Wonder Wash works with hot or cold water, costs under $45 and uses less water than even hand washing.


The Laundry POD™ is another small, non-electric washer designed to save money, time, and effort while minimizing the environmental impact.  Using only five gallons of water, ZERO electricity, and one-fifth the Laundry Detergent used by conventional electric washers, the washer is small enough for an apartment, and can even be used outdoors. The machine, which sells for $99 on the manufacturer’s site, uses a hand crank to agitate as many as ten pieces of clothing at a time, and spin away excess moisture after draining. The whole process takes less than ten minutes. The Laundry Pod can be moved and easily stored away.

The grand daddy of non-electric washers, the James Washer was originally produced from 1900 to the 1920s. Thanks in part to its simplicity and durability, it’s enjoying a comeback. Today’s models are made of high-grade stainless steel with a galvanized lid and pine legs, but the basics remain the same: To wash clothes, simply put water and Laundry Detergent  in the tub, put in dirty clothes, soak for a few minutes, swish the pendulum agitator back and forth a few times, drain, rinse, and then put the clothing through the wringer. Draining is done through a bottom faucet. The James Washer has a 17-gallon capacity and a retail price of $499.

Similar in function and price to the James Washer, Lehman’s Hand Washer uses a triangle-shaped agitator and comes with a clear lid so you can see inside as you wash. Fans of this type of washer say clothes come out just as clean, in less time than it takes to do them in a conventional, electric washing machine. While neither the James or the Lehman washers can be considered “portable” both are light enough that they can be moved outdoors in the summer so you can enjoy the fresh air and sunshine while you do your laundry – not to mention the bonus of  laundry runoff water for your gardens.

Do you use a non-electric washing machine? We’d love to hear about your experiences.


Photo: Travel Aficionado


heketor picture
I like this??? How much water and clothes does it hold? I do not mind a small load, but....BUT, it must not take My day away.
mamatha picture
nowadays washing machines are hugely costlier for the middle class people, some less valuable clear good electric clothes tools are required for all category people to purchase which is durable and good quality with washing, rinsing and drying features and handy must be invented or sent to market for sale, every product must be hand reachable in price or quality please help people in this way
hyperlexis picture
If you are out camping, or are Amish, I can understand this. But otherwise there is a reason women a hundred years ago hailed the electric washer as the greatest invention ever made -- it freed them from whole days of drudgery over dirty clothes, boiling water and lye soap! Modern electric front loading washers are extremely water and power efficient. No way a manual washer can even come close. Can your arm spin clothes dry at 800 rpm?
JingleBelle picture
I'm not a fan of having to turn, crank or plunge using my own arm power to wash my clothes. I don't see why they don't make them with some sort of mechanical mechanism that can be set to agitate the clothes for a few minutes and then stop. You could drain the soapy water, refill with clear water and reset the mechanism to agitate again to rinse. Until they come up with something like that, I'll stick with going to the Laundromat.
kgudahl picture
I use a "Wonder Washer" and a 5 gallon bucket aboard my sailboat. Since we try to limit our electricity use and really don't have the space aboard for a washer manual is the way to go for us. It is basically a plunger like tool with levels built in to help encourage water/soap flow through the clothes to get them extra clean. So far it is working great! Kelley
ann23 picture
I have use something called a Mobile Washer. I got it direct from the designer & maker but could find it only Amazon when I just now checked. It is a bright blue and looks like a toilet plunger with zig zag-shaped openings. It works beautifully and is about $25. You need to supply your own "tub."
betsyblueberry picture
Ok I have to confess I love the idea of boiling and washing my own clothes. Not all of them, mind you but the ones I use alot and get particularly smelly. I have a large wash pan or basin, all clothes similar in weight and color go in. Washing mixtures vary as to what I have on hand but I do use a soap saver, lemon peels, and 7th generation natural oxy stain remover. Typically this is done on a wood stove but on rare occasions I just boil water over these. I have done loads of laundry but the clean that comes from the boilings and the sunshine is glorious. I just use a stick and good arm strength. Simple.
Sudo_parent picture
I've used the wonderwash and it's not something I would buy again. It was poorly made. It took a lot of arm power also. I'm investigating which non power washing machine I will buy next.