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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

  • 25 Models Considered
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  • 106 Consumers Consulted
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    We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

    Why trust BestReviews?
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.

    Shopping guide for best portable washing machines

    Last Updated January 2019

    Are you tired of hauling your laundry to the apartment complex laundry room? Or experiencing the drama and rinse-cycle angst that only a public laundromat can provide? A portable washing machine can alleviate much of that pain and aggravation.

    Almost unheard of in the U.S. until a couple decades ago, the portable washing machine market has really taken off in recent years, almost concurrent with the tiny house movement. Buyers can choose from a wide range of choices, from small, hand-cranked units to dual-tub portable machines that are almost as big as regular automatic washers.

    If you’re thinking about buying a portable washer, our shopping guide can fill you in on the details and offer some recommendations to make shopping even easier.

    On average, portable washing machines use 10 to 15 gallons of water per wash, while full-size washing machines use 30 to 40 gallons per wash.

    Key considerations

    Rather than being directly hooked up to a home’s plumbing system, portable washing machines get their water from a sink faucet and typically drain into the sink as well. Owners hook up the machine by attaching an inlet hose to the faucet, and turn on the water to fill the tub. Once the wash cycle is complete, the inlet hose and drain hose are tucked away behind or inside the washing machine, which can then be moved and stored out of the way.

    Portable washing machines are designed with space saving in mind first and everything else second. Originally designed to be stored inside closets when not in use, many models still have a slim design. They’re almost universally light enough when empty to be picked up by one person.

    Those people looking for a heavy-duty, fully automatic washing machine may be disappointed by the few options and limited washing capacity in small and midsize portable models. However, for those trying to pare down their lifestyle, a portable washing machine offers a great balance of convenience and economy. As a bonus, most models are quieter than full-size washing machines, too.

    Types

    • Nonelectric (manual operation): Generally the smallest of all portable washing machines, manually operated models feature an interior drum that can be spun or agitated using a hand crank or foot pedal. These are super easy to operate, store in almost any cabinet, and can be picked up and moved with one hand. However, these models have the lowest capacity, and their service life is short compared to other types because of the all-plastic construction.

    • Electric: The most popular portable washing machines handle the various washing and rinsing cycles. You still need to manually fill the tub with water for each cycle, from prewash to wash to rinse. Some have analog controls, while pricier models feature LED displays, electronic controls, and more automated functions like dispensing liquid fabric softener.
       

    Size

    Portable washing machines come in a range of different sizes and capacities.

    • Small: About 18 inches tall by 14 inches wide by 14 inches deep; 0.2 to 1.0 cubic feet

    • Medium: About 23 to 27 inches tall by 18 inches wide by 18 to 21 inches deep; 2.8 cubic feet

    • Large: Up to 37 inches tall by 22 inches wide by 24 inches deep; up to 13.2 cubic feet
    EXPERT TIP

    Portable washing machines work best with liquid detergent. If you use fabric softener, add it during the wash cycle because these machines don’t have the same rinse-and-spin cycle as bigger washers.


    Staff  | BestReviews
    EXPERT TIP

    Place the portable washing machine on a level, uncarpeted surface when using. Make sure to leave at least two inches of clearance around the back and sides of the machine.


    Staff  | BestReviews

    Portable washing machine features

    Single drum/tub: The most common type of portable washing machine features a single tub (or drum) that agitates and spins the clothes.

    Dual drum/twin tub: This type of portable washing machine has two drums: one for washing/agitating and rinsing, and another for spinning water out of the clothes. Both tubs can operate at the same time, allowing users to run wash and spin cycles simultaneously.

    Controls: More expensive washers have controls that allow you to set the water level, temperature, and start time. Most electric models allow you to pause a cycle, and models with a digital display can tell you the status of the cycle.

    Portable washing machine prices

    Inexpensive: The lowest-priced portable washing machines start at around $89 and go up to about $185. Surprisingly, some very nice small electric machines are available within this price range.

    Mid-range: Medium-size portable washing machines with a tub capacity of around 1.5 cubic feet range in price from $260 to $450. The wide difference in price is typically due to the difference in controls (LED vs. analog).

    Expensive: Large portable washing machines hold significantly more laundry, some over 13 cubic feet, and are more likely to be festooned with additional features like LED controls and automated cycles. Their prices are naturally higher, too, starting at about $450 and topping out at just under $800 for most brands.

    CAUTION

    Remember that a smaller capacity and fewer clothes means using less detergent and fabric softener. Using too much can make rinsing the clothes a real chore.

    Tips

    • Use a furniture dolly to easily move a portable washing machine.

    • Don’t use an extension cord or power strip with a portable washing machine. For safety reasons, plug it directly into a wall outlet.

    • Use a portable washer as an extra countertop. When it’s not in use, you can place a butcher block on top of the machine to provide a smooth, level surface.

    • Follow the recommended load and water limits. Putting more than the recommended weight in the tub or filling it with water past the fill line can damage the machine.

    • Weigh each load of laundry before putting it in the machine. Use a bathroom scale to be sure to stay below the manufacturer’s specified weight limit.

    • Fill the washing machine from a bucket or pitcher if you don’t have access to a sink faucet and power outlet in the same area (such as when camping).

    • Wipe out the washing machine tub after using starch or bleach. Also wipe down the exterior of the machine periodically.

    • Clean the tub or drum periodically. Fill it almost to the max fill line with hot water. Add two to four cups of white vinegar (less for smaller tubs, more for large tubs) and let the mixture sit for an hour. Run the wash cycle without detergent and allow the liquid to drain.

    Other products we considered

    We really liked the Black+Decker BPWM09W Portable Washer, not just for its all-around feature set that includes LED display, multiple cycle settings, and a see-through lid but also for its unbalanced load alarm, which helps prevent damage to the drum. Of course, we’d be remiss not to mention the iconic Giantex Portable Mini Compact Twin Tub Washing Machine, which can handle 16 pounds of laundry split between its wash and spin drums. And the Mikiki Mini Washing Machine is a tiny electric dynamo that can sit on your countertop as it runs.

    Portable washing machines are typically slim enough to be stored inside a closet, and a small model may fit inside a cabinet.

    FAQ

    Q. What kind of savings does a portable washing machine provide?

    A. For those who must use laundromats, a portable washer can save about $260 or more per year. Portable washing machines can also save of dozens of hours per year that are no longer spent sitting in the laundromat. Those who switch from full-size washing machines to portables have noted savings on their water bill, though this can vary.

    Q. What drawbacks does a portable washing machine have?

    A. Capacity is the biggest drawback. Portable washing machines typically hold less than 11 pounds of clothing; any more than that can damage the machine. That sounds like plenty, but the washing tub itself isn’t very big either. That means heavier clothing like jeans and sweaters can only be washed one or two at a time. And forget about washing that duvet cover in a portable machine. Owners are never completely free of laundromat visits – they’ll still need to make a few trips a year to wash blankets and other bulky or heavy items.

    Q. What’s better: an electric machine or a hand- or foot-cranked washing machine?

    A. That’s entirely up to your personal preference.

    Q. Can a portable washing machine be used in any apartment?

    A. It’s very important to check your lease agreement to see if there are any stipulations about portable washing machines. Some apartment communities do not allow them at all, while others require approval. The biggest reason for this is that a portable machine that isn’t properly hooked up to the sink may leak and cause flooding, a huge repair bill, and possible liability on your part. And the plumbing in some older apartment buildings isn’t up to the added strain that a portable machine puts on the drainpipes.

    The team that worked on this review
    • Bronwyn
      Bronwyn
      Editor
    • Devangana
      Devangana
      Web Producer
    • Eliza
      Eliza
      Production Manager
    • Kailey
      Kailey
      Writer
    • Melinda
      Melinda
      Web Producer
    • Samantha
      Samantha
      Writer

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