Towards a better tinyhouse

Inventing to freedom?

The laundry pod, and other stuff about laundry

with 3 comments

Sigh. I want it to be good, don’t get me wrong. But I think the options in the laundry options post are more interesting.

I mean no agitation at all? Unless they have a special detergent or something, I’m not impressed. It says on the website there is some sort of agitation, but from the video (which was on the tinyhouseblog but taken down) there appears to be none. If you have electricity you might as well soak it in a bucket and get a spin dryer. Even if you don’t, see further below. And absent any special detergent soaking does not work very well without agitation based on all the reading I have done but recently and previously (and it was discussed in some places, people in rvs often try it but are disappointed).

I actually was recently looking for just this sort of thing again since I live in an apartment now but the landlords won’t let me use a “washing machine”. So I did some reading. I did find this interesting page which has some truly innovative ideas, unlike the laundry pod. They also cost a fortune, I’m sure, but some could be done more cheaply, and some like the individual drum one could of course be cut down to a smaller size. Plus, there are already a lot of small washing machines out there, including ones that look a lot like and are the size of a blender (reviews on the wonder wash on btw iirc indicate it doesn’t work because it does not actually agitate the clothes). There are also similarly sized spin dryers out there.

As ideas I also came across the “biclavadora”, pedal powered washing machine, and a very interesting option that is hand powered. Also, an inflatable washing machine, though it seems to be out of production and was probably too small, the idea could be used and extended. I also found that ultrasonic vegetable washing machines can purportedly wash laundry, but they are >$200 each amazon has some and the “xcube” mfgrd by “Pollex” is another bigger one I saw.

There are also small front loading machines that would be perfect for me at least, except it’s Not Allowed. And I totally understand the concerns about not bothering the neighbors with the vibration but that is a trivial problem to solve with an anti vibration mount. But try explaining that to someone who is already set against the idea. I was also much annoyed to find that they have poor spin dry RPMs, but if you use a spin dryer anyway….

Secondly, how fast will the laundry pod spin? I seriously wonder how well this will dry compared with wringing. The electric spin dry machines go 3000 rpm or so, and centrifugal force is mass*(r*pi*rpm/60)^2/r so you spin it at a tenth the speed (though the drum radius r is wider) you have to spin it for a lot longer time. I apparently stores energy as compressed air, so ;t be much energy, and sounds pretty useless.

In other words, we can do a lot better than this, people.

First of all you have to decide what you want, are we making someone for a villager in Peru or not? Sure if you could have it all that would be nice, but what good is something that works like crap for everyone (or worse only works for some hypothetical person that doesn’t actually exist anywhere or we can’t find or who already has something else or better) – we want something that works well and costs little for whoever is actually buying and using it…

However frankly saying this would be useful for someone in a remote are with little money smells a lot like marketing to me. First of all it is a mistake to assume they do not already have certain methods that have been developed and refined over a long time. I have read about how laundry is done in India and they have ways – one is to rub the detergent directly on the damp clothes, giving you a very high concentration of detergent where it needs to be while using very little total, agitate, then rinse, squeeze (not wring that’s too much work), rinse, in 3 successive buckets, giving you 3 divide by operations with very efficient water use, and the final bucket water is clean enough to reuse. Pretty smart really.

Secondly this looks like it uses the same sort of manufacturing approach as a salad spinner or something. I.e. it will break and there will be no replacement parts available. And it will cost >>$100. Which, I don’t know for sure but sounds to me like an awful lot to someone who cannot afford electricity. Also, check out that thing I linked to on lifehacker, which is based on actual on the ground research so it stays in touch with these sort of realities, unlike the laundry pod.

I did my laundry just the other day in the bathtub so was naturally thinking about this sort of thing the whole time (would have done it the Indian way if I had some friggin buckets), and for tinyhouses, I wonder about a folding (or inflatable I guess) drum. First, the high speed water extracting spin is done separately from the agitator drum, in a centrifugal dryer. Should be pretty easy, perhaps triangular, made out of silicone sheet and stainless steel rods. It could be just the drum with bearings, a stand, crank, the relevant holes for adding and removing water and clothes, and the small motor. Would be pretty cheap.

Normal front loaders have of course a circular drum but with paddles sticking into the drum, to cause the laundry to be lifted up, then fall. I though at first if yo uhad say just a metal drum sans paddles, the clothes would just slide along the side so you don’t get any tumbling. But I noticed the description of how the drum is made for the biciclavadora does not mention paddles. Also, maybe using a triangular drum would get you the tumbling. If that wasn’t enough, since the walls are made of silicone, they could be molded such that they have small fingers sticking into the drum, gripping the clothes. Or you could just add paddles to the drum, be pretty easy I guess.

I also came across a top loading washing machine that doubled as a laundry bin, I forget where now ( It automatically started when it was full, and notified you by email when done too). We could certainly do that but front loading (so less water and det) and in conjunction with a folding drum, the drum could still have stuff put in it while it was folded. In case it’s not obvious, you eliminate the outer part of a normal washing machine, the boxy part that houses the drum. So you can touch the turning drum, but there is no safety concern because we are not doing the high speed spin (the counterweight and shock absorbers and powerful motor is also thereby eliminated, reducing cost size and weight).

Another way to agitate that occurred to me was to, after the clothes have been soaked with wash liquor (water+det) put it in a cloth bag, very full, with the laundry positively packed in, then sort of flatten it, then try to roll it in some way. I.e. the mass of laundry is continually being distorted, causing the clothes to rub past each other. The drum would consume almost no more volume than the packed laundry does. Rinsing would be a problem though, while with a tumble drum rinsing is pretty easy.

Probably I would be using these things in the bathroom, in the shower area, or maybe over the kitchen sink so that makes it a bit easier to fill and empty with water.

Obviously these are only ideas, any one out there with more ideas? Because I am not impressed with the solutions currently available, or the laundry pod, too expensive and/or too sucky or bulky for tinyhouse use.


Written by gregor

May 9, 2011 at 00:21

Posted in Uncategorized

3 Responses

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  1. Thanks, I’ve been thinking about the laundry pod, but I also suspected it didn’t really agitate. We have a baby that spits up on her clothes, so I get the impression that a gentle wash is going to get the job done. I think your post kept me from dropping $95 on something that wouldn’t do what I need.

    Incidentally, have you talked to anyone who’s used a pod to confirm?


    March 1, 2012 at 19:35

  2. Doesn’t the spinning and swishing around count as agitation? That’s all front-loader washers are doing anyway… plopping it over.

    As to special detergent for no-agitation washing… I use Orvus Paste. It’s meant for washing sheep, horses, etc. so it’s great for all your delicate hand-wash-only wools. Sure, I used to pay $20 for 14oz of Soak wool wash (which is also no-scrub, no-rinse), but it’s the same detergent, so I just buy the Orvus now, in a quantity that’ll last several years (7.5lb, and you only need to dip your finger in to do an entire bucket) for the same price. There is a bucket of handwash laundry done in my household every day, just by soaking.

    The spin cycle is actually the thing I’d find attractive about one of those “apartment washers,” to get more water out without having to roll it in a towel and stomp on it (not enough dry towels for doing that being the potential issue).


    November 16, 2012 at 15:34

  3. I think the problem with simple spinning like the laundry pod is that the clothes don’t really rub against each other — they just start spinning right along with the basket and the water. So although there’s some water moving through the clothes, I don’t think the material itself really moves, so it’s not great agitation.

    Incidentally, my wife and I ended up getting a Breathing Mobile Washer ( instead, which is a kind of plastic plunger that you use with a bucket. Then a friend actually sent us a Laundry Pod as a surprise gift, so we use them together. We soak the clothes in the Pod with soap, then use the plunger to agitate them, then use the Pod’s spinner to get the soapy water out, rinse, etc.

    I’m not sure I’d recommend spending the money on both, but since we have both anyway, it’s been a pretty effective combo.


    November 16, 2012 at 17:37

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