Top 5 choices for tiny house washers and dryers

by andrewodom on January 13, 2012 · 33 comments


Earlier this week we talked about the history of washing machines and dryers and just how they may fit in the tiny house lifestyle. The two do not seem compatible but after researching a few products and talking to a few people it seems there may be some rather affordable and efficient solutions.

Compact laundry facilities such as combo units, stackable units, manually powered units, etc, can be the perfect choice for tiny houses or even if you prefer to have smaller – perhaps more efficient, even – appliances to allow room for other options in your laundry area. When the laundry room is small or there is no laundry room at all, such an option can be ideal! It is important to know though that while there are several types of washers and dryers that are considered compact, they are not equal when it comes to load capacity, physical size, features and operation.So here is what the market has to offer in way of space-saving laundry units:

1. One-piece Stackable Laundry Unit – Growing up this concept was perhaps the only compact option available. I can remember the first time I saw one. It was on the Golden Girls and Blanche was going to wash but wasn’t sure how to adjust the Frigidaire machine for her “delicates.” I think some of the popularity has worn off as they are fairly limited now to smaller apartments and the visionary tiny houser. Generally one-piece by design, these stacked laundry units usually have a washer on the bottom and a dryer on top. Coming in at about 27″ wide, height clearances can vary and need to be considered. In addition, they are now available with either a front-loading or top-loading washer. So what is the main benefit? SIZE. Given your laundry space you can have a full-capacity washing machine and dryer in a small amount of space. CON? Like the TV/DVD combo, if one breaks you have to replace both! You can see more of these units here.

2. Washer/Dryer Combos - I have to admit that right now this is my favorite option. A washer/dry combo is an all-in-one laundry appliance which effectively washes first and then dries your load…all in the SAME machine! These units appear to be rather expensive with most of them costing in excess of $1,000. However, a number of them boast some rather impressive features including delayed starts, fabric care setting, dryness sensors, etc. Because of the size and efficiency I tend to think that these combos are perfect for cabins, RV’s, small apartments, and, of course, tiny houses! They don’t require venting and plug right into a standard electrical outlet. It’s no secret that these units are especially popular in European and Asian countries not just for size but because drying is a secondary action following preference to clotheslines. There are some drawbacks though including the fact that loads take twice as long. Some users even report longer completion times. That is okay though if you are in no hurry, have set the timer to be done at the end of the workday, etc. The plus is that while costing a bit more the competition in this area is getting stiffer driving prices to below the grand mark.

3. Laundromat or “host family laundry” – I speak from experience having lived in Paris, Brooklyn, and the backyard of a “host family.” The laundrymat situation can be expensive and inefficient (especially on a Sunday afternoon when it is NOT football season in the United States. The “host family” situation can be stressful on a friendship or relationship as one mans full load is another mans 1/2 empty washer just wasting water! Laundromats dot the US from big cities to small towns. Some are clean. Some are dirty. Some feature commercial size machines. Some feature antique machines. Some offer laundering services. Some don’t even have a change machine. I don’t recommend laundrymats to the faint of heart. Oftentimes you can’t predict the traffic at any given time and you can get right in or you can wait there for the first 13 chapters of a Nicholas Sparks novel. The largest pro I found was that I could pack those machines and not fear that they would die on me. Most laundrymat machines are like war-tested battleships. Yes they have dents and scratches. Sure there is some residual detergent in random places. But they are hearty and they are maintained by someone else. I have also noticed that there are special machines to do larger items such as comforters, dog beds, and slip covers. I personally have paid anywhere from $0.50/load (KOA campground in Kissimmee, Florida) to $2.25/load (Blue Wave Laundry in Green Point, Brooklyn). I don’t remember putting more than a buck or so in the dryer. However, I often had to run those machines a second time. The CON is that most laundrymats use an enormous amount of electricity, are often sketchy locales, and can sometimes makes your clothes feel dirtier than when you put them in the machine.

And as for the “host family laundry”? Some tiny housers are fortunate enough to park behind a friend or family members house. Therefore they are also often privy to facilities like full-size, gourmet kitchens, laundry rooms, garages, etc. But unless guidelines are set early on this scenario can become a powder keg and your stinky socks the spark! In these situations I have been faced with having to fold more laundry than I intended to put in just so I could have a machine to put laundry into. I have also debated what makes a “full load” as well as why I would prefer to use chemical-free detergent over the cheapest Wal-Mart had to offer. This is probably my least favorite washing option.

4. Handwash – Since having a daughter and choosing the cloth diapering road I have learned first hand that soiled clothes don’t mean they are nasty or that the chore of washing is any more laborious. I don’t mind handwashing one bit. What I do mind is that the wrong amount of soap can make wringing the clothes out for drying, a ghastly and seemingly impossible chore. Right now we have an abrasive pad that allows us to scrub spots on clothes. I also like to use the “rub fabric against fabric” method that is shown so much on television and in movies. But perhaps hand washing is most efficient when using a washboard. Yes, I am talking about those wall adornments you can see at most Cracker Barrels in the Southeast. Not familiar? Take a look here. The “spiral crimp” surface of a washboard is truly effective for dirt removal in that it provides an abrasive surface on which to rub your clothes against. Sanitary soap drain then removes the dirty water from clothes. All in all it is a fairly easy process. I can’t say I have much experience washing jeans or overalls this way but I can’t imagine it being much different. During summer months I have been known to lay clothes out on the grass and spray them with a garden hose and then scrub them with a regular horsehair brush. As for drying. Drying in this method is really about hanging your clothes out….even if out is in! As I have said before, I have become most fascinated with hanging clothes out to dry after discovering Project Laundry List. Since coming across it we have purchased or put on our list to purchase, a wooden clothes drying rack, an 8-arm clothes dryer, clothesline cabling, and even an indoor, retractable clothesline. The largest benefit to handwashing and clothesline drying is that it uses no energy. There isn’t the first utility bill to pay. Detergent use is minimal and you can wash as few or as many clothes as you desire. The CON is that it is hard work. Those archive photos of wash women down at the creek make me cringe with neck pain and sore shoulders. It is not something I can honestly say would excite me to do for the rest of our life.

5. Wonder Wash and portable dryers – I must admit that this is a category I have no personal experience in. I have had several friends who own one or more of these devices including my dear friend Laura who actually writes about the joys of a Wonder Wash! The Wonder Wash is a countertop, manual crank, washing machine that allows up to 5 lbs. of wash (7-8 dress shirts -or- 10 T-shirts -or- 30 pairs of socks -or- 2-3 pairs of blue jeans) to be cleaned using its patented pressure system that forces detergent into the fabric at high speed for a fast, efficient, economic and very easy wash. At just above $40 it is also an economical washing option for those who don’t have piles of laundry per day and don’t mind using other methods for larger items such as comforters. Users of the Wonder Wash say it takes less detergent than a normal washing machine, requires only a couple minutes of cranking, can be cleaned if necessary, doesn’t have to be hooked up to a water supply, and actually provides exercise while operating it. The obvious CON I think is that it is as much work as the washboard yet requires more space. That’s right. Despite its ability to be used anytime, anywhere, it still has to be stored somewhere when not in use. And at 12″ x 12″ x 16″ it isn’t exactly going to fit on a bookshelf.

To fit right in with the Wonder Wash the Mini Countertop Spin Dryer Clothes Spin Dryer Portable Clothes Dryer (long name, right?) is a 110V, 82 Watt, portable machine. It only weighs 11 pounds and costs under $100. Because it is a 1600 spin dryer it does not get clothes completely dry. In fact, clothes can come out a little damp to the touch and may need to be air dried to finish up. I do want to point out that I said clothes (plural). I should have said cloth because at 13.5″ x 13.5″ x 15″ users say it may only fit one large bathsheet at a time. Supposedly it dries in two minutes though. Paired with the Wonder Wash it is a low maintenance, low cost, low energy, washing/drying alternative.

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