Top 5 choices for tiny house washers and dryers

Top 5 choices for tiny house washers and dryers

by andrewodom on January 13, 2012 · 32 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.

  • Borntosing1954

    If I ever do move into a tiny house, it would be to simplify life and minimize my “carbon footprint”, so I would probably opt for the washtub and scrubbing board as my “washing machine”, clothesline and clothespegs and the great outdoors as our dryer. We would have less laundry to do than currently, since closet space would be at a premium. Doing our laundry in this manner should certainly justify dispensing of my aerobics and weight-training videos! 

    • http://www.tinyrevolution.us anotherkindofdrew

      Thank you so much Borntosing for joining us. I totally hear what you are saying. I have a bit of a different perspective though as we are minimalists (each owning less than 30 items of clothes) and living in a tiny house. Our carbon footprint right now is mitigated by all of our life choices including the fact that we only own one car and only use it to go out of town (we ride our bikes with a trailer), we cloth diaper, we recycle and compost, etc. The handwashing is something we do out of necessity. However, because we live on a micro-farm we have clothes that not only stink and need to be washed but also have unhealthy animal dung and such on them. In order to stay healthy we do have to address that issue and there are times when there is no energy left at the end of the day to handwash. Clothesline dry though? A no-brainer. You are right. Here’s to old fashioned weight training, huh? HAHAHAHA

  • Liz Stevenson

    Excellent overview. A couple of things: The all-in-ones are great on space but use a LOT of electricity. Best for when you can hang clothes to dry. And the hand-wshing methods are seriously time-intensive. I can’t imagine doing that unless I did not have a paying job. 

    • http://www.tinyrevolution.us anotherkindofdrew

      Thank you Liz for speaking up with the r(E)volution. I though those combos would suck up energy. We will be roughly 60% off-grid and we live in the, um, “sunny” southeast so I am hoping we can offset the grid requirement should we choose to purchase and use a combo. As for handwashing? I am a telecommuter and Crystal is a SAHM so we have time to do some handwashing. For the next 50 or 60 years though? I think not! HAHAHHA

  • Stellalunag

    I own an RV and have a Wonder Wash and a countertop spin dryer. They both work quite well for very small loads, but you will need to hang your laundry to dry after (though they do so quickly). Wonder Wash is strictly human-powered so is very “green”. The spin dryer’s operates for only a couple of minutes at a time and uses no heat, so is also easy on the electrical load.

    • http://www.tinyrevolution.us anotherkindofdrew

      Thank you Stella; not only for joining the conversation but for speaking from experience. We may purchase a Wonder Wash soon just to really give it a test. It may be just right for our diaper situation!

    • Ginseng Vt

      After trundling to the laundromat week after week, I’m ready to buy the Wonder Wash & dryer combo you have, stellalunag. My tiny house won’t hold anything bigger, and I’m tired of running down to the the laundromat every single Saturday of my life.

      • http://www.tinyrevolution.us anotherkindofdrew

        So you are currently in a tiny house Ginseng? Do you have any photos for us or a blog link or something? I hear you though on the Wonder Wash. I wish I would have known about it when we were living in Brooklyn! And thank you for being part of the r(E)volution, my friend!

  • Anonymous

    Great overview, thank you, this was very helpful in giving me ideas to use in my tiny house! minimotives.com

    • http://www.tinyrevolution.us anotherkindofdrew

      Absolutely mizacy! I hope you will consider joining the r(E)volution on Facebook. You can find us at http://www.facebook.com/tinyrev . I am excited to start reading through your blog. I love a new face and voice!

      • Anonymous

        Already done!  I love your posts! ;-)

  • http://www.chiotsrun.com/ Chiot’s Run

    I’d be leery of the all-in-one combo, those things never seem to get anything right (like a printer/fax/scanner).  I’d opt for a qood quality washing machine – most like from Staber as they’re efficient and made to last for years and to be fixed by you!  Then I’d hang up a clothesline out back for the dryer.  

    I’ve never heard of a wonderwash but I love the idea, might have to look into this for future reference.  

    Have you read ‘Travels with Charlie’ by Steinbeck?  He developed a great method of washing clothes on the road in the back of his pick-up camper.  Genius! 

  • Medawkins

    ARGH! Where’s the discussion about compact washers that aren’t a combo or stackable? That’s the real deal. It’s easy to hang the laundry outside and better for your clothes. You missed a big segment here! 

    • http://www.tinyrevolution.us anotherkindofdrew

      I’m not sure I know what you are talking about Medawkins. We covered tabletop washers such as the Wonder Wash. We talked about handwashing and clothesline drying. I would be more than happy to add an addendum if you could clarify the segment you feel we missed. I do thank you for speaking up and being part of the r(E)volution though!

  • http://www.jennio.net/ Jenny

    My apartment came with one of those European washer/dryer combos. I love that it’s small and fits under my kitchen counter. Everyone always asks how I do laundry and then I open the cabinet door and shock and awe ensues. BUT it does take quite a bit of time to dry and this weird smell kind of lingers in there that gets on my clothes when I use the dryer. I have opted to use a drying rack instead because a small load of t-shirts can take up to four hours and still be a little damp.

    • http://www.tinyrevolution.us anotherkindofdrew

      The smell kind of makes me think of a Seinfeld episode Jenny. Have you thought about running a small amount of white vinegar with hot water for a couple of cycles?

  • Bklyn Surfer

    I was given a used washer/dryer combo 12 years ago. It is still going strong and over 15 years old! We line dry or use the drying rack for the majority of our laundry. The dry capacity is 1/2 the wash capacity, so full loads do take a while to dry. It is a 110v, self condensing model. I often check Craigslist in my area to see what the prices are for the used models. I will find myself another used model when my Malber WD800 is no longer repairable.

    • http://www.tinyrevolution.us anotherkindofdrew

      I love it. Great review and shows that combo units when used appropriately can last a long time. Thank you for joining the r(E)volution!

  • Melissa M.

    I’ve had trouble with my LG ventless 115V 24″ washer/dryer combo. When using the dryer function, the lint gets trapped in the machine. It is an easy fix, but we have to repeat the fix every six months or so. We installed our combo in a place where we can remove the top to get to the clog. Our family consists of two adults, one preschooler, and a 23 pound mutt. The dry function takes a minimum of 2.5 hours. I agree with Liz S. A line for air drying works better. The combo would be good to use if it is raining or snowing outside.

    • http://www.tinyrevolution.us anotherkindofdrew

      Great info Melissa. Thank you for speaking up. We are 2 adults, 1 baby…so it is good to know how your family is coping with a combo. 

  • Nancy Juraszek

    I will be in my tiny house by spring & have researched this as well.  Currently I am using a centrifugal spin dryer (it holds about 1/2 a normal load) & a plunger type manual washer.  Both work very well, but washing clothes is still a drag.  My tiny house will have the plumbing prep to add a “Combination washer/dryer” by Haier which seems to have good reviews & can be purchased through Hm.Depot.  If anyone has any Haier feedback I would like to hear it.  

    Thanks to all for the great info….

    • http://www.tinyrevolution.us anotherkindofdrew

      Without saying as much I am secretly waiting for a review on the Haier unit as well. HAHAHAHA. That is what we have spotted and feel like would be our most sound investment in this arena. So do you have a blog Nancy? I would love to track your tiny house progress!

  • Brian

    I want to make a modified version of this, a bicycle-operated washing machine: http://homelessdave.com/hdwashingman.htm

    • http://www.tinyrevolution.us anotherkindofdrew

      That’s actually very cool Brian. However, in the confines of a tiny house it simply wouldn’t work. It could be used in a larger space though. I like that it mixes everyday task with exercise (without belonging to a gym). Great find!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Annie-Blair/1415542022 Annie Blair

    Hey Drew! I liked this article and have perused the items you mention myself. I did want to add two things I have never seen anywhere else- there ARE two more options. The first is the apartment sized washer that washes with a hose type attachment that fits on to the kitchen sink briefly. These tiny washers do a good bit of clothes, run on regular house electricity and do not suck much up. I used one for years and they as well as the apartment sized dryer can be picked up used sometimes for very little money. Because of the size they are easy to store. Mine sat on the porch of the cabin in NC and was hooked up to the garden hose. Dont freak out but the run off from the machine can be used to water the garden. If you use the right kind of detergent the surfactants are biodegradable. The other thing I keep NOT seeing is the regular sized but European washers that almost completely dry the clothes in the spin cycle. My friend had one, and they spin the clothes so long, they are almost completely dry when they come out. They are made of plastic construction and therefore lightweight, though regular sized. The idea is to save energy by not having to dry them as long…. 

    • http://www.tinyrevolution.us anotherkindofdrew

      You are right Annie. The apartment sized washer is an option. However, I had one in Brooklyn and hated it. The hose was too short to reach from the floor to the sink, it oftentimes would leak (maybe a bad seal or gasket?), and it didn’t quite get clothes clean. That is why I didn’t even mention it. Not worth the words, in my opinion. 

      You are right (sort of) in that runoff can water the garden. It depends though on two things. 1) How particular you are about organic gardening. 2) What chemicals you use in your washing process. 

      You aren’t seeing the European washers because they are, in fact, made in Europe and exported to the states for a few select distributors. Because of their origin they are on a different voltage system and require plug adaptors to function in a USA home. Not to mention the cost to export is often prohibitive to our appliance stores here. 

      Great idea though. Just goes to show Annie that I don’t know everything and there are lots of ideas. We each just have to filter through to find what works for us and our living situation!

    • http://www.tinyrevolution.us anotherkindofdrew

      You are right Annie. The apartment sized washer is an option. However, I had one in Brooklyn and hated it. The hose was too short to reach from the floor to the sink, it oftentimes would leak (maybe a bad seal or gasket?), and it didn’t quite get clothes clean. That is why I didn’t even mention it. Not worth the words, in my opinion. 
      You are right (sort of) in that runoff can water the garden. It depends though on two things. 1) How particular you are about organic gardening. 2) What chemicals you use in your washing process. 

      You aren’t seeing the European washers because they are, in fact, made in Europe and exported to the states for a few select distributors. Because of their origin they are on a different voltage system and require plug adaptors to function in a USA home. Not to mention the cost to export is often prohibitive to our appliance stores here. 

      Great idea though. Just goes to show Annie that I don’t know everything and there are lots of ideas. We each just have to filter through to find what works for us and our living situation!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Annie-Blair/1415542022 Annie Blair

    Hey Drew! I liked this article and have perused the items you mention myself. I did want to add two things I have never seen anywhere else- there ARE two more options. The first is the apartment sized washer that washes with a hose type attachment that fits on to the kitchen sink briefly. These tiny washers do a good bit of clothes, run on regular house electricity and do not suck much up. I used one for years and they as well as the apartment sized dryer can be picked up used sometimes for very little money. Because of the size they are easy to store. Mine sat on the porch of the cabin in NC and was hooked up to the garden hose. Dont freak out but the run off from the machine can be used to water the garden. If you use the right kind of detergent the surfactants are biodegradable. The other thing I keep NOT seeing is the regular sized but European washers that almost completely dry the clothes in the spin cycle. My friend had one, and they spin the clothes so long, they are almost completely dry when they come out. They are made of plastic construction and therefore lightweight, though regular sized. The idea is to save energy by not having to dry them as long…. 

  • Pstraley

    A couple of comments regarding the combo washer/dryer units.

    We have one installed in our RV and as you mentioned, these units can be vented or nonvented. I would highly recommend the vented units as it does allow for a shorter drying time as it pushes the humid air outside.
    My other comment is in regard to controls. The Splendid brand unit that we have cycles thru the full cycles before resetting. It does not handle interruptions such as stopping to open the door. If you start it on a long cycle wash then change your mind, too bad as it will go thru the long cycle even if you change the knob to a different cycle. The machine remembers the first command and rotates the selector knob back to the original programming.

    Neither of these comments should dissuade someone from purchasing one of these units. The info is presented so that you are aware of some of the drawbacks of this particular brand.

    • http://www.tinyrevolution.us anotherkindofdrew

      Thank you for joining us at the r(E)volution Pstraley. We certainly appreciate your comments!

  • http://www.caseyfriday.com/ Casey Friday

    I made a video on the Wonder Wash and Mini Spinner a while back. Chances are, if you’ve googled/binged for either of them, you’ve seen my video or blog post. Check it out!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R1hD-KYfmIY

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