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For those of us without a washer and dryer unit in our homes, laundry already wasn’t fun to begin with. But a widespread pandemic and stay-at-home orders have made it that much worse. The one saving grace: portable washing machines, that can be easily set up in the safety — and convenience — of your own home.
The Laundry Alternative, a company that sells portable washer-dryers online, says they almost doubled their sales in 2020, with their warehouse struggling to keep products in stock. “We’ve been in business for many years, and have never heard anyone say they like going to laundromats,” says Corey Tournet, owner of The Laundry Alternative. “However, the pandemic was the last straw, especially when it hit New York City. At that time, it was like selling products like hand sanitizer…you could sell as much as you had. Our entire warehouse got cleaned out, several months of supply, in under a week.”
Sure, we may be wearing less clothes while stuck inside, with our daily outfits being the same sweatpants as yesterday (and the day before that). But laundry day is still inevitable. And if you’re living in a small apartment without a washer/dryer, a trip to your building’s laundry room or the local laundromat has gone from a mild inconvenience to an anxiety-fueled biohazard in the last year.
Even in the best communal laundry spaces, it’s a nuisance to keep a constant watch on your stuff, making sure your clothes aren’t co-mixing and mingling with someone else’s, or missing the end of your wash/dry cycle by a few minutes – only to come back to find that another patron has handled your undies and moved your load. Even worse, it’s close quarters with other people who may be sick, or not taking safety precautions as seriously as you are.
The option to hand-wash at home has, technically, always been there. But the time and effort it takes to individually hand-wash items, not to mention the forearm strength to wring them out, just isn’t realistic.
That’s where these helpful devices come in. They may not match everything that a full-size unit can do, but they more than make up for it when you factor in the time and money saved, as well as being able to do your laundry safely and hygienically in the comfort of your own house, any time of day or night.
There’s no need to drill holes in the wall and install new higher-voltage outlets, or hook up pipes to your sewer or septic tank. The most these require are a sink’s faucet and access to a drain. It may feel a little archaic at times, like living in Little House on the Prairie compared to the capabilities of the big machines, but the convenience of these is undeniable. Plus if you’ve been going to laundromats or communal laundry rooms, you’ll recoup the costs in just a few months, ending up with consistently clean pants — and hopefully more money in your pockets.
1. Ninja Portable Mini Centrifugal Spin Clothes Dryer
We don’t use the term “life-changing” lightly. But this spin dryer from The Laundry Alternative is an absolute must for anyone without access to a washer/dryer.
It’s not a total solution to everything: you’ll still need to wash the clothes separately. But at 3200rpm, it spins fast enough to shake off most of the remaining water, saving you the rinsing and wringing, and getting your laundry pretty close to 100% dry. (Not to mention how satisfying it is watching all that filthy excess water pouring out). And since there’s no heat, there’s no worries about clothes shrinking either.
This is about the size of a kitchen trash can, and holds a surprising amount of items, including towels, sheets, and jeans. It’s best to let your laundry load build up enough to fill it up, since if the load’s too light, it can throw the barrel off balance and get wobbly. But a hefty hamper full of clothes, wet and pushed down, should be fine. Put a bowl under it to catch the dirty runoff water (or a drain), and you’ve got mostly-dry clothes in under three minutes.
2. BLACK+DECKER Washer Portable Laundry Machine
With five wash settings, a pause button, options for three different load sizes, an eight-cycle selection, and a digital countdown clock, this B&D offers choices for customizable options to fit your laundry needs. A normal setting is about 41 minutes for a large load, which can easily handle a week’s worth of shirts, plus pants and smaller items too.
This connects up to a water source, most likely a kitchen sink faucet, through an included attachment, with a discharge hose you place over a drain. It’s cold-water wash only, followed by a blazing fast spin cycle that gets your clothes dry enough to hang up afterwards. There’s a convenient built-in lint trap too, so be sure to empty that after every wash for optimal performance.
You can also purchase this with a wheeled dolly for a little extra, which is ideal if you’ll need to be moving it around the house or even out to an RV.
3. Panda PAN6320W Portable Machine
The Panda comes pretty close to replicating a full washer in a fraction of the size.
It’s a heavy unit compared to some of the others, at 60 pounds, with a deep and wide basin that should be more than enough for one person’s weekly load. Connect it up to the kitchen faucet with the input hose, and thanks to the anti-gravity pumping capability, it can drain right back into the sink, even if it’s underneath it.
A “quick wash” is 23 minutes, and it can handle hot water up to 122ºF. The spin cycle does a decent job of drying the clothes (with an air-dry option too), and it’s nicely silent for such a big machine, with no intense shaking or wobbling throughout the process that might rattle your downstairs neighbors.
4. Giantex Portable Compact Twin Tub Washing Machine
This Giantex is designed for smaller loads (about 10 pounds max) in 15-minute increments, with the option to repeat as many times as you want. Same goes for the five minute spin dryer cycle at 1300rpm, which can hold about six pounds.
The filling and draining can be a bit constricting depending on your plumbing setup, but some users have found workaround hacks with hoses, zip ties, and even a turkey baster.
For a dual unit, it’s surprisingly lightweight. The appeal here is its two-in-one capability, but the load size (as well as the machine’s muscle) isn’t as big and powerful as some of the others here.