3 Efficient Hand Washing Machines

Laundry is one area where you can really make a difference saving water and energy—and tread more lightly on the planet. Conventional washing machines use between 35 and 50 gallons of water per load—they are the second-largest water user in your home. Even high-efficiency front-loading washers are water-intensive, using between 15 and 30 gallons per load.

An estimated 76 million older models of top-loading washers are still in use around the country, using almost twice as much water and energy. Newer Energy Star-rated washers use around 20 percent less energy and 35 percent less water, but still 90 percent of the energy used by washing machines often goes just to heating the water (save energy simply by choosing to launder your clothing on the cold water setting).

Making a Huge Environmental Imprint                 

A study conducted by the group bigEE found that an astounding amount of CO2 is being put into the air and billions of m3 of water are being consumed by washing machines around the world. Here are some quick stats:

  • North America (each year)
    • 107 million washing machines in use
    • 10.7 million tons CO2
    • 15.9 TWh direct electricity consumption
    • 3.9 billion m3 water used
  • Global (each year)
    • 840 million domestic washing machines in use worldwide
    • 2% global electricity consumption from residential sector
    • 62 million tons of CO2
    • 19 billion m3 water used

With one cubic meter equaling about 264 gallons, an astounding amount of water is going into washing clothes. Meanwhile, our air and atmosphere are being polluted with greenhouse gases every time we do a load of laundry.

Low-tech & Low-impact

Non-electric washers offer a water- and energy-saving solution, conserving both resources and money. Who could ask for a better alternative?

These machines, which use the power of human energy, apply the simple technology of water pressure and high speed to quickly get out dirt and stains in minutes. No need to fret about exerting too much energy—a simple crank or foot pedal is all you need to use a non-electric washer, which will take the load off you.

They are smaller in size, which makes them portable, great for camping or traveling, and perfect for apartments, dorms or small living spaces, especially where there is no washing unit. (Laundromat costs add up quickly and most use the less-efficient top-load machines.)


  • Patented pressure system forces water and detergent into fabric at high speed
  • Hand-crank powered (one turn per second)
  • Uses 1.5-6 quarts of water, depending on laundry size
  • Washing cycle: 10 seconds to 2 minutes
  • Washes up to 5 pounds of clothes (i.e. 10 shirts, 2-3 pairs of jeans, or 30 pairs socks)
  • Drain hose drains wash drum without needing to pick up machine
  • Cost: $45
  • Note: Wonderwash also makes a spin dryer


Laundry POD

  • Circular washing system spins away excess moisture
  • Hand crank to agitate
  • Uses only 1.5-5 gallons of water
  • Washing cycle: less than 10 minutes
  • Washes up to 10 pieces of clothes
  • Drain hose has internal tube storage
  • Cost: $99



  • Designed with disadvantaged communities in mind to ease the physical and economical stress of hand-washing clothes (award-winning for its relief efforts)
  • Combination washer and spin-dryer
  • Powered by foot pedal as user sits on top
  • Washing cycle: 3-5 minutes
  • Uses 1/3 less water than hand-washing
  • Cost: $40

For a similar washer designed for low-income areas, see the Up-Stream foot-powered machine, which costs only $4.

Other bonuses to using zero electricity and minimum water for washing clothes:

  • Prevents soap residue often left from larger, conventional washers
  • Ideal for delicates and washing single items that you don’t want to stain other clothes by
  • Pre-assembled, no mechanical parts, no maintenance
  • Perfect for off-grid living

Eco bonuses:

  • No greenhouse gases from washing clothes
  • Less than 5 gallons of water per load
  • If using non-toxic detergents, the used water from washing clothes can be recycled as grey water
  • A perfect complement to hanging your laundry to dry on a clothesline