What is a Portable Washing Machine? How it Works 

A few years ago, I moved into a place that didn’t have a washer or dryer and was simply sick of hauling laundry to the laundromat and spending way too much. I started to look into portable washers because they were the right size for my small apartment.

If you’re wondering what a portable washer is and if it’s worth getting, you should know asides being more labor-intensive than a regular-size hooked-up washing machine; it’s well worth it. It’s great for small spaces and the environment, as it uses less water and saves you money. 

However, if you live in a rented apartment, you should ensure that your rental agreement allows you to own one. Let’s explore these portable machines and how they work.

What is a Portable Machine?

Portable Washing Machine

A portable washing machine is smaller than a full-sized machine and works perfectly in small houses or apartments.  The main difference between a portable machine and a full-sized unit is the size. Portable machines have a small capacity, with most weighing under 20 pounds.

They also have fewer features and are best for places without space for a full-sized machine. Portable machines can come in manual or electric models, depending on your choice. They work just like a standard washing machine except that they take fewer clothes: 

Should You Buy a Portable Machine? 

A portable machine can be a lifesaver if you stay in a short-let apartment or don’t have in-unit laundry. With a Portable Machine, you don’t need to wait for machines to be free at laundromats. Here are some pros and cons of getting a portable machine for your laundry; 


  1. A portable machine is an alternative for someone on a low budget or living in a small apartment. 
  2. They are pretty easy to set up, and you can use them anywhere in the house, like in the bathroom or kitchen.  You don’t need to pay for extra plumbing or set up before you can use them. 
  3. Portable machines are compact, so they are very comfortable to move around. Some even come with convenient handles that you can use to carry around the house. 
  4. Portable machines can save water, space, and electricity 
  5. One of the most apparent advantages of a portable machine is that it’s cheaper than full-sized ones. 


  1. A portable machine requires you to do some work too. This includes connecting the faucet, getting water in, and letting wastewater out.  Therefore doing laundry on a portable machine requires more effort from you. 
  2. Heavy clothes like coats may be too bulky for a portable machine to handle
  3. A portable machine doesn’t have the efficiency of a full-sized machine, so it can’t accommodate a lot of laundry at once. This means it may be unsuitable for large families. 
  4. Many portable machines don’t have the dryer option. 

How Does a Portable Machine Work?

How Portable Washing Machines Work

The best thing about portable machines is that they are designed to move from one place to another. Unlike a regular machine often fixed to a spot, you can carry portable machines from the storage area to the kitchen or bathroom. Also, you can keep your portable machines in your closet or other storage areas until it’s time to use it. 

Every portable machine brand is different, but they work almost the same way. They work through:

  1. An inlet hose that you can connect to a faucet to fill up the machine
  2. An outlet hose to drain the water when you’re done washing

How To Use a Portable Washing Machine

The major difference between a portable washing machine and a regular one is that they require you to work. Here are some steps and laundry tips for using your portable machine: 

Step 1: Gather your laundry

Many portable machines can only take a small load of clothes at once. On average, portable washers can not take more than 10 pounds of clothes at once. So ensure you take note of how many clothes you load into the machine. Your manual should tell you how much your machine can hold at once. Once you’ve sorted your clothes by color and material, you can then wash them in a separate load. 

Step 2:  PreTreat Stains

If you have any clothes with visible stains, it’s best to pretreat them first. A portable machine doesn’t have a full-size unit’s whistles, so it is best to get stains out first. 

Step 3: Add Some Water

Every portable machine has an inlet hose that you can connect to your sink tap.   Connect your hose to the faucet and the machine by following the manufacturer’s instructions. You may require some wrench to ensure the hose is well-screwed to the machine. Also, when adding water, ensure it’s below the water line. 

Step 4: Plug in The Washer

Plug your washer, set the washing cycle and the load size, and start. 

Step 5: Add Detergent

Most portable machines don’t have a detergent dispenser like a full-size unit, so you will need to add some detergent into the tumbler. Do this once the machine is running so it won’t clump in one area. It’s also recommended to use liquid detergent for portable machines. 

Step 6: Drain Water

Once the cycle stops, drain the water into a tub or bucket. To do this, you will need to connect the outlet hose to the unit and place it into the sink or bathtub to let out wastewater. 

Step 7: Start The Rinse Cycle

Add some water to the wash cycle to rinse your clothes. Then turn the tap off and let out the water. 

Drying Clothes 

Most portable machines don’t come with dryer options. However, Your machine will squeeze out water during the spin cycle, but you’ll still need to hang dry your clothes. 

Caring For Your Portable Machine

Like a full-size machine, it’s essential to care for your portable machine to remove dirt and soap buildup. Ensure you drain your machine after every wash and use some appliance cleaner once every two to three months. You can also use white vinegar and warm water to clean your machine. 

What To Consider When Buying a Portable Washing Machine

Before Buying A Mini Washing Machine

When you check the market, you will come across different types and brands of portable machines. It can be overwhelming to pick one, especially if you don’t know what you are looking for. Here are ten factors to look out for when choosing a portable washing machine:

1: Machine Type

As mentioned earlier, a portable washing machine can either be manual (human-powered) or electric-powered. Human-powered doesn’t require electricity and often has pedals to help you spin the clothes. The other type is electric powered, which works like a standard full-size washing machine. 

2. Loading Type

There are two major types of machines based on loading type: 

  1. Top loaders are more common in portable machines and allow users to load clothes from the top. They are less expensive and comfortable to use because you load while standing. Meanwhile, they are not very energy efficient as they use 50% more power than front loaders. 
  1. Front Loaders: You need to load from the front with this type of machine. Front-loaders often have a wider range of smart features and require less drying time. Also, they have a bigger capacity and save energy and water. However, their prices tend to be on the high side. 

So, determine the pros and cons of both loading types before you make a choice. 

3. Construction Material

The drum of a machine can be made of different materials, with the most popular option being stainless, porcelain and plastic. Portable machines with plastic are more durable than those made from porcelain. Those made with porcelain are the most durable and can withstand high speeds. 

4. Size/Capacity 

The capacity of a portable machine often ranges between 3kg to 13kg. A 3kg machine can accommodate about 15 shirts at once, and it’s a good option if you are on a budget because they are cheaper. If your budget allows it or you need to wash many clothes at once, you can go for a bigger capacity. Also, big-sized portable machines can take heavy items like duvets and coats. 

5. Functionality and Features

Portable machines come with different features and functionality. You can o check for features like LED displays, anti-vibration, energy efficiency, delay starts, temperature controls, and more. However, note that the more features a machine has, the higher the cost. 

6. Noise Level

Another important thing to note when buying a machine is how noisy it is. You don’t want a machine that disturbs the whole neighborhood when it’s being used. Noise is measured in decibel (dB); the higher the value, the noisier your machine. It’s recommended to go for portable machines on or below 50db. 

7. Energy Efficiency 

If you are environmentally conscious and care about energy efficiency, then you should check out the EU rating of the machine. EU is represented by an A followed by some (+) signs. The higher the (+) signs on the machine, the higher the energy efficiency. 

8. Operations and Wash Cycles

The three major wash cycles on washing machines are: 

  • Delicate/Gentle
  • Normal 
  • Permanent Press

Some machines also come with other cycles like pre-soak for stained clothes and heavy duty for heavy items like duvets. Getting a machine with at least all three major wash cycles would be a good idea. 

9. Spin Speed

The spin is the function that pushes the water out when you are done washing. This function helps to wring out the clothes so that it takes less time to dry them. The higher the spin speed, the greater the water removal efficiency. Portable machines usually don’t come with a dryer, so it’s best to choose something with a high spin speed to reduce the time needed to dry clothes. 

10. Budget

Portable machines are cheaper than full-sized machines, but their prices vary according to size, functionality, and features. Usually, portable machines prove varies from $40 to $400, so consider your budget before making a purchase. 

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