Do Tiny House People Wear Clean Clothes?

For some inexplicable reason there seems to be a real desire as of late for washing and drying clothes in a tiny house. I am perplexed by this mostly because I don’t understand the desire for clean clothes! I jest. I jest. I get it. No one wants soiled, stained, or otherwise smelly clothing. But I am perplexed a bit because when I think of space consciousness I almost never think of large appliances. And yes, I would consider washer and dryer units to be large. They take up quite a bit of space. In fact, in just some very quick research I found that the average washer is 27.25″ deep. That is just over 2 feet deep and when your entire house is only about 8.5 feet across (read: deep) that is roughly 1/4 of your space. Judging by the typical tiny house layout you are looking at some serious space restrictions that make the inclusion of a washer and/or dryer, pretty laughable. Yet it is being done regularly now. How? How is that possible? Creativity and plenty of it!

Before talking any further about specific laundry machines it is important to understand the 3 guiding principles of laundry machines.

ELECTRICAL REQUIREMENTS. Washing machines – EnergyStar or not – require a fair amount of energy. Truth is, around 80-90% of the energy used by a washing machine is used to heat water, unless the washing machine is connected specifically to a hot water connection. This requirement is significantly different though with the inclusion of an on-demand hot water system. It is important to note also that older top loader washing machines generally use more water and energy leaving more modern front loaders more efficient. Fact: a washing machine will use 400 to 1300 watts.

If you are living off-grid or are just trying to curb your energy consumption you may want to look at different systems of hand washing.

BASIC PLUMBING. The concept of washing machines is rather simple. Water in. Wash. Water out. Whether that amount be 5 gallons or 25 gallons (a requirement of some washers, mind you), it is a huge requirement. If you are living in any way that is not connected directly to some sort of septic system or grey water septic, that amount may not be feasible at all. If your tiny house has a holding tank like a more traditional RV, 25 gallons of wastewater will almost fill your tank.

Something as mainstream (or mainstream now anyway) as a Wonderwash can eliminate 90% of that water. The exchange though is that you can only wash a limited amount of clothing in the Wonderwash. In fact, the churn suggests no more than 10 t-shirts and 2 pairs of blue jeans.

In term of actual plumbing, because a washing machine dumps up to 25 gallons of wastewater at one time it will be important to build a drainage system that can handle such and explosion of water. PVC will be absolutely necessary and probably PVC that is between 3″ and 4″.

SIZE (again). You’ve probably heard the song “Deep and Wide” at some point in your life. I bet you didn’t know it was written about washing machines and dryers though, did you?

So with those guidelines in mind, what washing and drying system are you now considering? Are you going to go Wonderwash or simply a washboard? Are you going to have that Whirlpool no matter what?

By Andrew M. Odom for the [Tiny House Blog]

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Georgina - June 22, 2016 Reply

We have Thompson twin tub and a washing line for drying. Wash load limit is 6kg. It fills from the hot tap. We run the engine when we use it so as not to kill our battery bank. So to get best bang for our buck one person handles the boat and the other washes the clothes on the way to fill up with water.

alice h - June 22, 2016 Reply

I have electricity but no running water. There’s a double laundry sink out by my wash house with a hand crank wringer that can be mounted between. Clothes soak in soapy water for up to an hour, then I agitate them for a while with a plunger and wring them over into the rinse water. If you wash white/not too dirty first you can use the same wash water for more heavily soiled items. The rinse water can then become wash water for the next batch of clothes. Clothes hang on the line outside or inside, depending on weather. I hope to get a twin tub machine some day. You can use them or other small electric washing machines without running water just by filling the tub manually. Water can be reused by setting the drain hose into tubs or buckets to catch wash or rinse water. Washing is the easiest part and can be done with very low tech, no washboard needed. Wringing is the most tedious and uncomfortable part so even if you use something like a Wonderwash you’re still stuck wringing by hand. You can get small spin extractors to use instead of hand wringers.

Elew - June 29, 2016 Reply

We live full time in a 31′ class C…and we ended up getting a Panda washer and Dryer. They make many sizes, often quite small. They work great, and function well on a 20 amp hookup…and connect directly to a faucet for water supply, or can be bucket filled. No special outlets required.

russell - June 30, 2016 Reply

I have the college washer/ dryer in one unit. Very small, it takes about one hour to dry kind of. I use to iron after that for super dry. My TH has rain gutter to get the rain that runs to filters that go into my washer, shower, and garden. My washer/dryer fits under my counter top in kitchen. There is no wasted space in TH. If you do your planning when building it makes it easy for the layout. But after you built it then you find out what really works.

M - July 1, 2016 Reply

I know you’re talking about solutions on premises but, as powerboat dwellers for 20+ years, we opted out of the boat sized washer/dryer units as too inefficient and have always used a Laundromat. Adds an interesting dimension to life. I wrote a lifestyle column for a couple of boating magazines for many years and never ran out of Laundromat humor. Some day it my even pay benefits when I can convince some television producer to stage a sitcom or reality show in a Laundromat.

Jane on Whidbey - August 1, 2016 Reply

I prioritized having a large tub, because I love a good soak once a week or more. Even in the summer, when I can shower outdoors. I also opted for an ‘apartment-sized’ washer that rolls up to the sink in other houses, but sits next to my tub for ease. After over a year of living here, I’ve not yet used the washer. I find that throwing my wash into the tub after my bath works for washing all my wash. Since I’m not really using the bath for cleaning myself, it is very clean water, and it’s warm. Spot cleaning clothes as they go into the tub gets the grubby parts clean faster, and soaking the wash gets it clean the rest of the way. Even grass stains come out with soaking. If we all weren’t in such a hurry, we’d all probably like this solution better. I don’t need detergent. I use biodegradable dish soap.
The real drag IS wringing out the clothes. I have a spin dryer that is only 16″ in diameter, and 24″ tall. It easily fits in a corner of the pantry, or in the tub. I love this little workhorse, and it uses so little power. Check out
I know that this is not for large families, but for one or two people, this is a really easy way to deal with laundry. I used to need lots of clothes, because I would only do laundry once a month, because it was so odious to do. Now, it takes so little time, and is so easy, I actually enjoy it. I never would have imagined it, but I have this nice little washer for sale……

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