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Washing clothes by “hand”

By Karina | August 20, 2007

In April, I learned about a manual washing machine called the Wonder Wash . After thinking about it for a while, I decided to go ahead and give it a try. The Wonder Wash is a pressurized cylinder that you fill with your clothes and soapy water and then crank for 2 minutes. The pressure forces the soapy water through your clothes to clean it throughly. After the 2 minutes of cranking, the water is drained off, and the clothes are rinsed with clean water, wrung, and then hanged to dry.

After using the wonder wash a few times, I went ahead and crunched the numbers. The wonder wash will wash about 1/2 of a regular (conventional) washing machine. I use 6 quarts of water to wash and then I rinse twice, for a total of 18 quarts of water per 1/2 load, or 36 quarts of water per load (9 gallons). As the average washing machine uses 55 gallons of water (source), I calculate that I’m using roughly 16% of the water required by a conventional washing machine.

The first thing that surprised me about the wonder wash is how little soap I had to use. The instructions tell you to use 4 tablespoons of soap for 1 full load. I did that the first time, but I just didn’t think I was getting all the soap residue out. One of the neat things about the wonder wash is that you can see how clean the rinse water is as it leaves the washer. So I’ve reduced the quantity of soap to about 1 1/2 Tb and it’s nearly clean water after rinsing the second time. Another neat thing is that you can capture the waste water easily and use it to water your plants. My window boxes have never been so happy!

The next thing that surprised me was how incredibly wet clothes were after washing with no spin cycle to really wring them out. The first few washes I did took several days to dry – so I went back to the vendor’s webpage and did some justification with arithmetic, and ended up purchasing their spin “dryer” – which is essentially a centrifuge that spins the clothes damp so they can be hung to dry quickly.

Now, y’all know me: I wanted to make sure I’d still be making an efficient choice. After considering that a conventional dryer uses 5000 watts, and assuming it will take about 40 min. for a load to dry, than a conventional dryer uses 3.33 kWh per load. The mini dryer will hold about 1/2 of the clothes from the wonder wash, for a total of 4 loads required from the mini dryer. The mini dryer uses 82 watts which means 4 loads will require 328 watts, and assuming a general time of 3 minutes per load of spin time, the mini dryer uses a total of 0.0656 kWh to dry the clothes. If you compare the energy requirement of the mini-dryer (0.0656 kWh) to that of the conventional dryer (3.33 kWh) the mini-dryer uses only 2% of the electricity demanded by the conventional dryer. And that’s not even considering the additional energy saved by avoiding the conventional washer!

So now that I’ve got all the gadgets, I generally wash clothes once a week or so. It takes about 45 min. to do 2 loads in the wonder wash soup-to-nuts, including drying and hanging. The plastic body of the wonder wash is a little rickety so I don’t use it for heavy things like towels or jeans — those I will wash in the washing machine in my building basement. But I will say, even though I’m doing 45 min. of labor washing my clothes, I am so happy to not have to go down to the basement to do my wash.

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Comment by Jenn
2007-08-20 08:03:23

Karina, how’s the quality of these two machines? How long do you think they’ll hold up for?

Comment by Karina
2007-08-20 08:59:41

I’m very careful not to overload either of them – I think that they’ll last for several years, at least. The most concerning part is the base of the wonder wash – it’s really wiggly when you crank it. And I take care not to overload the dryer so as not to stress the motor.

Comment by Jenn
2007-08-20 18:44:48

You know what I just realized?
When you do your laundry, you do your laundry.
Which is really cool!

Comment by Karina
2007-08-21 09:27:33

it IS very cool! I love being somewhat self-sufficient.

though I’ve had a couple of late nights in the summer heat where I’ve been sweatily cranking away and thinking to myself: is this really where my grandmother thought I’d turn up? washing clothes by hand? eschewing modern conveniences?

Comment by stacey
2007-08-20 16:10:29

umm… from the website…
“Is ideal for campers, single persons and even for the housewife with small frequent loads like hand washables and diapers.”

Comment by Jenn
2007-08-20 16:39:04

Well then this is PERFECT for us! Gee whiz, what a perfect laundry solution!

Comment by Karina
2007-08-20 16:39:47

if I’m not in a relationship with anyone else, I may as well be married to my house!

Comment by Adam
2007-08-21 09:23:23

I’ve always wanted to rig some kind of laundry spinning device to the back of a bike rack, like those bicycle-powered fruit smoothy guys. So crazy it just might work.

Comment by Karina
2007-08-21 14:27:53

I think that would be so cool, Adam! you should do it, and we can post a review!

Comment by Donna
2010-05-10 22:42:45

My husband connected it to a medium duty drill. Once you got the inertia going, it spun really well. I’m sure one could rig it to a bike frame. :-)

Comment by Karina
2007-08-23 13:10:50

oh my gosh, it’s like the make blog was eavesdropping on our comments. check out this cycle-powered washer!


Comment by kayte
2007-09-05 21:45:47

our wonder wash just arrived tonight. we did our fist wash and it is currently hanging on the line to dry. so far, so good.
don’t you think it kinda looks like R2D2?

Comment by Karina
2007-09-06 08:33:28

yay! if you wash heavy stuff in it like towels and jeans, can you report back? I’ve been cheating and taking them to my dad’s house to wash.

and YEAH, it is the cutest little robotic-esque washing machine I’ve ever seen.

2007-10-22 06:04:44

[...] of the things that always strikes me as I use my wonder wash is the very small amount of detergent I have to use when I do the wash. To do a full load I only [...]

Comment by TArr
2007-11-03 00:00:58

I plan to use a wringer to get the water out of wet clothes – then hang them up on a line.

Just like my mom did way back when.

Wringers are available on ebay.

I have read several bad reviews about the vendor of the Wonder Wash. How was your experience dealing with them?

Comment by Karina
2007-11-04 22:05:22

I didn’t have any problems at all buying my wonder wash, and it came very fast. when I purchased the spinner there may have been a problem with the shopping cart security but that was straightened out very easily after an email. again, shipping was much faster than I expected.

Comment by Leslie
2007-12-17 13:56:36

I got a Wonder Wash from my sister a few years ago because we take long trips on our sailboat. It is wonderful! I have found that I also make very good use of it at home for small loads, and I love knowing that it is earth-friendly.

***However, I recently tried to order one for my in-laws as a Christmas gift, and aside from the initial confirmation that my order was received (nearly 2 weeks ago), I have had no further correspondence from laundry-alternative.com. I have contacted them via email twice and telephone twice, and still nothing. I have seen a review on another site stating that the customer service people are awful, but I can’t even get a reply from them at all (even to be called difficult or rude!). Karina, can you tell me anything about this site/company?

Is there anyplace else where I can order this item & still possibly have it in time for Christmas???


Comment by Karina
2007-12-17 14:19:11

I haven’t seen this item anywhere except for laundry-alternatives. this is all the contact information I have for them from my purchases:

The Laundry Alternative
P.O. Box 1013
24 EST

good luck!

Comment by Fran
Comment by Fran
2008-08-18 16:06:04

I’m researching the wonder wash and I found this in my search. I know it’s too late for you. Just FYI.


Comment by Maria
2010-01-08 00:12:45

I purchased my Wonder Washer from Lehmans (Sp?) in Ohio. I had no problem at all with them. However, the handle, which slips on and off, keeps coming off as i turn it. I stopped using it because of that. I still have it but I have not figured out a way to fix that.

Comment by Melanie
2007-11-16 22:57:17

I thought I ordered a wonderwash 3 1/2 weeks ago. It didn’t come and it didn’t come. So I emailed them and asked when I could expect it. Turns out they had a problem w/ my card but didn’t bother to contact me to let me know!!! I asked them to put my order through again, but 3 in days and they still haven’t done it. If I didn’t want this thing so bad, I would never deal with these people again.

Comment by Leslie
2007-12-17 13:58:32

Melanie, somehow I missed seeing your note when I just wrote to Karina. Did you ever receive your Wonder Wash? I feel the same way- if I knew of another company from which to order the Wonder Wash, I would cancel this order & move on to the next…

Comment by Vitaliy
2007-12-27 23:31:40

Lehman’s sell Wonder clean also.
Lehmans.com > Home > home > laundry > washing

Comment by Karina
2007-12-28 09:25:51

thanks for the additional source!

here is a direct link.

Comment by Lois Green
2008-04-19 13:11:30

I checked the Lehman’s link. It’s not the same product as that sold on Laundry Alternatives’ website. Lehman’s is labeled “WonderClean”, not “WonderWash”.

2008-04-09 08:32:22

[...] for an event this weekend, and I needed to wash out the fabric. I haven’t been using the wonder wash much this winter (y’all, I’ve been really busy, and really bad at prioritizing keeping [...]

2009-02-17 19:53:59

[...] the clothes at speeds up to 100 times faster than a typical washing machine.  I checked one detailed review and several comments, and they were quite [...]

Comment by lorrwill
2009-08-16 13:26:32

It would be awesomely cool if you could let us know if these products are still working for you.

2009-11-20 15:44:01

[...] I thought maybe it would be a good time to follow up on this topic! For some background – in 2007 I bought a handy hand-crank washer called the “wonderwash” and an electric laundry spinner to get the water [...]

Comment by Zach Smith
2010-04-19 08:04:42

This portable washer is a must for people who are often out camping, traveling, dwelling in dorms or living in an RV. What makes this type of washer even better is its no-commitment kind of advantage. Unlike a regular top loader or front loader, you won’t have to feel so bad if it breaks down. I think this is a good washer to have at home for those small laundry loads.

Comment by Best Fashion Info
2010-06-16 13:49:20

Hey, not bad. Thinking of giving it a try. Can you tell me how much load can it carry?Will it be long lasting!!!!!

Best Fashion Info



Comment by Fashion Girl
2010-07-10 00:37:01

If you are using liquid, pour it right on. If you are using powder, it might work better to to dissolve it with a smaller amount of water.

Comment by washer reports
2010-08-31 12:00:02

great one for camping and taking on holiday – i washed actually by hand in africa but one of these would have gone down just great. Small but i sure wonder on the cleaning ability – any comments appreciated

Comment by lorrwill
2010-09-03 18:21:41

From my experience, my own homemade low suds soap, small loads and warmer water worked to get my clothes very clean. Cleaner than the commercial washers in the apartment complex. This includes work out clothes but I don’t get super dirty (such as someone who does manual labor would).

Comment by Joy
2010-11-05 10:51:49


If anyone is still looking for another site, I came across this one.

2011-07-28 23:09:56

The WonderWash is a completely portable unit, and an incredibly efficient way to wash your clothes.


Pingback by Wonder Washer
2012-01-26 21:06:11

[...] top-load washer No washing machine? Use Wonder Washer. BIG BUCKS OFF! No more quarters! Just plug it in, fill with l…and clean fast. Holds 7 liters (1 3/4 gal.). Great for dorms, apartments, boats and RVs. Quiet and [...]

Comment by noel
2012-03-27 12:49:36

I was just wondering how well you still liked it? I ordered one YEARS ago and LOVED it but the lid eventually ended up cracking to the point that I couldn’t use it anymore. The same thing happened to a friend of mine.

Comment by noel
2012-03-27 12:50:17

I should add that it cracked from overuse of the thing- I guess. Not because of dropping it or anything like that…


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