Laundry is one of those chores that no one really likes but needs to get done. For the last five years we have collected our laundry until we had nothing left to wear and then made a trip to a laundromat where we would wash, dry and fold and use up an afternoon. We often had issues with laundry getting moldy or smelly after sitting for a week. It’s always been a chore and the cost adds up. Typically we spend $10 – $15 a week in laundry fees.
We had two events that finished us with doing without our own washing machine. First we were in a lovely little spot in Manitoba and we had to drive an hour and a half to find a laundromat. Second the cat decided to barf up a hairball on our bed and we had no linen. Yuck!
After researching various options and comparing prices we decided on a Panda Small Compact Portable Washing Machine Pan30 Drain By Gravity. It is a washer/spin dryer. As you can see, it is really small and sits nicely in our tub for washing. We got it for under $200 USD including shipping from Amazon. When not in use, the machine stores in a nook in our bedroom. It is remarkably light and easy to lift. I have no trouble moving it by myself. The weight is only 28lbs. And the measurements are a mere 22.83 × 14.17 × 25.59.
I have scent allergies, another issue in a public laundromat so we use unscented products only. It takes 1/4 cup of detergent to do all the laundry. By putting it in the bathtub I can use the shower head to fill and the gravity drain which goes into the bathtub drain. I can also see us using the machine outdoors in the right location.
While the machine fills I carefully sort the clothing into whites and darks and then subdivide those into heavily soiled and lightly soiled. Towels are the heaviest so those we do separately. I run the wash cycle for fifteen minutes.
One of the nice things about the machine is that it is possible to reuse the wash water. I take the laundered stuff, squeeze it out by hand and then put it in the spinner and then add more laundry. In this way the amount of water used is really low, which will become important in same places we camp. The spinner can only spin one large item like a towel or pair of jeans but even so, it quickly spins out the load. As I do the spinning I can set aside and toss back in anything that didn’t get clean, like white socks. Once the whites are washed, I drain the machine, and refill it with clean water. I then rinse the whites. After rinsing the water is pretty soapy so I throw in the towels into the now soapy rinse water and, if necessary add some more soap. Once the towels are done, I continue with the dark stuff. It usually takes one more tub full to rinse the dark stuff and then one last tub full to rinse the towels. It took a bit of practice to optimize the whole thing but I can do a typical 2-3 days of laundry using four fills, or about 20 gallons total. I do the spinning for a full 5 minutes after the rinse and the laundry comes out almost dry.
We will not entirely give up using laundromats. The machine is too small for large blankets. I did do our sheets but my husband’s terry cloth housecoat was almost too much for the poor little thing. I also think it would be inconvenient to be using the machine “on the road” when driving each day. It is a bit of a pain to not be able to toss things in and leave and then come back and have them all washed. I may regret not trying to find weight and space for the 81lb Panda small automatic which costs twice as much. So far I don’t. I run each wash cycle for 15 minutes and in between moving laundry from sorted piles, to wash to spin to rinse to spin, I do dishes, cook, or any number of other chores. Best of all, no more smelly mouldy laundry in the corner waiting for laundromat day.
(Next post the matching dryer.)
Note as to lifespan: After just over two years of faithful service the washer pump died. The cost of a pump and shipped was more than just buying another one. Now I calculated at $40/month in laundry fees we saved, we came out way ahead, not to mention the convenience of having an in-RV washer. So we just bought another one, a slightly different model since the Panda no longer has a simple gravity feed version. The Panda dryer is still working just fine two years and three months later.