Portable clothing washer/dryer suggestions?
December 14, 2014 1:06 PM   Subscribe

Moving into an apartment with no laundry; landlord has OK'd getting a portable washer / dryer unit. What should we consider?

We'd like to be able to wash a load about equal to a full set of queen sized sheets.
We can't permanently alter the apartment in any way (power, vent, etc).

Water hookup would be the kitchen sink, which has a single faucet.
Device would permanently live next to the sink, likely on a home-made dolly with a lipped plastic top in case of leaks.
Power would be a normal wall socket, unless there's some way to split power from the existing fridge and stove outlets?

Ideally the machine would be able to dry clothes, too, although we can line-dry most stuff, or maybe place a portable dryer in another room. If so, venting would be out a window or into the apartment, as we can't cut a hole in the wall.

We're looking for suggestions, best practices, warnings, energy and water usage info, anecdata, etc.
Models we can buy in Canada, or drive home from New York State or Michigan would be ideal.

We'd love to spend under $500.
posted by pseudostrabismus to Home & Garden (10 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Anecdata: I have heard that the drying component in machines that both wash and dry doesn't work very well and takes a long time, and indeed the combo machine that my friend bought on craigslist won't dry clothes at all (the heating element of it broke altogether.)
posted by needs more cowbell at 1:23 PM on December 14, 2014 [3 favorites]

I think you should consider fluff and fold at your local laundromat. Or check out delivery. Before you balk at the price, consider the savings in hydro and water costs.

The washer/dryer combinations get meh reviews, check Amazon. There are cheap portable washers, and I might consider one, if I could easily dry my laundry on the line, but if you're in Canada, I'm thinking only about 5 months a year.

New washer/dryer combos go for about $899 and they're not meant to be portable.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:55 PM on December 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

They way the drying component works in these things, it heats but doesn't dry them in the way you're familiar with. So you will need a clothes horse. The clothes will come out damp (which is great for say, shirts) but they will air dry on a line or horse in like 20 minutes as they also come out super-heated.

My American parents were baffled and then amazed by this process when they came to visit me on our old house!

If it helps set your level of expectation, while it worked perfectly well for years, it is a more cumbersome process than you'd be used to. As soon as we bought a house and had the option, a full-size washer and dryer were the first appliances to go in.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:59 PM on December 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

We love our LJ combo washer/dryer! We have a dryer vent in our house and we still chose to get the combo, and every time I do laundry I'm glad we made the decision we made. It dries our clothes just fine. Seriously, they don't come out even a little damp. They come out warm and dry just like a regular dryer, even for densely saturated items like socks.

I have no idea why it doesn't happen like that for everyone else; my suspicion is that people are filling the unit too full. We have overstuffed ours before, and some of the clothes still had condensation on them when the cycle was finished. Even then, a quick shake evaporated the condensation right off and the clothes were dry. Not warm, but dry.

It does take longer to run, but the fact that you can just put the clothes in and forget about it until they're done goes a long way to mitigate any inconvenience the longer time might cause. It's also safe to let the unit operate while no one is home, which I was never comfortable doing with a traditional vented dryer, so I will frequently throw clothes in before I leave for work, set the timer so the cycle finishes when my partner gets home, and voila! Laundry done with minimal effort.

Our unit cost a lot more than $500, though. The price on the LJ page to which I linked is the highest I've ever seen, and it's possible to get one from, say, Lowe's or Home Depot, with free delivery, for $1500 or so. You might be able to get one used or refurbished for closer to your price range.
posted by jesourie at 2:11 PM on December 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Several years back I got a used LG portable washing machine on kijiji for under $200 (I can't remember exactly how much I paid) and it worked great (I'm in Ontario, Canada). Not sure it fit a full queen size sheet set but I was very happy with it. I got a portable dryer separately, used, maybe a general electric for around $100 also, it worked fine but I got a good clothes-drying rack and dried as much as I could. I think I still had to go to a laundromat occasionally when I needed to wash larger items or let things pile up.

I think I was fairly lucky to find an LG machine used, I wish you luck also. :)
posted by lafemma at 2:15 PM on December 14, 2014

Also price out and check Yelp reviews for local wash and fold laundry services in your area. That's your best bet. Many will pick up and drop off, effectively outsourcing your laundry. I did that when I did not have a washer/dryer in my apartment and it worked out very well. In addition to that, a clothes drying rack is great for hand washing out delicates and hanging up to dry. That's actually better for them than washing them via a machine.
posted by jazzbaby at 4:21 PM on December 14, 2014

There's several decent dropoff services in my neighborhood, and i bet there's some in yours.

Before you spend any money on this, you need to figure out including utility costs how long it would take to break even on the cost of a machine. I bet it's longer than you think. Even if using a service like that seems bougie/lazy/like some unnecessary expense i have to wonder if running a janky sink clampon and drain(i've done this with a portable dishwasher and... ugh) and dropping a bunch of cash on this is really the best solution.

Venting a dryer in to your place is a terrible idea for a ton of reasons including fire risk, moisture messing up your place, and that it's likely against fire code. And venting one out the window is likely to be janky(even though i bet i could BS up a decent setup with parts from a portable air conditioner hose/window kit or some plywood and a regular wall vent to make a window jig).

I also worry that any unit under $500 that wasn't just a washer would likely be a hunk of junk on its way out, and just be buying someone elses problem they see coming but don't want to deal with.

The best solution i can think of on the cheap would be one of those stacked washer dryer combos where the dryer is above the washer. Those can usually be had for well under $500, and many only need a 120v AC plug and not 220. Bear in mind, if you really want to do the vent out the window with a little plywood jig to hold the vent flap setup, that dryers work less and less efficiently the longer the hose is. It might also not be allowed to use flexible hose in your area anymore. Also, those things are huge and ugly.

I think you need to be willing to spend a minimum of $500 here to get a decent all-in-one, and that you should also try and do it a bit less janky. You can do it better without cutting anything. Put in-line T adapters in the water lines for your sink(which you can just unscrew later) instead of a clamp on for the faucet itself. Stuff like that.

And really, figure out how much drop off laundry $500 will buy. It's probably a LOT. That's likely close to 250lbs of laundry. Assuming you do, lets say, 10lbs of laundry twice a month(which is GENEROUS) or 5-7lbs every week, that's basically a year of laundry. You also get the nice benefit of not having to drop all the cash at once. How much is owning the machine worth when you include having to possibly deal with it breaking and having to repair it or start over... and the outside costs of accessories to set it up like hoses/adapters/etc, vs just using drop off?
posted by emptythought at 3:48 AM on December 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

I should add that my friend has been reasonably happy with the *wash* feature of the combo washer/dryer he bought - and it was around only $100 on craigslist. If you can easily line-dry some or most of your laundry, perhaps a combination of an inexpensive, used wash-only machine (or one that you only plan to use for washing) plus sending the rest of your stuff out to be washed would be a good compromise.
posted by needs more cowbell at 7:51 AM on December 15, 2014

Nah, everyone here is on the wrong track :)

Here's what you get: Panda Small Compact Portable Washing Machine (10 lbs Capacity) XPB45 - Larger Size

I don't know about Canada specific purchasing, but I think they have something equivalent over there. In the U.S., you can buy it from Amazon here, or you can get it on eBay here. I purchased mine on eBay, and it was $250 and free shipping (and from this seller in the link) - it says they ship to Canada. Mine arrived literally the next day by FedEx.

Read the user reviews on Amazon in the link provided. Our experience - fantastic. We've only had it for a couple of months, so I can't speak to the longevity of it, but it has gotten incredibly intense use so far - TRIGGER WARNING BELOW

One of our cats has cancer that presents in open bleeding and oozing sores. He doesn't appear to suffer pain, and has good appetite, play etc., but the cancer is inoperable and we're waiting to put him down, following the vet instructions palliative care at this point. Meanwhile, he bleeds on blankets and towels all over the house, and those need to be constantly washed - 2-3 times a week, huge multiple loads. In other words, the machine is getting an incredible workout.


There is no dryer. BUT. There is a spinner that is amazingly effective. You pull out the clothes after a few minutes of spinning, and they're practically dry. At that point you clothesline them and they are dry very fast, even in winter (it's the low 60's here in LA recently - and we don't use the heater indoor). IMHO, you don't really need a dryer, but YMMV.

The capacity is huge. You can comfortably wash a full set of Queen size sheets plus towels, jeans etc.; we've washed full size blankets and spreads. The spinner is smaller - and you need to break up the load that comes out of the washer into smaller portions if it's very big, but pretty much anything will spin to almost dry within 3 minutes or so.

Operating it is very simple indeed. The only slightly tricky part is making sure that the load in the *spinner* is balanced, otherwise it will vibrate pretty strongly.

The things to watch for: make sure you attach the outlet hose securely to the sink - if it falls off to the floor, you'll flood your apartment. We don't bother attaching the hose for water intake - just fill up a bucket with water and pour it in - a few buckets should do the trick. Biggest thing to watch out for: LINT. Washing generates a lot of lint (depending on what you're washing). The lint catcher in this machine is a joke - basically worthless - but there is an easy solution (see below). We set the machine on an adjustable mobile base, that way we can wheel it around with ease (it's not heavy anyhow: under 40 lbs).

It's pretty quiet, and if you set it on the base as we did, or on a softer surface, like some rubber-type mat, you should dampen the vibrations down to practically nothing.

How to solve the lint problem: buy one of these - 1 Gallon Elastic Opening Strainer Bag, which you tie to the end of your outlet hose with a rubber band or something similar. Then, at the end of your washing session, clean out the bag and throw away the lint - looking at the amount generated after a washing session, I can see how our drain would be plugged up in no time at all without this strainer bag.

For delicates, it's useful to buy a set of washing bags - the action of the washer is pretty strong, and delicates may be damaged. You can buy them from Amazon, or cheaper at IKEA etc.

Get a sturdy 12 gauge, grounded extension cable, as the provided AC cord is on the short side.

Here's the mobile base I got for our machine - HTC HTC2000 Adjustable Universal Mobile Base - needs assembly, but you can find other solutions.

Again - don't forget to secure the outlet hose to the sink - you don't want it to fall off! The plastic bent half-collar the hose is riding on can easily detach and if you're not supervising, you can find yourself in a pretty big puddle (guess how I know). My solution was to position the collar and then secure it to the hose with one of those velcro cable wraps, and it's been rock solid ever since.

Now, there are several smaller combos along the same lines, but this one strikes the right balance between size and capacity for us.
posted by VikingSword at 9:33 AM on December 15, 2014

We have this GE portable washer which hooks up to the kitchen sink. It has no agitator in the tub, so it holds quite a lot.

The cost of the machine was over $500 new (we bought it at The Bay) and it may not be available brand new any longer, but I've seen similar on Craiglist and Kijiji for pretty reasonable prices.

It has a liquid soap and fabric softener dispenser, a lint filter in the tub, and can handle pretty much anything we throw at it (except a queen-sized mattress pad - that gets taken downstairs to the apartment's laundry room as it gets very heavy when wet. We comparison shopped a fair bit against cheaper Danby/Haier/Panda/etc models and in the end decided that the extra was worth spending.

Drying-wise, we have a 110v Kenmore compact dryer from Sears which lives next to a dresser in the bedroom and does a fine job (just not very quickly); above that, we have a drying line reel and hooks which creates three lines for air drying/dryer queueing. Thinner stuff like sheets tend to be pretty much dry by the time its their "turn" and they wind up just getting a short toss.
posted by area.man at 3:24 PM on December 15, 2014

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