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A portable washing machine is a great alternative to a full-sized appliance and is just as effective at cleaning clothes. "Using a portable washing machine doesn't have to mean compromising," says Jawad Ahmed, a laundry merchant at Home Depot. "With just a smaller load capacity, a compact washer can penetrate deep into fabrics to eliminate dirt and odors, saving you water and energy with the same outstanding cleaning performance as a regular-sized washer."
We researched the top portable washing machines based on capacity, convenience, noise level, and power source. Our favorite is the Magic Chef Compact Portable Top Load Washer because it is easy to use, quiet, and as powerful as a standard-size washing machine.
Below, the best portable washing machine options on the market.
Best Overall: Magic Chef 2.0 cu. ft. Compact Portable Top Load Washer
Easy to assemble
Powerful enough for heavy items
Must use with liquid or powdered detergent
Not easy to move
What do buyers say? 500+ Home Depot reviewers rated this product 4 stars or above.
Magic Chef’s portable washing machine is essentially a mini (and cheaper) version of a classic top-load washing machine. This is largely due to its physical features, including a see-through window, electronic controls, and rust-resistant tub. And thanks to the machine’s 3D waterfall and filter, you get the powerful washing performance of a standard washing machine.
The Magic Chef top load washer features six wash cycles including normal, heavy, delicate, bulky, and quick. It also has three water temperature options, which you can tailor to the type of fabrics in your load and how much energy you want to use.
A few things to note. First, Magic Chef’s machine only works with liquid or powdered detergent. Second, despite having “portable” in its name, the machine is not easy to move. Many customers recommended purchasing a roller dolly or a similar platform so you can move your machine with ease when it’s time to clean it.
Best Budget: SUPER DEAL Portable Compact Washing Machine 9.9 LB Mini Twin Tub Top Load Laundry Washer Spinner Combo 6.57 FT Inlet Gravity Drain Hose
Gentle cycle keeps clothes in good condition
Easy to drain water
Stable when operating
Limited laundry capacity
Though it may be small, Super Deal’s compact washing machine is mighty. The top-load machine spins at 1300 RPM (rotations per minute)—enough power to give clothes a thorough cleaning, but gentle enough to keep them in good condition. Yet despite its wash power, this tiny machine doesn’t rock and roll when cleaning your clothes thanks to its stable weight distribution.
Super Deal’s mini washer comes with an easy-to-attach drainage tube, which allows you to remove water from the wash side while your laundry spins on the other. Some customers said the tube was a little short, and used the machine in the tub for some extra protection against leaks.
Keep in mind this machine can only handle about 5 pounds of laundry at a time, which is not ideal for the person who waits until they’re out of clean underwear before washing their clothes. But because the machine works fast—up to 15 minutes for wash cycles and 5 minutes for spin cycles—you’ll be able to work through any pile quickly.
Best Splurge: Whirlpool WTW2000HW 1.6 cu. ft. White Compact Top Load Washer
Easy to move
Only requires a 120V outlet and sink
Multiple wash cycle and temperature settings
No steam function
Whirlpool's compact washer couldn't be easier to set up and use. All you need to get it going is a standard 120V electrical connection and a sink. You can have it permanently installed with plumbing, but we love that it's so portable as is. If you don't have the space to keep it in your bathroom full time, the machine's castor wheels make it easy to roll in and out of rooms.
In addition to being easy to use, it's efficient. With an average yet spacious capacity of 1.6 cubic feet, Whirlpool's portable washing machine can handle even bulkier items like sheets or denim jeans. The machine's stainless steel basket helps protect fabrics from snagging, while its impeller drives clothes from the outer rim to the center for a more thorough clean.
Although it doesn't have a steam function to tackle wrinkles and stains, it has most of the bells and whistles of a full-sized unit, including five wash cycles, five water temperature settings, and dispensers for detergent, bleach, and fabric softener.
Best High-Capacity: Costway 1.5 cu. ft. High Efficiency Full-Automatic Portable Top Load Washer Dryer
Child lock keeps kids safe
Available in gray or white
Does not dry clothes
Most portable washing machines are best for one or two-person households. But Costway’s high-efficiency washer can accommodate a small family. Thanks to its large stainless steel inner tub and powerful motor, this washing machine can handle 11 pounds of clothes at once. And it’s not limited to “light” clothes. With eight washing programs to choose from, the machine can handle anything from heavy denim to light wool.
The machine is also quick to warn you of any abnormal conditions. After sounding the alarm, the machine will auto-stop and tell you what needs to be repaired. There is also a child-lock feature to keep kids from opening the machine mid-wash or playing with it.
Customers note that the “dryer” part of the machine’s name is a bit misleading. Although the spin cycles help remove excess water, you will still need to use a drying machine or line-dry your clothing.
Best Non-Electric: The Laundry Alternative WonderWash 0.7 cu. ft. High Efficiency Portable Washer
Doesn't wring out clothes
If you're traveling to a destination without electricity or just trying to be more eco-friendly, it's worth investing in a non-electric washer. Fortunately, the Laundry Alternative Wonderwash is a powerful and affordable machine.
The Laundry Alternative Wonderwash Portable Washing Machine is designed to handle 5 pounds of laundry at a time—think 10 T-shirts, a few pairs of leggings, or a bath towel. And while that may seem like laundry will take longer, the machine can thoroughly clean most items in less than 2 minutes. (Fuller loads or heavier items, like a pair of jeans or a sweatshirt, may take a little longer.)
With all that manual work, you may think the machine won't last more than a few loads. But because it doesn't have any motorized parts that often require repairs, the machine is built to last. Not to mention, the lack of a motor means clothes don't get snagged or tangled during the wash.
Now, this machine is not meant for the impatient types. You may have trouble assembling it at first, and you'll need to get into a good rhythm when turning the hand crank. Turning it too slow can result in dirty or somewhat soapy clothes, as can turning it too fast. However, once you're in a groove, this non-electric washer is easy to use and drain, thanks to a detachable spout.
Best for Camping: Lavario 1204 Manual Portable Clothes Washer
No electricity required
Easy to transport
Doesn't wring out clothes well
Requires manual labor
If you're going to be roughing it for an extended period of time, then a non-electric washing machine is a must. The Lavario Portable Clothes Washer doesn't require a power source, just a nearby hose or spout to provide water. That said, it's still powerful enough to remove the dirt, stains, and grime that come with camping activities.
The machine works by submerging a basket of clothes in water and pumping them up and down. Your once-dirty clothes will be completely clean within 20 minutes of pumping the basket. To dry your garments, simply wring out excess water and hang them up to dry.
And don't think you have to wash one item at a time. The Lavario's 0.6-cubic-foot "drum" is comparable to other non-electric models on the market, providing plenty of room for multiple garments.
Best for RVs: Panda PAN6320W Portable Washing Machine
Fabric softener dispenser
Doesn't fill all the way
Not easy to move
Although tent-pitching campers need a hand-powered washer, RV lovers can opt for an electric model—while still being mindful of space, of course. The Panda Portable Washing Machine provides the power of other electric washers, but at 1.34 cubic feet, it doesn’t take up too much space.
The smaller size doesn’t mean the Panda model lacks features. You'll have 10 cycles and five water level options at your disposal for tackling tough stains. Additionally, the stainless steel tub helps to sanitize your items, keeping everything clean as you hit the road. Cycles run quietly, and there's even a fabric softener dispenser so you can enjoy the luxuries of a permanent home while in your movable one.
You will want to figure out a plan for storing this machine before buying, as it isn’t easy to move. Either pick a permanent spot in your motorhome that is out of the way, or invest in a dolly for moving and storing it when it's not in use.
Best for Apartments: GE GNW128PSMWW 2.8 cu. ft. 8-Cycle Top-Loading Portable Washer
Fabric softener dispenser
Multiple cycles and temperatures
Doesn't fill all the way
If you have the space for a larger-than-average portable machine, GE's compact washer is the way to go. At 2.8 cubic feet of space, this model can easily wash two outfits and a towel with ease. Once the stainless steel drum is full, you can pick one of the eight different cycles, including delicates, towels, jeans, and four wash temperatures.
In addition to its multiple cycles and spacious drum, GE's portable washer offers several other features you'd see on full-sized models, such as detergent, bleach, fabric softener dispensers, and automatic temperature control. In short, it's the ideal machine for households that have a lot of laundry but don't have the space for a full-sized machine—or, really, anyone who wants to save money and space.
Just be aware: The tub doesn't fill completely, so washing bulky items like a blanket is a no-go. You may also need to run an extra rinse cycle.
Best for Quiet Operation: Black+Decker 2.0 cu. ft. Portable Top Load Washing Machine
Can handle large items
Spin dries well
Multiple cycles and temperatures
Clothes may get tangled in the wash
Countless customers praise Black+Decker’s machine for its ability to stay relatively silent, even when handling larger loads of laundry. Part of that is due to a built-in detector that will stop it from running upon sensing the machine is off-balance. This eliminates rocking and rattling—and the noises that can come with it.
But that isn’t the only draw to Black+Decker’s portable washer. The machine can handle up to 15 pounds of laundry at once. It also offers six cycles to ensure your clothes are being properly spun and has three different water temperatures to help you save energy.
There is one potential drawback. Some customers noted that the lack of an agitator might cause the clothes to get tangled during the washing process.
If you're in the market for a portable washing machine, look no further than Magic Chef’s Compact Portable Top Load Washer. With a wide selection of water temperatures and cycles to choose from, it is comparable to many full-size models. If you want to spend less, the SUPER DEAL Mini Compact Washing Machine is a great pick. It has enough power to give your clothes a thorough cleaning but won’t break the bank in the process.
What to Look for in a Portable Washing Machine
Portable washing machines have less than 3.5 cubic feet of interior space compared to the 5.4 cubic feet of a full-sized model. Because you lose a bit of room, portable machines are ideal for a one or two-person household. If you're planning to wash heavy clothing, towels, or sheets, it's best to shop for a model with at least 2.8 cubic feet. A person using their portable washer while camping or living in an RV might find that as little as 0.7 cubic feet of space is suitable for washing smaller loads of clothes. Typically, small-capacity models don't use any electricity and are hand-powered, so they're best for washing one outfit at a time.
Your portable washing machine can either be electric or non-electric. An electric model operates very similarly to a full-sized washer, where you plug it into an outlet and select a setting on a control panel. Just like a full-sized washer, portable electric washers typically require a 120-volt outlet. A non-electric model is also known as "hand-powered." You become the power source that manually cranks or spins your clothes. Non-electric models are less convenient but suitable in a camping or RV environment.
Some portable washers are more hands-on when it comes to getting water in and out of the machine. High-end picks can be hooked up to a kitchen or bathroom sink, while others can require you to fill and empty the washer's tub at the start and end of each cycle. To find the right type for you, consider how much maintenance and energy you're willing to put into your machine and how accessible a water source is for you.
Caster wheels allow you to move your portable washer anywhere you'd like with ease. Some models on the market have two in the front or back, while others have four positioned in each corner. This feature is typically seen in electric models with a larger capacity instead of non-electric varieties. It's most suitable for those installing a portable washer in their RV or small apartment who may want their space to serve multiple purposes.
A viewing window on a portable washing machine is usually located on the top door. It allows you to check in on your clothes throughout a cycle and ensure the water level is adequate. Although it's unnecessary to have a viewing window, it makes your appliance look sleek and more similar to a full-sized, top-loading model.
Delay Start Function
If you're trying to be more thoughtful about when and how you're using your water, then a delay start function may be suitable for you. This specialty setting—which you can find in a more high-end portable washing machine—lets you select a cycle now and have it begin in a pre-set amount of time. It can ensure that you're not depleting your hot water or running the machine while you're out running a quick errand.
How do portable washing machines work?
The type of portable washing machine you buy affects its inner workings. An electric model, which is plugged into an outlet and hooked up to your kitchen sink, works similarly to a full-sized washer. Add your clothes and detergent, then select a cycle, load size, temperature, and the available functions you want the washer to perform (like soak, rinse, or spin). You can pause it to add softener, then wait for the machine to do the tough work for you. It'll stay connected to your sink the entire time and drain the dirty water and soap.
In comparison, a manual model requires you to fill up a washtub with water and detergent and either crank or pump a handle to agitate the clothes. Then connect a spout to the washing machine and drain dirty water and soap into a location of your choosing. Add fresh water to rinse and spin your clothes. In this situation, you're the agitator.
How do you hook up a portable washing machine?
To hook a portable washing machine up to your kitchen sink, you'll want to make sure you have all the necessary adaptors, connectors, and hoses on hand. Most models come with these attachments, but you can always order them separately from the brand if not. One hose will run from your machine to a faucet. To set this hose up, make sure one side is tightly attached to the washer, and the other to the tap. You may need to use an adaptor here so the hose fits well and doesn't potentially leak. The other hose is for draining, and it runs from your machine to your sink. Once setup is complete, run the tap before plugging in your machine.
Since every model is a little different, it's important to follow your machine's manual. The manual will also tell you which hoses to use for water access versus draining (which is essential). Plan to hook up your machine each time you want to use it.
How do you clean a portable washing machine?
Unlike many full-sized washers, portable washing machines don't have a self-clean cycle. However, you can easily clean most models using vinegar and hot water. Start by running a hot wash cycle—don't add any clothes or detergent at this time. When the hot wash cycle is done, add vinegar to the tub before letting the cycle finish and drain. For more information, check out our guide on how to clean a clothes washer.
Where do you buy portable washing machines?
You can buy portable washing machines from many reliable retailers, including The Home Depot, Lowe's, Target, Walmart, and more. While you can call or check online to see your local store's availability, most options can only be purchased online. Many stores will give you the option to ship it to your local store or directly to your home.
Why Trust The Spruce?
This article was written by Leah Rocketto, a lifestyle writer and editor for The Spruce. To select the best picks for your consideration, she sorted through dozens of customer and third-party website reviews, and consulted Jawad Ahmed. As The Home Depot’s resident Laundry Merchant, Ahmed knows what products will take your clothes from dirty to spotless.