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If you don't have the space for a full-sized laundry setup, a portable washing machine can help you cut down on the time and energy you spend on your dirty clothes. Say goodbye to trips to the laundromat, ringing out your clothes over the kitchen sink, and pruney hands. Typically smaller and a little less powerful than traditional washers, portable washing machines use a sink hookup or buckets of water to wash and rinse your clothes, and can be tucked into a utility closet when not in use.
Portable washers come in both electric and manual models, so whether you're out camping or just trying to get clean clothes in an apartment or small home, you can find one that suits your needs. Their capacity usually averages around 1.5 cubic feet, which is about the same size as a pair of jeans, shirt, underwear, and even a set of pillowcases.
We've done the research, and here are the best portable washing machine options on the market.
Best Overall: Magic Chef MCSTCW16W4 1.6 cu. ft. Compact White Top Load Washing Machine
Water temperature options
Hard to move around
Can be leaky
For an affordable portable washing machine that delivers a superior clean and boasts many of the same features as full-size models, you need the Magic Chef MCSTCW16W4. This appliance looks and feels like a mini version of a top-load washing machine, and its 1.6-cubic-foot capacity is perfect for doing small loads of laundry.
This portable washer features a see-through top window, electronic controls, and a stainless steel inner tub. To use it, just attach the water supply hoses to a water faucet. You can then choose from six wash cycles, including normal, heavy duty, delicates, bulky items, speed wash, and more. Additionally, there are three water temperature options, which you can tailor to the type of fabrics in your load, and how much energy you want to use. (Typically, cold water cycles use less energy and, therefore, cost less to run.)
You can also add either liquid or powder detergent to the included dispenser of this model, to be automatically mixed into your clothes. When your load is done, a signal goes off so you know to remove your clothes and set them out to dry.
Best Budget: Costway Portable Mini Compact Twin Tub Washing Machine
Doesn't turn off on its own
Leaves clothes damp
Are you looking to purchase a portable washing machine so you don’t have to pay for laundry services in your apartment building? Save your quarters and score the cleanest clothes with the COSTWAY Portable Mini Compact Twin Tub. It’s tiny, but offers tons of features including two tubs: a washing one and a spin drying one. Each tub comes with its own timer, so you can treat your clothes just right.
To start a cycle in the washing tub, toss in your dirty clothes and fill the tub with water. (Make sure you’re nearby to turn it off, because it won’t do so on its own.) Set the timer, and let the cycle begin. For the spin cycle, follow the same guidelines, making sure your load doesn’t exceed the 8-pound capacity. The spin drying tub will leave your clothes almost completely dry, as this machine runs at 120V, which is the same voltage as portable washers on the more expensive side. It’s an impressive machine, considering its dainty price tag.
Best High-End: GE GNW128PSMWW 2.8 cu. ft. 8-Cycle Top-Loading Portable Washer
Variety of wash cycles
Doesn't fill all the way
Most portable washing machines are pretty small, which can be frustrating if you have a lot of laundry to wash. If you’re willing to pay more for a larger, more advanced portable washing machine, the GE Portable Washer will make laundry day a whole lot easier.
This high-end portable washer has an impressive 2.8 cubic foot capacity which is almost three times larger than many comparable products. It has electronic one-touch controls, and you can choose from eight different cycles, including delicates, towels, and sheets, and four wash temperatures. The machine features caster wheels so you can easily move it around your home, as well as a stainless steel basket that resists rust and won’t harm your clothes. The water input hose easily connects to a standard kitchen or bathroom sink, which makes installing this piece a breeze and it so worth the higher price tag.
Best Non-Electric: The Laundry Alternative Wonderwash 0.7 cu. ft. High Efficiency Portable Washer
Requires time and energy
Difficult to assemble
Can leave soap in clothes
If you’re living off-the-grid, you’ll probably need a portable washing machine that doesn’t rely on electricity. In this case, you should definitely consider the highly-rated Laundry Alternative Wonderwash Portable Washing Machine.
This manual washing machine weighs just 6 pounds, and it can clean laundry in a matter of minutes. You power the machine via a hand crank, and the tub can fit up to 10 T-shirts at a time. It’s gentle on clothes, and naturally will last you a long time since it doesn’t have any motorized parts that would typically need repairs. Since it doesn’t rely on electricity, it’s perfect for those living off-the-grid or anyone who’s trying to cut back on their bill while also scoring the cleanest clothes.
Best for Camping: Lavario 1204 Manual Portable Clothes Washer
Doesn't require electricity
Doesn't wring out clothes well
The Lavario Portable Clothes Washer is the perfect gadget to take with you on camping trips. This compact, manual washer doesn’t require any electricity, and will still get out the toughest grime. It’s hand-powered which is eco-friendly, but will require some energy on your part. If you purchase it, you can look forward to a simple and straightforward design that’s only 14 pounds and 19 x 19 x 24 inches.
To use this patented gadget, simply load up the basket with the clothes you want to wash. Pour water and detergent into the bucket, then submerge the basket by pumping it up and down. Within 20 minutes, your clothing will be completely clean, and you can refill the bucket with clean water to rinse. Wring excess water out of your garments, then hang them up to dry. Since this portable washer is powered by you, it’s particularly great with delicates or clothes with mesh—say, your workout leggings—and may be something you want to use at home.
Best for Apartments: Black + Decker BPWM09W 0.9 cu. ft. Portable Top-Load Washer
Easy to move around
Can have button issues
Finding a portable washer that doesn’t mess up the decor or layout of your apartment may seem tricky, but the Black + Decker 0.9-cubic foot Portable Washer will make you think otherwise. It has a sleek design with LED displays, and a viewing window on the top lid that’ll allow you to casually check in on your laundry from the other side of the room. Although it has a smaller capacity than some portable washing machines, it’s a good fit for apartment living because you are able to choose between five cycles and three water levels, and can easily tend to this machine while watching TV or working from home.
Do you want to slip this piece into a different room so you can complete multiple chores at once? You can because it’s easy to move around, despite not having wheels. Put it in your living room while you fold your dry clothes and watch a show.
Best for RVs: Panda PAN6320W Portable Washing Machine
Tons of washing cycles
Fabric softener dispenser
Doesn't look sleek
Instructions are confusing
Whether you’re living in an RV for an extended period of time or just for a weekend while you explore nature’s sights, one thing is clear: your clothes are going to get dirty. The Panda Portable Washing Machine will be your new sidekick, delivering lots of space and 10 washing cycles that’ll tackle your tough stains. This model also has two built-in rollers so you can move the machine around when you’re cooking, or trying to access the bed at the back of your RV.
Toss your clothes into this portable washing machine daily, or your sheets and pillows after a post-hike nap. The 1.34 cubic foot, stainless steel tub is large enough for a load made of sheets and pillow cases, or at least your entire outfit from the day. The cycles run quietly and with total ease, and there is even a fabric softener dispenser.
Best for Settings: Danby DWM030WDB-6 0.9 cu. ft. Compact Top Load Washing Machine
Delay start function
Stainless steel tub
Can be tricky to install
Difficult to move around
Any household who's used to a larger washing machine's bells and whistles, or wants to tailor their laundry experience as much as possible, is likely seeking a portable washer with a range of settings. The Danby DWM030WDB-6 is a good pick in this case, as it has five wash settings, two wash speeds, and dispensers for detergent and fabric softener. The wash settings include popular presets like delicates, normal, heavy-duty, and speed wash. You can choose to start a cycle right away or make use of a delay start function.
When it comes to the interior, this model features a stainless steel tub that won't easily wear, and built-in balancing technology that ensures your clothes are both washed and soaked evenly. The spin cycle is also pretty powerful and will leave your load almost completely dry without causing a ruckus in the process. Just be sure to install the drain hose at the right height so you don't run into issues later on.
Best Mini: Costway 23104-CYWH Mini Washing Machine with Spin Dryer
You may not have much storage space in a small apartment or RV, which can make it challenging to find room to store a portable washer. Luckily, there are products like the COSTWAY Mini Washing Machine, which are small enough to stash in a closet or cabinet.
This mini washing machine measures just 14 x 13 x 20 inches. Its compact design makes it an ideal product to bring on long road trips or purchase while you’re in-between living spaces, although it doesn’t fit much so don’t be surprised if you need to do multiple loads. The single tub washes and spins small loads of laundry, and you can choose how long to wash items for using the timer. Once you’re finished washing, simply drain the dirty water out the bottom via the included drain hose. A typical load will have a 10-minute wash and five-minute spin routine. That is very convenient for anyone who needs to wash their clothes quickly before heading off to a new destination.
If you're in the market for a portable washing machine, then head straight for the Magic Chef MCSTCW16W4 (view at Home Depot). It's affordable, and has a wide selection of both water temperatures and cycles to choose from—much like a full-size model. If you want to spend a little less, the Costway Portable Mini Compact Twin Tub (view at Walmart) is a great pick and allows you to wash and dry your clothes, although its interior isn't very spacious.
What to Look for in a Portable Washing Machine
Portable washing machines have less than 3.5 cubic feet of interior space. Compared to a full-sized model, that typically averages around 5.4 cubic feet, this is significantly smaller. If you're planning to wash a lot of heavy clothing, towels, or sheets, you'll want to shop for a model with around 2.8 cubic feet, minimum. A person who's using their portable washer while camping or living in an RV might be find that as little as 0.7 cubic feet of space is suitable. Typically, small-capacity models don't use any electricity and are hand-powered, so you won't want to wash more than one outfit at a time anyways.
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. Unlike a full-sized washer, portable and electric washers typically require a 120-volt outlet, opposed to a 240-volt one. A non-electric model is also known as "hand-powered." You become the power source, and must manually crank or spin your clothes. Non-electric models are less convenient, but suitable in a camping or RV space.
Like power sources, 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 of the corners. This feature is typically seen in electric models, opposed to non-electric ones, with a larger capacity. It's most suitable for those installing a portable washer in their RV or 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 make sure the water level is adequate. Although it's not an absolute necessity to have a viewing window, it does make your appliance look sleek and even like a full-sized, top-loading one.
Delay start function
If you're trying to be more thoughtful about when and how you're using your water, or simply are very busy, then a delay start function may be suitable for you. This specialty setting which can be found 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 when you're out doing 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 in to an outlet and hooked up to your kitchen sink, works similarly to a full-size washer. Once your clothes and detergent are added, you'll select a cycle, load size, temperature, and potentially the functions you want the washer to perform like soak, rinse, or spin. You can pause it to add in softener, and 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 this way.
In comparison, a manual model requires you to fill up a wash tub with water and detergent, and crank a handle to agitate the clothes. You'll then connect a spout to the washing machine, and drain all the 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 will run from your machine to your sink. Once set up is complete, you'll want to 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 every time you want to use it, as you'll need to use your kitchen sink regularly.
How do you clean a portable washing machine?
Unlike full-sized washers, portable washing machines don't always have a self-clean cycle. However, you can easily clean them 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. Then, let the cycle finish. For more information, check out our guide on how to clean a clothes washer.
Why Trust The Spruce?
This article was edited and updated by Marisa Casciano, who is the large appliance expert for The Spruce. Throughout her career, she's researched the ins and outs of air purifiers, dishwashers, cooktops, and more in the home and lifestyle space. As someone who loves to travel and has lived in multiple apartments, she understands the need to wash clothes in a small, sometimes unconventional place.