Portable Washing Machines: Tips to Buy, Install, & Use | Hawk Hill (2022)

When I lived in downtown Seattle my entire apartment building shared a total of 2 washers, 2 dryers, and zero elevators.

This, combined with living on the third floor of a 100-year-old building with very high ceilings made laundry day a dreaded task. When one of the building’s washers tore my favorite shirt to shreds, it was the final straw. I set out to find a portable washing machine for doing laundry in my apartment.

I bought and returned 3 apartment sized portable washers before finding one that worked for me, in the years since, I’ve become a pro at helping friends hook up and troubleshoot their own portable washers. Here’s what I have to share from my experience:

  • First, I explain how portable washing machines work:
  • Then, I’ll show you 3 things to look for when purchasing a portable unit.
  • You’ll learn 3 Hacks for installing a portable washer (the EASY way!)
  • Plus some FAQ’s, tips on drying clothes in an apartment, and a pro hack for drying bathtub-washed clothes fast.

Read on to learn how to avoid the expensive mistakes I made shopping for my first apartment washing machine.

Portable Washing Machines: Tips to Buy, Install, & Use | Hawk Hill (1)

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With my original washer shopping motivated only by getting one at the lowest price, I ended up with an absolute garbage can of a washer. After replacing it with a Black and Decker model– with a bit higher price tag – I decided to write this article for other apartment, tiny home, or RV tenants researching portable washers.

First, Understanding how portable washing machines work:

Full-size washers are connected to existing plumbing and have a water inlet, where water enters, and a drain. Portable washing machines perform the same function but with temporary plumbing. These portable units have inlet valves with nozzles that fit onto a garden hose or shower head. They have a drain hose that can be placed into a sink, washtub, bathtub, or- if used outdoors- the ground!

Portable Washing Machines: Tips to Buy, Install, & Use | Hawk Hill (2)

After trying a few portable washing machines in my third-floor walk-up Seattle apartment, here’s my advice on what to look for in a mini clothes washer and why:

One drum or two?

Cheaper portable washing machines have side-by-side drums – one for washing and one for spinning the clothing dry. The user must manually lift heavy, dripping, water-saturated clothing from the washing drum into the spin drum. This is a very wet job as well as an extra task you’ll need to attend to manually. Higher-end portable washers- such as Black & Decker’s Portable Washing Machine combine this function into one drum, mimicking a typical wash cycle of a full-sized unit.

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Before buying and trying a two drum washer, I didn’t realize that two-drum washing machines do not clean clothes as well because clothing enters the “rinse cycle” while still fully saturated with dirty water. To get clothing really clean, the user must move clothes to the spin drum, then back to the wash drum for a second wash. Using a double-cycle like this to get my clothes clean quickly burned out the motor on the Pyle portable washer I first purchased.

Portable Washing Machines: Tips to Buy, Install, & Use | Hawk Hill (3)

Inlet valve or manual fill?

Some portable washing machines require a manual filled for each wash or rinse phase of a wash cycle. These machines are only slightly easier than manual handwashing, as they require attention throughout the cycle and, most likely, a willingness to get a little wet. Good machines will have an inlet valve to which you can screw on a hose so the machine will automatically fill with the right amount of water at each phase of the cycle.

Gravity drain or pump drain?

Having used several portable washing machines, the most important feature to me is a pump drain. Pump drains work quickly to empty water from a hose at any angle, allowing a wash cycle to be completed sooner. Gravity drains empty very slowly and only work when the hose can be placed on a downward incline.

Follow your manufacturer’s instructions for installation as a primary guide, but these two modifications may help improve the function and ease-of-use for your machine:

1. Upgrade your shower to a handheld showerhead, then use the same hose for filling your washing machine.

Guys, this is a game-changer, an absolute essential, and the first modification I make to the shower in any apartment I move into: Swapping from a wall mount shower head to a handheld is so cheap and literally just takes three minutes and no tools.

The #1 handheld shower head at Amazon (which is the one pictured in this post) works great. Once you’ve upgraded to a handheld showerhead, the included hose makes it easy to connect to your washing machine whenever you need to wash a load of clothes.

Portable Washing Machines: Tips to Buy, Install, & Use | Hawk Hill (4)

You’ll probably need to purchase an adapter to join the showerhead hose and the washer inlet. To connect a standard handheld shower hose to the vast majority of portable washers (they tend to be threaded for garden hose connections), you’ll need a 3/4″ MGH x 1/2″ MPT Adaptor (“MGH” means “male garden hose”, mpt = “male pipe thread”).

Portable Washing Machines: Tips to Buy, Install, & Use | Hawk Hill (5)

Buy a brass one at amazon via this link, or you might be able to find a plastic version at your local hardware store. (Amazon doesn’t seem to stock the plastic version, and big box home improvement stores almost definitely won’t carry this unusual pipe adaptor in any material).

2. Experiment with drain hose placement

Your mileage may vary depending on your washer model, but my Black & Decker washing machine functions much better when the drain hose is placed up high.

While gravity-draining models require the hose to be placed lower than the unit for best results, some pump-drain style washers need to be placed up high in order to prevent too much pressure on the valve.

If the hose is positioned low and the valve is weak, a high water level during a wash cycle could cause leaks.

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Portable Washing Machines: Tips to Buy, Install, & Use | Hawk Hill (6)

3. Invest in Water Alarms

Water + Homes = always tricky. Protect your investment or your rental deposit by using devices designed to alert you when water begins to pool where it shouldn’t (such as a misdirect drain hose emptying water onto a floor rather than a tub!).

Although there are wifi-based leak sensors that can send an alert to your phone when sensors detect water, if you’ll only have your washer connected when you are at home then an inexpensive water sensor that emits an alarm when wet should work.

TIP: Avoid purchasing a portable washing machine that claims to be a portable washer and dryer. Although full-size, standard-installation washer/dryer combination machines exist and work pretty well, machines advertised as “portable washer dryer combos” are usually very bad at both functions. Believe me, I tested a few and read hundreds of reviews. Portable “washer/dryers” lack a tumble feature or a heating element, and the only “drying” mechanism is an extended spin cycle- which any good portable washer will offer.

If I get a portable washer do I also need a portable dryer?

Definitely not! It’s uniquely North American to view a washer and dryer as an essential pairing. There are so many easy and energy-efficient ways to dry clothes without using a dryer (even in the winter) and it’s SO much better for your clothes!

Here are the dryer methods that I’ve used and liked. The perfect one for you will depend on your living situation and what you have access to:

Retractable clothesline

A retractable clothesline is the simplest and also the most aesthetically appealing option for drying clothes without a washer. I love this one so much that I’ve uninstalled, moved with it, and reinstalled it 3 times in the last 10 years! With a section mounted on each side of a room, the retractable clothesline allows you to pull the necessary length out and attach it to its counterpart across the room, creating a clothesline when you need it and free space when you don’t. Retractable clotheslines work best to dry clothes when installed in a bathroom with an exhaust fan.

Portable Washing Machines: Tips to Buy, Install, & Use | Hawk Hill (7)

Travel clothesline

You guys have heard me talk about about Lewis N Clark products on my travel posts, but I love their travel clothesline. Tiny gaps in the stretchy braided cord allow it to be used without clothespins. Just tuck a tiny corner of the fabric into a gap and the tension will hold it secure. Surprisingly strong suction cups keep this mounted on a variety of surfaces. This model was my go-to when I spent three months in South America last year!

Portable Washing Machines: Tips to Buy, Install, & Use | Hawk Hill (8)

Pants Hanger

Pants hangers were very popular in decades past. Honestly all three of the pants hangers I own I purchased from vintage shops (you can get vintage ones like mine via these listings on Etsy)! They are ideal for small locations and for maximizing drying space. I also like that they aren’t single-use. They’re technically designed for hanging skirts but I love them for organizing scarves and accessories!

Another bonus of this style of drying rack is that the hanger is ideal for situations where you might need to dry clothing in an open window. The clips keep garments secured even in a strong breeze.

Portable Washing Machines: Tips to Buy, Install, & Use | Hawk Hill (9)

Dryer rack

Somewhat common and perhaps something you already own for drying sweaters, dryer racks take up a lot of floorspace when in use but have only a tiny footprint when folded up. They’re great for drying an entire load quickly. Because they’re portable, they can be used inside or outside.

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The trick to drying clothes fresh from your portable washing machine without creating a swamp-like microclimate is ventilation. Consider how air is entering and exiting the room where you are drying clothing.

Keep humidity down by 1. exchanging wet air for dry by using a fan + open window or an exhaust fan, or 2. actively dehumidify the air by using a heater or a dehumidifier. Both strategies work well to keep your living space comfortable while drying clothes indoors. Here are a few tips:

  1. Manually adjust your wash cycle to force the machine to spin the load as long as the settings will allow.
  2. If using in a bathroom, turn on the exhaust fan
  3. If air outside is a tolerable temperature, open windows.
  4. Set up a fan blowing on the wet clothes
  5. Run a space heater in the area (heaters dehumidify air), a safe distance from flammable materials.

If you have a small bathroom, the combination of a space heater and a strong fan can dry clothes in just a bit more time than a conventional clothes dryer takes.

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Need a reminder for later in your project? Pin the image below:

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How do portable washing machines work?

Portable washing machines work just like standard clothes washers, with a few small differences.

Instead of connecting to a dedicated water inlet and drain, a portable washer fills via a temporary hookup to a faucet, showerhead, or hose. When the cycle is finished, the wash water drains into a bathtub, basin, or floor drain. Although some cheap units require manual fill and drain, a quality apartment washer runs a full cycle of soaking, agitating, and spinning dry a small load of clothing. Portable washing machines work well for many apartments, RVs, and tiny homes.

How do I clean a portable washing machine?

Cleaning a portable washer is not much different from cleaning a standard washing machine. From time to time, it may be helpful to run a load with a cup of hydrogen peroxide added (caution- this may whiten clothes). The hydrogen peroxide gently cleanses the drum and hoses without being too harsh on delicate parts.

Cleaning a portable washing machine includes clearing all filters. Check your owner’s manual, since many portable units have two different filters that catch lint and debris!

Keep your top loading portable washer working its best by completely draining the unit before putting it back into storage.

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How to fix a portable washing machine?

Cheap portable washing machines are notorious for failing and being impossible to repair- the first portable washer I purchased died exactly 2 days beyond its 30-day warranty! If your mini clothes washer isn’t working properly, empty it, unplug it, and check for obstructions. Clear all filters (many portable washing machines have a filter located on the inside and a filter located on the exterior near the drain hose) and check the owner’s manual for troubleshooting advice.

If your portable washing machine still isn’t working, you don’t have to pay for an appliance repairman to make a home visit. You can just load it up and take it to an appliance repair shop.

Do portable washing machines really work?

Yes! I have a lot of experience handwashing clothing during international travel and while cheap nameless-brand portable washers don’t do much better than handwashing, good quality portable washing machines such as Black & Deckers do clean clothing equivalently to a standard washing machine.

Do portable washing machines use a lot of electricity or water?

Generally, portable washing machines use less water and electricity than typical washers. Because a typical washer is built to wash 12 to 16 pounds of laundry and a mini clothes washing machine has a capacity of about 5 to 7 pounds of laundry, the machine doesn’t have to work as hard or use as much water as a full-size washer. If you only need to wash a few garments, it’s much more energy-efficient to use a portable washing machine than to use a full cycle of a standard washing machine.

Is a portable washing machine worth it?

For me, a portable washing machine was the best investment I ever made in my apartment living lifestyle. It takes slightly more work than a typical washing machine because you might have to hook it up each time you use it. If your apartment building’s laundry facilities are safe and convenient or you don’t mind taking your clothes to a laundromat, a portable washer might not be worth it for you.


Where do you plug in a portable washing machine? ›

There should be a hose attached to your portable washer. This hose will be screwed onto your kitchen's faucet in order to fill the machine with water to wash the clothing. Hook the hose up to a faucet in your kitchen or bathroom and turn the water on. Use the water temperature that works best for your clothing type.

Do you leave the water running with a portable washer? ›

Leave the tap running the entire cycle. Depending on what you're washing you can either set the tap to cold or hot water. I prefer cold water because it's easier and makes colors less likely to run, but you may wish to use hot water for undergarments, sheets, and towels.

What is the lifespan of a portable washing machine? ›

The average lifespan of a portable washer is approx. 11 to 14 years. It's important that when you buy a portable washer be sure to check how many cycles it can handle. On average if your portable washer can handle more than 5100 cycles you can expect it to last for 14 years, provided you maintain it.

How do you hook up a portable washing machine to a sink? ›

If the sink has an external threads, remove the rubber washer. Take the water hose and connect it to the quick connector. Note: Make sure you tighten the connection using the pliers. Now connect one end of the water hose connector to the sink and the other end with your portable washer.

Can I plug washing machine into normal socket? ›

Do not plug your washing machine into an extension socket, only ever plug your washing machine into a mains wall socket.

What kind of plug does portable washer use? ›

Plug the power cord into an electrical outlet. Most portable washers require a grounded 3-prong outlet.

Can you plug washing machine into any outlet? ›

Washing machines do not typically need special electrical hookups, but some large household appliances do require 240-V outlets. Most electric stoves and dryers and some washing machines require the higher voltage to operate. Most washing machines will run on ordinary 120-V household outlets.

How much detergent should I use in a portable washer? ›

Detergent Amount:

Generally take the amount of detergent recommended by the detergent manufacturer and reduce it by 75%. For example, if the detergent manufacturer recommends 1 cup then use 1/4 cup.

Can I wash jeans in a portable washing machine? ›

A portable washing machine is a great alternative for small space dwellers and for those who don't have access to permanent hot and cold water hook-ups. These mini machines are usually big enough to handle small t0 medium loads, say, a few bath towels, bedding, underwear or workout wear, even several pair of jeans.

Do portable washers cause damage? ›

Another potential cost of a portable washing machine is the damage it can cause to your apartment's floor. Machines can produce a lot of moisture on their underside. This can lead to floor damage you may end up paying for when you move out of your apartment.

What is the most reliable brand of washing machine? ›

What brand of washing machine is most reliable? Whirlpool, LG, and Samsung are the most reliable brands of washers. Yale Appliance found that less than 7% of the sales of these units required servicing. J.D. Power also ranks Samsung and LG as the highest-ranking manufacturers in customer satisfaction.

Do portable washing machines get clothes clean? ›

We independently research, test, review, and recommend the best products—learn more about our process. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission. A portable washing machine is a great alternative to a full-sized appliance and is just as effective at cleaning clothes.

Can you use bleach in a portable washing machine? ›

Now start by, running a wash cycle with hot water without detergent or any other cleaning solution. The next step involves adding your preferred cleaning solution. You can choose either bleach or vinegar, as both are useful in removing calcium stains and soap scum.

Can any washer be hooked up to a sink? ›

If you do not have designated plumbing for your washing machine, you can hook it up to a sink instead. Use a sink aerator thread to hose connection adapter to attach the water supply hose to the sink faucet. The adapter connects to the faucet and the hose connects to the adapter.

Do you need washer dryer hookups for portable washer and dryer? ›

A portable washer and dryer unit is another option for making an apartment without washer and dryer connections laundry-ready. These units are adjustable and compact, making them ideal for small apartments. All you need is access to a water connection and a way to drain the water out, and you're good to go.

Do portable washing machines use less electricity? ›

They: Are easier to clean and store and take up less space. Feature shorter wash, rinse and spin cycles. Are environmentally friendlier (using less electricity and water)

Are small washers worth it? ›

In certain situations, like when there's a nearby laundry facility you can use, a portable washer may be more convenient and can even save you money in the long run. Outside of that scenario, however, a portable washer is likely just the best option for a suboptimal situation.

Does portable washing machine dry clothes? ›

The Auertech Portable Washing Machine has a long-lasting, water-saving, and low-noise motor. It can dry clothes quickly during its spinning cycle and clean clothes effectively during its washing cycle.

What is the cost of mini portable washing machine? ›

Kdream Semi-Automatic Mini Washing Machine, Capacity: 3.5 kg at Rs 4100 in Pune.

Are portable washing machines loud? ›

Portable washing machines can be a sore subject for many landlords (and neighbors). They can be very loud, and there is a potential for leaks. If you want to buy one for your apartment, be honest with your landlord or property manager about it.

Where should a washing machine be placed? ›

Placing your washing machine in the service yard is the safest option, not because everyone does it, but because doing so will allow you to utilise space more efficiently.

Does a washing machine need space around it? ›

We recommend at least 25 mm (1 inch) of clearance on all sides, 150 mm (5.9 inches) of clearance at the back, 50 mm (2 inch) of clearance at the front and 432 mm (or 17 inches) at the top. Remember that when it comes to clearance around the washer, more clearance is better than less.

What connections are needed for a washing machine? ›

A washing machine is normally connected to the cold and hot water systems, but quite a few will work with just a cold supply while dishwashers usually only need a cold supply. If your machine is supplied from the pipe that feeds your kitchen tap, the water will be at mains pressure.

What happens if you transport a washing machine without bolts? ›

Moving a washing machine without transit bolts will run the serious risk of damaging your machine, so we strongly advise against it. Washing machine transit bolts are a vital piece of equipment required to move your washing machine securely. A washing machine is a complex piece of equipment with many moving parts.

Can I run a washing machine with an extension cord? ›

The reason that it is not ideal to plug a washing machine into an extension cable is because it introduces an extra risk of electrical overheating. There is also an added danger that because these extension leads have multiple sockets it is very easy to dangerously overload one.

What size breaker do I need for a washing machine? ›

Requires a 120 Volt, 60 Hertz, individual, properly grounded branch circuit with a 3 prong grounding type receptacle, protected by a 15 or 20 Amp circuit breaker or time-delay fuse. Will not operate if voltage is lower than 102 Volts or higher than 132 Volts.

How high should an outlet be for a washing machine? ›

Once you've selected the right washing machine outlet box for your situation, it should be installed at a height where the flood level rim (or the top of the drainage outlet) is 32” to 34” above the finished floor.

Does a washing machine need to be plugged into a GFCI? ›

The NEC doesn't require GFCI protection for clothes washing machines specifically, but it does for “Laundry Areas.”

How many towels Can you wash in a compact washer? ›

When space is tight, a smaller washer is a smart choice. Compact washing machines are big on promises, including being able to wash up to 18 towels in one load.

How many washing machine pods should I use? ›

It should be placed at the back of the empty drum, before putting in the laundry! Only use one capsule per load. Capsules are designed to dissolve in water, so there's no need to cut or tear one open before popping it in the washing machine.

Is it better to wash clothes inside out or outside in? ›

During a typical day of wear, clothing comes into contact with our bodies as they move and sweat, leaving them in dire need of washing. By turning your items inside out in the washing machine you can ensure that these sweat stains are coming in as close a contact with the detergent as possible.

Why do landlords not allow portable washers? ›

Landlords are often concerned with overflows. Specifically, if the washing machine malfunctions, backups, or floods, it could potentially damage the apartments below, which is a liability to the landlord and will cost them money. Additionally, bother portable and regular full-size washers make noise and vibrate.

Why you shouldn't get a front load washer? ›

Cons of Front Load Washers

Front load washers can require more maintenance than top load washers. You can't always put clothes in mid-cycle, as the door locks to prevent leakage. Because it's harder for water to evaporate, front load washers may have more mold or mildew problems.

Can you put sneakers in a portable washing machine? ›

Regular sneaks can be washed in a portable washing machine but not running shoes or say the athletic sneakers. The washer may damage the leather and peel it off and can also shrink them in size, which will surely be an expensive error.

Which brand is No 1 in washing machine? ›

1. Samsung. Samsung is one of the world's most renowned technological companies. The company has released various AI-powered washing machines that automatically choose efficient approaches for washing clothes.

Which is no 1 washing machine in world? ›

Whirlpool tends to be the best washing machine brands in world. This machine has a unique feature known as ZPF Technology. This technology gets the tub filled 50% faster even if the water pressure is really low.

What is the best washer to buy right now? ›

Our Best Washing Machines of 2022
  • #1 Electrolux-EFLS627U Front-Load Washer.
  • #2 GE-GFW850S Appliance Front-Load Washer.
  • #3 LG-WM3900H Front-Load Washer.
  • #4 LG-WT7800C Top-Load Washer.
  • #5 LG-WT7300C Top-Load Washer.
  • #5 Samsung-WF45R6100A Front-Load Washer.
  • #5 Samsung-WF45R6300A Front-Load Washer.
1 Nov 2022

Do you leave the faucet on for a portable washing machine? ›

Leave the tap running the entire cycle. Depending on what you're washing you can either set the tap to cold or hot water. I prefer cold water because it's easier and makes colors less likely to run, but you may wish to use hot water for undergarments, sheets, and towels.

How do you clean the inside of a portable washing machine? ›

Running a wash cycle with cleaning solution should clean up most of the dirt, but stubborn stains and grime may require a bit of hands-on effort. Dip a cloth in a mixture of 4 cups of vinegar and 1 cup of warm water, then scrub the inside of the machine as necessary. Don't use a scouring pad or any abrasive cleaners.

Why do some apartments not allow portable washers? ›

Landlords are often concerned with overflows. Specifically, if the washing machine malfunctions, backups, or floods, it could potentially damage the apartments below, which is a liability to the landlord and will cost them money. Additionally, bother portable and regular full-size washers make noise and vibrate.

Can you wash and dry at the same time with a portable washer? ›

The portable washer has a washing capacity of 8lbs and a spinner capacity of 4.4lbs. Features a drain tube-allows you to drain out dirty water directly. You can use a washer and spin the dryer at the same time.

Can I plug my washer into a regular outlet? ›

Washing machines do not typically need special electrical hookups, but some large household appliances do require 240-V outlets. Most electric stoves and dryers and some washing machines require the higher voltage to operate. Most washing machines will run on ordinary 120-V household outlets.

Can you plug a washing machine in anywhere? ›

What if you don't have space for a utility room? “In theory, you can put a washing machine anywhere,” architect Brian O'Tuama says. “We've never had significant issues locating a washing machine anywhere, including a cellar.” “A deep closet will suffice,” Eva says, giving the example of the room pictured.


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