Introduction: Hand Washing Machine

Picture of Hand Washing Machine

This is a cheap, green and easy-to-use hand washing machine.

As it only uses hand power it can be used outside as well as inside. Just think of the fun you can have doing your washing by hand on your next survival trip! The washing machine also doubles as a floating, waterproof carry-all for canoe trips and other situations where you want to keep the water outside of the machine instead of inside.

What you need:

  • 1 plastic waterproof tub (I used a Curtec 10 litre, dia 27,4 cm, height 23,9 cm, costs about 23 Euros)

The hand washing machine has a 8-step program:

  1. Detergent
  2. Fill
  3. Clothing
  4. Wash
  5. Drain
  6. Rinse (can be repeated)
  7. Spin
  8. Dry

Step 1: Detergent

Picture of Detergent

Add detergent, the pink stuff seems to work for me.

Step 2: Fill

Picture of Fill

Choose a program, then fill with water, according to the program. My HWM only has a cold program, but that's fine with me, so I fill it with cold water. Leave some space for the clothes and some air (you'll see why later).

Step 3: Clothing

Picture of Clothing

Here you add the clothing. Make sure they have enough space to move around, as movement cleans. I use this HWM for my cycling clothes, which don't always take well to to a mechanical washing machine.

Step 4: Wash

Picture of Wash

Now grab those handles and shake vigorously. If you have chosen a program with soak, let the clothes sit for a while after the first shakes, then shake again some.

Ensure that you shake in ways that make the clothes rotate, so that each item gets a chance to be on top. That way the clothes clean evenly. I find that rotating my hips in sync with the HWM helps. Opposable thumbs help here too.

Step 5: Drain

Picture of Drain

After the wash step is complete (warning: don't open the HWM while the wash step is still running!), open the HWM and drain the water into an appropriate waste water receptacle. To be extra green, even when using pink detergent, use the water on the garden, or fill the toilet cistern with it.

Step 6: Rinse

Picture of Rinse

Fill the tub with fresh water, and using the same motion as the wash cycle, ensure that all detergent is flushed out. Drain the water, of course this water is even better for recycling as it's cleaner.

Repeat this step at least once for the better results. To save having to use fabric softener, leaving minor traces of detergent will keep your clothes felling soft (although maybe not 100% clean).

Step 7: Spin

Picture of Spin

Option 1: Don't spin. Use this option if you live in a very dry place, or your clothes can't take the spin.

Option 2: Put your newly cleaned clothes in an automatic washing machine and spin dry them, be careful not to choose too high a spin for delicates.

Option 3: Note: I have not tried this, but you're welcome to, and let me know how it went. Buy a second tub and drill holes in the bottom, then with the clothes in the tub, grab one handle in one hand and spin violently around. This is best only done in the outside program, otherwise the walls get wet. If you do this, please choose the correct tub before the next washing cycle, getting them mixed up will give mixed results.

Step 8: Dry

Picture of Dry

Hang your clothes up to dry.

This tub is ideal as a HWM as it has a very watertight seal, and is completely smooth on the inside, preventing any snags in your clothes while you gyrate during the wash cycle. And if you are doing the washing in a canoe and it drops into the water, it will float as long as you've left some air in the tub (which is recommended for this reason).


pete.hohensee (author)2015-06-04

How does it wash your hands?

doo da do (author)pete.hohensee2016-04-16

you could turn it upside down

oilitright (author)pete.hohensee2015-06-05

You too! Read my comment you may get a laugh:)

pete.hohensee (author)oilitright2015-06-06

I didn't get a laugh.

DrChill (author)2015-06-06

In "Travels with Charlie" Ernest Hemingway detailed a similar method, but he attached used bungie cords attached to the tub , mounted on his vehicle to use its motion to agitate the laundry.

doo da do (author)DrChill2016-04-16

Not sure when bungy cord started, but for his time he was thinking outside the box.

doo da do (author)2015-06-04

Some say put it in the trunk while you travel.

When you land clean clothes, rinse and dry.

pete.hohensee (author)doo da do2015-06-06

"Land" clean clothes?

doo da do (author)pete.hohensee2015-06-06

The motion of travel in car, shakes it ( wash)
like the washing machine

doo da do (author)doo da do2016-04-16

land, is when you get to your destination.

pete.hohensee (author)doo da do2015-06-06


MysticA (author)pete.hohensee2015-06-07


doo da do (author)doo da do2015-06-07

When you get to the motel, for your vacation.
They bounce around in the container while You travel.

oilitright (author)2015-06-05

Imagine my relief when I read the article as when I had only read the title I could not for the life of me understand why anyone would need a machine to 'wash their hands'.

Does anyone just beat them washing on a flat rock any longer?

I know this whole thing is kind of a joke but I'm going to answer seriously - I have actually seen people washing clothes by beating them on a flat rock. When I was a student I followed a professor to the Philippines on her annual field research trip; we were in the jungle for a few weeks. Some of the local village people visited us out of curiosity and some women offered to wash our clothes for a few pesos. That's kind of how they did it with no tubs or brushes. Not _quite_ by beating but by laying part of the item on the rock and using the other half to scrub the laid-flat part.

SwiperF (author)xenobiologista2015-10-27

Yes. They beat the hell on the dirt out of those dirty clothes.

The Philippine's village people also has bath-tubs... a different kind of bath-tub.

Well, its more spelled as bat-tab as in BAT for "batya" (big circular basin to contain water) and TAB for "tabo" (plastic dipper much like water pitcher to get water and pour over yourself to rinse out the soapsuds on your body).

ironsidesnh (author)oilitright2015-06-05

Good comment you got the point of humor in this instructable!!!! Keep up the enlightenment! 8Dbd

1946thom (author)2015-06-07

This is interesting. When I was in the Army in Viet Nam, we would put dirty clothes and soapy water in a large container and strap it in the back of our jeep and drive. When we thought the clothes were clean we would stop and change to clear water to rinse. Somwtimes it took a couple of times in the rinse cycle. Thom,

macgyver71 (author)1946thom2015-06-07

Father was in the Navy during Viet Nam (I stuck with Army...I wasn't born with gills thank you), he used to tell me they would tie them to rope, and toss off side of ship & drag through the ocean for "a while" (in dad-speak, that could be 30 minutes or 8 hours). Always interesting to see what a little ingenuity can produce LOL

(PS - Thank you for your sevice)

nmitchell80 (author)2015-06-07

salad spinner :)

dojers (author)2014-06-09

Also I would suggest that you have a chair close by or something to hang on to once you are done spin drying because you will be very off-balance due to the dizzying nature of spinning. It's probably something you can give to kids to do to get a real good spin dry as they'll have a lot of fun spinning around and falling down, along with the added plus of getting their friends wet who are stupid enough to stand too close - or, for cooling off in hot weather :)

helifino (author)dojers2015-06-06

Use a vertical spin and you wouldn't need the chair.

Suzanne in Orting (author)2015-06-05

I would think that t mesh bag would make a good spin cycle option for outside use.

Suzanne in Orting, WA

ironsidesnh (author)2015-06-05

Mage and the machine

I'd add a bunch of big bad the biggest Glass marbles to help agitation to help out beat the clothing to a better clean state to make cleaner clothes after all. Great instructable idea! Keep it up! I made this one of my Fave's to keep it in my on demand instructable out here! You should too! 8Dbd

For all in my friends list who don't know............

This is to inform you an emoticon I use and have developed it myself...........

See here about it and be enlightened of my emoticon I've made now............

FYI! Use it please,this is to inform others.

This is my emoticon defined Means" My Big Happy Me "sampled - [ 8Dbd ]

eight = 8 = Eyes Wide Open


Capitol Dee = D = Big Teeth Showing Smiling Grin


small bee & dee = bd = Two Thumbs up

Made like this 8 +D + bd=8Dbd

and ...... So?

use it too if you wish. See Tada!

8Dbd !

mjenk20236 (author)2015-06-05

When traveling in the mountains, we carried a pressure cooker to speed meal prep. During the day the cooker functioned as a small washing machine. The bumps and vibrations of the vehicle provided the agitation. Thorough rinse was required, of course.

joshem (author)2015-06-05

Really: fantastic, beautiful and...SIMPLE. THANKS.

knutknackebröd (author)2015-06-05

i've seen some of these where they put the tub on the back wheel of a stationairy bike to spin it. Goeie ible trouwens;)

loneconspirator (author)2015-06-04

If you're around a hardware store, you can ask then to put it on their paint shaker, making it a machine powered hand washing machine!

tatiannastevenson (author)2015-06-04

Great idea! Especially for camping or delicates at home! :)

bd5 (author)2015-06-04

Just a thought, if you placed a string on the drying tub and spun it violently, it might give better results.

Johnkaye (author)2015-06-04

Great Instructable. My mind works in strange ways. When I saw Hand Washing Machine I interpreted it literally, a machine to wash my hands. (-: Sometimes I'm outside barbecuing and my hands get dirty.

I live in South Carolina and we are overdue for a hurricane or earthquake. This Instructable could come in handy the next time the electricity is out for days.

IamTheMomo (author)2014-06-08

Here in the USA, I make all my own laundry soap from a bar of laundry soap called Zote. (It costs me under $2 a year to make my own) It is grated, mixed with water, washing soda, and a very small amount of Dawn dishwashing detergent. It is completely suds-less, so it's great for my front loading high efficiency washer, and would be perfect for a hand washing machine such as this! It rinses faster and cleaner than detergents do. I used to have a small square bucket-sized washer in our RV, which had a motorized top on it that was great. I should have kept it when we sold the RV many years later. They are super handy, but I'd make one of these for sure as we now live in a hurricane prone area. Thanks for the instructable! There are lots of small portable washing machines at Amazon, both electric and manual.

Cheese Queen (author)IamTheMomo2015-06-04

FYI, Zote is also available in flakes- saves grating and mixes fast.

TinKicker (author)IamTheMomo2014-10-26

We use "Fels-Naptha" in our homemade soap.

Same principal, weirder name. :D

andy.knote (author)2014-12-10

I really like the container, and your use of it. I've done the "shake a bucket" method before, and I wanted to take it up a bit in efficiency, that's how I ended up with my front loader design...

Nice work!

antioch (author)2014-06-08

Nice one!
Here's an upgrade:

TinKicker (author)antioch2014-10-26

Noooooooo!!!! You beat me to it...four months ago...heh.

SparkySolar (author)2014-10-19

I love this Instructable

Thank you


SparkySolar (author)2014-10-19

I love this Instructable

Thank you


SparkySolar (author)2014-10-19

I love this Instructable

Thank you


jrocco36 (author)2014-06-10

It would be good for camping.

DaveB13 (author)2014-06-08

Thanks for your artickle on washing, I have favorited it. I'll be getting one of those jars. As for drying, here you go:
1. 1 or 2 Mesh Bag of suitable size at Wall Mart.
2. 1/8" to 1/4" rope or cord to suit.
3. 1 or 2 pieces of tubing 1/2" to 3/4" diameter, 4" to 5" long.
4. Ability to do three strand braid and loop splice & serve OR Ashley Book of Knots OR Internet access.
5. Wonder Woman costume for Changing from Diana Prince or Hammer Throw uniform for Drill.
6. Obey Centrifugal l Force, it's a law.
7. Clothing bits and bags can be tucked into 3 strand braid for final drying.
Cloths Line can be used for your braid. 1/2" PVC water pipe (tubing) at a Home Center is very inexpensive for a 10' length & is easily cut with any hand saw. Scrap garden hose would also make a good handle, and can be cut with a knife. View youtube videos on hammer throw drill.

Sounds impressive but my mind boggles, I'm not sure if it's the mental image of myself in a Wonder Woman costume or what. How about an instructible on this? (not me in a Wonder Woman costume, on your drying tips above)

You fit a mesh bag to a rope with a handle and swing it around.. The hammer throw drill would only use one bag and is probably the way to go. The Linda Carter Wonder Woman Spin is probably not so easy as she makes it look, I just like to mention it at every possible opportunity, also good to watch on you tube. 50' of plastic clothes line would yield 3 pieces 16' 8" long for braiding. The ends could be finished with eye splices to attach to bag, then thead through tube handle and back to bag. Which would probably still be a little too long, so run the rope back to the handle again for about a 5' something long loop for swinging with less difficulty contacting the ground and about a 15' to 16' braid for tucking bits of cloths into for final drying without cloths pins.

AuralVirus (author)2014-06-09

A bucket? seriously i've just seen "how to poop" now how to wash your clothes - wtf is happening to this place. next an instructable on the amazing new technique of washing dishes....... in the sink!? in a .... plastic bowl full of water!!!!!


K4nyix (author)AuralVirus2014-06-10

My good sir I think you need to buy yourself a sense of humor... Despite being written to be funny, it is still a nice little lifehack that people may not think of, as simple as it is. So get over the butthurt, please !

I had fun reading this, and it's a nice little tip, too, I was getting bored of washing swimming speedos and like stuff painstakingly by hand or taking the risk of shortening their lifespan. This could be a nice in-between !

AuralVirus (author)K4nyix2014-06-10

sorry can't take someone who starts a comment with "My good sir" or wears speedo's seriously....

dojers (author)2014-06-09

Isn't it kind of hard to open the HWM while operating it unless you do it by accident? ;) But good Ible anyway. Always wanted a way to hand wash clothes but never thought of this.

Stavros! (author)2014-06-08

How about using one of those plastic concrete mixing barrels made for mixing 1 bag

of concrete? You just roll them on the ground to agitate....

I don't know those, but wouldn't your clothes get very hard and heavy? :-)

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