Introduction: How to Make a Hand Crank Washing Machine or Compost Tumbler

About: I am a long time off-grid homesteader and I live year round in a solar cabin I designed and built myself. I use solar and wind power, passive solar heat and water, and a solar composting toilet. I like to he…

This project is from my book 'Off the Grid':  Simplesolarhomesteading

Compost Tumbler or Clothes Washer

This project is built from a plastic 50 gallon barrel, five 2x4x8's and a 1 inch diameter 5 foot long steel pipe. You will also need a short piece of strap hinge, S hook latch and a 1 inch drain plug.

Step #1

Cut a 1 foot by two foot door on one side of the barrel. Use the cut out piece to make the door using the hinge and the S hook latch.

Step #2

Drill a one inch drain hole on the bottom side of the barrel opposite the door and insert the drain plug.

Step #3

Attach a 1x2 scrap to the top end of the barrel using glue and screws to be a handle for turning.

Step #4

Drill a 1 inch diameter hole in the end of each barrel and slide the length of pipe through these holes

Step #5

Build the frame using the dimensions shown here and attach the wood together using glue and screws. The upright frame member is two 2x4x3'5" glued together.

How it works

Just slide the 1 inch pipe through the barrel and the frame and you are ready to compost. Put in all your kitchen food scraps except for meat and add in your grass and weed clippings.

Using the attached handle give the composter a few turns back and forth to aerate and turn the compost every few days. In a few weeks you should have rich black compost that can be added to your garden, fruit trees or shrubs.

If you want to make compost tea just pour in a gallon or two of water and let it steep for a day and

then drain the liquid off into a bucket using the drain plug. This compost tea is an excellent fertilizer for your house plants and vegetables.

To Make The Clothes Washer

By just adding a few agitator boards to this project you can also make a very good clothes washer.

Insert three 1"X2"x3' boards through the door (don't cut end of barrel) and attach at even spaces around the sides of the barrel as shown in the picture with roofing screws and rubber washers. Screw in the screws through the outside wall of the barrel in to the wood agitator boards.

How it works

Just put in your clothes to below the middle and fill the washer up with just enough water to cover

the clothes and your biodegradable detergent. Close the door and using the handle start rocking the barrel back and forth. The agitator boards will scrub the clothes clean.

Drain the dirty water into a bucket for use on your shrubs or fruit trees. Refill the barrel with water and agitate again to rinse the clothes. Repeat as necessary. Drain the barrel and agitate the clothes to spin out excess water. Hang the clothes in the sun and you are done.