Introduction: Tabletop Washing Machine (4 Da Poor Man)

About: Im a Machine Tool Electrician, I wire machines and assembly lines, Control Panels. I like to make my own stuff and help show others how to live better, cheaply, Self Reliant. If you give a man a fish, he wil…
I find I have ideals all the time, but put them on the back burner cause Im just not sure how to go about it. So Ill see something in my head and just wait till I see what it is that I really need to accomplice what I want.

One day the Wife wanted me to wash her capris for her, I had promised and went about doing laundry. White, light colors, dark colors and black with deep blues....
Since her capris where the only black I had to wash they got overlooked in the sort. After all the laundry was done and put away, I noticed I had forgotten them. Well, Im 4 The Poor Man! using 12 gallons of water to wash one pair of capris, was well out of the question and thought how could I wash a single clothes and not use the washer.

Yes I thought about using a bucket and started with that, then came the plunger idea... what a mess

I always favored the Front Loading washers. Less water, larger loads and of course that was on the back burner
Then I starting thinking ' what if this was an agitator' and what if it had a lid... then it hit me like why didn't I think of this before?
A simple front loading washing machine for a few clothes!

Video on YouTube...


Step 1: Da BOM(B.O.M)

Bill of Material

1 Five gallon Bucket with Lid (with O ring under lid)
3 pieces of 1" x 2" pine (length to be determined by your bucket)
14 #10 sheet metal screws (6 to attach the ribs and 8 to attach the wheels
4 wheels
   I happen to have some heavy duty castors for the prototype but a pair of training wheels from Wally World or Meijer will suffice
   Get creative even some old wagon wheels should work
2 short pieces of conduit
Duct Tape ( This isn't necessary, I just like to have it around, just in case)
1 1" x 10" x ? ( your bucket maybe larger or smaller, as I was thinking a brewers bucket is larger and prolly a better choice for this)
1 3/8" x 4" hex bolt
3 3/8"  washers
1 3/8" hex  nut

All this is based on the bucket that you use, so just follow the procedure and make your own final measurements, I am but a Guide.

To see how to make this a pressure washer go to :

Step 2: The Bucket


Measure the depth of the bucket and cut the wood ribs 1 or 2 inches shorter to accommodate the lid
I cut the ends at a 45 degree angle so not to have a sharp corner on the end. I ripped a 1 x 6 to make my 3 ribs 'freehand' which caused a inner bow cut on two of them that I found to be of use in the wash cycle. The inside cut made a path for the water to run through instead of rolling to the front with is the lid. I know the photos show 4 ribs, but I found it to be too cramped and take up too much room. I just had holes to fill so I used some blocking.

 Measure the circumference of the bucket and divide by 3 and mark a line from the bottom of the bucket to the top

This is NOT a rocket, so your measures are not critical!

I used a scratch awl and pierced holes on the line a inch or two from the bottom and near the top to screw the ribs inside the bucket.
I didn't need to drill and I wanted as water tight a seal as I could get as not to have to 'water proof' anything and making the holes smaller in the bucket for the screws would provide this water tight fit

On the top rim I hand drilled a hole smaller then the Bolt to screw into. Place a washer, then a short piece of conduit, a washer and screw into the hole. Inside the bucket place a washer and then the nut. I placed the bolt end flush with the nut as not to have an edge of the bolt catch on the clothes

Step 3: The Mechanics

Using your 1 X (aka 1 x 10 (or wider board)) attach your wheels perpendicular to the bucket near the bottom and near the top.
The top needs to avoid any rib, or rise that maybe there ( such as the mount to accommodate the handle)
The picture shows a 2X, which is just over kill and makes it heavier.

Screw your wheels apart enough to allow the bucket to be cradled between the wheels
Place your empty bucket on the wheels and place your piece of conduit at the bottom of the bucket and attach it to your 1 x to ensure the bucket wont fall off the end. This could be screwed to the end of the 1 X  or smash a bit of the end and bend 90 degrees  and drill a few small holes to mount to the 1X as I have done

Step 4: Somethings You Should Know

!Some things to point out at this time!

Use at your own risk. This is for educational purposes only

Using hot water will cause an excess of pressure inside the bucket when sealed, blowing the lid off or cause leaks, due to the increased pressure inside.

Your bucket may not hold water well laying on its side, even if you ensure it wont leak

another thing that could be done is insert a piece of wood under your 1X to raise the bucket at an angle. The lid will just help to cut down on 'splash' from the clothes tumbling

Filling your bucket with water is best done using a hose or the bath tub

I would not recommend using more then 2 gals of water

I personally don't use this indoors at this time as there will be other and better versions coming soon. This is the prototype, the only reason Im showing it now is that it worked so well as it is. I also wanted you to see how simple items combined can make something of use. Im working on using a 35 gallon, galvanize trash can as a full load washer, using the same concept here, also a full fledged washing machine from plastic

I will have a video posted as soon as I can to show just how easy this is

Im thinking that drilling a hole in the bottom of the bucket for a cork or type of plug will make lifting a lot easier and remember
*WATER WEIGHTS OVER 8 LBS PER GALLON*  remember this when filling and lifting

I had a hard time keeping the bucket on the wheels using the 'crank' handle, but it does fine just spinning it with your hands, or adding something to the top to hold the bucket as you crank

According to washing machines, operation time as follows
Lightly soiled   6 min
Regular           9 min
Heavy           12 min
Ex Heavy      15 min

I don't recommend using swivel wheels as it can cause the bucket to become dislodged

Step 5: Washin the Clothes...

Fill the bucket with about 2 gallons of water (approximately half full or half empty, depending if your an optimist or pessimist)

press your lid on tightly. ensure its sealed by rolling in the bathtub a few revolutions. I found pressing in the tabs may help to seal those hard to seal lids

a tablespoon of laundry soap may be all that is needed. You will have to figure this out based on how soiled the clothes are and how much water is there.

WARNING        Very small amounts of Bleach would be needed for whites! Figure you use 1/4 cup for a 20 gallon load, You will only need 1/10th (yes .10) of that for 2 gallons of water. I eyed it the first time and still put too much bleach in the water

If you made the bucket but haven't make the rollers yet, you can still wash with this and just roll it on the lawn with your feet. that's how I tested it out before the rollers were built.

After the wash cycle, just wring out the clothes by hand and put into another bucket. If you have another 'load' if the water isnt dirty enough to toss out, do another load.

For the rinse, just add fresh water and add the cleaned clothes and 'run' the 'rinse cycle', again, if you use 'softner' you wont need much. I dont use it myself, I use drier balls. That way I dont feel guilty of adding more chemicals to the water ways

I still used my washing machine to spin dry the clothes for the drier and also used a 'seated press' just to hang them outside to dry.

I like it for rags that I dont want to wash in the washing machine. Soiled, grease, Can also be used as a pre-washer for those items that maybe too dirty for a regular wash.

Step 6: In Closing

I really focused this on 4 the poor man, as I was when I was younger. Then again in case of power outage or as a prepper or someone who wants to be 'off grid' these will make life more manageable. We have depended on electricity all our lives, what happens when its not there? Understand, Im an electrician by trade and I know how it is to work without electricity

Times are tough and just when they get easier, they get tough again. Dont get me wrong, I dont feel doom and gloom. I feel this world has a lot to offer those that want to give back to the land what they have taken. Money gets more worthless daily, so if you save it, or can give it to someone whom really needs it, this world will be a better place. We can all make a difference, even if its one person at a time....
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