The $10 Eco Washing Machine

Introduction: The $10 Eco Washing Machine

About: Terra Karma is dedicated to the research and development of renewable energies systems Open sourcing our methods and findings so anyone learn from and improve upon our systems getting the most out of our waste.

That's it. That, and a 5 gallon bucket make up my washing machine, add a pair of pants, two shirts, a pair of socks, boxers, and a tablespoon of the all natural detergent that I make. I put the bucket under the faucet in my tub so I can fill it easily and don't make too much of a mess.

So lets learn how to make one!

You need:
1x 5 gallon (or larger) bucket to serve as your tank. $3
1x  10 foot length of pvc pipe (I used 1” because it offers the best strength to cost ratio) $3
4x  90 degree elbows (the same size as your pipe) $3
1x  Tee fitting $1

Total cost: Around $10.

Some way to cut the pvc pipe, a pvc wire saw works great and they are super cheap.

Step 1: The Agitator

Step 1:
Cut your PVC pipe into a single 3 foot section, two 1 foot sections, and two 3 inch sections.

Attach the 1 foot sections to a 90 degree elbow.

Attach the second elbow, facing opposite the first at the end of the pipe.

Attach the 3 foot section to the open end of the second elbow and a Tee fitting to the other end of the pipe.

Attach the three inch sections to the open ends of the Tee, with elbows set at an angle on them.

If you cut your pipe straight, you can press it into the elbows with all of your weight and you will not need a pvc glue, it is terrible for the environment anyways. Also, by doing this you can also take it apart at a later date. (like if you decide to add handles to reduce friction on your hands.)

Step 2: The Bucket

Fill the bucket halfway with water and agitate in a tablespoon of Eco-detergent (It is Eco friendly, low cost, septic safe, and with a few drops of essential oils, you can make it pleasantly aromatic too!)

The 5 gallon bucket can do one pair of pants, two shirts, boxers and two socks perfectly. It can also do two pairs of pants, or four shirts, or two towels and some socks in a load, and it only takes five minutes to agitate and clean, then you set it aside while you agitate the other loads you have. Wring out your washed loads and fill the bucket with clean water. If you have several loads you can put the bucket under the faucet so the water is always cycling while you rinse your loads.

The agitation process isn't complicated, the basic idea is to use the water, surfactants (from the detergent),the agitator, and the clothes themselves to pull the dirt out of the clothes and into suspension with the water

My favorite technique is to spin it with a plunging motion two turns in one direction, then reversing and spinning it two turns in the other direction.

It is usually easier to load half of your load below the agitator, and half above it.

Step 3: The Eco Detergent!

You only need a shallow spoonful of detergent to clean your clothes. A $10 batch will last me all year, AND it doesn't aggravate my skin!

You can make your own like we do at Project Upcycle!

No added fragrances, no phosphates, no septic mauling fillers. It's still caustic and like everything will do significant damage to the environment if it is pumped into our rivers. So go easy on the detergent at first, build up until you find the spoonful that gets the clean you like, but doesn't use too much. Using more detergent means more water needs to be used to rinse them out. Unless you have a grey water reclamation system you don't want to be just sending all of that water down the drain!

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    3 Discussions


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Simplicity rocks! Suggestion: Put a slightly larger tube around the centre pole and the crank handle that fits loosely and you'll be able to turn the agitator friction-free.


    7 years ago on Step 2

    Very nice thanks. I wash my duvet in the bath with my wellies on, and give it a good stamping. I like your idea for smaller loads and the water's tip-outable too, unlike the bath.