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Best 8 Portable Washing Machines 2021

Say goodbye to laundromat trips, kitchen sink takeovers, and overfilled laundry bags in your suitcase. Portable washing machines do the job of full-sized models, but prioritize space and convenience with the help of caster wheels, compact dimensions, and hand-powered agitators. They’re typically smaller and less powerful, but shouldn’t be underestimated. As long as you have the correct water source, like a sink hook-up or buckets of water, you can expect your clothes to come out nice and clean.

Whether you opt for a non-electric or electric washer, a portable washer remains a great alternative to a full-sized model. Both are effective at cleaning clothes, and can usually wash at least one outfit at a time, which is the equivalent of 1.5 cubic feet. Before making a purchase, though, be sure to consider the interior room, as some models are larger than others, and can have nearly 3.0 cubic feet of space. If you’re an avid camper, a small-capacity model with limited bells and whistles may be the perfect fit, while anyone in an apartment, small home, or RV may want something roomier so they can start fresh each and every morning.

We’ve done the research, and these are the best portable washing machine options on the market, no matter how relaxed or adventurous your situation may be.

Best Overall: Whirlpool WTW2000HW 1.6 cu. ft. White Compact Top Load Washer

whirlpool-top-load-compact-washing-machine

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Capacity: 1.6 cubic feet | Washing Mechanism: Impeller | Cycles: 6 | Drum Material: Stainless steel | Smart Capabilities: No | Energy Star Certified: NoWhat We Like

  • Easy to move around
  • Only requires a 120V outlet
  • Viewing window

What We Don’t Like

  • Not Energy Star certified
  • No steam function

Whether you’re looking to purchase a portable washing machine so you don’t have to pay for laundry services in your apartment building, or for while you and your family are on the road, this model from Whirlpool will meet your needs. It has an average, yet spacious capacity of 1.6 cubic feet. (This is very competitive with other portable washing machines on the market.) In addition, it only requires a 120V outlet and has a stainless steel drum, making it a long-lasting and flexible option for any household.

When you want to start a cycle, simply use the caster wheels to move the model into a flat place, if it’s not already in one. Connect the included hose, which is used for both filling and draining, and select a cycle. In total, this machine has six wash cycles. Plus, it has a glass window, dispensers for detergent, bleach, and fabric softener, and advanced vibration control which reduces noise.

Although it doesn’t have an Energy Star certification or steam function to tackle wrinkles and stains, it has most of the bells and whistles of a full-sized unit, with the capacity and convenience of a portable one, making it our top pick.

Best Budget: Magic Chef MCSTCW16W4 1.6 cu. ft. Compact White Top Load Washing Machine

The Magic Chef MCSTCW16W4 1.6 cu. ft. Compact White Top Load Washing Machine has a stainless steel tub.

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Capacity: 1.6 cubic feet | Washing Mechanism: Impeller | Cycles: 6 | Drum Material: Stainless steel | Smart Capabilities: No | Energy Star Certified: NoWhat We Like

  • Detergent dispenser
  • Stainless steel tub
  • Water temperature options

What We Don’t Like

  • Can be hard to move around
  • Can require an extra rinse cycle

The beauty of this Magic Chef portable washing machine isn’t just in its features, but also its price tag. It costs significantly less than the other top-loading, compact models on the market, while still offering 1.6 cubic feet of space. Whether you use it in your home or a camper, it’ll look and feel like a mini version of a top-load washing machine, thanks to a see-through window, electronic controls, and stainless steel tub.

The washer also features six wash cycles including normal, heavy duty, delicates, bulky items and speed wash. Additionally, there are three water temperature options, which you can tailor to the type of fabrics in your load, and how much energy you want to use. (Cold water can use less energy, and ultimately cost less.) A dispenser will also automatically mix powder or liquid detergent into your clothes, if you fill it up.

Compared to other models, this portable washer may not be as durable. You’ll want to check for any leaks when a cycle is done and may need to run an extra rinse cycle to rid your clothes of residue. However, the process of attaching the water supply hose to a sink will be fairly easy and the washer will likely consume less energy per year than others in the Magic Chef collection.

Best High-End: GE GNW128PSMWW 2.8 cu. ft. 8-Cycle Top-Loading Portable Washer

GE 2.8 cu. ft. Capacity Portable Washer with Stainless Steel Basket

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Capacity: 2.8 cubic feet | Washing Mechanism: Impeller | Cycles: 8 | Drum Material: Stainless steel | Smart Capabilities: No | Energy Star Certified: NoWhat We Like

  • Larger interior
  • Variety of wash cycles
  • Fabric softener dispenser

What We Don’t Like

  • Can be hard to move around
  • Doesn’t fill all the way

At a more extravagant price, you can get a portable washing machine with more interior space, settings, and full-sized washer features. This GE model is the most splurge-worthy option on the market, as it has 2.8 cubic feet of space, which is almost three times larger than other portable picks. You can easily fit an outfit or two into the stainless steel drum, in addition to a bath towel. Once the drum is full, you can pick one of the eight different cycles, including delicates, towels, and sheets, and four wash temperatures.

This large selection of settings makes this washer ideal for anyone who needs a portable model, or wants to save money and space, and trade their full-sized machine for a smaller one. While you need to hook up this model to your sink, you really aren’t missing out on much. The GE portable washer has dispensers for detergent, bleach, and fabric softener, and a selection for adding a garment. A digital screen lets you see how much time is left in your cycle, and a unicouple is included to make setting it up a breeze.

When it comes to portable models, this pick is about as close as you can get to a full-sized washer, and is equally powerful. Just be aware: The tub doesn’t fill completely, so washing bulky items like a blanket is a no-go. You may also need to run an extra rinse cycle.

Best Non-Electric: The Laundry Alternative WonderWash 0.7 cu. ft. High Efficiency Portable Washer

The Laundry Alternative Wonderwash 0.7 cu.ft. High Efficiency Portable Washer is non-electric and powered via a hand crank.

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Capacity: 0.7 cubic feet | Washing Mechanism: Hand-operated | Cycles: Not applicable | Drum Material: Not listed | Smart Capabilities: No | Energy Star Certified: NoWhat We Like

  • Very budget-friendly
  • Gentle operation
  • Long-lasting design

What We Don’t Like

  • Clothes must be wrung out
  • Difficult to assemble
  • Can leave soap in clothes

If you’re living off-the-grid, or want to conserve as much energy and water as possible, a portable washer that doesn’t rely on electricity is for you. The Laundry Alternative Wonderwash Portable Washing Machine is a stellar manual machine that can fit up to 10 T-shirts at a time, or one outfit that’s not bulky. (Give your jeans or sweatshirt their own load!) Powered by a hand crank, this washer is very gentle on clothes, and is built to last because it doesn’t have any motorized parts that would typically need repairs.

It is important to note, though, that it comes with a learning curve. You may have trouble assembling it at first, and will need to get into a good rhythm when it comes to turning the hand crank. Turning it too slow can result in somewhat dirty or somewhat soapy clothes, as can turning it too fast. However, once you’re in a groove, this non-electric washer is easy to use and drain, thanks to a detachable spout. Plus, you can shop it in five, retro-inspired colors.What Our Testers Say

“It took me around ten minutes from start to finish to wash a full load of clothes. That did not include the time to remove the clothes, wring them out, and hang them up to dry. Even so, this is still considerably faster than a standard electric dryer.” — Katie Begly, Product Tester

Best for Camping: Lavario 1204 Manual Portable Clothes Washer

The Lavario 1204 Manual Portable Clothes Washer is perfect for camping, due to its non-electric design.

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Capacity: 0.6 cubic feet | Washing Mechanism: Hand-operated | Cycles: Not applicable | Drum Material: Plastic | Smart Capabilities: No | Energy Star Certified: NoWhat We Like

  • Doesn’t require electricity
  • Not time-consuming
  • Great for one or two people

What We Don’t Like

  • Plastic parts can be fragile
  • Doesn’t wring out clothes well

If you’re washing your clothes while on a camping trip, a non-electric model is a must. It doesn’t require a power source, and can be filled up with water from a nearby hose or spout. However, campers also need a washer that can rid clothes of layers of dirt and grime from hiking, pitching a tent, and fishing. This model —the Lavario Portable Clothes Washer—can do just that, thanks to its unique wash motion.

The washer is hand-powered, but doesn’t use a crank. It requires you to submerge a basket of clothes in water by pumping it up and down. To use it, simply load up the basket with the clothes you want to wash, and pour water and detergent into the bucket. Within 20 minutes of pumping the basket, your once-dirty clothes will be completely clean. You’ll need to wring excess water out of your garments, as they do come out sopping wet even if you press down fairly rigorously, and then hang them up to dry.

Since this portable washer is powered by you, it’s particularly great with delicates or clothes with mesh—say, your workout leggings. It also has a 0.6-cubic-foot “drum,” which is very similar to other non-electric models on the market and plenty for a couple of campers who want to return home with fresh clothes.Expert Buying Tip

“Choose the appropriate water temperature for addressing the particular fabric and stains you are treating.  If you are not sure what type of stain you are dealing with, always start with cold water as using hot water can set some stains.” — Marilee Nelson, certified building biologist, environmental consultant, and co-founder of Branch Basics

Best for Apartments: Black + Decker BPWH84W 0.84 cu. ft. Portable Washer

black-and-decker-portable-washer-apartments

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Capacity: 0.84 cubic feet | Washing Mechanism: Impeller | Cycles: 8 | Drum Material: Stainless steel | Smart Capabilities: No | Energy Star Certified: NoWhat We Like

  • Quiet operation
  • Lots of cycle options
  • Stays balanced

What We Don’t Like

  • Not suitable for large families
  • Can be leaky at times

Finding a portable washer that doesn’t mess up the decor or layout of your apartment may seem tricky, but the Black + Decker Portable Washer will make you think otherwise. Not only does this model have a sleek design, but it also has a 0.84-cubic-foot drum that’s suitable for apartment living, eight cycles to choose from, and a child lock. The special settings for cotton, whites, and cleaning the tub, in particular, set this machine apart from others and ensure that your clothes are grime-free. Other notable features include a viewing window for checking in on your clothes and LED displays.

Now, although the capacity of this washer is slightly less than other models on the market, this piece is most suitable for those in an apartment because of its safety features. In addition to the child lock, this model will automatically shut off if the lid is opened. Like other electric portable washers, you’ll need to hook it up to a sink. However, you can store it afterwards in a closet, your bathroom, or a corner of your living room, thanks to its compact dimensions. Adjustable legs and rollers make this task a breeze. The only issue is that the hose can be leaky. You’ll want to have a mop ready and stay nearby when running your first few cycles.

Best for RVs: Panda PAN6320W Portable Washing Machine

The Panda PAN6320W Portable Washing Machine can easily be transported from one spot to another.

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Capacity: 1.34 cubic feet | Washing Mechanism: Impeller | Cycles: 10 | Drum Material: Stainless steel | Smart Capabilities: No | Energy Star Certified: NoWhat We Like

  • Lots of washing cycles
  • Spacious interior
  • Fabric softener dispenser

What We Don’t Like

  • Doesn’t look stylish
  • Can be hard to move around

An RV gives you the flexibility and space to use an electric portable washer, opposed to a non-electric and hand-powered one. Your moving home likely has outlets and sinks, which you can use to set up an impressive model like the Panda Portable Washing Machine. This washer is more thorough than a hand-powered pick, and competitive with other electric washers since it has 1.34 cubic feet of space and lots of wash cycles. You’ll have 10 wash cycle and five water level options at your disposal for tackling tough stains from exploring, traveling, and seeing nature’s sights.

Plus, this model has a stainless steel tub that’ll help to sanitize your clothes, sheets and pillows, or the towels you used after your hike. Cycles run quietly, and there’s even a fabric softener dispenser so you can enjoy the luxuries of a permanent home while in your movable one. The only catch is that this unit doesn’t look sleek and can be difficult to move around. You may want to invest in a dolly for moving and storing it when it’s time to cook, entertain, or take photos.The 11 Best Fabric Softeners of 2021

Best for Settings: Danby DWM030WDB-6 0.9 cu. ft. Compact Top Load Washing Machine

The Danby DWM030WDB-6 0.9 cu. ft. Compact Top Load Washing Machine has a variety of settings.

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Capacity: 0.9 cubic feet | Washing Mechanism: Agitator | Cycles: 5 | Drum Material: Stainless steel | Smart Capabilities: No | Energy Star Certified: NoWhat We Like

  • Delay start function
  • Includes dispensers
  • Stainless steel tub

What We Don’t Like

  • Can be tricky to install
  • Can be hard to move around

Your washer’s settings can determine how your laundry is treated and, therefore, how long your clothes last. While some people may feel comfortable with just one or two cycle selections, others might want to opt for this Danby model that has five wash settings including heavy, normal, gentle, rapid, and soak. It’s very similar to a full-sized washer, right down to its auto-balancing and delay start functions that’ll make your chores feel streamlined.

In addition to those wash settings, the unit also has two wash speeds, and dispensers for detergent and fabric softener. A stainless steel tub will prove to be durable, while the balancing technology will ensure your clothes are both washed and soaked evenly. The spin cycle is also powerful and will leave your load almost completely dry without causing a ruckus in the process.

When using this electric model, you’ll just want to make sure the drain hose is at the right height so you don’t experience any leaks or issues later on. Otherwise, this piece will be reliable in any setting, and the best fit for anyone who’s trading their full-sized washer for a portable one that’s more space and money-conscious.Expert Buying Tip

“How much you should spend on an appliance depends on what you are looking for. Most of the time, you’ll want to purchase appliances you know will have longevity and not cause issues down the road because they were cheaply made.” — Brittney Castro, Mint CFPFinal Verdict

If you’re in the market for a portable washing machine, then head straight for the Whirlpool WTW2000HW (view at Home Depot). It has dispensers for detergent and fabric softener, a glass viewing window, and a set of caster wheels. If you want to spend less, the Magic Chef MCSTCW16W4 (view at Walmart) is a great pick with a wide selection of water temperatures and cycles to choose from—much like a full-size model.

Best Portable Washing Machines
Hilary Allison / The Spruce

What to Look for in a Portable Washing Machine

Capacity

Portable washing machines have less than 3.5 cubic feet of interior space. Compared to a full-sized model, that typically averages around 5.4 cubic feet, this is significantly smaller. If you’re planning to wash a lot of heavy clothing, towels, or sheets, you’ll want to shop for a model with around 2.8 cubic feet, minimum. A person who’s using their portable washer while camping or living in an RV might be find that as little as 0.7 cubic feet of space is suitable. Typically, small-capacity models don’t use any electricity and are hand-powered, so you won’t want to wash more than one outfit at a time anyways.

Power source

Your portable washing machine can either be electric or non-electric. An electric model operates very similarly to a full-sized washer, where you plug it into an outlet and select a setting on a control panel. Unlike a full-sized washer, portable and electric washers typically require a 120-volt outlet, opposed to a 240-volt one. A non-electric model is also known as “hand-powered.” You become the power source, and must manually crank or spin your clothes. Non-electric models are less convenient, but suitable in a camping or RV space.

Water management

Like power sources, some portable washers are more hands-on when it comes to getting water in and out of the machine. High-end picks can be hooked up to a kitchen or bathroom sink, while others can require you to fill and empty the washer’s tub at the start and end of each cycle. To find the right type for you, consider how much maintenance and energy you’re willing to put into your machine, and how accessible a water source is for you.

Standout Features

Caster wheels

Caster wheels allow you to move your portable washer anywhere you’d like with ease. Some models on the market have two in the front or back, while others have four positioned in each of the corners. This feature is typically seen in electric models, opposed to non-electric ones, with a larger capacity. It’s most suitable for those installing a portable washer in their RV or apartment, who may want their space to serve multiple purposes.

Viewing window

A viewing window on a portable washing machine is usually located on the top door. It allows you to check in on your clothes throughout a cycle, and make sure the water level is adequate. Although it’s not an absolute necessity to have a viewing window, it does make your appliance look sleek and even like a full-sized, top-loading one.

Delay start function

If you’re trying to be more thoughtful about when and how you’re using your water, or simply are very busy, then a delay start function may be suitable for you. This specialty setting which can be found in a more high-end portable washing machine, lets you select a cycle now and have it begin in a pre-set amount of time. It can ensure that you’re not depleting your hot water, or running the machine when you’re out doing a quick errand.

FAQs

How do portable washing machines work?

The type of portable washing machine you buy affects its inner workings. An electric model, which is plugged in to an outlet and hooked up to your kitchen sink, works similarly to a full-size washer. Once your clothes and detergent are added, you’ll select a cycle, load size, temperature, and potentially the functions you want the washer to perform like soak, rinse, or spin. You can pause it to add in softener and wait for the machine to do the tough work for you. It’ll stay connected to your sink the entire time, and drain the dirty water and soap this way.

In comparison, a manual model requires you to fill up a washtub with water and detergent, and crank a handle to agitate the clothes. You’ll then connect a spout to the washing machine, and drain all the dirty water and soap into a location of your choosing. Add fresh water to rinse and spin your clothes. In this situation, you’re the agitator.

How do you hook up a portable washing machine?

To hook a portable washing machine up to your kitchen sink, you’ll want to make sure you have all the necessary adaptors, connectors, and hoses on hand. Most models come with these attachments, but you can always order them separately from the brand if not. One hose will run from your machine to a faucet. To set this hose up, make sure one side is tightly attached to the washer, and the other to the tap. You may need to use an adaptor here, so the hose fits well and doesn’t potentially leak. The other hose is for draining and will run from your machine to your sink. Once set up is complete, you’ll want to run the tap, before plugging in your machine.

Since every model is a little different, it’s important to follow your machine’s manual. The manual will also tell you which hoses to use for water access versus draining, which is essential. Plan to hook up your machine every time you want to use it, as you’ll need to use your kitchen sink regularly.

How do you clean a portable washing machine?

Unlike full-sized washers, portable washing machines don’t always have a self-clean cycle. However, you can easily clean them using vinegar and hot water. Start by running a hot wash cycle. Don’t add any clothes or detergent at this time. When the hot wash cycle is done, add vinegar to the tub. Then, let the cycle finish. For more information, check out our guide on how to clean a clothes washer.

Why Trust The Spruce?

Having tested and researched dozens of laundry machines, we looked at reliability, efficiency, and value when recommending the best portable washing machines on the market. We considered the capacity and power source of each model, in addition to when they might be used. For more insight, we also interviewed: Marilee Nelson, a certified building biologist and environmental consultant, and co-founder of Branch Basics, who’s life work has been dedicated to creating a non-toxic home and lifestyle; and Brittney Castro, a certified financial planner for Mint, who was a “40 under 40” in 2020, according to Investment News, and continues to teach people how to manage their finances.

Marisa Casciano is the large appliance expert for The Spruce, and has researched the ins and outs of air purifiers, dishwashers, and more in the home space. As someone who loves to travel and has lived in many apartments, she understands the need to wash clothes in a tiny, sometimes unconventional place. She also writes for Elite Daily, InStyle, and Real Simple.

Updated: July 11, 2021 — 12:19 pm

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