Coming Clean: How to Do Laundry in Your Tiny House

Tiny home living means cutting back not just on your square footage, but also on a lot of the things you choose to carry with you. This includes your general belongings, as well as what’s in your wardrobe. There’s just no space for more than a few changes of clothes in a house on wheels or a cabin in the woods.

Photo Credit: Tumbleweed Tiny House Company

For most people, giving up a materialistic lifestyle and embracing minimalism is part of the charm of living in a tiny home. But having fewer clothes also means having to wash them more often, since you wear the same beloved t-shirts and sweaters over and over.

So what about laundry?

Going to the Laundromat gets expensive, and it’s definitely not a fun way to spend your time. With a tiny wardrobe, you could also find yourself washing clothes several times a week — and that’s nobody’s idea of a good time. It’s time to get down and dirty about your laundry options for tiny living.

Crafting a Laundry “Room”

Every single item that makes the cut for your tiny home needs to earn its keep. Your first task, then, is to decide how important having convenient laundry facilities is to you — versus how much space it will take up. It’s possible to shoehorn a combination washer/dryer into your kitchen space, but you’ll be taking up vital space. Even the most compact appliance will take up the same space as a 2-foot-wide kitchen base cabinet — and that’s if your tiny home kitchen uses standard depth cabinets instead of customized tiny ones. For most people, that’s just too much storage space to spare on an item you’ll only use once or twice a week. If you are willing to earmark that amount of space for laundry, you can get creative and store your detergent and maybe even your iron (if you bother) inside your washer/dryer unit when it’s not in use.

For most tiny home owners, a portable washing machine makes a lot more sense than a washer/dryer combo. They take up far less room and are more eco-friendly to boot. There are two main types of portable washing machines to choose from: the hand crank and the spinner.

The Hand Crank Washing Machine

Before Grandma had fully electric appliances to help with the housework, she may have had something like the Avalon Bay EcoWash Portable Washing Machine. This tabletop washer is less than a foot and a half tall and wide, and it uses absolutely no electricity at all — the power comes directly from you. The machine consists of a drum that holds about five pounds of laundry at a time — that’s about one pair of blue jeans, two t-shirts, a sweater, and two to three sets of underwear and socks. All you have to do is pop in your clothes, a small amount of laundry soap and some cold or hot water. Replace the waterproof cap and start cranking — two minutes of human-powered agitation will do the trick. The drain hose makes it easy to funnel water out of the machine and into any gray water system you might have, and you can repeat the process for a rinse cycle. You save lots of water and even more electricity by doing small loads this way.

The Avalon Bay EcoWash Portable Washing Machine retails for $44.95 but Natural Papa readers can get 20% off using the promo code NATURAL PAPA at checkout.

The Spinner Laundry Machine

An even tinier option is a spinner-style washer. This model basically looks like the big brother to your salad spinner and holds about four and half pounds of laundry. A great option for a spinner is the Avalon Bay EcoSpin Portable Clothes Washing Machine, which is just over one cubic foot in size and fits easily on a shelf or in a kitchen cabinet. It works in roughly the same way as a hand crank model, but you spin the clothing from the top instead. Though the spinner has a smaller load capacity than a hand crank washer, it comes with the bonus feature of being able to wring your clothes out in a spin cycle after the wash and rinse. This gets your clothes down to being just damp instead of sopping wet, which makes drying a lot faster.

The Avalon Bay EcoSpin Portable Clothes Washing Machine retails for $99 but Natural Papa readers can get 20% off using the promo code NATURAL PAPA at checkout.

Options for Drying

Now that your laundry is clean, how are you going to dry your clothes? The best way is to put them out on the clothesline and let Nature do the rest for free. If you live in reliably warm climates, this may be all you ever need. For places with colder winters, though, you’ll need to invest in an indoor drying rack. When you combine this with the spin dry cycle on a spinner-style machine, you should be able to get your clothes dry indoors relatively easily — just save laundry day for a time when you’re not expecting any guests.

Pro Tip: Choose a drying rack that fits inside your shower to catch drips and keep your clothes out of the way. You might also consider installing extra towel bars in your shower for this purpose.

When it comes to doing laundry in a small space, it’s often best to get back to basics. The simpler your laundry appliances are, the less you’ll need to worry about. That’s why choosing a non-electric option is such an elegant solution: You have no worries about wiring, plumbing — or your utility bills. And when you only need to do a small load at a time, a couple minutes of cranking can also replace your arm workout for the day. That’s a win-win-win for tiny home dwellers!

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