Hello friends, and thanks for stopping by to read my practical tips for creating a frugal laundry routine.

I’ve almost always lived somewhere with a washer and dryer or took my laundry over to my (now deceased) parent’s house and used their laundry room.

After becoming single, I moved into a place without laundry facilities, and it was a ten minute drive to the closest coin operated laundromat. A load of laundry cost me around $10. And that was a few years ago, I’m sure the prices have increased.

Laundromat fees for washing a load will vary depending on the area and how many clothes, towels, and sheets you have. And you’ll need to dry your clothes afterwards. And that cost is crazy. Could be a couple of dollars for every 7 minutes in the dryer or something stupid like that.

No alternatives

Unfortunately those of us who live in small spaces don’t have many options when it comes to doing our laundry. If the house or apartment we live in doesn’t have a washer and dryer, then we have to take our laundry out for cleaning.

Some apartments have a coin operated laundry room that may or may not be slightly cheaper than a laundromat. These washers and dryers break down frequently and landlords are slow to repair them.

If our parents are still alive and have a washer and dryer, and we live nearby, this is a good solution. But not all of us have this option.

I had a generous friend let me use her laundry room and I took her to lunch or dinner as a thank you. This worked out better than the laundromat for me, but I felt like I was imposing and wanted to figure out something else that didn’t involve hanging around a laundromat.

I created a frugal laundry routine that didn’t involve leaving the house.

Washing machine

In 2016 I bought a portable washing machine made by Panda. It cost $199.99 in Canadian dollars. I had some Amazon gift cards so my final cost was $138. And it was free shipping.

Unfortunately, I don’t believe Panda is around anymore, but there are other brands to choose from, like the one here on Amazon that is similar.

Disclosure: I’m an Amazon associate. If you click the above link you’ll be taken to Amazon’s website. If you make a purchase, I’ll receive a small commission for the referral.

The washing machine weighs around 25 to 30 pounds, and that’s empty without water or clothes inside. There are no wheels. It has a couple of hand grips on each side to move it around. It’s a little bulky and awkward to carry. Depending on your situation, you might not be moving it around a lot. If you can’t lift 30 pounds, a portable washing machine will not work for you.

And when I say moving it around, many of us live in small places and there’s not a lot of extra room. When not in use, like many other portable washing machine owners, I kept it in the bathtub. When I needed to shower, I had to move the washer out of the tub, and then put it back inside later.

Washing machine features

Most portable washing machines work the same way.

The washing machine has two tubs: one is the washer, the other is the spinner.

On the top, there are three knobs. The dial on the left over the washer tub is a timer for how long you want to wash your laundry. On the right side is the timer for the spinner. The dial in the middle has 3 settings. The neutral setting (or “off”) is for filling the tub with water or when the washer isn’t being used. The setting cranked to the left is to turn on the washing machine’s agitator. The setting to the right is to drain the water. It’s very important not to have the drain setting open when filling the machine with water!

The washer has a plastic hose with a plastic bugle-type fitting that snugs onto water taps. My hose fit the fixture in my kitchen sink and my bathroom sink. Push it onto the spout, turn the water on, and fill up the washer’s tub.

When filling the washing tub, you can choose the water temperature. I always washed my laundry in cold.

There is another hose closer to the bottom of the machine for draining the water.

On the spin dryer side there is a plastic disk that is placed on top of the clothes before starting the spinner.

How does it work?

The portable washing machine comes with an electric cord that plugs into the wall. Same type of cord as your TV, hair dryer, microwave and other appliances. No special outlet needed. Just plug it in and there will be power.

The hose attached to the water tap didn’t fill up the tub fast enough for me, so I used a bucket to fill from my bathtub and made a few trips back and forth until it was full.

Usually after my first bucket of water, I added the detergent. I used Gain, a liquid detergent, and it only needed a couple of tablespoons. Eyeball it.

Turn the knob to the left to start the washing machine, and set the timer for how long you want to wash your clothes. I usually chose between 12 and 15 minutes.

Draining the water

Now that the washer has finished, it’s time to become hands on. The price of creating a frugal laundry routine. It’s not all easy peasy!

So just how does all that water get out of the washing machine’s tub?

It’s called gravity.

The machine comes with a drain hose, so your portable washing machine needs to be higher than what it’s draining into. If your bathroom just has a step-in shower, you can set up the washing machine outside the shower door, and let the drain hose run to the shower drain, and that should be good enough for draining the tub.

If you have a bathtub, and the only place you can set up the portable washing machine is inside the tub, you can put down a couple of 2 x 4s or something similar to life the washer off the tub’s floor and create gravity. Also, you don’t want your new washing machine to get wet when the water is draining out, so keep it up higher.

I had a wooden box that I stored on the sundeck. On laundry day, I brought it inside and set it in front of my kitchen sink.

I put the portable washer on top of the wooden box. A bucket on the floor beside the box was where the drain hose ran into. This meant I had to be right there and lift the bucket full of dirty water and dump it into the sink.

When the middle knob is turned to the right for drain, the water will begin rushing out of the drain hose. So the hose better be inside a bucket or going directly into a shower drain. In my case with the bucket method, when it was half full of water, I turned the knob back to the neutral position to stop the draining and dumped the water. Then I’d put the hose back into the bucket and turn the knob back to drain. Repeat a few times.

This step is very hands on. You don’t want to be dealing with a flood if something else distracts you.

Spin dry

Once the wet clothes are placed in the spinning tub, and the washer tub has been drained of water, it’s time to set the spinner in motion.

I always used the maximum setting, on my portable washing machine, that’s 5 minutes.

Before turning the knob to start the spin cycle, it’s very important that the drain hose is still inside the bucket, or into the shower if that’s how you’re draining the water.

Most of the water draining during the spin cycle does so in the first few seconds.

One more time!

Before we get all excited that the laundry is done in under 25 minutes, now the soap has to be rinsed off those clothes.

So while the spinner tub is going, once again I fill up the washer tub with water, speeding things up using my bucket brigade method. That is optional, by the way. Using a bucket to help fill up the washer tub saves a few minutes. If you’re not in a hurry, let the tap water fill it.

For the second wash cycle, rinsing the laundry, I set the timer for 10 to 12 minutes.

Once it’s done, repeat the above instructions for draining the water and putting the laundry through the spinner tub.

After I finished doing my laundry, I’d wipe the machine down.

Last word on draining water

Almost always when moving the portable washer back inside the bathtub, I’d hear a little water sloshing around.

Once it was in the tub, I’d gently tilt it so excess water runs out the drain hose.

Then I’d leave the hose loose to the tub drain to help it dry off too.

Drying your laundry

This spinner does an amazing job. The laundry is nearly dry.

To get clothes dry, they either need heat or wind. Or both!

Depending on your living space, now is the time to become creative when drying laundry:

  • door knobs, especially if they’re beside floor vents
  • bathroom shower rod
  • chairs and other furniture
  • sundeck railing

My landlord must have noticed the towels and sheets hanging around the sundeck. I came home one day to find him installing a clothesline between my deck and a tree. Weather dependent, I used it a lot to dry my clothes.

Great tip for frugal living. Think of all the money saved by air drying laundry. Dryers use a lot of electricity. Ka ching. Ka ching. We are saving money and being environmentally friendly at the same time. Yay us!

Laundry load?

Portable washing machines only take small loads of clothes. The Panda washer I used had a capacity of about 7 pounds in the washing tub, and less in the smaller spinner tub.

Every portable washing machine’s weight capacity will vary. You don’t want to overload and risk a flood. Or worse – burning out the motor.

I separated my clothes into whites and colors and washed them once a week, though not necessarily on the same day. I could put in five or six lightweight T-shirts and my socks and underwear. Usually this load fit both in the washing tub and then the spinning tub, so I didn’t have to hold back part of my wash waiting for the spinner.

I could also wash two pairs of jeans at a time.

If I was washing a hoodie or sweater, that would pretty much be the only item. Sometimes I’d toss in some underwear or socks.

When I washed my bedding, I washed one sheet and one pillowcase at a time. Sometimes two pillowcases.

My towels were bulkier. That’s my bath towel, hand towel, face cloth, and the kitchen towels and cloths. I might need two loads to do them all.

This isn’t a competition to see how much laundry can be stuffed in at a time. The water and soap have to agitate and clean the items. They need room to move around.

Do all portable washing machines drain by gravity?

When I purchased my Panda washing machine, they had a more expensive model with a pump for draining the water. It defied gravity by pumping the water up through the drainage hose into the sink.

Other manufacturers of portable washing machines also offered this feature.

When I was reading reviews of portable washers before deciding which one to buy, there were a lot of complaints about the drain pump breaking down.

That made my decision slightly easier to buy a portable washer that drains by gravity. Just one less electrical component to worry about breaking.

While writing this article, I looked at portable washing machines on Amazon and notice they all drain by gravity. I guess the washers with the drain pump had a low life expectancy, weren’t worth the hassle of consumer complaints, and manufacturers discontinued that feature.


There are a few extra items I recommend when creating a frugal laundry routine with a portable washing machine.

The first thing that just about every reviewer complains about on portable washing machines is the lint collector breaking apart. Me, too. It kept falling off and the plastic bristles broke.

If you have dogs, you’ll have dog hair in all your clothes. Seeing as how we don’t have a dryer that catches lint, a lint catcher in the washing machine is useful.

Unfortunately, most of these floating lint catchers don’t have very good reviews either. I used one. Just tossed it in on top of the water and hoped for the best. And it did catch lint. Sometimes…

You can click this link to buy a floating link catcher from Amazon.

Keeping in mind that no matter how well that floating lint trap works, when draining water down the kitchen sink or shower drain, you don’t want dog hair and other lint going down there to clog your pipes. You need to buy a sink strainer and swap it out with your regular drain plug before draining the washing machine water.

You can buy these at hardware stores, maybe your dollar store carries them. Avoid clogged drain problems and use a strainer before draining the water from the washer.

Another excellent frugal laundry tip is to buy a clip and drip. And I don’t know why I can’t find them anywhere else but on Amazon. Click here to buy a clip and drip from Amazon.

Choose a clip and drip that has at least 25 clips. This will handle a week’s worth of socks and underwear in a small space. If it was raining I hung it from the shower rod, and if it was sunny I hung it from a hook on my sundeck.

These three items are low cost and are great practical tips for creating a frugal laundry routine.

Life expectancy

So how long do these portable washing machines last? What’s the life span?

After all, it looks like a big, plastic toy.

Sometimes it’s all about how you treat your appliances.

I watched a YouTube video, and the portable washer broke down on the man during his review. No wonder! He was slamming the lids and treating it roughly.

If you don’t rough house with the washer and you wipe it down between loads and keep water away from the electronic components, it should last a long time.

My portable washing machine lasted 5 years. One day the agitator stopped turning. I was just preparing to move and had a washer and dryer at the house I went to, so it wasn’t a complete tragedy for me.

Having a portable washing machine, my purchase cost worked out to $40 a year for me. Much less money than most people spend at a laundromat every year.

Practical tips for creating a frugal laundry routine

For people who live in small spaces, buying a portable washing machine is the best tip for creating a frugal laundry routine. After a few months of not spending money at the laundromat, this portable washer pays for itself. It might be slightly inconvenient hauling it in and out of the bathtub and hands on during the draining cycle, but at least we’re not wasting time and money going back and forth to the laundromat.

Compared to the laundromat, using a portable washing machine and being creative when drying clothes saves time, money, and the environment.

If your residence doesn’t come with a washer and dryer, you need these practical tips for creating a frugal laundry routine:

  • buy a portable washing machine
  • wash laundry in cold water
  • use liquid laundry detergent
  • put a strainer inside the sink while on drain cycle
  • buy a clip and drip
  • dry laundry around the house

Do you have a portable washing machine? Let us know how you like it in the comments.

Published by Cheryl @ The Lifestyle Digs on August 8, 2023 and updated links on May 25, 2024.

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