Scrub The Bucket: A Look At Caravan Washing Machines

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A washing machine is one of those things we take for granted, until we’re on holidays and fast running out of clean clothes.

Many motorhomes and large caravans have a caravan washing machine already installed because they can carry the weight, but what do you do if you don’t have the space or towing capacity?

You don’t want to waste time at the laundromat, and coin-operated washers and dryers at caravan parks are costly and there’s usually a queue to use them. What’s the alternative?

Portable washing machines

Portable lightweight electric models can be sourced on Gumtree or eBay for under $150 and will handle a wash load between 1.5kg to 5kg.

There are small twin tubs the size of an esky that use less water than the automatics, but you do have to move the washing to the spinning tub halfway through the cycle. Larger front-loader models can be mounted in a side bin on the outside of your caravan, whereas a top loader will usually be placed inside a cupboard.

If your caravan washing machine doesn’t have a permanent location it can run on a table, in the shower or anywhere outside. It requires hand-filling and relies on gravity to empty, so as it’s spinning, collect the water to re-use for the next load.

Hand-powered machines

Manual washing machines, as the name suggests, let you do the work. Some look like a salad spinner, others a barrel on legs, but they all need you to crank the handle. Taking up not much more than 35cm2 of space, they use around 2×10 litres of water, need five minutes’ agitating and use zero electricity.

Even cheaper is a plastic bucket with a lid that seals: put the washing, detergent and water in it and let it agitate while you’re driving. Wringing by hand can be a pain though, and it probably won’t wash your sheets.

These methods are inexpensive and eco-friendly, but won’t work if you have arthritis or just want life to be easy.

Handy tips

  • Washing machines make a great dirty-clothes hamper.
  • Wash whites first so you can re-use the water.
  • Use wool wash so you don’t need to rinse.
  • Save sheets for the laundromat.

Before making a decision on the type of washing machine to buy, ask yourself how you will use it and what you actually need. Whatever you choose, remember to preserve this beautiful land of ours by using only biodegradable and natural detergents.

Want to know how to capture and store rainwater for your washing machine? Here’s a handy guide.


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