The best portable washing machines can save you space, water, and electricity—particularly in places without room or hookups for a larger washing machine. You can keep your clothes fresh, your utility bills low, and your living space clear.
The best portable washing machine for your home or travel needs will depend where you plan to use it, whether you want an electric or manual washer, and whether you want an automatic water pump or a manual water pump. The products below represent the top-of-the-line appliances available in each respective category.
- BEST OVERALL: Giantex Full-Automatic Washing Machine
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: KUPPET Mini Portable Washing Machine
- BEST UPGRADE PICK: Panda Compact Washer 1.60cu.ft
- BEST FOR CAMPING: Lavario Portable Clothes Washer
- BEST WATER EFFICIENT: Giantex Portable Mini Compact Twin Tub Washing Machine
- BEST NON-ELECTRIC: The Laundry Alternative – The Wonder Wash Compact
Types of Portable Washing Machines
Portable washing machines fall into two categories: electric and non-electric.
Electric portable washing machines are the most common type. They either plug directly into a power outlet or come with an adapter for use with a generator or in a mobile home. Electric washers are typically larger than non-electric ones—and so is the price tag—so they’re not right for every type of space. And, of course, they’re no help if you don’t have a power supply, like when you’re camping. But they’re a great option for semi-permanent, compact living spaces, like small apartments, tiny homes, mobile homes, and other relatively small spaces that have power.
Non-electric portable washing machines are an excellent option for a cross-country trip or camping in the wilderness, as they don’t require electricity. Instead, you manually turn or pump either a pedal or lever to spin your laundry inside the washer. Some non-electric portable washing machines use a washing tub and enclosed basket to manually dunk and agitate the washing. These portable washing machines take more time and physical effort to use, but if you don’t have easy access to electricity, they are your best bet.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Portable Washing Machine
Before making a purchase, consider these important product features to find the best portable washing machine to get your laundry done.
A portable washing machine won’t give you the same capacity you’d get with a conventional washer. But the best portable washing machines can still hold a decent load of clothes, so don’t settle for one that won’t meet your needs.
Capacity usually measures the wash basin’s volume in either cubic feet or by the maximum weight the machine can handle in a load of laundry. A maximum capacity expressed in pounds of clothes is most common in non-electric devices and less precise than cubic feet.
Some portable washing machines have a large capacity of more than 2 cubic feet. Others go as low as less than a foot. But, most portable washing machines have a capacity of about 1.5 cubic feet or about 11 pounds. Look for a larger capacity washer if you are planning to wash bedding and towels in it.
Front vs. Top Load
Like conventional washers, portable washing machines come in front- and top-load models.
Keep the following key differences in mind:
- Front-load portable washing machines typically use less water. These machines rotate horizontally without a central agitator, so you can fit more laundry inside. But they take up more floor space because you need to leave room for the door to open. Front loaders are more expensive too.
- Top-load portable washing machines are the more affordable and traditional design for a washing machine. They usually have a central agitator, though some manufacturers have developed a low-profile part called a pulsator that performs a similar function as the agitator without taking up precious space for laundry. Top-load washers also cost less to purchase, but they cost more to operate as they use more energy.
While any portable washing machine will be lighter than the majority of conventional machines, if weight is a priority, you should still consider the weight differences between individual products. A small non-electric machine with a manual water pump will weigh a lot less than a fully automatic, electric one.
The average weight of a portable washing machine can range from as light as five pounds to heavier than 60 pounds, so you really need to know where you want to use the washer and how frequently you will be moving it. For camping or RV use, you will want a light washing machine that is easy to move. But for a permanent or semi-permanent living space, a heavy automatic washer might be just fine.
The number and type of wash settings varies from one product to the next. A non-electric portable washing machine with a manual, water fill pump may not have any wash settings. Instead, you decide when the clothes are clean and ready for a rinse or a spin. On the other hand, electric machines with automatic pumps may have as many settings as a conventional washer. Determine which settings, if any, are important to you before you select a product.
The best portable washing machines may come with many other features that might make the product more appealing to you. These can include an attractive exterior design, automatic stop functions, a button lock, and more.
- Attractive exterior designs, like a unique color or a glass lid, don’t improve the machine’s function. But if you want a washing machine that adds to your decor, exterior design may be a deciding factor between two equal products.
- Automatic stop functions will stop the washing machine from working if the lid is open. Lid or door locks will keep the lid or door closed while the machine is running. Both of these features are intended to keep you and your little ones safe from hot water and potentially-hazardous detergents.
- Button locks give you the option of locking the buttons while the machine is in use or even when it isn’t running a cycle. This prevents children from changing settings or initiating cycles.
Ease of Use
A portable washing machine’s ease of use depends on whether it has a manual or automatic water pump and whether it is electric or non-electric. Here’s what you’ll need to consider:
- Manual water pumps require you to add the water yourself. You might do this with a hose and hand pump system or by pouring water into the wash basin. Manual pumps are easier to use than automatic pumps, but they take more time to fill and more physical effort on the part of the user.
- Automatic water pumps only need a water source and an appropriate adapter to connect the faucet or hose to the machine. Once you connect the hose, the washing machine does all the work to control the flow of water and fill the basin. But, setting this hose system up is more complex than just filling a basin manually.
- Electric portable washing machines often come with a variety of settings and programs designed to give your laundry the best wash possible. These settings could make washing easier, but they could make it more complicated if you aren’t sure how to use them. Be prepared to use the manufacturer’s directions for the first few loads until you get accustomed to the electric portable washing machine.
- Non-electric portable washing machines could be nothing more than a simple basket and basin system that you dunk or churn to wash the clothes. Or, the machine might employ a lever- or pedal-driven system that you must push or turn to wash and spin the clothing.
Our Top Picks
Check out some of the best portable washing machines on the market based on these specific considerations, quality, and price.
This electric portable washing machine is an ideal choice for an apartment, a small house, or even a large mobile home. The top-load washer has a moderate laundry capacity of 1.34 cubic feet, so you can wash your clothes without taking up a lot of floor space. All you need is an electrical outlet, a water source, and enough room for a 51-pound washing machine that’s about 34 inches high and just under 20 by 20 inches wide.
The portable washing machine is fully automatic. Once you plug it in and connect the water hoses to a faucet or washer hookup, all you have to do is set the water level and choose from one of 10 different wash programs. The machine even has an automatic imbalance adjustment function that’s triggered when the clothing in the drum is heavier on one side than the other. The machine will automatically tilt the drum to correct the imbalance so the wash can resume.
If you want a portable washing machine for a price that won’t take you to the cleaners, then the KUPPET Mini Portable Washing Machine is a simple, affordable solution that’s ideal for small loads and delicates. The wash basin has a capacity of about 0.9 cubic feet or 7.7 pounds of laundry. You’ll have to fill it with water manually and drain it after each use.
The top-load electric washing machine has a blue and white exterior with a translucent lid and sides so you can monitor your laundry’s progress. The pulsator is effective for small loads and runs in near silence. This timer-controlled portable washing machine is easy to use and makes a great addition to a dorm room or motorhome.
What you’re paying for with this premium upgrade is the ample 1.6 cubic-foot capacity and fully automatic operation. Use the LED display and touchpad to set a delayed start or to activate the control lock and keep little hands away. The electric washer has a white exterior and a clear lid, so you can keep an eye on your laundry as it goes through one of seven wash programs, including normal, quick, heavy, bulky, delicate, spin only, and extra rinse.
This top-load portable washing machine easily connects to a sink faucet with the included adapter kit and hoses. At a hefty 63.8 pounds, it’s best suited to stay in one place. It’s an excellent choice for a house, apartment, or vacation home.
This non-electric portable washer will make your wilderness adventure just a little more comfortable. You won’t be afraid to get dirty when you know you can wash your garb for the next day. This top-load portable washing machine doesn’t rely on mechanisms that can easily wear out, making it ideal for washing thick camping gear, like jeans and sweatshirts. Instead, you just fill the wash basin with water, load your laundry into the bucket, and use a simple up and down motion to push water through the load.
The bucket has a 0.67 cubic feet capacity and the entire machine weighs 14 pounds. While you will need to manually fill and drain the wash basin, this is one of the easier-to-use portable washing machines. You’ll save time and electricity in exchange for a little elbow grease.
The Giantex Portable Mini Compact Twin Tub Washing Machine is an excellent addition to any apartment or other dwelling where you want to make the most of space (and water). The washer is super mobile at just 28 pounds, but still has a large capacity of about 1.4 cubic feet or 11 pounds of laundry. The clean white exterior and pair of see-through blue lids will look nice in many decorating schemes.
This top-load portable washing machine has two separate tubs, so you can get one load going in the wash tub while you spin another load in the spin tub for a more efficient wash cycle. You will have to fill this electric washer manually. But, once it’s ready to go, you’ll simply choose either the soft or normal wash setting, set the wash or spin timer, and let the machine do the rest.
The Laundry Alternative portable washing machine will wash a load in just a few minutes. The compact washer weighs only 5 pounds, so you can stash it in an RV, keep it in the trunk of your car, or take it to the dorm without any trouble. It can go anywhere that you may want a quick, eco-friendly way to clean up dirty clothes.
This top-load portable washing machine has a 0.6-cubic foot capacity and is well suited for washing woolens, silks, cashmere, knitted fabrics, and other delicate garments. The entire lid is removable for easier loading. To wash a load, you’ll turn the crank, which rotates the wash basin and provides your clothes with an effective, gentle wash.
FAQs About Portable Washing Machines
Before investing in a portable washing machine, take a look at these frequently asked questions.
Q. How do portable washing machines work?
A portable washing machine works similarly to a regular washing machine, except that the inlet hose for the water will need to be connected to a sink tap to fill the machine, and an outlet hose will need to be placed in the sink to drain the water out of the machine.
On a regular washing machine these functions are semi-permanently installed so that you don’t have to attach them and detach them every time you use the washer.
Q. Do portable washing machines use a lot of electricity?
Portable washing machines use much less electricity than regular washing machines. They also use less water and detergent, making them a great option for individuals, couples, or the eco-conscious.
Q. Do portable washing machines use the same detergent as regular ones do?
Yes, portable washing machines use regular laundry detergent, though only about half as much as conventional machines use.