If you rent your home, there’s a good chance one of your biggest pain points is laundry. If there’s no laundry in your unit or building, you’re stuck heading to a laundromat (or your parents’ house) on a regular basis. But there might be another solution: Just like the countertop dishwasher, you can buy yourself a portable washing machine for a few bills (there are even tiny, tiny ones designed to bring with you when you travel). But do portable washing machines actually work, and are they worth the investment?
How does a portable washing machine work?
Portable washing machines all work basically the same way: You hook a hose up to a faucet in your kitchen or bathroom, run a load of laundry as you would on any washing machine, then hook a drainage hose to your sink (or tub) and let the machine pump the water out. Some lower-end models require you to fill and drain them manually, but that’s a lot more work.
By and large, portable washing machines will get the job done in the sense that the clothing you put into them will come out clean. Because these machines are designed to be portable, you can move them around relatively easily, so you can store them in an out-of-the-way spot and wheel them out only on laundry days—an absolute must for tiny apartments.
That being said, there are some downsides to consider:
- Hookups. Most portable washing machines come with an adapter to connect to your faucet, but these adapters don’t always fit your specific faucet, so you might end up having to research and buy a different one. If your faucet has an aerator on it, you’ll need to grab a wrench and remove it before hooking up the washer.
- Size. Portable washers are, well, portable, which translates to small. You’re not going to get a huge amount of clothing in here. That means doing a lot of small loads, or doing laundry much more often. Whether this degrades the convenience factor for you or not is a personal determination. At the same time, most portable washers aren’t small enough to vanish into a convenient space—be sure to measure the unit you’re considering and figure out where it’s going to live.
- Cost. Yes, you’re not plugging dollar bills into a commercial washer at the laundromat, but if you’re paying your own utilities, you’ll probably see a spike in your monthly bill, especially if you’re running the machine a lot. This might not be a huge amount of money, but it’s something to watch for.
- Drying. Most modern portable washers will spin-cycle your laundry loads to squeeze out water, of course (some cheaper models don’t, so be sure to check), and many do a good job of this. But your clothes will still come out wet, which means either buying a portable dryer or a drying rack, both of which will take up even more space—and the latter means having drying laundry all over the place on a regular basis.
- Leaking. The chances that you experience zero leaking water with a portable washer are also zero. This will most likely be pretty minor, but it’s going to happen—it’s just the nature of temporary water hookups. You’ll need to leave the water running while the machine operates (so it can drain and refill for the rinse cycle), so even a very small leak will be a real pain in the ass, and might require you to run the machine where water on the floor won’t be a huge problem.
- Landlords. Your landlord is very aware that portable washing machines exist, and you are definitely not going to be the first tenant to want one. Some landlords may have explicit policies against them (due to noise and leak concerns), so it’s a good idea to check before you invest in one.
Should you get a portable washing machine?
There is, of course, one big pro to a portable washing machine: It will wash your clothes in your apartment. Any reputable portable washer you purchase will do the basic job, so the trade-off between convenience and the irritations of doing five hundred micro-loads in a leaking, kind of loud machine may very well be worth it to you. It’s not like laundromats or even a shared laundry in your building are especially quiet, hygienic places, after all. And considering the relative affordability of these machines (you can get a perfectly cromulent one for under $200), they make a solid investment in your quality of life.
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