Monday, August 6, 2018

How I escaped the laundromat and embraced minimalistic laundry

Posted By on Mon, Aug 6, 2018 at 3:47 PM

There's a million reasons to avoid the laundromat. They range from awkward conversations to scandalous stains or unmentionables, and they're different for everyone. For me, it was the cost.

click to enlarge The Costway portable mini twin tub washing machine, in all its plastic glory. - GRIFFIN SWARTZELL
  • Griffin Swartzell
  • The Costway portable mini twin tub washing machine, in all its plastic glory.
After a recent move, I was, for the first time in my life, living without in-apartment or on-site laundry facilities. My current abode doesn't have a hook-up for a traditional laundry machine. And it didn't take many M&M's Minis tubes full of quarters for me to do a little mental math, sending me in search of better options. Over the years, I've seen a selection of Millennials on the internet espousing the value of portable washing machines, so I did a little Googling, and the numbers looked promising.

Ignoring the price of laundry detergent — that doesn't change much between laundromat and home cleaning if you're buying bulk — my partner & I were spending $10 (three loads of laundry, plus dryer time) at the laundromat every other week, or about $260 a year. Research turned up the Giantex (actually Costway) portable mini compact twin tub washing machine, which I found on a few shopping websites for $110 — if it lasts 22 weeks, or about five months, it's paid for itself. So we rolled the dice and had one shipped in, adding a $25 folding drying rack (five more weeks' laundry costs). It runs on electricity and plugs into a standard three-prong outlet. It's worth noting that we did also see manually operated laundry machines for lower prices, for those who want to take their washing all the way off the grid.

click to enlarge If the fill hose doesn't fit (it probably won't), a detaching showerhead or bucket will do just fine. - GRIFFIN SWARTZELL
  • Griffin Swartzell
  • If the fill hose doesn't fit (it probably won't), a detaching showerhead or bucket will do just fine.
On the machine's arrival, my partner and I amused ourselves with the broken English in the instruction manual — our thoughts go out to the intern who got stuck with plugging it into Google Translate. But it's less amusing when we want to clean some socks without flooding a new apartment and testing out that renter's insurance — we supplemented with a helpful YouTube video. That's fortunate, too — since the water input hose is uselessly narrow, that helpful YouTube user's workaround solved a problem in advance. She used a detachable shower head, but we find a bucket works, too, since the wash tub doesn't drain while running.

However, that manual does have its uses. Since the machine only holds up to 11 lbs. of clothing, an included chart of estimated weights of clothing items with wash times, water usage and detergent usage for different sized loads, helps immensely. Of note, water temperature's up to the user, and the manual warns not to use water over 50 degrees celsius, or 122 degrees fahrenheit. And the machine has to be set up up above a drain is important, since it drains from the bottom — our shower did the job fine.

click to enlarge Though small, the machine has a powerful agitator that runs even if the lid's open. - GRIFFIN SWARTZELL
  • Griffin Swartzell
  • Though small, the machine has a powerful agitator that runs even if the lid's open.
Moving on to the machine itself, it's super light thanks to the fact that it's basically all plastic — it's far from the most rugged construction out there. That said, the wash and spin dry tubs are decently sized and easy to access. On running a test load of socks and around five gallons of water, we learn that the agitator's pretty mighty, easily cleaning our socks in a six minute cycle. The water drains quickly enough, and while it's not necessary for our socks, it's probably smart to run a short rinse cycle with fresh water on larger loads.

The second tub, the spin dryer, is a lot smaller than the wash tub — we fit most but not all of a small load into it. A later medium load, about six and a half pounds of laundry, has to be split into three batches for drying, less of a big deal when the cycle's less than four minutes. It's not a true dryer, but nothing comes out with enough water to drip. After a few hours on a drying rack, everything's good to go. Clothes lines, sunlight, vents or fans will speed that up. Further, ventless clothes dryers can be purchased if those aren't options.

click to enlarge Though the spin dryer has limited capacity, it gets the job done quickly. - GRIFFIN SWARTZELL
  • Griffin Swartzell
  • Though the spin dryer has limited capacity, it gets the job done quickly.
As far as cleaning and (mostly) drying one's laundry goes, my portable washer's just as capable as a bigger machine. It's not just capacity we're not getting for the cheaper buy, though. Doing laundry's a little more labor intensive now, from manually draining the tub to controlling the water temperature.

So is it worth it? The variables in that equation are different for any person and any situation. On the one side, there's the added labor and attention. On the other side, the cash savings and the luxury of doing laundry in one's own home. But for me, the math looks like it's lining up favorably.

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