The saying goes that the only two things in life that are certain are death and taxes. They forgot about laundry.
Whether you’re sending it out or doing it yourself, laundry happens. Even if you end up buying a few extra pairs of socks to extend the inevitable, laundry will still be there. What isn’t certain, is exactly where you’ll have to do it.
Cleaning clothes can quickly become a huge pain if you’re unable to do your laundry at home. Lugging a full hamper down to a laundry room, hoping machines are available, digging in your pockets for quarters, all to scurry back and forth in time to save your machine from someone else stealing it. It’s a process many of us like to avoid but can find it hard without washer and dryer hookups in the apartment.
There’s a solution. Go portable.
The portable washing machine
You’re not going to get a full load of laundry into a portable washing machine, but it will do the trick when it comes to giving you in-unit laundry when you don’t have washer-dryer hookups.
Portable washers stand around three feet high and are about two feet wide. They’re lighter than a full-sized machine by a significant amount, making them easy to move around.
Using a portable washing machine is easy, but it does need access to a sink. For that reason, you’ll want to put the machine in either your kitchen or bathroom. They may be in the way while running, but don’t worry about them having to stay in the middle of a room. Because they’re easy to move, you can store portable washers somewhere else between laundry loads.
Deirdre Sullivan of The Spruce suggests you invest in a special dolly to make moving your portable washing machine even easier. She says:
“While portable washers are movable, their size and weight can make them pretty unwieldy. A telescopic furniture dolly designed to double as an appliance base will make moving your machine a breeze.”
Setting things up
With an outlet and a sink close by, you have all you need to get a portable washing machine up and running. There may be a lot of steps, but the basic setup involves a faucet to attach a hose to for the water to go into the machine and a sink for another hose go into to drain the water out.
Next, plug in the machine to get it up and running. Once the setup is complete, you add detergent and run it like a normal washing machine. For any other specific instructions, consult the manual that comes with your particular model of machine.
Lightening the load
Because of its size, it will take more loads to do your laundry with a portable washer than if you used your laundry room. If you typically broke your laundry up into four loads: lights, darks, delicates and sheets and towels, you’ll most likely have to double your loads.
A good strategy is to plan on doing laundry more often. Having a unit in your apartment makes this easy. Rather than running back and forth to the laundry room, giving up an entire day of the weekend, you can now throw a small load in when you get home from work each night.
Picking the right machine
There are two primary types of portable washing machines. Top-loading, single-stream machines will “fit in more places and run through the entire wash-rinse-drain-spin-dry cycle without having to do anything,” says Dan Nosowitz from the Strategist.
Side-by-side portable washing machines have two compartments and require an extra step to go from wash to spin. The spinner compartment can also sometimes be smaller than the washer, meaning you can only wash as much as fits in the spin compartment unless you want part of the load to sit wet while the other finishes a cycle. These machines can also be slightly larger.
Other features unique to each portable washing machine can help narrow down your decision even more. It’s important to know what you’re looking for when you begin the search. According to Jody Healey from The Hunt Guides, a few things to think about before shopping around for a portable washing machine are:
- Size of overall machine
- Capacity of the washing tub
- Electric vs. manual power
- Need for portability, based on how often you’ll move the machine around
- Location of the spinner, and whether it should be separate from the washer
The cost of owning a portable washer
Basic portable washing machines start as low at $80 new, although it may be worthwhile to check for used machines in good condition online first. You may find a machine with a few more features at an affordable cost.
Buying new machines above the basic level can cost up to a few hundred dollars. Machines at the top of the line, with more bells and whistles than you may actually need, can cost as much as $800. This is what the initial purchase will set you back, but the real cost comes from actually using the machine.
What you spend
Regular use of a new appliance in your home impacts utilities. Your water and electricity bills will increase, although probably not too much. You also lose access to your bathtub or sink while the portable washing machine is in use, so it costs you a little space.
A cycle does often take longer than a standard machine and the loads are smaller. This means it’s going to take longer to wash all your clothes using this method, so the biggest cost of using a portable washer may be time.
Another potential cost of a portable washing machine is the damage it can cause to your apartment’s floor. Machines can produce a lot of moisture on their underside. This can lead to floor damage you may end up paying for when you move out of your apartment. Make sure to keep the machine away from carpet and hardwood floors to cut risk.
What you save
On the flip side, what a portable washing machine can save you may make the costs worth it. This is a great option if your apartment doesn’t have hookups and you’re overusing the coin-operated laundry room in your building.
Save the stress of worrying about having access to a machine at the time that’s best for you to clean your clothes. Save the annoyance of clothing going missing or someone taking your clothes out of a machine, leaving them wet and at risk of getting dirty all over again.
A portable washing machine gives you the added security of doing your laundry in your own home. The machine is always available and nobody else can mess with your stuff.
The portable dryer decision
To own or not to own a portable dryer, that is the question. While a portable washer is necessary to get your clothes clean, having a companion dryer isn’t always a must. If you’re interested though, they do exist.
They work like a full-sized dryer, tumbling your clothes with blown-in heat, but like a portable washing machine, these dryers are smaller. Basic models cost around $90 but can get as expensive as $600 based on the features you need.
“All that you have to do is pop your clothing into the dryer and allow it to dry the items completely, putting your mind at ease…” says the site, OMO, who also shares that using a dryer saves you from having drying clothes taking up space needed for other purposes.
Speaking of space, if you have enough of it to hang laundry to dry, you can save money on the added electricity costs from running a portable dryer. Remember, hanging clothes to dry means they’re going to drip. Aim for a spot over your bathtub or somewhere where a puddle won’t be damaging or dangerous if it forms.
Invest in some metal hook clips or something similar for a space-saving trick to get more drying space on your shower rod. You can also place a collapsible drying rack into your bathtub for clothing. If you decide air drying is best, consider doing laundry at night so clothes can dry while you sleep and get put away easily the next day.
Go for a combo
Another portable option is a washer/dryer combo. These are slightly different than if you buy a portable washer and dryer separately. The dryer in a combo machine does not use heat to dry. Instead, it spins the clothes to wick the water away, which means clothing may come out a little damp.
Still, a compact and lightweight machine, some combo units can wash and dry at the same time, speeding along a complete laundry cycle. The cost is right around $100 on average, and the most frequent complaint is that the dryer doesn’t get lint off clothing (there’s no lint trap.)
Get the laundry clean
While it’s ultimately all about getting your clothes clean, having an alternative to using the building laundry room may sound appealing. Before deciding to go portable, make sure to check with your property manager that it’s OK to use this type of appliance in your apartment.
Your lease may prohibit them based on the age of your building and whether you have on-site laundry. Once you get the green light, it’s time to find the best portable washer, dryer or washer/dryer combo that works for your space.