BrickTest: Live the dream with a hand-powered "washing machine" for your apartment

By Annabel Lee  | September 20, 2011 - 1:52PM

Unless you have the Holy Grail of NYC apartment amenities -- a washer-dryer in your unit – you have to compete with your neighbors for a handful of washing machines or send out your laundry to a laundromat. However, there’s also a third option available for city living: a hand-powered washing "machine,” with no installation or neighbor interaction required. But is it a game changer for apartment dwellers?

The Product:

The $24.95 Breathing Mobile Washer looks a lot like a toilet plunger. Water and suds are sucked through the fabric due to vents in the plungey plastic part -- the "agitator."

The Test:

This primitive-seeming item is suggested for campers, boaters, missionaries, apartment-dwellers (that’s you!) and those prone to equipment failure or power outages (that’s everyone during hurricane season). Simply add your dirty items to a bucket or sink filled with water and detergent -- in my case, Dawn. Instead of swishing, you plunge the washer up and down.

I won't go so far as to say that doing hand laundry is fun, but it’s definitely a lot less monotonous than you might expect thanks to this contraption. The washer requires little force to do the job, and makes a distinctly satisfying sucking sound as it pulls up. You can even feel it working. Suck, suck, suck.

I first tested the washer on an all-purpose Pashmina shawl I've had forever but never before washed. At first, the water turned a yucky gray color, but after several rinses, it ran clear. I squeezed out the excess water and draped my Pashmina over the shower rod, and it dried within hours. Now my shawl is fresh and clean, and smells of honeysuckle rain to boot.

Next up was a pile of my husband's boxers. The good news: After washing and rinsing, they came out sufficiently clean. The bad news: With no kind of spinner or wringer, they retained a lot of water. I hung them on the shower rod, where they dripped onto the bathroom floor all night before fully drying. The manufacturer suggests a drying rack in a bathtub or near a radiator.

The Verdict:

This is no substitute for Maytag. But the washer (which was provided to BrickUnderground at no charge) is great for anyone in a pinch who needs to stock up on clean necessities like socks, underwear and washcloths before laundry day. I also plan to use it for first-time washes, where the tag tells you to "wash alone" lest the colors bleed. Also, it takes up very little space and is easy to store in a NYC apartment.

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