Courtney Craig

We’ve all been there: You’ve blocked off a Sunday afternoon for doing laundry in the communal laundry room, only to find that all the washers are taken. You don’t want to go to a laundromat, and you desperately need something clean to wear to work on Monday. What to do?

There’s an easy solution out there. Not going back to the 19th century with a basin and a washboard – that’s strenuous work. You can get lightweight, portable washing machines – perfect for apartments without washer/dryer connections.

Intrigued? Read on to come clean on the details.

How do they work?

Portable washing machines are pretty small – about three feet high and two feet wide. They’re also light and easy to move around, though that doesn’t necessarily mean you can do laundry in any room in your house. They usually only hold about 2 cubic feet, so loads are going to be half or less of what you’d get out of a regular washing machine.

The operation is simple, even if there are a lot of steps. You hook up a hose to a faucet in the bathroom or kitchen, and another hose drains into the sink/bathtub. From there, you add detergent and run like a normal machine, occasionally having to drain or change the water depending on the cycle and machine. Once that’s done, hang your clothes on a clothesline to dry, or use a machine dryer (more on that in a minute).

As with any appliance, specific models have different features and instructions, so follow the manual that came with your machine. The above is just a general overview of how most machines work.

Read more: Find the Best Washer and Dryer for Your Apartment


Sounds easy. How much do portable washing machines cost?

Your basic models can cost as little as $80; an average model with a few more options will cost you around $300. If you want a top-of-the-line washer with more bells and whistles (such as different wash cycles and speeds to accommodate various kinds of fabric), you can spend as much as $800.

The real cost of using the machine comes in time and some inconvenience. Using the machine will usually take up your bathroom’s sink and tub while it’s running, which also takes longer than a standard machine.

While it’s portable, you’re not going to want to move it around too much. While the wheels keep it off the floor, there’s still a lot of moisture on the machine, so you’ll want to keep it away from carpet or hardwood floors that can be damaged by water.

It’s a lot to deal with, but a portable washing machine is still a viable option if:

  • Your apartment doesn’t have hookups.
  • Your community’s machines are coin-operated (which gets expensive!)
  • You move often and want the convenience of a lightweight appliance.
  • You don’t have room for a full-sized washer/dryer.
  • You want to do your laundry in your own apartment, on your own time.


Want more laundry tips? Read all our laundry articles here!

What about drying my clothes?

Yep, they make portable dryers, too. They work the same way as full-sized dryers – they tumble your clothes while blowing in heat – but they’re just smaller. Basic models cost around $90; you can pay up to $600 for a top-of-the-line model. There’s also the cheap but slow method of a clothesline or drying rack, which just requires you to hang up your clothes and wait a while.

There are also some machines that are portable washer and dryer combos. You put in a load of dirty clothes, and they come out clean and dry. They don’t require hookups, but “portable” isn’t the best descriptor: to fit in the machinery for washing and drying, they tend to be quite large and heavy. They’re still an option, but you’ll want a really compelling reason to get one and not just a separate portable washer and portable dryer.

You can buy portable washers and dryers at most big-box stores, including Walmart, Target, Sears and Home Depot, or online.

Now we want to hear from you! Who loves or loathes portable washing machines and/or dryers? Let us know how you feel in the comments below.



About The Author

Courtney Craig is a writer and contributor for the Apartment Guide Blog. She rented apartments for 12 years in 4 cities before buying her first house in Atlanta.