How to Use a Portable Washing Machine

Portable washers offer a convenient and cost-effective solution for anyone who doesn’t have access to a traditional washing machine. All you need to do is learn how to use a portable washing machine.

Front loading portable washer in front of wall

Not only are they small and easy to store, but they also save water and energy compared to traditional machines. However, using these machines can be a little frustrating if you’ve never done it before. In this guide, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know to do laundry with ease.

Introduction to the Portable Washer

These machines are primarily designed for smaller living spaces or situations where you don’t have hook-ups for a traditional, full-sized washer. 

These compact machines come in different sizes and types, but they all share the same core function: to wash clothes without the need for permanent plumbing hookups.

As their name suggests, portable washers are easy to move around and can be stored away when not in use, making them a perfect solution for apartments, dormitories, RVs, or simply lack ample space for a full-sized machines.

Benefits of Using Portable Washing Machines

Despite their small size, these machines are quite effective at cleaning clothes. They utilize less water compared to regular washers,

Some models even come with features similar to larger counterparts like quick wash settings, different cycle options and more. 

They’re ideal for households that don’t do tons of laundry every week. They’re also great when your regular washing machine is broken or inaccessible because of renovations.

Do Portable Washing Machines Work?

Short answer? Yes, they do work effectively and will get your clothes clean. they typically can’t handle as large loads as traditional washers and may require more manual effort (like filling and draining), they’re quite useful in apartments without laundry hook-ups or if you want to avoid trips to a laundromat.

How to Use a Portable Washing Machine

They work much like a traditional machine, except there’s more setup involved.

Connecting to a Water Source: Portable washing machines are easy to connect to your kitchen or bathroom sink via an adaptor and hose. You fill the machine with the appropriate amount of water and laundry detergent.

Washing Cycle: Once you start the machine, it operates much like a regular washer. The clothes are agitated in the soapy water for a set amount of time depending on the cycle you select.

Draining: After washing, the dirty water is pumped back out through another hose into your sink or bathtub.

Rinse Cycle: The machine is then filled again with clean water for the rinse cycle, and once complete, this water is also drained out.

Spin-Drying: Most portable washers have a spin-dry feature, which wrings out most of the excess water from your clothes.

Air-Drying: Since portable washers don’t have a heated drying feature like full-sized models do, clothes will need to be air-dried afterwards.

Choosing the right machine for your needs

Check out our picks for the best portable washing machines.

When it comes to choosing a portable washing machine, there are a few things you need to consider to ensure you get the right one for your needs. Here are some factors to keep in mind:

Size and capacity

The first thing you need to consider is the size and capacity of the machine. Portable washing machines come in varying sizes and capacities, so you need to choose one that suits your household’s needs.

 If you live alone, a smaller machine may suffice. But if you have a larger family or generate a lot of laundry, you may need a machine with a bigger capacity.


Portable washing machines come with a range of features, including multiple wash cycles, water level options, and programmable settings.

Think what features are important to you and your household. If you have delicate fabrics that need special care, for example, you may need a machine with a handwash or delicate cycle.

Reviews and brand

Before making a purchase, it’s a good idea to read reviews and compare brands. Look for machines that have positive reviews and are made by reputable manufacturers. This can help you avoid any potential issues or problems down the line.

By considering size and capacity, features, and brand reputation, you can choose the right portable washing machine for your household’s needs.

Understanding the Controls of Your Portable Washing Machine

The controls on one model may differ from the ones on another, but they’re pretty straightforward. They are usually LED screens these days rather than knobs.

Power Button

This is usually the most distinguishable button on your portable washing machine. It turns on the power supply to the machine and illuminates all control panel indicators.

Program Selector

This control allows you to select different washing modes based on your laundry requirements. Common programs include:

  • Normal: This is suitable for daily wear clothes that don’t have heavy soil or stains.
  • Heavy: Use this option when washing heavily soiled items such as work uniforms or athletic gear.
  • Delicate: For fabrics such as silk and wool which need gentle care.
  • Quick wash: This provides a faster cycle for lightly soiled clothing items that need quick cleaning.

Water Level

This control lets you adjust the amount of water used during washing. Smaller loads require less water while large loads will need more. 

Some models even offer an automatic adjustment function that determines the appropriate water level based on load size.

Temperature Control

Here, you can select between cold, warm, or hot temperature settings depending on your fabric type and color:

  • Cold: Ideal for bright colors which may fade and delicate fabrics. (We recommend always using cold water for laundry.
  • Warm: Suitable for moderately soiled clothing items and non-delicate fabrics.
  • Hot: Best used for white or light-colored clothes and heavily soiled items.

Timer / Start Button

Once you’ve selected your program, adjusted the water level and decided on a temperature setting, hit this button to begin your wash cycle. If your model has a built-in timer function, it will display how long before a wash cycle finishes once started.

To make good use of your portable washing machine efficiently and effectively, always refer back to its user manual when unsure about specific settings or functions. With time and practice, understanding these controls will become second nature!

Setting up your portable washing machine in your home or apartment

Before setting up your portable washing machine, find a level surface with access to a water source and outlet. It’s important to ensure the surface is stable and won’t move during use.

Attach the inlet hose and connect the drain hose properly

The inlet hose should be attached to a faucet, and the drain hose should be connected to a sink or drain. Make sure both hoses are securely attached to their respective sources before starting the machine.

Plug in the machine and follow manufacturer instructions to set up

Once the hoses are connected, plug in the machine and follow the manufacturer’s instructions to set it up. This may involve adding water to the machine and running a test cycle to ensure everything is working properly.

It’s important to read the instruction manual carefully and follow all safety precautions to avoid any accidents or damage to the machine.

How to properly load your clothes into a portable washing machine

Properly loading your clothes into a portable washing machine can help prevent damage to your clothing and improve the effectiveness of the wash. Follow these tips to load your portable washing machine correctly:

Sort clothes by color and fabric type

Sorting clothes before loading them into the machine can help prevent damage and discoloration. Separate light and dark colors, and wash delicate fabrics separately from heavier fabrics.

Load the machine loosely

Overloading the machine can lead to poor washing performance and damage to the machine. Load clothes loosely to allow enough space for them to move around during the wash cycle.

Avoid overfilling

While it may be tempting to fill the machine to capacity to reduce the number of loads, it can damage the machine and result in poorly washed clothes. Follow the machine’s specified capacity guidelines to ensure effective cleaning.

Add detergent and fabric softener according to machine and product instructions

Read the manufacturer’s instructions to determine the appropriate amount of detergent and fabric softener needed for your load size. Do not overuse these products as it can lead to buildup and damage to the machine and clothing.

By following these simple tips, you can properly load your portable washing machine and achieve a successful wash cycle every time.

Selecting the appropriate washing cycle for your laundry

Choosing the right cycle for your laundry load is crucial for achieving clean and well-maintained clothes. Here are some tips to help you choose the appropriate washing cycle:

  • Consider the fabric type of your clothes and choose a cycle accordingly. Most machines have cycles for delicate fabrics, synthetic fabrics, and cotton fabrics.
  • Assess the level of dirt on your clothes. If your clothes are heavily soiled, you may need to use a longer cycle or extra rinse cycle.
  • Check the care label on your clothing for specific recommendations on washing temperature, cycle type, and agitation level.

It’s important to note that using the same cycle for every load can result in damage to your clothes and decrease the lifespan of your machine. Choosing the appropriate cycle will ensure that your clothes are clean and well-maintained while extending the lifespan of your machine.

Tips for conserving water and energy during the washing process

Here are some simple yet effective tips for conserving water and energy while using it.

  • Wash full loads to maximize water and energy efficiency.
  • Use appropriate water levels for the size of the load to avoid wasting water.
  • Whenever possible, use cold water settings to reduce energy consumption.
  • Avoid overusing detergent and fabric softener, as this can require additional rinse cycles which waste water and energy.
  • Consider using a high-efficiency detergent to reduce the amount needed per load.

Remember, by following these tips, you not only save money on your water and energy bills but also reduce your ecological footprint!

How to Drain the Hose

After each use, you’ll need to drain the hose. This is probably the biggest hassle compared to a traditional machine, but it’s easy to do.

Step 1: Finish the Washing Cycle

Wait until your washing cycle is completely finished. Avoid interrupting the process as it may harm both your clothes and the machine.

Step 2: Locate the Drain Hose

Identify where your drain hose is located. It’s typically at the back of the machine, near the bottom. The drain hose is usually flexible and thick.

Step 3: Set Up a Bucket or Container

Prepare a large bucket or container that can hold all the water from the washing machine. Position it right under the drain hose.

Step 4: Unclip or Untwist Your Drain Hose

Remove your drain hose from its current position. It might be attached with a clip or twisted into place.

Step 5: Drain Water into Bucket

Carefully direct your drain hose to the prepared bucket or container. Water should start flowing out automatically.

Note: If no water comes out, you may need to check for potential clogs in the pipe.

Step 6: Tilt Washing Machine (Optional)

If there’s any stubborn water left in your machine, gently tilt it towards your bucket to ensure all water gets drained.

Note: Be careful not to drop it or tilt too quickly as this could lead to spills.

Step 7: Reattach Your Drain Hose

Once all water has been drained, firmly reattach your drain hose back to its original place.

How to clean and maintain your washer

Keeping your washer clean and well-maintained will keep it working for a long time. 

Clean the lint filter after each use

The lint filter collects lint and other debris from your clothes during the washing process. Be sure to clean it out after each use to prevent buildup that can cause clogs or damage to the machine. Simply remove the filter, clean it with warm water and soap, and replace it before the next use.

Run a cleaning cycle with bleach or vinegar to remove buildup

Over time, your washer can collect mineral buildup and other debris that can affect its performance. To clean the machine, run a cleaning cycle with either bleach or vinegar.

Fill the machine with water, add a cup of bleach or vinegar, and run a cycle on the hottest setting. Once the cycle is complete, run a rinse cycle to remove any residue.

Use a mild detergent to clean the exterior and avoid abrasive cleaners

To clean the exterior, use a mild detergent and warm water. Avoid using abrasive cleaners or harsh chemicals, as these can damage the machine’s finish. Wipe the machine down with a clean, damp cloth and dry it with a towel.

Troubleshooting common issues

Your washer may experience some of these common issues.

If the machine won’t turn on

Check the power source and outlet. Make sure the machine is plugged in properly and the outlet is functioning. If the power source is not the issue, check the control panel and settings to ensure they are set correctly.

If clothes aren’t getting clean

Check the water level and cycle settings. Make sure you’re using enough water for the load size and the appropriate cycle for the type of fabric you’re washing. Also, avoid overloading the machine, as this can affect the cleaning performance.

If there is a leak

Check hoses and connections for damage or blockage. Make sure the inlet and drain hoses are properly connected and tightened. If necessary, tighten the connections or replace the hoses.

Remember, if you’re experiencing any other issues, consult the manufacturer’s instructions or contact customer support for guidance.

Important safety precautions

  • Avoid leaving the machine unattended during use.
  • Keep children and pets away from the machine while in use.
  • Avoid overloading the machine, as this can cause damage or injury.
  • Make sure the machine is unplugged before cleaning or performing maintenance.
  • Never operate the machine with wet hands or while standing in water.
  • Do not use the machine if it has a damaged cord or if water is leaking from it.
  • Read the manufacturer’s instructions and warning labels before using the machine.

Do you Need Accessories?

There are several accessories that you may want to have. Most machines include at least some of these.

1. Washing Machine Cover: 

A cover can protect your machine from dust, scratches, water spillage, and sunlight when it’s not in use.

2. Anti-Vibration Pads or Mat:

These pads or mats are used to reduce noise and movement caused by the washing machine during operation.

3. Portable Washer Spin Dryer:

If your portable washer doesn’t have a spin-dry feature, purchasing a separate compact spinner could be beneficial for quicker drying times.

4. Lint Filter:

Some machines don’t come with built-in lint filters. You might need to buy one separately to prevent lint from clogging the drain hose.

5. Faucet Adapter:

This device will allow you to connect your machine directly to a sink faucet for convenient filling and draining of water.

6. Drain Hose Extension:

An extended drain hose can help you direct the waste water further away or into a taller drain pipe if needed.

Do You Need a Portable Dryer?

Not necessarily. Portable washing machines often have a spin-dry feature that extracts most of the water from the clothes. 

However, this doesn’t completely dry them. If you can air dry your clothes indoors or outdoors on a drying rack or clothesline, you won’t need a portable dryer.

But your living situation makes that difficult – such as living in a damp climate or not having a good place to put clothes while they dry), then a portable dryer might be an excellent option for you.

It’s also great if you frequently need to wash and dry large amounts of laundry or if you simply prefer the convenience and speed of machine drying.

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Last Updated:

October 27, 2023