Monday, April 27, 2015

Trying to Keep a Few Conveniences

As anyone who has done it will tell you, going cruising is not without a lot of sacrifices.  Among those sacrifices are a lot of modern conveniences.  Just the other day we were chatting with a couple who arrived at the marina after a year-long cruise with their kids, and the wife mentioned that she was really looking forward to having a dishwasher again.  So, with all that we give up I've tried to bend a bit when I think it makes sense.  One of the conveniences we have been considering making room for on the boat is a clothes washer.  In fact, I posted about this topic a couple months back.

While I had noted a variety of options for washing clothes, the limited amount of space we have really only leaves the smaller counter top portable washers as a possible option.  I have a few places on the boat that would prefer lighter things be stored there and what essentially equates to a motorized bucket could find a home there...if it worked.

And, really, while the washing function could be handy, the bit we are really interested in is the spin dry feature.  A number of these machines have, or are, a small tub that spins fast and can extract water out of clothes without requiring heat (the more costly part of the typical dryers operation).  Living in more humid locations now, the idea of waiting all day...or two...for clothes to line dry or the added damage of hand-wringing clothes just isn't all that appealing.  The spin dryers were reported to extract enough water out of washed clothes that they would finish drying in just a couple hours...even in humid environments.

So when we were at Camping World looking at a folding bike the other day and stumbled upon a portable washer that included the spin dry function all in a single chamber unit, we decided that for $100 it would be a great solution for a boat.  Needless to say we picked one up and brought it home to give it a try.  I had actually seen these units when I wrote the earlier post, but they were always 220 volt models, so was I happy to see one setup for U.S. 110 volts.

The Base Camp Portable Washing Machine is supposed to be a counter top unit...but it is pretty tall for the average counter at almost 22 inches, the top is about shoulder height when sitting on the galley counter.  Its width and depth are both around 14.5" so it will sit on the counter.  This is a good thing since the drain is gravity fed through a hose on the bottom of the unit. Its wash function uses most of that space, while the spin dryer utilizes a smaller basket that snaps onto the agitator at the bottom of the tub...reducing the drying capacity to half the wash capacity.

Washing machine with spin dry basket installed

We did two loads of laundry with it as a test.  The first load consisted of one pair of shorts and 5 tee shirts.  The second was about 6 pairs of socks and about the same number of panties.  Instead of hooking up the water inlet hose (just a simple tube you can hook up to your sink faucet), we just poured water in with a pitcher or bucket. You regulate the water temperature yourself, so you get whatever you put into it.  To start each load we put in about an inch of water in the bottom, then added less than 1/4 the amount of detergent recommended for the typical washing machine "small load".  We then added clothes until they were just a bit under the max fill line, and topped off with water until the max fill line was reached.

We turned the switch to wash and set the timer for about 3~4 minutes.  The machine seems to agitate the clothes fairly well, although the action can sometimes ball them up in a bit of a knot.  After the first wash cycle completed, we let the clothes soak for another 3~4 minutes and then repeated the procedure 2 more times.  The result was about 9 minutes of active washing and 6 minutes of soaking in between.

After washing, we unhooked the drain hose and dropped it into the galley sink to drain.  This, of course, leaves some pretty wet clothes in the bottom of the washer.  So, I picked them up and squeezed a bit of the excess water out before starting the rinse cycle.  Rinsing consists of adding fresh water to the machine and running it in wash mode again.  And once the rinse cycle was complete, we again drained the water.

Now it was time for the spin dry cycle.  This required I remove all the clothes from the washer, so I squeezed a bit more water out of them and placed them in a bucket.  I then installed the spin dry basket and carefully placed a couple items in the basket, along with the cover.  You are only supposed to run the spin cycle for at most 3 minutes, so that is what I did.  I turned on the machine and quickly realized I didn't yet have the knack for loading the basket, as it shook quite a bit while attempting to spin.  I stopped the machine and repositioned the clothes in the basket, removing one of the items.  This time it seemed happier and only wobbled a little bit.

I could see water being slung out of the basket and against the clear blue walls of the wash tub, so it was working.  But, it didn't seem to be spinning all that fast.  I know some of the spin dryers spin at rates up to 3200 RPM, but this one didn't seem to go near that fast.  The unit doesn't document the speed and so I tried to determine the speed, but didn't have much luck either counting or using a sound based application for my smartphone.  Best I can guess, I think it was spinning somewhere between 500 and 700 RPM.  In any case, the result was that the clothes were less wet, but not nearly as dry as I had hoped.  In fact, we could hand wring additional water out of the clothes and it took almost a full 24 hours for the clothes that were washed to dry (after hand wringing them).

One other test I ran was to see if the unit would function when using my inverter (I have an older Xantrex and it is modified sine wave).  When running on the inverter, I noticed the motor would buzz a bit more, but it did work. I also noticed that the spin function is supposed to be limited (by you) to 3 minutes and after the 3 minutes the area around the motor was a little warm.  There was also the smell of plastic...but I assume that was just the result of the machine being new (since it smelled that way out of the box) and not anything related to the motor overheating.

Overall the washer seemed to do a fair job of washing the clothes we tried. Both wash and spin modes were pretty quiet as you can tell from the video, with the biggest noise problem stemming from the balance (or lack thereof) of the clothes in the spin basket. Unfortunately, the spin drying function, the most important function in our opinion, was a disappointment and left the clothes too wet.  We didn't feel this unit provided enough of an advantage over a bucket, plunger, and hand-wringing to justify its place on the boat, and so we decided to return the unit and continue the search.


  1. Yes, after that review I agree with your decision to continue looking. You can do better with a bucket, plunger, and a clamp on ringer.

    1. This washer really sounded good in theory...but my guess is that they couldn't find a motor that could do both the lower speed wash agitation and the higher speed spin so they went half-way between and got the worst of both worlds.

      Fortunately there are other options out there to try before we go the hand wringing route.

  2. I've read a few articles about this and and was surprised to learn that washing using ammonia eliminates/reduces the need for a rinse. The other thing I came across was the idea of using a mop wringer or a roller wringer to kick start the drying.

    1. I totally forgot about that ammonia thing...remember reading it a while back now that you mentioned it. Haven't heard of using a mop wringer...but the roller wringers I've heard of. You know a good one of those seems to run a couple hundred bucks but may be well worth it in the end. We will see. Still want to try a few other things I've seen.