I wrote this free, detailed, step-by-step guide with pictures just to show you how ridiculously easy it is to make your own off the grid washing machine. If you enjoyed it, please subscribe to my newsletter and you’ll get more articles like this.
Most of the materials You’ll need can be found around your house and most certainly at your local hardware store.
Let’s see what essential things you’ll need:
- A bottle of rubber glue.
- Flat wood drill bits, one 25 and the other 35
- One door latch
- Two hinges
- Around 25 screws with nuts and washers
- Around 6.6 inches of PVC piping
- A barrel
- One inner and outer bicycle tire
- Two PVC T-shaped pieces
- A PVC tap (optional)
- Six 37 3/8 x3x3-inch (approx. 95x8x8-cm) rectangular logs
Now that you have everything ready, let’s get started!
Step One: Building the Stand for the Washing Machine
First of all, you need to take the wood and measure out 9 7/8 inches (approx. 25 cm) from the base of the wood and then mark it.
From that mark, you’ll have to draw a horizontal line to reach the other half of the wood piece or reach the halfway point and draw another mark 3 1/8 inches (approx. 8 cm) to the right of the previous mark and then draw a line on that mark too. Connect the two lines to form a rectangle.
Now do the same on the bottom side of the lumber; then connect them to get a brick-like shape. You can start cutting it out. I’d recommend using a jigsaw; it makes the whole process faster and will give you a cleaner cut.
By using a chisel and a wooden hammer, you can easily remove the pieces.
It should look something like this.
Now that we’ve done that, do the same with the rest of the lumber, and put them together.
If you end up cutting the wrong size, don’t worry. You can always fill the gaps and fix them with a hammer to create enough support.
Put the two U-shaped structures in such a way that they form a V. You might need an extra hand for this part.
Now that you’ve set it up in a tight position at your desired height, you have to mark the places where the boards join on both structures so that you’ll know where to cut the wood.
Now simply cut away the wood using the same technique, and hammer the two pieces together until they support each other. If you do it right, you won’t need any nails.
Step Two: Cutting the Hatch out and Helping the Rotation of Clothes
First, measure out a 1-inch by 1-inch area on the side of the barrel, and start cutting it out.
Next, pick up your PVC pipes and cut off at least two 6 6/8-inch-long (approx. 17 cm) pieces. Drill one-one holes at the ends of the pipe, and drill through it with a 4 mm drill bit.
After that, using a 10 mm drill bit, drill through the holes again, but don’t go all the way through both sides. We only want to have one side of the pipe this size.
Put the pipes away, and cut some pieces of the bike’s inner tire into small cubes that are just bigger than the screw heads. Use a leather hole poker, and cut a hole that will fit your screw. Make two rubber pieces for each pipe.
After that, grab the same number of screws, washers, and nuts as the number of pipes you have.
Now put the pipe against the barrel where you want the pipe to be, and drill through it with the 4mm drill bit so it punctures the barrel. I’d recommend putting the pipe up outside first; that way you will have an easier time drilling through it. Put the rubber square through the screw, and then place the screw through the pipe and drill it in. Reach inside the barrel, and push the second rubber cube through the exposed end of the screw. Put the washer on, and secure it with a nut.
Now that the holes are roughly the size we need them to be, do the same thing in reverse so the pipe is inside the barrel. Repeat this process as many times as you want. I put up three pipes for good rotation. I also cut the ends of the screws with a metal-cutting saw so they wouldn’t stick out.
Step Three: Securing the Barrel onto the Wooden Structure
Grab the T-shaped PVC connectors, and drill a hole at the top-middle part of the T with your size 25 flat wood drill bit.
If the cap is not in the middle of the barrel, drill through it with the size 35 wood drill bit. Do the same for the bottom of the barrel with the same-sized bit.
Optional: Make a hole at the side of the barrel for the tap, and drill it out with the size that fits your tap; for mine, it was size 20. Put on the plastic nut that comes with it, and close the tap for now.
I attached the T pipe connectors with two pieces of pipe for extra help distributing the weight when we put in the water and the clothes. Simply turn the PVC pipe welder on, and push the PVC pipes onto it.
I used a sander bit to make the hole a little bit bigger and to smooth out the hole I made on the T connector.
I placed another pipe onto my PVC so that there wouldn’t be any space between the barrel and the T connector.
Now cut two pieces of rubber that could fit onto the holes you’ve completed on the barrel’s bottom and top. Use the rubber glue on the rubber and on the area that will be covered. The instructions on the glue that I had said to leave it on until it dried and then attach it to each other. I recommend following the instructions on the bottle since they could vary depending on the glue.
Put the two pieces together, and let them dry until they are completely affixed.
This is how it looks from the outside.
Now grab the hatch you cut out of the barrel, and measure out pieces from the bike’s inner tire. Apply glue to the edges of the hatch and to one side of the cutout tire pieces so the hatch overhangs when it is put up.
While you wait, push the T connector through the barrels’ holes, and secure it to the pipes you welded to it. Use the same method with the screws to secure it.
After the glue is applied, put the pieces together, and wait for it to dry.
I pushed a metal bar through the holes and placed a PVC pipe through the T connectors so the metal won’t rust from the water.
After that, attach the hatch with the latch and hinges, and use a bit of rubber to place it on—the same idea as with the screws.
After that, place the barrel onto the wooden structure and secure it with fencing staples.
Step Four: Making It Spin
Grab the bike tire’s outer layer, and cut out the metal rods as you will not need those parts.
Using the rest of the glue, apply it to the tire’s outer layer and the barrel. Let the two dry, and then glue them together.
It should look something like this.
Step Five: Connecting the Bike and the Washing Machine
I found part of an old shelf and thought I would use it up. At this point, you have to be creative and find a way to attach the bike. You could make a wooden support or use some scrap metal. Anything works as long as it can hold the bike up.
Using fencing staples, I attached it to the side of my support. Conveniently, it had a hole on top where the bike would fit perfectly.
This is how I used the fencing staples.
This is how it ended up looking.
Step Six: Trying It Out
First of all, I got the water, soap, and clothes ready. I filled it halfway with water then put the clothes in. With a grater, I grated some soap into it.
After 10 minutes of work, the clothes ended up pretty clean. They did need to be rinsed, but that is the smallest of my troubles if I can clean my clothes without electricity.
And of course, I had to try out the tap to see if it worked as I wanted it to.
And that’s it—you just made yourself a man-powered washing machine that will save you incredible amounts of electricity if you have a big family. The best part is that if you like working out, this can be a great way to get in a cardio workout. Although it can tire you out pretty quickly, it’s worth it for all the money you’ll save.