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Home Forums General Discussion Hand Crank Washing Machine

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    Here is a simple but very effective hand crank washing machine I designed for anyone interested.

    Follow the link for full color pictures:

    Compost Tumbler or Clothes Washer

    This project is built from a plastic 50 gallon barrel, five 2x4x8’s and a 1 inch diameter 5 foot long steel pipe. You will also need a short piece of strap hinge, S hook latch and a 1 inch drain plug.

    Step #1

    Cut a 1 foot by two foot door on one side of the barrel. Use the cut out piece to make the door using the hinge and the S hook latch.

    Step #2

    Drill a one inch drain hole on the bottom side of the barrel opposite the door and insert the drain plug.

    Step #3

    Attach a 1×2 scrap to the top end of the barrel using glue and screws to be a handle for turning.

    Step #4

    Drill a 1 inch diameter hole in the end of each barrel and slide the length of pipe through these holes

    Step #5

    Build the frame using the dimensions shown here and attach the wood together using glue and screws. The upright frame member is two 2x4x3’5″ glued together.

    How it works

    Just slide the 1 inch pipe through the barrel and the frame and you are ready to compost. Put in all your kitchen food scraps except for meat and add in your grass and weed clippings.

    Using the attached handle give the composter a few turns back and forth to aerate and turn the compost every few days. In a few weeks you should have rich black compost that can be added to your garden, fruit trees or shrubs.

    If you want to make compost tea just pour in a gallon or two of water and let it steep for a day and

    then drain the liquid off into a bucket using the drain plug. This compost tea is an excellent fertilizer for your house plants and vegetables.

    To Make The Clothes Washer

    By just adding a few agitator boards to this project you can also make a very good clothes washer.

    Insert three 1″X2″x3′ boards through the door (don’t cut end of barrel) and attach at even spaces around the sides of the barrel as shown in the picture with roofing screws and rubber washers. Screw in the screws through the outside wall of the barrel in to the wood agitator boards.

    How it works

    Just put in your clothes to below the middle and fill the washer up with just enough water to cover the clothes and your biodegradable detergent. Close the door and using the handle start rocking the barrel back and forth. The agitator boards will scrub the clothes clean.

    Drain the dirty water into a bucket for use on your shrubs or fruit trees. Refill the barrel with water and agitate again to rinse the clothes. Repeat as necessary. Drain the barrel and agitate the clothes to spin out excess water. Hang the clothes in the sun and you are done.

    The clothes will still be quite wet but will drip dry usually in a few hours hanging on a clothes line. To speed up the process you could use a hand wringer or bucket wringer.


    That is a toughie, the only thing I can think of that might be causing the problem is your modified sine wave inverter, I do know that computer chips, especially those with timers do not play well with modified sine wave inverters, sometimes not at all. Your washer definitely has computer chips and timers. I have to avoid anything digital on my system, I’m running a smallish solar system using a modified sine wave inverter. I tried running a microwave (with digital inputs), I had enough power to run the microwave, but the timer part did not work, and it acted funny so I didn’t trust running it, the same thing happened with a bread machine and my digital alarm clock. Can’t explain why it works sometime and not other times though…

    I’m not surprised that the Maytag tech people couldn’t answer your questions, it’s not in their manual. :)



    Hmmm… kind of a wacky thing to be happening isn’t it! Is there any way that you can take the washer to a friend’s house that is on the grid? That way you would know whether the problem is the washer itself or something else. Another thing to keep in mind is that some motors and/or some electronics really just don’t like the modified sine wave from the inverter.They want a good sine wave from the invertet Considering all the electronics in modern washers the problem could even a water supply or drain issue. Or even a ground problem between the washer inverter, and battery bank. Let us know how it turns out.

    Good Luck!



    Check the “Bulk” and “Float” voltage levels on your controller. Maybe the voltage is going a bit high for the inverter to accept a big load while the panels are putting out..

    Take a day when this is happening and disconnect the panels from the controller. Wait ~10 minutes and try to fire up the washer. If this works, we discovered the problem..


    To Add..

    It’s possible for the “Bulk” voltage level to be too high for the inverter. During the “Float” charge, it shouldn’t happen. Set your “Float” voltage level slightly below the maximum input voltage of the inverter. A few tenths of a volt will make a big difference..


    I also bought a front loading efficient Maytag and it would not run on “modified sine wave” power. I returned it and bought a Staber 2000 which is not sensitive to modified square wave, uses only 135 watt hours per load, and 15 gallons of water at max capacity.

    Minor gluing of cracks in some of the plastic parts, and the yearly drop of oil on each of two bearings. It has run well for 12 1/2 years now. It only uses 1 oz of regular liquid detergent or 1/2 oz of ultra, but lately we have been successfully using the Green Ball.

    The Staber is not cheap. It was $1K back then. $1,300 now.

    I got one with a small dent in front and it was 1k shipped. Shpg will be another 100-200, depending on zip code.

    Before that we were using a hand crank 2 gallon washer from Real Goods for a year and a half. We still have it in the attic. They also carry higher capacity and more expensive hand washers called Jane’s Washers.


    It is a James Washer, not Janes;

    Here is more of a description of use and a good site;

    Pahana Tribe

    This may not be the solution your seeking however it is a nifty idea so what the heck.

    Hand Powered Washing Machine


    Your inverter is putting out more voltage than it should while charging. I have seen this happen before with off-brand inverters. I have found that the LG brand of washers using DC converters to run the motor etc will tolerate overvoltage and undervoltage without any problems. We run one of them here. These convert the 120V 60Hz AC into ~130-140VDC and step it down to run the electronics and motor controls as well as the solenoids for water input. I have tested them up to 69Hz down to 52Hz frequency variation, and up to 130 Volts AC, and as low as 98 volts AC and the washer will still run fine. They will easily run on a small generator such as the Honda EU2000, and even smaller if the load is not too large for the spin cycle to handle.

    I design inverters and off-grid electronics for a living btw if you ever need any help troubleshooting.



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