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Before You Buy a Portable Washer - Compact Portable Washer Buying Tips


Portable washers are ideal for small spaces including RV's, apartments, condos or any home where installing a traditional washer is not an option. These compact washers operate by attaching to a sink faucet and once the washing is completed, this mobile appliance can be wheeled into another area of the home. Their biggest benefit is the convenience of being able to do your washing at home, rather than at the local laundromat. Their main constraint - load capacity is very small, though some models are larger.

How a Portable Washer Differs From the Traditional or Compact Washer

Except for all-in-one washer/dryer combo units, portable washers are top-loaders with widths of 17" to 29", but most are small. These small washers are wheeled to the kitchen sink and connected to the faucet with a quick-connect adapter. Once the washing is completed, they are disconnected and returned to their place. Though portables are compact, they differ from standard compact washers - load capacity and size are smaller and water hook-up is temporary. Though some have a good variety of cycle options, others are more basic in design. Portable washers are electric (standard outlet).

Price Considerations

Prices range from $200 to $700 for portable washers depending on features, but most are in the mid-range. A portable washer is generally more economical than a standard washer, because of capacity, design and features. All-in-One combo units are more expensive, ranging from $500 to $1500 but are usually more state of the art in features, efficiency and fabric care.

Portable Washers are More Suited to

Singles, couples or very small families mainly because of the load capacity. But for those who cannot afford or connect a standard washer, it can provide laundry facilities in-home and eliminate laundromat visit costs. Portable washers are also ideal for tiny apartments, at the cottage, in an RV or small cabin, where there is no room for standard appliances.

Capacity Limits

Portable washers are designed for very small loads which can range from 6 to 12 lbs of laundry or less than 2 cu.ft. Stuffing is not recommended as cleaning performance will be sacrificed, but plan on doing more small loads per week than with a standard model. Some models use a pulsating type of wash system, rather than an agitator and this can increase the washer's capacity, but only slightly.

Installation Notes

Some models come with connection hoses for water intake and drainage. However, some consumers find these factory installed hoses too short and have succeeded in replacing them. A Y-adapter is not usually included and may need to be purchased to complete the hot/cold faucet connection. For best results, measure the space where you intend to place your washer to ensure it is adequate, as well as the path to the kitchen sink faucet.

Best Features

Features vary as does the number of wash cycles and settings as some models are fully automatic with fabric/bleach dispensers, while others have a few basic settings. As a minimum, you should be able to adjust the water level and temperature to suit your load and do a gentle or regular (spin) and a quick or long wash. Some models offer delay start which is a nice feature to have, as is soak or delicates. You can save on the cost by buying a basic model, as long as you can control the length and intensity of the wash and spin cycle and adjust water temperature and level.

Energy Efficiency

While most portable washers are low on electricity use, none are Energy Star compliant except for washer/dryer combos. If you can control or choose a low water level, cold temperature or a short/quick wash - all of these will reduce your overall energy use.

Consider an All-in-One Washer/Dryer Combo

They are more expensive than portable washers, but have the added convenience of drying the load in the same unit. Most washer/dryer combos are high-efficiency front-loaders, very low in energy use and are Energy Star rated. These combo units do not come with wheels, but many models have optional wheel/connection kits that can be purchased, making them comparable to portable washers as far as mobility and hook-up is concerned. Washer/dryer units are usually 24" wide with a narrow depth that makes them easy to place in a small home, apartment or RV. They usually have more high tech features than small portables.

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