Washing Machine

five gallon bucket washing machine It’s very easy to make a five gallon washing machine, you just need the following ingredients:

  • Drill
  • Plunger
  • Five Gallon Bucket
  • Tight fitting lid

Make sure you use a brand-new, clean plunger for this project. Here’s a link to a cheap one on Amazon.

Building this unit is very simple, just take note of theseĀ 2 special design features that will make your washer work more effectively.

Tight entry hole Cut the hole in the bucket lid to fit the plunger handle snugly, to ensure water doesn’t find its way up and into your face.

Plunger holes Drill about a dozen 1/4″ on the sides and top of the plunger to allow the water a place to flow through.

If you skip this step, your plunger will buckle and won’t pump up and down smoothly.

An even simpler design

You can simplify this design drastically, just fill one or two buckets with soapy water and your laundry, and agitate your clothes thoroughly. See our article on hand washing in a 5 gallon bucket. hand washing in a bucket

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22 thoughts on “Washing Machine

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  5. About how long would this method take to wash clothes, and about how big of a load could I fit? I’d like to try it out but don’t want to over or under wash the clothing. If it isn’t enough for my use I can use a 20 gallon food grade container.

    • This washer fits a single set of clothing, two at the absolute most (depending on weight of material.) How long it takes to wash depends on how fast you pump and how long you let the clothes soak beforehand. You will probably be happier using a larger container, especially if you are hoping to wash your linens or a full week’s clothing all at once.

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  8. I have used a 5 gallon bucket with a plunger while stationed on board a carrier (before they had crew laundry facilities for our personal clothes). it works great. For larger loads like bedding a bigger bucket (like one I got that had been for chlorine) works even better.

  9. I am using this method. The holes you make in the plunger are to keep it from sticking to the bottom of the bucket by suction when you push down.

  10. I just made one of these out of a 5 gallon bucket. I am wondering how much detergent to use. I have high efficiency washing machine detergent and would be doing “full loads” (as much as I can) in the bucket. Thanks.

  11. I use this technique for off grid living and it works great. If you are so inclined as i am I also made a make shift water extractor by using two other five gallon bucket one a standard size and one of the taller kind. The taller bucket drill holes in rings from center of the bucket outward. Then when you have wet clothes put them in the small bucket, insert the taller bucket with the holes inside and turn upside down and sit on the bucket which will compress the clothes and remove quite a bit of water. I am working on perfecting this idea with using clamps, bar clamps, or something that will give me more then my two hundred pounds of compression. Either way it works pretty good and speeds up drying time dramatically. Anyone who has improvements on either design please send me any and all suggestions.
    The only bad ideas are those never brought to life, the rest is all fun and learning.

  12. I live in a camper full time and am going to try this. Getting to a laundromat (I’m disabled) is difficult for me and laundry tends to pile up drastically here. Yes, taking it all to the laundromat and doing it all at once is great, but I end up in bed for days after with pain from all the lifting, standing, etc. I will be trying this and using it in my small camper shower. The plus side is that using a bucket with a lid, will allow me to have a seat in my shower now to sit on while taking a shower, too! Just take the plunger out and ta-da! A shower seat that doesn’t take up a lot of room! And now my family won’t have to worry about me falling in the shower anymore! YAY! Thank you for the information!

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