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Clean Alternatives to Everyday Machines: Choose Your Washing Weapon

The Energy Star Washing Machine vs. The Wonderwash vs. The Basin vs. The Future of Home Dry Cleaning

In this 4-way battle royal to earn the title “The Best Washing Machine for You and the Earth According to Joe”, a variety of factors need to be considered. Water use, electricity use, size of family, and–of course–convenience all need to be given a good look. And even though I am of the mindset that we have way too many unnecessary conveniences in our society, I am aware that some conveniences have proven to be beneficial time savers.

In reading for this post I had to turn to No Impact Man to see what his thoughts were on the subject, because, unlike my familiarity with the reel mower, I have never used an alternative to the washing machine. I was surprised to learn his thoughts.

The laundry machine is the one appliance I believe makes the difference between a life of drudgery and not. If cars are the Devil, as I think they are, then laundry machines are God.

This quote will weigh heavily in my judging process.

Up first for review:

The Energy Star Washing Machine


* Uses over 40% less water than a conventional washing machine

* Uses over 40% less energy than a conventional washing machine

* Can save you over $500 in operating costs over its lifetime (stats from


* Uses more water and energy than the models below

* More expensive than the models below

The Wonderwash


* Requires NO electricity

* Will save almost 12,000 gallons of water per year compared to a conventional washing machine

* More gentle on delicate clothing than a washing machine

* Much less expensive than a washing machine (approximately $45)

* Uses up to 45% less detergent per year

* Sold out until mid-July on their website–so they MUST be good

* Requires at least 2 minutes of turning a crank


* Requires at least 2 minutes of turning a crank (had to be a pro and a con depending on individual affinity or disdain towards crank turning)

* Requires hot or warm water

* Maximum load size is about half of a load for a conventional top loading washer

* Is made from plastic, so its durability is in question

The Basin (or tub)

No Impact Man cleaned his clothes in the tub before realizing how much he missed his washing machine. Bending over a tub or basin is much more difficult and time consuming than the Wonderwash, so if you desire electricity-free clothes washing, get a Wonderwash. If you don’t want to purchase plastic, or don’t want to shell out the 45 bucks then the tub is best for you. But, I’m guessing the Wonderwash may still be in your future.

The Future of Clothes Washing: Dry Cleaning in Your Home

I recently (June 16th) read Michelle Bennett’s article in Cleantechnica on a water free dishwasher. Well, it is virtually water free. It uses 98% less water than the normal washing machine (huge pro), therefore requiring less drying time (pro). However, since it won’t come to market until 2009 (con) I can’t report on cost, but I’m guessing it’s more than $45 (con). And, it still requires electricity (con).

The verdict:

Again considering No Impact Man called laundry machines “God” I will have to give the nod to the Energy Star appliance (barely nudging out the Wonderwash). However, come 2009, the water-free washer may be the best choice, but the jury is still out.

So, congrats too our winner (again my apologies to the late, great John Henry), and please remember to follow these tips when using your Energy Star washing machine!


* Always wash a full load

* Always wash in cold water–According to Energy Star: “About 90% of the energy consumed for washing clothes is due to heating the water.”

* Use plant-based detergents, free from petroleum and phosphates (better for our fresh water supply)

* Use a drying rack to dry clothes (I do have experience in the field of manual clothes drying. I lived in Portugal for two years without a dryer–it’s not a problem.)

More articles on environmentally-friendly laundering

The Laundry Room: Make it Green by Alan Greene, M.D.

Green Building Talk: Energy Efficient Appliances by Jeff McIntire-Strasburg

Canada Says ‘Yes’ to Clotheslines by Shirley Siluk Gregory

Image credits (top to bottom): Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons, Energy Star, Laundry Alternative Inc.

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is an Environmental/Political cartoonist for Planetsave, Elephant Journal, Wend Magazine, Twilight Earth, Ecopolitology, EcoSnobberySucks, and more... Joe also does a kids enviro-toon called Hank D and the Bee on EcoChildsPlay and NaturalPapa. Joe lives in University City, Missouri and spends his free time with his beautiful wife, enthusiastic daughter, and curious toddler of the same name. He also enjoys writing, drawing, painting, walking, biking, skateboarding, gardening, reading, listening to music, playing sports, and watching plays (especially the plays his wife's site-specific theatre company, Onsite Theatre puts on).   Visit Joe's online cartoon gallery at


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