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Best portable washing machines: Cheap, energy efficient and compact washers

The best portable washing machines are smaller than traditional front-load washers and top-load washers. They’re also cheaper to buy and run, and come with many of the same features. All you need is a sink or faucet to operate them - and once you’re done you can store them away out of sight.

We’ve spent hours researching portable washing machines to help you choose the right one. Right now, we think the best portable washing machine is the compact and budget-friendly Magic Chef MCSTCW16W4. It’s energy efficient – costing approximately $8 a year to run. And at just over 20 inches wide, it can fit in even the tiniest kitchen or closet for storage when not in use. 

However, the right portable washing machine for you will depend on why you need it. Whether you want a particularly compact option for a very small space, an extra portable option that you can take on holiday, or you’re simply looking for an model to accompany your main machine, we’ve got you covered. Here are the best portable washing machines for all budgets.

Best portable washing machine: Magic Chef MCSTCW16W4

1. Magic Chef MCSTCW16W4

The best portable washing machine overall

Capacity: 1.6 cu.ft | Wash cycles: 6 | Max spin: 800RPM | Energy consumption: 63 kWh/year | Roller: Yes | Dimensions: 36.6(h) x 20.3(w) x 20.7(d) inches | Weight: 70.5lb | Warranty: 1 year parts and labor

Energy efficient
Fast spin speeds and dry times
Cheap to buy and run
May be too compact for families

The Magic Chef MCSTCW16W4 is one of the best portable washing machines you can buy. Firstly, it's extremely energy efficient, using just 63 kilowatt hours in an average year. That beats all the other portable washing machines we looked at by a considerable margin. Its initial price is also well below average, at less than $300, and it only costs around $8 a year to run. 

It's also very good at cleaning your clothes. The Magic Chef MCSTCW16W4 has six wash cycle options, including delicate and heavy loads, though some competitors offer as many as 11. You can delay your start and add an extra rinse to the end of whichever cycle you choose as well. We particularly like the very fast spin speed (800RPM), which means your clothing will come out drier and take less time to dry fully.   

Bear in mind that there isn’t a specific fabric softener dispenser, so you'll have to manage that yourself. At 1.6 cu.ft, it may be a little too compact for large families too. However, if you're looking for an all-round excellent portable washing machine, the Magic Chef MCSTCW16W4 is a very good choice. 

Best portable washing machine: Danby DWM060WDB

2. Danby DWM060WDB

One of the most portable washing machines you can buy

Capacity: 1.81 cu.ft | Wash cycles: 11 | Max spin: 142RPM | Energy consumption: 132 kWh/year | Rollers: Yes | Dimensions: 37.4(h) x 21.4(w) x 21.6(d) inches | Weight: 66lb | Warranty: 1 year parts and labor

Lightweight
Reasonable price
Not very energy efficient
Slow spin speeds

The Danby DWM060WDB is incredibly lightweight and compact compared to other portable washing machines. It weighs just 66 pounds and has wheels, so it's very easy to take it to and from faucets. And while its overall dimensions aren't the smallest, it's still only 21 inches wide, so it should be easy to find a storage spot.

This portable washing machine is very easy to use. However, it isn't a superstar when it comes to energy efficiency and will cost about $16 a year to run – that's double our top pick. It won’t do you any favors on drying efficiency either. The spin speed is the slowest in our comparison, so your clothing will come out pretty damp. This unit also lacks a few other features that we value, like dispensers for detergent and fabric softener. 

The Danby DWM060WDB does boast a wide variety of cycle types, however, so you can differentiate between a heavy and a delicate load easily enough. Plus, that extremely portability makes it a great choice for anyone who needs to move their washer a lot.

Best portable washing machine: GE GNW128PSMWW

3. GE GNW128PSMWW

The best portable washing machine for large loads

Capacity: 2.8 cu.ft | Wash cycles: 8 | Max spin: 750RPM | Energy consumption: 136 kWh/year | Rollers: Yes | Dimensions: 37.4(h) x 24(w) x 24.5(d) inches | Weight: 99lb | Warranty: 1 year entire appliance

Fourth water temperature option
Fast spin speed
Heavy and not very efficient
Expensive

The GE GNW128PSMWW is a nice option for anyone who needs a compact and portable washing machine but still need to be able to tackle normal-sized loads. It offers a 2.8-cubic-foot capacity, which is much larger than most of the machines in our comparison, but it’s still considered a small machine next to conventional washers. We like that you can fit laundry for more than one person at a time. It is markedly heavier than the other ones we looked at, but that comes with the territory of more capacity, and the wheels still make it pretty portable.

The GNW128PSMWW isn't terribly efficient, which is hardly shocking considering its relative bulkiness. It costs about $17 per year to run. That’s more than any other portable washing machine we compared. However, it does come with a fourth water temperature – hot, warm, cool and cold – which means you can control energy use to some extent. The GNW128PSMWW also boasts a relatively fast spin speed. It's the most expensive option in our list of the best portable washing machines, but if you need a larger capacity it's worth a look. 

Best portable washing machine: Kenmore 44422

4. Kenmore 44422

A fantastic portable washing machine for families – but it's heavy

Capacity: 1.6 cu.ft | Wash cycles: 6 | Max spin: 850RPM | Energy consumption: 145 kWh/year | Rollers: No | Dimensions: 37(h) x 21(w) x 23(d) inches | Weight: 225lb | Warranty: 1 year

Very fast spin
3 water temperatures and levels
Durable
Weighs more than 200 pounds

This portable washing machine isn’t playing around. The Kenmore 44422 runs up to 850 rpm and has an interior of 1.6 cubic feet, so it’s both powerful and large enough to handle your family’s clothing. That incredibly fast spin cuts your drying time substantially too. 

The Kenmore 44422 has six washing cycles, ranging from heavy to delicate and even one for cleaning the inside of the machine. It's made of heavy duty stainless steel inside and out to withstand any abuse and wash your clothes thoroughly. Size-wise, it's similar to most portable washers, at 37 inches tall, 23 inches wide and 21 inches deep. However, it also weighs 225 pounds, making it as heavy as a full-size washer.

Best portable washing machine: Danby DWM045WDB

5. Danby DWM045WDB

Lots of cycles make this portable washing machine a great choice

Capacity: 2.3 cu.ft | Wash cycles: 11 | Max spin: 740RPM | Energy consumption: 126 kWh/year | Rollers: Yes | Dimensions: 35(h) x 21.4(w) x 21.6(d) inches | Weight: 70.55lb | Warranty: 1 year

11 was cycles
Overfilling protection mechanism
Maxes out at 740 rpm
Hard to find on sale now

The Danby DWM045WDB has low operating costs, and ties with the Danby DWM060WDB in offering the most washing cycles of any portable washing machine we researched (11). These washing cycles help you customize the washer to clean everything from blankets and towels to delicate garments thoroughly. It also costs $15 per year to run this portable washing machine, which is more affordable than going to a laundromat. 

The Danby DWM045WDB is rather light, at about 70 pounds, and it moves easily atop its rolling casters. The outside is made of rust-resistant steel, while the rub and drub are stainless steel. Bear in mind that the maximum spinning speed is an unimpressive at 740 rpm, but the number of washing cycles you can choose between make this a great portable washing machine if your wardrobe consists of many different fabrics.

Why Trust Us? 

During our research on portable washing machines, we read blogs and various articles, compared competing machines to see which had the most useful features and eliminated machines that required manual work, such as hand cranking or foot pumping. Instead, we opted for electric-only models, since these seemed to be the most popular and preferred models on the market.

We also watched user videos to see how real people coped with these devices, and we paid special attention to how they appeared to feel about the machines and what they said, especially regarding the effort they had to put into getting their machine ready, using it and putting it away.

How We Researched 

We spent 60 hours researching portable washing machines, carefully evaluating each model to find the best options. We wanted to find excellent, compact portable washing machines and looked for a range of capabilities, sizes and prices.

We examined the dimensions, ease of use and performance. We found general information about portable washing machines on the internet and on manufacturers’ websites. After that, we looked for specific information about particular models that looked appealing, paying close attention to consumer reviews, blogs and the level of satisfaction – or disappointment – expressed by people who had actually used the machines. In addition, we examined a range of prices so that you could have a large array of options.

How to choose the best portable washing machine 

Not sure where to start? Here are the main features you need to look at before buying a portable washing machine.

Size
These machines are meant for use in small living quarters, so they’re designed to do quite a bit of work without having a big footprint. It’s important to get the dimensions for the machine you are considering, since you’ll need storage space, easy maneuverability to a sink and enough room to position hoses.

Pricing
If you are in the market for a portable washing machine you are likely concerned with both size and price. These machines are generally priced below what larger, non-portable units cost. The best sellers on sites like Home Depot and Lowe's cost an average of about $450, while the best-reviewed units in this category average about $350. You can generally buy a great portable washing machine for less than $500.

Energy Use
You can save a considerable amount of money if you buy a well-designed machine that is energy efficient. Models we examined ranged from costing approximately $12 a year up to $17.

Cycle Settings
The greater the number of cycle and water settings, the better. Having more choices means you can extend the life of your clothes by washing them with the correct amount of force to really clean them but not wear out fabrics. 

Design
Certain features, such as having handles on each side and rolling wheels on the bottom, can make a huge difference when it comes to actually using your portable washer. A noise reduction plate can also go a long way toward making apartment or condo living more enjoyable while you get the laundry done.

How Much Do Portable Washing Machines Cost?

The average cost of the washing machines we evaluated was $423. We found full-size washers available for around $500, so if you’re willing to spend a little more and space isn’t an issue, we recommend shopping around for a full-size option. On the other hand, if you don’t have much room, these washers work really well.

How to Clean a Portable Washing Machine

Over time, the interior of your portable washing machine can build up soap, dirt and mineral residue. If you let it sit like this, it's possible your washer could start to grow mold or other bacteria. After all, bacteria love warm, wet places. Remove bacteria by running a cycle with either vinegar or bleach. Never combine vinegar and bleach together. Carolyn Forte from Good Housekeeping states, “Together, they produce chlorine gas, which even at low levels can cause coughing, breathing problems and burning, watery eyes.” Remember, safety first.

To clean your device, make sure it is empty. Then, run a cycle of hot water with no detergent added. Once the tub is filled, pause the unit and dump 4 cups of either bleach or vinegar into the water. Remember, do not mix the two. Let the cycle run for a few seconds so that the water can mix with the bleach or vinegar. Then, pause the cycle for an hour. The chemicals will do most of the work for you. After an hour has passed, allow the cycle to finish and drain. While the interior is still damp, use a rag to remove any of the grime left behind.

To learn other cleaning techniques for portable washing machines, check out Danby’s website.