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Best portable washers 2020

Best portable washers 2020
(Image credit: Getty)

The best portable washers offer a smart solution to laundry woes for those sick of the laundromat, or looking for a mini washing machine suitable for apartments and smaller spaces in the home. Portable washers work by hooking up to your faucet and securing a drainage hose directly into your sink. These portable washing machines are much more energy efficient than regular washer dryers, and their miniature size makes them suitable for storage in closets, bathrooms, or any corner you’ve got spare. Many of the best portable washers come with casters, but you can also buy an appliance dolly to make them even more convenient. 

Portable washing machines aren’t just popular for apartment dwellers. RV and boat users love their compact convenience, and those unable to splash out on the best top load washing machines can find a cheap alternative when opting for a portable washer. Not only is the up-front cost of these machines much lower than many full-size machines, their estimated annual running costs can be as low as $3. 

With a mini washing machine comes a mini capacity. In our roundup of the best portable washers, the average size was 1.6 cubic feet. This is enough to fit a few days’ worth of laundry, but you may still need to visit the laundromat for large tasks like bulky bed sheets. That being said, we have included both large and small portable washers in our guide, with sizes that span from only 0.9 to 2.8 cubic foot. These machines had an impressive amount of cycles for their price, so you can continue to care for your clothes and other laundry items by customizing the wash temperature and load size. There’s options for delicates right through to heavy duty, and you can use either a dryer or a drying rack to complete the task.  

1. Magic Chef MCSTCW16W4: Best portable washer overall

Best portable washing machines 2020

(Image credit: Amazon)

Magic Chef MCSTCW16W4 Portable Washer

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. 

2. GE GNW128PSMWW: Best portable washer for large loads

GE GNW128PSMWW: Best portable washer for large loads

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GE GNW128PSMWW Portable Washer

The best portable washing machine for families

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

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. 

3. Insignia NS-TWM16WH9: Best value portable washer

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Insignia NS-TWM16WH9

A great value portable washer

Capacity: 1.6 cu.ft | Wash cycles: 5 | Max spin: 850RPM | Energy consumption: 63 kWh/year | Rollers: Yes | Dimensions: 36.4(h) x 20.4(w) x 20.7(d) inches | Weight: 70lb | Warranty: 1 year parts and labor

Wide variety of settings
Three temperature and load size settings
Comes on casters
Short intake and drain hose

What makes the Insignia NS-TWM16WH9 stand out is its affordability when compared to some of the top rated portable washers. This mid-size washer also has an average warranty, average energy cost, and average capacity. That being said, it is super reliable, and users love that it has an LED control panel with extra rinse and spin settings, as well as cycles for Quick Wash, Delicate, Normal, Heavy Duty, and Bulky Items. 

The Insignia NS-TWM16WH9 has two inlets, so you can attach to both your cold and hot faucet and customize the temperature of your wash. With a 1.6 cubic foot capacity, it will struggle with king size comforters or large loads of clothing and bedding, but for smaller households (or those who won’t mind doing more weekly washes) this is an excellent, low-cost choice. 

4. Danby DWM030WDB: Best mini portable washer 

Danby DWM030WDB: Best mini portable washer

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Danby DWM030WDB Portable Washer

A fantastic portable washing machine for those in apartments

Capacity: 0.9 cu.ft | Wash cycles: 5 | Max spin: 900RPM | Energy consumption: 23 kWh/year | Rollers: Yes | Dimensions: 31.5(h) x 18.1(w) x 17.7(d) inches | Weight: 55.1lb | Warranty: 1 year

Super inexpensive
Really low running cost
Quiet and lightweight
Cold water only

Portable washers are compact by nature, but the Danby DWM030WDB is the smallest in our lineup. It has a 0.9 cubic foot capacity, which will probably be too small for families. It also only has one inlet, so you get no temperature control with this washer. That won’t stop it from doing its job, but it’s worth taking into account when buying. 

Users report that the Danby DWM030WDB is super quiet when running, which is ideal for those living in apartments. It also has five settings including Rapid Wash and Heavy Load. In terms of annual energy use, this washer comes in at only $3. That is incredibly inexpensive when you think about how much you’re used to spending at the laundromat. 

How we reviewed 

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.

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.

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.

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. 

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.