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Frugal living activists, environmentalists, and DIY enthusiasts, welcome aboard! This $10 DIY washing machine is as cheap as washing clothes can be, easy to execute and effective.

You’ll need two 5-gallon buckets, a plunger, and a drill. You can scoop up some discarded buckets from a rummage shop or see if you can find some discarded ones from your local bakery, restaurant, deli, or school cafeteria. Just make sure that you get two in shapes and sizes so that one fits inside the other. It’s also a good idea to ask what they contained prior to using them; you wouldn’t want to wash your wear in a bucket that was used to store pickles.


Now here’s how you can make the apparatus and do the washing:

  • Drill holes about 1/8th of an inch in diameter on the sides and bottom of one bucket. Make sure that you space out the holes evenly. But take care that you don’t drill so many holes that they weaken the bucket. This bucket will hold your dirty laundry, so it has to be sturdy.
  • Next drill some tiny holes on the plunger. Again, space them out evenly.
  • Take the lid of the bucket with the holes and drill a hole in the middle with dimensions that will fit the plunger handle. Insert the plunger through this hole so that the handle is on the outside when you put the lid on the bucket. Place this bucket inside the other bucket, the one that does not have holes. Your apparatus is ready; now it is washing time.
  • Place your dirty clothes inside the bucket with the holes. Put water and detergent. If you intend to do the washing outside, the water will spill on your lawn. So use an organic detergent. If you are a green-living enthusiast, you will use one anyway.
  • Put the lid with the plunger attached to it on the bucket. Now plunge with all your might! This is the free arm workout we talked about earlier. You might want to remove the lid and rearrange the clothes so that all of them get an equal thrust from the plunger.
  • After some vigorous plunging action, check to see how much dirt you have managed to remove from the clothes. If the clothes are still dirty, carry on plunging. Else rinse.
  • Take out the bucket with the holes and place it on two wooden planks to let the water drain out. Put the bucket without the holes inside this bucket and on top of the clothes. Press it down to squeeze out more water from the clothes.
  • This DIY washing machine also comes with a spin cycle. Separate the two buckets. Tie a sturdy rope on the handle of the bucket containing your clothes and hang it from some place stable. Now spin it. Use both hands to spin it vigorously and watch the rest of the water spout and trickle out of the bucket.
  • You may want to gently wring the clothes before you hang them out to dry.

There is a fringe benefit of using this labor-intensive device. Apart from compelling you to go outdoors and build something by hand, this apparatus makes you rethink your lifestyle habits.