The Offshore Voyaging Reference Site

Washing Machines: Complexity and Space Considerations

One of our members recently expressed surprise (in a comment) that we don’t have a washing machine on Morgan’s Cloud, particularly given that she is 55′ overall and so would seem to have plenty of room for one—a logical question and assumption.

And yet Phyllis and I have never even considered installing a washing machine. Here’s why:

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Cyrille Rio

We sailed enough without a washing machine, and while I agree with the side effects, if you already have water maker and generator, this is such a big step in comfort!
However, there is another parameter: where do you sail/cruise. There are places where finding a local wash place can be difficult (including in marinas), and then the price, quality of the machines won’t be quite good with your clothes. Or, some of your stuff will be lost. Depending on where you are, there are drawbacks and not always easy to find good laundry places.

Bertil Klevner

I would like to hear about innovativ “tow behind” and rinse in freshwater solutions!
Solo on “SOL”

Dick Stevenson

Hi John,
In a bunch of years wandering about we never wished for a washing machine for much the same reasons: not to mention our boat is way too small.
Let me emphasis one point: there are few enough ways to connect with locals on shore which, to us, is one of the joys of cruising. In many parts of the world, our first wander around a new town often used the icebreaker of asking who did laundry locally and who baked the bread. This often cascaded into other discussions and to the sharing of a wide variety of local knowledge we would not have acquired otherwise. Asking about hikes and local walks could accomplish the same type of interaction, although, like the world over, we were often directed to a nice local hike, but with the caveat that the person who had lived there for decades had never done it.
Laundromats are also a great place to interact and collect local knowledge: everyone wants to pass the time there.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

Dick Stevenson

Hi John,
I am remembering a good friend who has many sailing miles under her belt in remote places. Among her favorite stories are the ones where she is doing laundry in the river with other village women and her children are running around with the village children and, pretty quick, they are part of the local community.
My best, Dick

William Koppe

Hi John,
On our larger yacht we have installed a washing machine (not drier) and found that most machines would not fit through the companionway. As we think a machine has to be removable for service/ replacement that limited our choices. We already have 240V in the heads and 2 watermakers and will drain the machine to a large( 1100ltr ) grey water tank.
While using the generator to charge, we will start the watermakers as the charging rate reduces.

Alexandru Maioru

You’ll be surprised how easy is to take one apart and put it back together again.
Plus, there are the so called “slim” versions.

Richard Ritchie

A Dutch acquaintance in a large Ovni was enthusiastic about her solution: wait for a lumpy passage and put the dirty clothes in a black bin bag with water and detergent, and tie it to the foot of the mast. Then they just need a rinse when you get into anchorage….

Colin Speedie

Hi Richard, John
we did the same on our boat, but with a large flexible plastic gardeners container strapped to the top of the life raft locker on the transom – worked fine. Rinsed in the same way from the fresh water wash on the transom and didn’t use much water. Cost? about $10 for the basket.
Best wishes

Alex Borodin

Hi John,

Have you ever heard any reports on camping a.k.a. portable washing machines?

I also wonder how firm would you be in your decision to forego a washer if you cruised with several kids 😉


Michael Beemer

I have a portable. Our 47′ boat came with a generator and washer/dryer combo – I removed them both! We have a portable machine and it works great! No thru-hulls, nothing permanent, and runs off the inverter. It’s not perfect and does small loads, but it extends our time out by doing a few loads at anchor every now and then. I’ve been using it the summer for about 5 seasons, teacher only get 3 months full time cruising each year(but I’m not complaining) – we’ve had no problems. Would highly recommend it. Disclaimer I have a water maker 🙂

Alex Borodin

Thanks for sharing, Michael

Marc Dacey

We have a portable hand-powered, two gallon thing. Looks like a salad spinner with a goiter. Works reasonably well and you do a wash cycle and a freshwater spin. Makes a nice back up for “the smalls”.

Dietmar Segner

For us (48′ one-off aluminum boat without generator) a small washer has proven very helpful. It is a small scale washer that wasn’t difficult to fit. When on anchor we run it on a “cold” program over the inverter and feed it hot water from the boiler that is heated by the diesel heater or by the engine. It is only the heating of the washer that takes substantial amps, the motor can easily be run on batteries/solar. When in a marina we use shore power and get better washing quality as we have better control over time and temperature.

The real problem is this: most washing machines are sensitive to AC cycles so that European machines only run on 50 cycles, which means they don’t work in the Americas. An invert transformer obviously does not solve this problem.


Robert Cart

Thanks for your comment. I think there is iften a risk that people make assumptions about home comforts necessarily being bad. Just grit your teeth and call it adventure. While I do have a larger boat I also am thrilled with having the washer/dryer in a single unit. I also have 230v AC supply but only via inverter as in my opinion, a generator is a much bigger pain in the add and cost to maintain. I pulled mine out and have never missed it. The European all in one machines are wonderful. If I didn’t have 230v and had space, I’d consider a dedicated inverter for it. Yes, I am already assuming a solid DC charging and storage system with solar. I didn’t need any new holes in the boat of any kind for mine. A washer/dryer has been a great boon. Fault tolerance is achieved by using the laundromat upon an eventual failure.

Philip Wilkie

After a lot of pondering, I too came down in favour of a washing machine. In my case I went with a small 2kg Daewoo machine on our low volume 40ft boat:

Yes it’s way small, but I don’t want it to provide all the comforts of home; I just want to be able to get the salt out of our clothes every few days. Big washes of sheets and heavy items can wait until we get to a marina.

It fits in a modest space, and drains into the sink we have in the head, so no extra through-holes. I run it off inverter power only and it consumes around 20 litres of cold water per wash, which at most we only do every 3 -4 days. Toss in the undies and t-shirts, and we get to sleep smell and salt-free which is the main thing for my partner. She’s pretty tolerant of most things, but she won’t put up with ‘boat camping’.

It works for us because I’ve scaled back our expectations of what we want the machine to do. In this I do agree with John, trying to bring ALL the comforts of home with you can easily over-complicate things.

Alexandru Maioru

That is a very smart move.

William Murdoch

S/F, I love the formula; it’s so true. Our solution has been perfect for us — a 100 liter dry bag backpack. It’s easy to carry through town, and the clean dry clothes come back from the laundromat clean and dry no matter how wet the dinghy trip, and when stored aboard the boat the bag rolls up to be the size of two oatmeal boxes.

Alexis Jones

John, request for clarification. I understand your request to not send to non-members and will honor that, however just above that request, you post “please share,” which I take as not only permission to share, but a request to do so.
Enjoy yours as well as your wandering about in getting to the end. Also comments. Thanks.

Ernest E Vogelsinger

Perhaps change the sentence in bold to “Please do not copy, email, or distribute content to non-members” to make it even clearer?
(change “this” to “content”)

Dave Warnock


I think COVID gives us a new perspective on things. We expect to need to be more independent of land and of services.
So we think a watermaker is going to be more useful going forward.
But we are not convinced by an electric washing machine.
We do wonder if the combination of something a bit better than a bucket, ie a hand cranked washing machine. Plus an electric spin dryer, because if you handwash by any means the bigger issue outside the tropics is going to be getting stuff dry.

The combination of improved handwashing over a bucket and a spin dryer seem to us to get close to Pareto, 80% of the benefit for 20% of the cost/space.complexity etc

We like this style of washing machine

Ben Pearre

I’ve been using a WonderWash on shore; haven’t tried it at sea yet but it should work well. It’s somewhat flimsy plastic but seems so far to be built just heavily enough. Extremely versatile, fast, weighs nothing, cleans extremely well, holds a surprising amount. It can use as little water as possible: you have total control. I’ll experiment with salt water washing (e.g. what’s the best detergent?) and first rinse, with just one final rinse in fresh water.

If you want to wash at sterilisation temperature, I bet the manufacturer would disapprove, but I’ve been doing it (might be wiser to just pre-boil clothes in a stock pot?). There are some crucial tricks to it: start out by agitating very gently and opening the top repeatedly to relieve the pressure so it doesn’t explode, and I needed to re-glue the drain cover with something heatproof.

I also got their Ninja spin-dryer. It’s finicky to load right, but once you get the load balanced it does a phenomenal job: clothes come out almost dry enough to wear. It claims it needs ~300 W, but the manufacturer tells me it has a startup spike up to around 2 kW, so a 400 W inverter isn’t sufficient.

Dave Warnock

Thanks Ben,
Good to hear about your wonderwash experience. The flimsy aspect has been my biggest concern.
I like the Ninja spin-dryer but can’t find a UK/240 volt version.

Robert Withers

On our recent trip from UK to NZ, we travelled with the World ARC and kept a mental list of “Things that went wrong on other boats that wouldn’t go wrong on ours – because we don’t have it”.
A selection of the list:
* Washing machine
* freezer
* Air conditioning
* Bow thruster
* Electric winch
* Generator
* Integrated navigation, instruments & chartplotter
* Hydraulic lifting gear for tender(!!)
* separate deck-filled tank for rum (this actually didn’t go wrong for them at all, so is possibly a great addition to any boat)

We had a fridge and watermaker – both went wrong occasionally – so a score of 4 on the S/F ratio is about right.

Having said that, we have a diesel heater and radiators in each cabin, which wasn’t really necessary for 9 months in the tropics

Matt Marsh

Perhaps the most important lesson here – to me – is that if you have evaluated all the trade-offs in adding a piece of gear, and decided that yes you really do want it and it’s worth sacrificing the space and money, you need to be absolutely sure the thing is set up and installed in a way that allows easy serviceability.

The suck/fun ratio for having the machine vs. not having it might be pretty favourable for quite a while. Then it breaks down. If I can open it up, swap the broken component, and reassemble it in an hour or two (plus a few days of being unable to use it while waiting for parts), the suck/fun ratio is still pretty good. But if it’s going to take half a day of Boat Yoga to get at the guts of the thing, then most of a full day to put it back together….. well, not so rosy anymore.

(That goes for at home, too. I’ve spent way too much time fighting with a washer & dryer that were tucked into a tight corner without any slides/rollers, then had cabinets added around them, making them incredibly difficult to get at when a circuit board goes kaboom.)

Marc Dacey

Same here…having the resources of YouTube to provide tutorials (not often available at sea, alas) does not mitigate hauling out a big steel box full of more steel and plastic and fiddly bits and fixing the damn thing because the service tech is booked six weeks out. Good way to kill a day, even though I tend to skew that way.

Marcus Petraska

thanks Robert – i will add that integral rum tank to my list of features for my ‘perfect boat’

this is obviously a custom build
but thought it was a well considered laundry solution without resorting to a machine approach
i would add a permanently installed dehumidifier so that the shower stall/head becomes a drying room with hanging space

Brian Russell

on Helacious, our alloy Dix 43, we have a small Haier washer( no dryer) , takes up 2.5 sf of floor space in the Po utility quarter, weighs about 35 lbs. We have a diesel genset because i wanted a welder ( aluminum hull) onboard ( Miller Multimatic 200 , w/ spoolgun, 28 lbs). Genset is 460 lbs, which offsets the battery bank opposite. Watermaker: Cruise Ro 40 gph, about 125 lbs total. Total is nowhere near 1000 lbs!! So, we start genset, 9 kw , make water, wash clothes, charge batteries and even run, gasp, the the air conditioner to dry things out, for 1 to 1-1/2 hours. fuel consumption: .5 -.75 gal. I am happy, the admiral is happy, we have battery charging redundancy there… Complexity? Maybe, but we ain’t camping out. And none of it is ” mission critical”. Oh, we also have a Katadyn 12v dc watermaker that can run on solar. Or be hand operated. Hyperbole is fine in politics, but please, don’t exaggerate when it comes to important things like boats?.

Alan Sexton

We have a Candy Aquamatic 3.5kg washing machine that came with the yacht, earlier mechanical timer version of this:
( the same machine is sold in Australia and NZ rebadged as a Camec), runs on 230V.
The heating element was disconnected by previous owners so it could run on the then 800W inverter, even with a new 2000W inverter I have not bothered reconnecting the element, the cold water detergents are more than sufficient.
We find it is convenient when in out of the way places or when the queue at the marina washing machines is too long. Another option is after doing a bucket wash for a small collection can place in the machine for 1 rinse and a spin dry (or 2).
For sure you can have good encounters with locals, still remember a laundromat in Neiafu, Tonga run by a French girl, never seen such immaculately folded laundry in my life. But I also remember finishing an ocean race some years ago in Fiji, everyone sent their clothing off for laundering in the hotel we were staying in and what was returned had little resemblance to what was sent.

Frode Rognstad

Late to the discussion, but wanted to add that our Splendide washer/dryer combo has massively added to the enjoyment factor on our boat. It is virtually silent, and uses so little energy it barely registers. The power draw is so low, a small inverter would be enough to run it (wash cycle only). We have only used the ventless dryer once, and found it added no humidity to its surroundings.

Water consumption is another thing, as it consumes 10-15 US gallons (40-60 liters) per full load. That’s 40-60 minutes of water generation. We run our watermaker inside marinas all the time. We spend more time cleaning out pre-filters that way, but the water quality is excellent, and it sure beats hauling water or filling from questionable dock supplies.

The washer weighs 148 lbs (67 kg) and fit fairly easily down through the hatch into the technical compartment (our “garage”).