Living The Cheap Mini Washing Machine that Runs on Foot Power

Published on August 30th, 2012 | by Jeff McIntire-Strasburg

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The Cheap Mini Washing Machine that Runs on Foot Power

up-stream cheap human-powered washing machine

Hand washing your clothes is a less resource intensive option than using a machine… but if it’s your only option for all of your laundry needs, you’d probably start looking for a more efficient choice. After all, do you want to spend hours washing your  clothes? If you live in the developing world, that may be the only alternative for clean clothes, though: hand washing in a river, lake or other body of water. It takes a lot of time, it puts a lot of wear on the clothes, but if you don’t have electricity, what other choice do you have?

Philadelphia University industrial design students Aaron Stathum and Eliot Covena started playing around with that question, and came up with the Up-Stream, a washing machine that requires only four readily available items to build, and some human power to run. Take a look at the short video they produced to see how this device is made and operated:

If you’re interested in a closer look at the thinking that went into developing this product, the two have also published a free ebook that goes into much greater detail. They do plan to develop this concept further to scale up production, and get the price of the Up-Stream down to as little as $4. We’ll keep an eye out on further developments.

via Inhabitat and EcoChunk

Image credit: Screen capture from “Up-Stream: Developing World Washing System” video



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About the Author

Jeff McIntire-Strasburg is the founder and editor of sustainablog. You can keep up with all of his writing at Facebook, and at



  • http://www.innotect.co.uk Martin Owen

    I really like this idea, but not just for developing countries. I need a new washing machine and if this was available I would probably buy one. I work in a role that involves sitting in front a computer for most of the day – this is the case for a lot of people in richer countries. Having one of these would save some money on electricity bills while forcing me into some much needed exercise! I hope someone takes this product forward, it has huge potential if marketed properly.

    • Dawn

      It’s more time-consuming though, and for many people that alone would be a difficult sell here in the states. Unless you can combine washing with another activity to “save time” the idea won’t take off in developed areas. I could see a niche homesteader/prepper group jumping on this but I’m not sure the demand would be high enough or concentrated enough to make marketing in the ‘states profitable. It’s also cost-prohibitive to buy neoprene for this kind of design without a bulk purchase, at least from the suppliers I’ve found so building your own would be pretty cost-inefficient.

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