By far, the most popular type of home in Canada is single-detached houses, making up over 53 percent of the housing market. However, in metropolitan areas like Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver, almost 4 in 10 dwellings are high-rise apartments.
So while Canada is land-rich, it seems that those of us who choose to live in urban areas have to accept the limitations of small-space living. And that’s where compact appliances like portable washers come into their own.
In addition, Canada is a nation of beautiful landscapes explored by people who love the outdoors. 15% percent of households in Canada (that’s 2.1 million people!) own an RV, many of whom wash their clothes using a portable washer while they are on the road.
If you are struggling for space, but need a washing machine that doesn’t dominate the room, a portable washer could be the answer.
Best portable washing machines of 2020
- Best overall – Panda 1.6 cu ft.
- Best high-end – Magic Chef 2 cu ft.
- Best non-electric – The Laundry Pod Portable Washer
- Best capacity – GE 3.3 cu ft.
- Best for an apartment – Panda 1.34 cu ft.
- Best compact – RCA 0.9 cu ft.
Hours of Research
Best portable washing machines comparison
|Panda 1.6 cu ft.||Magic Chef 2 cu ft.||The Laundry Pod||GE 3.3 cu ft.||Panda 1.34 cu ft.||RCA 0.9 cu ft.|
|Capacity (cu ft.)||1.6||2||n/a||3.3||1.34||0.9|
|Capacity (weight)||11 lbs||15 lbs||10 items||20 lbs||11 lbs||6 lbs|
|Weight||77.8 lbs||90 lbs||7.9 lbs||99 lbs||59 lbs||53 lbs|
|Dimensions||37 x 19.75 x 20.5||40.2 x 24.5 x 25||12 x 10 x 11||24 x 37.4 x 24.5||20 x 19 x 34||40.6 x 22.5 x 27.5|
Our pick for best overall – Panda 1.6 cu ft. Portable Washer
- Pulsating function
- 11 lbs capacity
- 6 program setting
- Delay timer
- Poor customer support
- Build quality issues
This Panda portable washing machine is a lot more advanced than others in its class. It also comes in a larger 2 cu ft. capacity. This model has touchpad controls, an LED display, a delay start timer, and 6 washing programs. They include normal, delicate, quick, heavy, bulky, and spin only.
The 1.6 cu ft. capacity means that you can fit 11 lbs of clothes in the drum. It has a pulsator function that generates strong and weak water flows for an even wash. It has a hot and cold water inlet that attaches to dedicated water taps, or you can attach the hose to your faucet.
This model was almost our apartment pick, but given all the extra features and technology, we crowned it the best overall choice.
Best high-end – Magic Chef Compact Washer
- High-tech features
- Clear window in the lid
- Load balance detector
- 15-lb capacity
- Heavy at 90 lbs
This Magic Chef washing machine is an advanced piece of kit. It gives the Panda a run for its money in the race to be the high-end winner. But this washing machine is the best for capacity, at 2 cu ft., which translates to about 15 lbs of washing.
It’s no slouch when you look at the features; it has 6 wash cycle settings, 3 water levels and temperature settings, as well as a delay start function. It also has a pulsator for even washing, as well as auto shut-off when the wash cycle is complete.
There is a large viewing window in the lid, and this machine has a built-in load balance sensor to make sure that it isn’t overloaded.
What this machine lacks in size, when compared to full-size washers, it more than makes up for in ability. However, there is a dark cloud here, and that is the price. This machine is almost double the cost of the Panda. Ouch!
That said, if you want the highest capacity you can get for your small space, then suck up the extra cost and consider this machine.
Best non-electric – The Laundry Pod Portable Washer
- Minimal environmental impact
- Ideal for off-grid living
- Perfect for RVs
- Requires hand-cranking
- Small capacity
- Hand-fill with water
- Very basic
This non-electric washing machine is a nod to the way we used to wash before washing machines. All it requires is a bit of elbow grease. So how does it work?
Inside the machine is a plastic drum. The drum is attached to a cog mechanism that spins when the handle gets cranked. You load the water manually from the top and then add detergent. There is a drain valve on the side that allows the dirty water to drain into your sink.
This washer uses 90 percent less water than standard machines, and it also uses a fraction of the detergent. The maximum load is 10 garments, so it isn’t the largest capacity, but it is ideal in an emergency or when you are camping in your RV.
The only downside, apart from the capacity, is that you will have to crank for 10 minutes to do one full load.
If you want something different because you live off-grid, or are on vacation, this non-electric washer has almost zero impact on the environment, and it gives you the convenience of home comforts.
Best capacity – GE 3.3 cu ft. Capacity Portable Washer
- Huge capacity
- Packed with features
- Bleach dispenser
- Child lock
- Weighs 99 lbs
This portable washer is a stackable design so it saves on space. It has 8 wash cycles, a 24-hour delay start timer, and convenient 1-touch controls. The readout is LED, and it has a bleach dispenser for safety. It also has a child lock, so it protects your children from harm.
The basket is stainless steel, making it corrosion-resistant, and this washer has a quick-fill function to deliver the exact amount of water for your load.
This washing machine is heavy, weighing in at 99 lbs, so it might not be the best choice for those with mobility issues, but it does have a 3.3 cu ft. load capacity. If you are looking for a machine that delivers the most but takes up minimal space, this is the one to consider.
Best for an apartment – Panda 1.34 cu ft. Compact Washing Machine
- Viewable lid
- Digital controls
- 10 wash settings
- Touchpad controls
- 1.6 cu. ft. capacity
- Not automatic
- Only one source of a water inlet
The reason we chose this as our favourite portable washing machine for apartments (and small-space living) is that it offers all the things a small washer should, but with the features of a standard washing machine.
It has touchpad controls with a digital display, 10 wash settings and 8 water levels, as well as a see-through lid that lets you see how your washing is getting on. It weighs almost half the weight of the Magic Chef, at 51 lbs, and it has less capacity, at 1.6 cu ft. (11 lbs).
The drum is made of stainless steel, so it is rust-resistant, and the hose attachment connects with your faucet. This washer is an ideal apartment-sized machine, but it could also be a backup washing machine for when you need extra capacity.
Best compact – RCA 0.9 cu ft. Portable Washing Machine
- Mounted on rollers
- Faucet filled
- 5 wash settings
- Small capacity
- Customer service issues
This compact washer is the perfect travel size and would fit in any RV or small apartment kitchen. It has 5 wash cycles, including heavy, gentle, normal, rapid, and soak, as well as a clear viewing lid so that you can see how your laundry is getting on.
It’s quiet too, operating at 74 dB, and Curtis has mounted this washer on rollers, so if you need to load it into your RV, getting it in place will be a breeze.
It weighs 53 lbs, making it the lightest of all the powered washing machines on the list. It also has a quick-fill faucet attachment, so filling the durable steel drum should take no time at all.
|Panda 1.6 cu ft.||Magic Chef 2 cu ft.||The Laundry Pod||GE 3.3 cu ft.||Panda 1.34 cu ft.||RCA 0.9 cu ft.|
|Ease of Use||4||4||5||4||4||4|
What to consider when looking for a portable washing machine
It seems obvious, doesn’t it? The whole point of a portable washing machine is that it moves easily and takes up minimal space. The size should be the first consideration because if you aren’t concerned with the dimensions, then you should go and buy a full-size machine.
Many will be looking for a washer that fits into a small space, like an apartment, mobile home, or RV, so the size of your washer is crucial.
Weight is a natural progression from size. What’s the point of a portable washing machine that is so heavy it is impossible to maneuver easily. It needs to be as lightweight as possible because you are going to be using it in confined spaces.
A heavy washing machine is going to weigh down your RV, and add extra burden on the suspension. Also, these portable washing machines are usually the sort of appliance that gets dragged out and used and then put away until it’s needed again. If it is so heavy that it takes two to shift it, the chances are that you are unlikely to keep up with this routine.
Okay, we get that capacity is going to be a compromise here because portable machines are small by definition. They wouldn’t be portable otherwise! However, within the constraints of scaling down, you should still look for the best capacity you can get.
The GE has a 3.3 cu ft. capacity, which is about 20 lbs of clothing. That should be ample washing to keep you happy. If you are single or living with a partner, you don’t need much more than that.
On the flip side, some of the compact models, like the non-electric varieties, offer a minimal load space of around 10 items only. These are better suited to playing the role of emergency washer in times of need.
If you want to spend big, you can get washing machines that have many of the features you find on standard machines. You can get delay start, 10-program wash settings, temperature control, and auto shut-off.
At the budget end, you get a machine that washes clothes. That’s it. But then what else do you need?
Simplicity could range from having all the advanced settings and timers to a basic switch on/switch off scenario. The more you spend, the more complicated the machines become. If you want bells and whistles, be prepared to spend a lot of money.
If, on the other hand, you are after something that takes the least amount of effort to set up and master, then a basic model will serve you well.
With smaller washing machines using less water and detergent, so they are good for the planet and good for your wallet. Many have a power supply of 110 volts, with 70 and 100-watt motors.
This scaling down means that you use less energy, and that reduces your energy costs.
Unlike their larger counterparts, compact washing machines have warranties that are a bit hit and miss. They typically only last 1 year. When you compare that to full-size machines, they have warranties that cover 3, 5, and 10 years.
Which portable washing machine is right for you?
You want the largest capacity
Most portable washing machines have a capacity of between 8 and 11 lbs. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but it should be enough for a single person or a couple. That said, the GE washing machine has a 20 lb capacity.
Also, be careful when checking the capacity, because many models are advertised with “total capacity,” which could be misleading. It is not the same as wash capacity, especially when you are looking at a twin-tub. They have a separate wash and spin dry capacity, and all the manufacturer does is add the two together.
You want the lightest portable washer
That’s an easy one. Get the non-electric type. They have no motors and even fewer moving parts, which means they are super-light. Generally, the higher-end washing machines have more gadgets and features which add weight, so if you want the lightest powered washing machine, start your search with the more basic models.
You want a washer that has a separate spin dryer
Twin-tub is the way to go. You get a washer and a spin dryer. The washing capacity reduces due to the size of the drum but you get a separate spin dryer.
Expect to get about 8 lbs capacity for the washing machine and around 6 lbs capacity for the spin dryer.
If you want an alternative to the twin-tub, look at the non-electric varieties. Once you’ve cranked the handle for 10 minutes and drained the water out, the washing machine converts into a spinner to help with drying. All you need to do is keep cranking.
Can I wash sheets in a portable washing machine?
In general, the short answer is no. Portable washing machines have a limited capacity. That said, if you do try and wash your sheets, choose a washer with a larger capacity. Go for something like the GE. That has a 20 lb load, so it may accommodate sheets.
The other washers are just too small to take that kind of load, especially when they average about 8 lbs of load capacity.
How much water does a portable washing machine hold?
A 1.6 cu ft model will hold approximately 5 gallons of water. That’s about 18 litres.
How do you fill a portable washing machine?
You can fill a portable washer in 3 different ways:
- Attach a hose to the faucet and fill the drum. This has the advantage that you are in control of how much water you need. Typically, the temperature gets regulated by running the hot and cold together.
- Filling the drum by hand with a jug.
- Filling the drum via a hot and cold inlet tap located on the rear of the machine, exactly like the ones you find on a standard size washer.
How do you drain the water from a portable washing machine?
Most portable washers have a gravity drain valve, so they have a hose attachment or a tap that allows the water to escape from the bottom of the machine, typically straight into your drain or sink.
What to read next
Over to you
We’re interested to know – are looking for a portable washer for an apartment, RV or somewhere else? Where would you keep it? How are you washing your clothes now? Let us know by leaving a comment below.