Here are the features that enticed me to purchase the Wonder Clean:
- Requires no electricity
- Cheap compared to other washing options ($45)
- Requires only small amounts of water and detergent
- Takes only 2 minutes to clean laundry
- Supposedly cleans very well (we'll see!)
- It's small, so it's portable for camping, road trips, evacuations, dorms, etc.
On the downside:
- Only holds 5 shirts, or 1 pair of jeans, or about 5 lbs of laundry at one time. This would definitely not serve to clean the laundry of a large family.
- Requires hand cranking of the drum
- The Wonder Clean (WC) does not wring out the laundry
- The Wonder Clean requires water at temps of 190 degrees F to wash white cotton, 130 F for colored cotton, or about 110 F for delicates/synthetics
The washer arrived in good order, but I had to call the company to send me operating instructions. My first impression was that it was a little rickety, and not that easy to turn the drum. It's completely made of plastic, and the handle does not attach all that well.I decided to do a full test run using no electricity to heat the water, wash the laundry, or dry the laundry. If you have no electricity, it might be hard to get hot water at the high temperatures required to clean the laundry. My thoughts on how to get the hot water without electricity were: natural gas or propane hot water, boiling water over a propane campstove or wood stove, heating water in the Sun Oven, or heating water in a solar shower. I decided to try the Sun Oven and the solar shower.
It was a sunny day and the Global Sun Oven was registering temperatures of 250+. The GSO quickly heated 1 1/2 quarts of water up to 190 degrees F, as measured by a candy thermometer, which was the perfect temperature for washing the cotton whites that I wanted to wash. When I measured the solar shower, I was disappointed - only 105 degrees F after sitting on a brick patio from 8 am to 11 am.
This was the first bottleneck - heating the water. The pot that fits in my GSO will only hold 2 quarts of water, which according to the Wonder Clean will wash about 2 lbs of laundry.
I set the Wonder Clean up by my sink, put in the micro-load of laundry (fairly dirty cotton whites), and put in the hot water and 1 Tablespoon of liquid detergent. Then I tightened the airlock and started turning. Oops! Lesson number 1: Must tighten airlock all the way down, which takes about 2 minutes to do. Otherwise water will spill out when the barrel is turned upside down.
As I suspected, the WC was not very stable. It rocks about and needs to be held down with one hand while the other hand turns the handle. The handle tends to scrape against the base (very annoying) unless careful attention is paid to keeping the edge of the handle out. I've read a review that stated that it was easier just to push the barrel around, but I didn't try that. However, 2 minutes was not very long to put up with this kind of annoyance.
After 2 minutes, I moved the WC over the sink and turned it upside down, dumping out the cloths. I sprayed down the cloths with the sink sprayer, wrung them out by hand, sprayed them down again, and wrung them out again. Since it was a very small load this part was not difficult.
I have to say the laundry did appear to be very clean, as clean as it would have been from an electric washing machine. Except for the cloth that somehow dropped into the sink drain and had eggplant parmesan remains rinsed all over it - I'm not sure that will ever get clean again. (If you look closely in the picture above you can see what I didn't notice until the next morning.)
Then I hung the laundry up on our inside wooden dryer. Done! I would estimate that the whole process took this amount of time:
- Setting up the Sun Oven with water to heat: 2 minutes
- Waiting for water to heat: 1 hour
- Putting in laundry, hot water and detergent: 2 minutes
- Turning Wonder Clean: 2 minutes
- Rinsing and wringing laundry: 5 minutes (would take longer for a bigger load)
- Hanging laundry: 5 minutes
Total working time: about 20 minutes. So to extrapolate - to do a "full sized" load of laundry with this method would probably require repeating this process 3 times, taking about 1 hour of work and 3 hours of waiting for water to heat (on a sunny day in the Sun Oven).
If I had to use the Wonder Clean to clean a larger amount of laundry, I would set it up outside and use the hose to rinse out the clothes. This would put it closer to the Sun Oven, decrease going in and out of the house, decrease mess and make it convenient to an outside clothesline. I wouldn't leave it outside though - the plastic would soon start to photo-degrade.
So: caveat: I haven't field tested this product extensively. I have just cleaned one very small load of whites. So, noting that, and considering the limitations of the Wonder Clean, AND if you have a reliable way to get hot water, you might consider it for these situations:
- For use during electrical blackouts or if you expect intermittent electricity
- If you frequently want to wash small loads of laundry without a washing machine
- If you want a portable way to launder clothes (evacuations, road trips, camping, missionary work)
- If you want a cheap way to launder small amounts of clothes and you can't yet get a washing machine or can't fit one in your home. (student, apartment dweller, etc). This would probably pay you back fairly quickly vs. the cost of a laundromat.
Otherwise, there are obviously other ways to do laundry without electricity - I'm picturing an old bathtub with a plunger and a wringer set up outside right by your hose and your clothesline. Maybe that will be my next product review :).
Update: See comments below from Anonymous who, after 10 uses, found that the top would not screw on properly.