14 August 2012

A foot-powered clothes washing machine

The world needs more inventions like this:
About a year ago, two design students named Alex Cabunoc and Ji A You traveled from their homes in Los Angeles to Cerro Verde, a 30,000 person slum outside of Lima. As students in the celebrated Design Matters program at Art Center College of Design, which focuses on social innovation, they had come to Cerro Verde as part of a special studio called Safe Agua Peru. Their goal? Develop a commercial product that alleviates issues related to water poverty, targeted at people who earn between $4 and $10 a day...

When they first arrived in the slum, the pair were shocked at the amount of time Cerro Verde’s inhabitants spent collecting the water needed to perform the most basic tasks. “So much time, energy, and resources are used for basic water chores like cooking and cleaning,” remembers Cabunoc. "It leaves little time for other activities that might help one get out of poverty.” In particular, washing clothes is a major timesuck--it can eat up as much as six hours a day....

Their revised concept, developed on-site in the slum, is much the same as their current prototype. GiraDora is a blue bucket that conceals a spinning mechanism that washes clothes and then partially dries them. It’s operated by a foot pedal, while the user sits on the lid to stabilize the rapidly churning contents. Sitting alleviates lower-back pain associated with hand-washing clothes, and frees up the washer to pursue other tasks...

Most importantly, it uses far less water and cleans clothes faster than conventional hand-washing. 
More details and pix at Fast Company Design, via Dark Roasted Blend.


  1. Wow. This really is a great invention that I hope will make a difference in many lives. I have personally observed how time consuming and difficult the task of laundry is in less-developed countries among the poor.

  2. I like that "timesuck" is accepted as a word.

  3. Or they can wash clothes by putting them and a little soap in one of those pressure garden sprayers and pumping it up so the pressure forces the soap and water through the clothes. That is what some sailors do.

  4. All I know is: I want one.

  5. I would love one of these, I spend my summers on a small island in Lake Superior with no running water or electricity, I seem to spend an awful lot of time washing and wringing out clothes by hand. On the plus side there is nothing nicer than the smell of clean clothes fresh off of the line.

  6. I recently watched a Ted Talk by Hans Rosling called The Magic Washing Machine (http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/hans_rosling_and_the_magic_washing_machine.html) which has a similar theme and is very entertaining to watch. Actually, all of Hans Rosling's videos are worth watching.

  7. Reminded me of an article about a pedal-powered washing machine that I linked to a few years ago: http://phys.org/news154280985.html

    (And I see that both articles involve slums outside Lima, so likely to be related projects somehow.)

  8. Very interesting, however I think of much greater importance is the water problem here in Peru. Most households don't have "drinkable" running water. The water from your tap has to be boiled to be able to be consumed. The location mentioned is on the outskirts of Lima, not far from me, which doesn't have nearly the poverty level of the rest of the country. In Lima most things are more readily available, though I won't deny their access to water consists a water truck filling buckets which they have to take back to their homes. The water runoff from here almost 100% gets dumped back into the ocean meaning they re-use almost nothing. Top that off with the fact that the water supply for almost the whole country is fed by tropical glaciers, lakes etc... this isn't sustainable. Remember Lima is also the 2nd largest city built in the desert, and you can see what i mean. I applaud the idea, but I can think of SOO many other things of greater urgency than this.
    Lima resident

  9. This project could then tie in pretty well, it is another design project but more focused on finding a product to build from recycled plastics. It's more about finding an application for scalable plastics recycling in Africa, and in this case one end product was furniture for schoolchildren.

    PDF: http://publications.lib.chalmers.se/records/fulltext/153060.pdf

  10. Yes please! Want want want
    Have you heard about these projects?

  11. Thank you, what a good idea. I wish they were available in the US...?

    1. Richard, try Googling this:

      foot-powered washer and spin dryer


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