Like many New Yorkers, I’m not blessed with a washing machine in my apartment building. I sometimes think about it when I lie awake at night: What would my life be like if I had the ability to do laundry at a moment’s notice, without having to put on shoes? If I didn’t have to hoard quarters to feed the machines? Wash-and-fold has never been an option for me, even pre-pandemic: I’m far too particular about which clothes go in hot water and which go in cold and which can go in the dryer. I know handwashing exists, of course. But I simply never feel like I’m actually cleaning my clothes as I rub them together in my teeny sink. I needed something more powerful.
That internal monologue is what compelled me to order the Yirego Drumi foot-powered washing machine back in 2017, when I discovered it on Kickstarter. I mostly peruse the site for entertainment and rarely invest in items like self-watering plant stations, at-home cold-brew rigs, or silicone dividers for sheet pans, but the Drumi seemed far too perfect for my particular problem. I backed the tier that promised one machine delivered to my home and updates on production. I certainly didn’t think I’d ever rely on the Drumi out of a global-pandemic-induced fear of public spaces, but here we are.
It took over two years for the Drumi to actually arrive at my door, due to production delays — at which point, I almost regretted adding yet another object to my one-bedroom apartment, particularly one that was roughly the shape of a squat R2-D2. But I was relieved to find that the Drumi (about 1.5 cubic feet with a domed top) neatly fit under my kitchen table.
Perhaps my biggest surprise when using the Drumi was how simple it really is to use once you get the hang of it. Fill the domed lid with water (hot or cold), gently pour it into the drum, add a splash of detergent, lock in the lid, and start pedaling. I genuinely enjoy listening to a podcast and doing a few small loads of wash. It’s more powerful and significantly less work than handwashing: I’ve found I really need to scrub sweaty workout leggings or sauce-slicked aprons in a basin with my hands, which requires continued effort and lots of hunching. This is much easier.
There are some cons. For instance, it is a bit of a process to rinse. You must open the connected hose into a bucket, bathtub, or sink to let out the soapy water, then refill the drum with clean water and pedal for another couple minutes. Once the rinse is done, you let out the rest of the water, and then you pedal again to mimic a washing machine’s spin cycle. And it’s not going to clean six weeks of clothes at once like those enormous heavy-duty laundromat machines. The recommended amount per wash cycle is five pounds of clothing, which is about six shirts, two pairs of leggings, or a pair of jeans — so it’s also not ideal for washing sheets and towels, but when the bathtub is the only alternative, you simply make it work.
Still, it’s an efficient way to keep my laundry pile low. My gym clothes are now constantly clean, and I can wash my cloth masks regularly. There is no dryer component, so everything washed gets strung up on hangers or collapsible drying racks. From start to finish, one wash and spin cycle takes about ten minutes, and the clothes are totally clean — most items dry overnight.
Other portable washing machines exist: Kuppet, Giantex, Best Choice, GE, and Moyu make electric models in varying sizes, some of which have a dryer component. But the Drumi is one of the few that require no electricity. The Wonder Wash and EcoSpin are significantly cheaper then the Drumi, but both are hand-cranked models, which seems like more work than a foot pedal. Indeed, the Drumi is over $300, which is quite high, but considering that I’d spend at least $10 on my weekly trips to the laundromat, I’m calling it a wash.