How to Build a Cheap Washing Machine That's Powered by the Wind

You can build this easy washing machine that uses wooden propellers to power the mechanism.
By Ed Seelhorst
January/February 1976
Add to My MSN

Wooden propellers turn a crank that drives a plunger to clean clothes in this inexpensive, wind-powered washing machine.

Content Tools

During World War II, most of us who served in the South Pacific didn't have wringer washers — let alone today's automatic wonders! — handy to scrub our dirty clothes clean. Nor did we have the electricity, gasoline or other sources of energy at hand to run such equipment if we'd had the washing machines in the first place.

But we did have water and darned near steady tropical winds. So we rigged up — by the hundreds — a simple, inexpensive and practical washer that was directly powered by the breeze.

Build a Cheap Washing Machine

This straightforward machine was nothing but a four-bladed wooden propeller bolted to a pipe which, in turn, was connected to a simple set of swivel joints.(Click "Enlarge Image" to see a blown-up version of the diagram to this machine.) As the wind blew and the pipe turned and the joints rotated, they moved a plunger (which was just a length of conduit or broomstick with a round board bolted to its bottom) up and down inside a chopped-off 55-gallon drum.

Some of the fellows who had nothing better to do and who were stationed in areas where dirt, bugs or other droppings could fall into their washers fancied their machines up with tops. These covers were usually made in two pieces from plywood or sheet metal and either just sat on the open end of the drum or were hinged to the side of the barrel so that they could be flopped back when the washers were loaded and unloaded.

Operation of the wind-powered machines was extremely uncomplicated, You just tossed in your grimy uniforms, poured in enough water to cover them, added soap, fared the sawhorse mounted prop into the breeze and went about your business. As the wind blew, the agitator churned up and down. And when you returned a couple of hours later, you had clean clothes ready for rinsing.

Some of the folks now trying to homestead out beyond the powerlines might want to try reviving the idea today.

Post a comment below.


sue beaty
4/6/2013 8:57:14 PM
sounds feasible...

Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 66% Off the Cover Price

First Name: *
Last Name: *
Address: *
City: *
State/Province: *
Zip/Postal Code:*
(* indicates a required item)
Canadian subs: 1 year, (includes postage & GST). Foreign subs: 1 year, . U.S. funds.
Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
Non US and Canadian Subscribers - Click Here

Lighten the Strain on the Earth and Your Budget

MOTHER EARTH NEWS is the guide to living — as one reader stated — “with little money and abundant happiness.” Every issue is an invaluable guide to leading a more sustainable life, covering ideas from fighting rising energy costs and protecting the environment to avoiding unnecessary spending on processed food. You’ll find tips for slashing heating bills; growing fresh, natural produce at home; and more. MOTHER EARTH NEWS helps you cut costs without sacrificing modern luxuries.

At MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet’s natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. That’s why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.00 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.00 for 6 issues.