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

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

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.