The time is nigh for foot-powered washing machines. Though the concept has been explored before, two recent projects are garnering attention for their real-world feasibility in alleviating the struggles associated with laundry in regions without easy access to electricity or running water. GiraDora, created by a pair of Art Center College of Design students, is receiving accolades, and Philadelphia University industrial design students Eliot Coven and Aaron Stathum have concurrently developed a similar product with a different approach; Up-Stream is an analog appliance built around the ubiquity of five-gallon buckets, allowing users to adapt the piece with materials from their region.
The way it works is quite simple: leg strength agitates loads within the vessel, then that same motion–on the same unit–is used to spin the excess moisture out. Coven and Stathum worked with a goal of making Up-Stream as accessible as possible, and as a result, the framework can be customized with indigenous, recycled, or found component parts. “We see the bucket as the common object. But the metal pipes could be replaced with bamboo shoots, for instance. By making it so DIY-centric, people everywhere can use their available resources, but also use their own personal ingenuity and creativity,” they tell Co.Design. “We hope to lay the groundwork for washing and that people will continue to design this object to fit their needs.”
Each durable five gallon bucket can hold about five articles of clothing, and needs only a touch of powdered detergent, or even a bar of soap; a single load takes about 20 minutes from start to finish (not counting drying time). In lieu of a traditional scrub board, which breaks down textile fibers quickly and causes premature wear-and-tear, Coven and Stathum conceived a neoprene sleeve that provides means for spot cleaning. Location was also a consideration. “Many people clean directly in the rivers, contaminating the water for everyone downstream; we isolated this problem by moving Up-Stream on to land,” they say. The duo are looking into a Kickstarter campaign to fund targeted testing and further development, and hope to see the backbreaking task of laundry become a thing of the past.