Amazon Review by Spirit of 76
492 people found the following review helpful
Good back to basics option
This item is actually the Breathing Mobile Washer, not the Rapid Washer that GetPreparedStuff misidentifies it as. The Rapid Washer is the original 19th century design made out of tinned steel, not plastic. That's prone to rust and dents and can damage clothes with its sharp edges.
I was looking for an inexpensive clothes washer because I was sick and tired of hauling clothes to the laundromat, and being in an apartment, I don’t have room for a washer and dryer. Electric or hand-powered really didn’t matter. What did matter was that hooking up to the faucet would be extremely difficult if not impossible since I already had a Clear2O filter connection on the spout. That ruled out things like the small Haier washers, which were too expensive as well. The electric Wonder Washer looked like an option, but had some bad reviews for its low capacity, sometimes poor reliability, objectionable noise and what looked like rather weak agitator action. Video reviews showed that it just swirled clothes around for a few seconds each way, not back and forth like a regular top-load washer. Think of an oversize stand blender. I considered the Wonderwash hand-powered washer, which received good reviews for its cleaning, but that seemed like it was rather tedious, with screwing and unscrewing the lid and installing and removing the drain tube and watching water drain in a thin stream. I settled on the Breathing Mobile Washer, which as a bonus was the least expensive option of all. (Just buy it direct from the manufacturer’s website - breathingwasher dotcom - as mentioned in other reviews. Better to support the manufacturer and save yourself a little or a lot of money by cutting out the middleman. Don’t mind their website. It’s rather badly designed, but you’re only going there to order.)
In my experience, the Breathing Washer works pretty well. For really dirty laundry, just pre-soak the clothing by pushing it down into the water/detergent with the Breathing Washer (15 seconds of agitation should do it) then let it sit for 15-30 minutes before doing the regular agitation cycle. A couple of minutes of agitation at about 30 strokes a minute really does do the job. In fact, the amount of dirt in the water from a bunch of socks each worn one day at the office can be alarming. I wouldn’t want pillowcases that will eventually be against my face in that brown water, so I’m glad they’re separate loads. Again, really bad loads may need extra rinse cycles, but unlike a regular washing machine, you can repeat fill-agitate-empty rinse cycles until you can see the water is clear, rather than trusting the machine. A quick wring to squeeze out most of the detergent-laden washwater before rinsing makes additional rinse cycles less necessary. It’s quick enough that I don’t really mind doing laundry now, instead of wasting over an hour at the laundromat. The plunging action is surprisingly easy. No strain at all. At the end of two minutes, I’m not winded, thanks to the action using two arms rather than one. Users of the Wonderwash have complained of having a tired arm after two minutes of cranking. But who couldn’t do with a little bit of exercise? I’ve done several consecutive loads without getting tired. It’s quiet enough that I can do laundry late at night without disturbing my neighbors. All you hear is a little sloshing and the “breathing” noise as the air rushes through the small top vents. Put on your iPod and headphones and you’d be surprised how quickly and easily the process goes. Wow, it feels like I just started plunging but that three minute song has finished! Still, I do have to admit that really tough, ground-in dirt and grime (“you’ve got ring around the collar!”) may occasionally need a little extra attention with a small nylon brush, but only rarely.
Because it’s so adjustable in terms of the amount of water and clothing, it’s great if you need to do some “emergency” laundry, like if you need a certain garment clean for tomorrow or if you spilled something on your favorite shirt. No need to wait for a full load for the washing machine.
In terms of reliability, this is as tough and simple as it gets. No moving parts at all and it assembles in seconds. The blue parts appear to be made of heavy gauge polypropylene almost 1/8" thick (3mm for non-Americans). I can’t imagine this ever breaking short of being run over by a truck. There are some reports of broken parts on the Wonderwash, which is one reason I decided against that. The only other thing you need is a bucket, and buckets also last pretty much forever. The square plastic pails that 22 pound clumping cat litter comes in are a good fit, just a little wider than the 8" diameter of the blue cone. At first, I was afraid the newer, slightly rectangular pails litter makers are switching to might be too narrow, but it turns out they’re even better than the old, square buckets. The square ones didn’t leave much room around the Breathing Washer, so water would often squirt up and out in the corners during fast, aggressive agitation. The newer pails have more width, so water can move to the other side rather than squirting upward. Some people use the five-gallon buckets sold in home centers, but I don’t really like those. Too big and cumbersome for me, but you may not mind, especially if you have larger loads; I only do a few shirts or pants at a time.
A couple of tips: The first thing I would recommend is replacing the handle if you intend to use it on the floor. Your local hardware store or home center should have longer screw-in broom handles. I bought a 4-1/2 foot tubular steel handle from Lowe’s for $5, which should last the rest of my life. The longer handle lets you stand upright and close to the bucket rather than having to stoop forward and down. This eliminates stress on your lower back. With the longer handle, the power comes from your arms, not your back. Or put the bucket on a platform to raise it up if you want to use the included handle (which is a few inches longer than your average toilet plunger). The first few loads I did without the longer handle, I just put the bucket on my bathtub rim, which also made it quick and convenient to fill with water and tip to dump out when I’m done. The bucket can’t fall off the rim. If it slid towards me, I could quickly brace it with a bent knee. If it tilted away, the handle of the Breathing Washer gives me enough leverage to easily pull it back. In fact, even with the longer handle, I prefer to work with the bucket inside the tub, so any splashing is contained and, again, I have easy access to the tub faucet and drain (have to stand inside the tub to agitate, though). I can also wash larger items like comforters directly in the tub thanks to the longer handle. The long handle also lets me space my hands further apart for good control. I grip it with one hand at about shoulder level and the other at waist level, which would be nearly impossible with the original, short handle.
Don’t go overboard with detergent. The manufacturer recommends only a couple of teaspoons per load. Using too much doesn’t get your clothes cleaner. It’s just excess detergent you’ll have to spend extra time and effort to rinse out of your clothes. The easy way to know if you’re using enough is to look for suds at the end of the wash cycle. If there’s a just little bit of suds left, the water still has a bit of cleaning ability, which is perfect. You don’t want no suds because that means you didn’t use enough and the washwater is completely spent. Lots of suds means you used too much detergent. (The exception of course is if you’re using the newest high efficiency detergents that create very few suds, which means you’ll just have to measure the detergent.) A regular washing machine doesn’t let you see if there’s any residual detergent anyway. Once it’s finished with the spin cycle, you just don’t know how detergent-free the clothes are. In fact, there’s a video demonstration that shows machine-washed and -dried clothes being put into a bucket of water then a few strokes with a Breathing Washer pulling enough detergent out of the fabric to create suds. Tweaking the amount of water also takes a bit of experimentation. I’ve found that too little water means the strong suction action on every upstroke tends to lift the entire bucket, unless I really slow down. That leads to more splashing and banging as the bucket falls back down. At least 2 to 2 1/2 gallons seems to be the minimum in my bucket even if I’m just washing one garment.
Also, other users have complained that the handle loosens during use. I haven’t had that problem myself. Screw it on tightly the first time. Grip the “strainer” part, not the cone, when tightening. That’s the part that’s actually screwing into the handle, after all. Hold the cone and it’ll just spin around the handle before it fully tightens. If you do have trouble with loosening, try winding a layer or two of Teflon tape around the threads before assembly (an old “plumber’s trick” to keep threads from loosening; pick it up at the hardware store when you buy the longer handle), or smear some toothpaste on the threads before screwing the handle in, then let it harden for a few days before using again. This acts as a threadlocker compound. (Ever notice how tough it is to re-open a tube of toothpaste after some gets dried onto the threads?) This last may make it harder to unscrew if you ever need to disassemble it, but the Breathing Washer doesn’t take up much space, so I don’t expect to ever have to anyway. It’s only a little bigger than a broom or a mop. Superglue or Gorilla Glue should also work, if you already have them, but that will definitely be permanent.
Paired with a drying rack over the tub, I now have a very “green” (economical and environmentally sound) laundry setup that costs me only pennies a week in detergent to run. Especially important with the insane prices of name-brand detergents (I’m looking at you, Tide!) nowadays. If you don’t want to hand-wring your clothes before hanging up to dry, one of the commenters on this review suggested a restaurant-grade hand-cranked salad spinner (search for “commercial salad spinner” on Amazon). They cost a lot more than the home models (currently starting at $100 plus shipping) but handle much bigger loads and are more durable. They would be good for camping because they don’t need electricity, just like the Breathing Washer. If you need faster drying at home, aim a fan set at low speed at the drying rack. It doesn’t use much electricity and can reduce the drying time to slightly more than overnight if you do the laundry just before bedtime. For those of you who care about this, the Breathing Mobile Washer is made in the USA (Idaho, to be precise) unlike the Wonderwash and Wonder Washer (and nearly every regular washing machine), which are imports. Finally, clothes should last longer, as well. Unlike washboards and top-load washing machines, this doesn’t rely on friction to scrub dirt off. You’re actually pushing and pulling water and detergent through the fabric, which means a lot less wear and tear on the garment. It’s similar to how front-load washers work, which tumble the clothes and water to constantly mix the two.