The Washing Machine Project

The Washing Machine Project is on a mission to empower women by giving them their time back and greater agency over their lives.

5,000 t
Est. annual reduction in carbon
emissions (tonnes CO2 eq)

Est. number of people
who benefit directly

The Divya 1.5 Washer-Dryer.
The Divya 1.5 Washer-Dryer.
The team at the manufacturing site.

Our story

by The Washing Machine Company

The Washing Machine Project is a Community Interest Company dedicated to alleviating the burden of hand-washing clothes for low-income and displaced persons around the globe.

Hand-washing clothes is a laborious task that can take up to 20 hours a week and adds to the burden of unpaid domestic labour disproportionately carried out by women and girls. By developing off-grid, manual washing machines that save time, labour and water.

Hand-washing clothes sounds like a simple task but for many women around the world, it poses a significant obstacle to their wellbeing and livelihood.

By providing displaced and low-income communities with an accessible, off-grid washing solution, our mission is to empower women with the time to take charge over their lives.

The Washing Machine Project aims to address gender inequality, unpaid domestic labour and water scarcity in humanitarian settings.

70% of the population do not have access to washing machines. Hand-washing clothes is a laborious task that can take up to 20 hours a week and is a burden often disproportionately placed on women. Our research in 12 countries with 1,500 families found skin irritation from detergents and back and joint pain to be the main side effects of hand-washing clothes. Electric washing machines rely on two resources that are often scarce in humanitarian contexts - water and electricity.

Our off-the-grid, manual washing machine has a beneficiary-centred design and saves time, water and effort. Our pilot project in Iraq indicated that our product saved 70% of time and 50% of water compared to hand-washing clothes.

We rely on a corporate partnership with Electrocomponents, who will provide a three-year fundraising partnership. We have agency partners such as Care International, Plan International, Oxfam, and the UN, through whom we do pilot programmes and receive grant funding. We also collaborate with universities such as the University of Bath and the University of Bristol, providing placement students and grant funding and have been proud to share our story during the Planet Mark Zero Carbon Tour 2021.

Our advice

The developing world is a beacon of opportunity. Over the next 25 years, the people living in these countries will need so many of the products we take for granted daily. So, if you work in these industries, it is in your best interest to develop innovative solutions for people in these countries and situations.

I was on sabbatical in India when I met my next-door neighbour, Divya. Divya often mentioned her desire to work but the lack of opportunity to do so since she was busy with household chores. She was a stay-at-home mum who spent up to 20 hours a week hand-washing clothes. It was then when I promised her a manual washing machine that would save her time and allow her to have greater agency over her life.

I started by conducting research using 20-question questionnaires in various countries. I presented them to hundreds of families, which allowed me to gain valuable insight to design and iterate the product to offer them a solution to their problems. I was able to do this by networking with people and engaging with international partners. They were a vital asset and helped me throughout the journey.

I worked collaboratively with various organisations such as Electrocomponents, Care International, and Oxfam. It was surprising to see how much help I received from them, especially for free. I came across many challenges due to the pandemic since my work required me to travel, so I engaged with academic institutions, NGOs, and other agencies in the respective countries. I have received over 600 hours of pro bono support from 15 volunteers in 6 countries. Recruiting volunteers and getting help from people who are passionate about the cause, adding value, and wanting to learn is priceless. Fundraising is always challenging, and I always have to make sure I’m selling the value proposition to people well to get money from them.

Looking back, I see that I did a lot of things on the cheap. So, I advise that if you have the money, get things done well with experts instead of having to fix trivial things over and over again. I would suggest having a mission-driven organisation whose sole purpose is to help humanity through its work and research.

Sharing our story as part of initiatives such as the Planet Mark Zero Carbon Tour helps us to raise awareness and support.

I toyed with the idea for six months before executing on it, so I would like to have started sooner if I had done anything differently.

Our metrics

  • Amount of time and water saved washing clothes.
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