Pedal-powered washing saves water, time and energy

Sensemaking / Pedal-powered washing saves water, time and energy

Design students are testing a prototype clothes washer in Peru and Chile, designed to make the whole process more efficient and more comfortable.

21 Feb 2013

Design students are testing a prototype clothes washer in Peru and Chile, designed to make the whole process more efficient – and more comfortable.

For those without access to electricity or running water, hand washing clothes can take a significant amount of time and water. Design students Alex Cabunoc and Ji A You have come up with a pedal-powered washing machine that could make the whole process quicker, easier and more water efficient, without any additional wires or pipes. 

The self-contained ‘GiraDora’ works in a similar way to a salad spinner. Inside the plastic tub there is a smaller basin mounted on a centre post which is connected to a foot pedal. The user simply sits on the cushioned lid and uses the foot pedal to agitate, rinse and spin the clothes in the basin.

GiraDora reduces the amount of water and time spent with conventional handwashing by at least a third. There are also health benefits: the ergonomic design allows the user to sit upright, reducing the risk of back pain, while the self-contained system means it is less likely users will suffer from skin disease and infection, provoked by long periods of contact with water.

Currently, one unit retails at $40. While this may be a significant outlay for families earning less than $4 a day, it offers substantial long-term economic benefits – not least by freeing up several hours a week, which can be used working or studying.

A number of prototypes have been tested in Peru and Chile. The current product was developed on site at Cerro Verde, a slum on the outskirts of Lima, following feedback from the inhabitants on use of the GiraDora.

Doubts as to whether women will fork out for the new apparatus remain. Kennedy Leavens from the Peruvian charity Awamaki believes they will, as they could spend the time saved on other occupations. However, Sonia Newhouse of Living Heart Peru is unsure the cost is justifiable.

GiraDora has been granted $19,500 funding from the US-based National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance to bring the product to market. – Isabel Sloman

Photo: Stephen Swintek

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