DIY Bicycle Washing Machine: 14 Easy Steps

Going off the grid sometimes means letting go of your electric-powered washing machine and embracing the handwash approach.

Handwashing is a backbreaking and time-consuming process. That is why you need a DIY bicycle washing machine.  

The lack of or limited electricity off the grid makes it nearly impossible to use the power-hungry modern washing machines.

However, you still have to do your laundry, and we are not sure you want to go the manual way.

We will discuss the steps required to make a DIY bicycle washing machine in this post. Keep reading to find out more.

Bicycle Washing Machine

Bicycle Washing Machine

The bicycle washing machine has a long history that dates back to 2010. It was invented by Richard Hewitt, a student at Sheffield Hallam University at that time.

His invention followed a trip to Burundi, Africa, where he got the inspiration.

Richard returned to the United States to actualize his idea. In fact, he made it his project at the University. He returned to Burundi in 2012 to try the first successful design of the project.

Since then, there have been different designs of the bicycle washing machine by many people.

Benefits of a DIY Bicycle Washing Machine

Benefits of a DIY Bicycle Washing Machine

First, it is easy and cheap to make. Most of the materials are available locally or in the nearby retail store. It is a 100% DIY project that everyone can make.

Secondly, the DIY bicycle washing machine doesn’t require electricity for operation. It gets its power from cycling, meaning you can ride and wash at the same time.

Have you thought of doing any work while exercising? That is the capability of this DIY washing machine.

Lastly, a DIY washing machine saves you the time and energy you would have spent doing laundry by hand. It is the best project for DIYers.

Preparing to Make Bicycle Washing Machine

The materials to prepare for making the DIY washing machine depend on the design idea you want to implement.

There are many of them out there. Therefore, we will only list materials and tools needed to make what we will describe in this article.

The list of materials needed for this project is long because it is a bit complex. You will need the following:

  • A standard bicycle with working pedals and frame located at the top.
  • About 116-link bicycle chain.
  • Bicycle sprocket the size of the larger front ring on the bicycle.
  • A five-gallon bucket.
  • A waterproof bucket lid.
  • Wood spacers- about a 6x6x2.5-inch wood plunk
  • Fasteners for mounting the bucket:
    • 1/4-20 x 4-inch Screws – The number depends on the number of holes on your bucket-mount sprocket.
    • 1/4-20 Flat Washers – Twice the number of holes in the sprocket.
    • 1/4-20 Lock Washers – Twice the number of holes in the sprocket.
    • 1/4-20 Hex Nuts – The same number as holes in the sprocket.
  • 1-1/4-inch diameter x 14-inch length PVC pipe for waterproofing the bucket.
  • 3/4-inch electrical conduit pipe for making the shaft.
  • 2 bushings (3/4-inch ID, 7/8-inch OD) to reduce friction on the parts
  • 4 pins for holding the shaft in place.
  • Wood slabs for making the bicycle stand.
  • 2 clamps about 3 inches wide.
  • Caulk for waterproofing the bucket.
  • Valve for easy draining of the bucket.
  • Wood chunks to secure the other end of the bucket that will not be attached to the bicycle.
  • Paint, but this is optional.

Hiland Mountain Bike

For the working tools, you will need the following:

  • Safety Gear – Glasses and Gloves
  • Wood-Cutting Tool
  • Metal-Cutting Tool
  • Drill
  • Drill Bits for Drilling (Shaft, Pipe Holes, Valve, and Pin Holes).
  • Clamp
  • Pencil
  • Ruler
  • Mallet
  • Sandpaper
  • Bicycle Chain Reattach Tool

Avid Power 12V Cordless Drill

Steps To Make Bicycle Washing Machine

The steps for making a DIY washing machine will depend on your design. What we will describe here depends on the design that we will be using.

Despite the variances, the washing machine uses the same principle and many parts remain largely the same. Also, note that the success of the project depends on each step. It should, therefore, follow a logical order.

Proceed as follows to make this DIY bicycle washing machine:

Step 1: Design A Sketch Model

Step 1: Design A Sketch Model

You need to work from a design to make your work a lot easier. We will make a bicycle washing machine that allows you to use your bicycle for daily commuting.

The bucket assembly will not be permanently attached to it. Instead, a chain connects the larger front ring to the shaft.

The bucket is supported on the other end by a wooden stand.

Use the design to sketch the model. You can make a box to represent the bucket and a pipe for the shaft.

Other parts may be omitted in the model, but it has to be as close to the expected DIY bicycle washing machine.

Steps 2: Make Spacer Block

A spacer is a vital block that is fitted between the bucket and sprocket. Its use is to give you ample space when pedaling and protect you from hitting the bucket. The size or thickness depends on your design and sketch model.

The first step here is to mark points on the wood where the sprocket is mounted. Use the sprocket itself to trace the holes. When done, connect all the holes diagonally to identify the center.

Spacers are best made by stacking several wood pieces together. Ensure these are of the same lengths. Remove the splinters by sanding them.

The second step is hole drilling. The holes should fit the 1/4-20 screws, meaning you should use a drill bit of appropriate diameter.

Stack all the wood pieces cut in the previous step and hold them using the clamp. You are better off drilling them together. Once done, insert the screws through the hole to maintain the alignment.

Now, drill the center hole for fitting the 1-1/4-inch OD pipe. Once again, choose the appropriate drill bit for the task.

Next, you have to drill a smaller hole at the center all the way through the stacked spacer woodblocks for the metallic shaft. You need to keep the blocks aligned all the time by inserting screws in the sprocket holes.

Finish up your spacer block by getting rid of any extra material and keeping the blocks clamped together or aligned by the screws.

Steps 3: Drill the Bucket

With the spacer block ready, we need to make the most vital unit of this DIY washing machine, the bucket.

We begin by drilling a shaft hole at the bottom. Most buckets have the center marked with a small raised portion. You need to remove it using a razor blade or hot metal.

Drill a 1-1/4-inch for the center tube. Be prepared to provide the bit needed by your drill to make it go through the bucket. That depends on the type of drill that you are using.

The next step is drilling sprocket mounting holes. To do that, first, align the spacer block with the hole you just drilled on the bucket. You might consider using an inner pipe to aid the process.

The second last step here is drilling the first sprocket hole and then all others. Once done with the first one, push a screw through to keep the alignment as you drill the rest of the sprocket holes.

Finally, we have to work on the drainage holes. Since the bucket is round, pick a random location and drill the drainage hole.

Use the drill bit that matches the size of the valve inlet. Also, you might need to create a center punch dimple on the bucket to make drilling easier.

Steps 5: Drill the Your Lid

This is the most straightforward step. It involves drilling a hole at the center of the lid that will fit the inner shaft.

Again, some have centers marked by a small raised surface. Remove it to make drilling easier. Also, remember to use the right drill bit.

Steps 6: Attach Lid to Your Bucket

The lid usually comes as a pair, but that is not important. Leave it as it is. Put it on top of the bucket and hammer with a mallet of a woodblock to tightly attach it.

Finish up the setup by countersinking the hole with the right drill bit or deburring tool.

Steps 7: Attach the Inner Pipe

Push a 14-inch pipe into the bucket and the lid and place a flanged bearing into one end. Force a non-flanged one between the pipe and the lid to make a tight fit.

Steps 8: Attach Sprocket To Your Bucket

We will attach the sprocket to the bucket using washers, nuts, and 1/4-20 bolts. Bucket, sprocket, and spacers will all be coupled together. Proceed as follows to complete this step:

Put the lock washer and flat washer on every bolt and attach them to the bucket.

Slide the spacer block and sprocket on and complete the entire assembly by adding a washer and nuts on the other end. This is like a test fitting because you will have to dismantle it later when waterproofing.  

Steps 9: Next, Try Partially Assemble to Check Fit

This step is necessary to verify the previous steps. If any went wrong earlier, it is identified here. Proceed as follows to complete the partial assembly:

Insert the main shaft pipe through the tube and bearings. Slip one end through the bicycle fork and support the other side with anything such as a sofa or stool.

Once done, check your comfort when pedaling. If you hit your foot on the bucket when pedaling in any direction, then you need to add more spacers. Follow the steps for making the first one.

Steps 10: Make Bicycle Attachment Plate

A bicycle attachment plate is easy to make, but the design will depend on the shape of your bicycle.

You will need to know the right size of the attachment plate to proceed. You can do this by tracing out the frame of your bike, this is consisting of the top bar and down tube that branches from the fork.

Once the plate is constructed, it is attached to the bicycle by fabric straps. A quarter-inch thick plate should work for most designs.

If not, size it appropriately. And if you like, you can have add-ons here, provided you have enough room for your knees when pedaling.

Remember to have two attachment plates. One should be smaller and fit into the inside of the frame while the other on the outside.

Screw them together and then drill the strapping holes. Attach the finished plate to your frame.

Steps 11: Create Shaft Block To Assemble Shaft Assembly

Cut 1.5-inch x 3.5-inch x 2-inch from a scrap 2×4 and sand the rough edges. You may need to use the carpenter’s square to confirm that the edges are at a right angle to each other.

Mark a center on two sides of the block and drill a 3/4-inch diameter shaft hole through the block. Use the right drill bit for drilling a 1/4-20 bolt pin hole on the remaining center.

Step 12: Proceed To Assemble

Clamp the shaft onto the workbench and push it through the shaft block. Drill another hole pin on both sides of the shaft.

Once done, remove the shaft from the block and countersink the just drilled holes. Hold them together with a pin.

Next, we need to include a chain to couple the shaft to the bicycle. Fit the chain around the sprocket and the front ring.

You will have to resize the chain accordingly. It should not be too tight or too loose to rattle.

Position the chain appropriately by repositioning the attachment plate. Proceed by marking three points for the pins on the shaft.

One is marked on the sprocket, and the remaining two are on both sides of the attachment plate. Consider how thick your plates are when doing this.

The last part of the assembly is to drill pin holes on the shaft. Clamp the shaft on the workbench using two clamps.

Use 17/64-inch drill bits to drill a pin hole and countersink it on both sides. Now, secure it by inserting pins on the opposite side of the spacer block to fasten it.

Step 13: Make the Bucket Waterproof

This is the last step before testing and making any necessary adjustments. Start by making the inner pipe and sprocket mount waterproof.

To that by disassembling the bucket and preparing the caulk by removing the tip of the applicator.

Put the lock washer and flat washer on each bolt. Before fastening, place a ring of caulk where the bucket and inner pipe meet.

Don’t let caulk get to the bearings. Slide the spacer block, sprocket, and washers and nuts, respectively.

We know that you are eager to see your DIY bicycle washer machine in action. However, you need to let the caulk have enough time as recommended by the manufacturer to become waterproof.

It may take up to 24 hours for that property to take effect. Do not pour water into the bucket before that time elapses.

Move to waterproof the valve. Put the valve in position and apply caulk around it. The last waterproofing task is that of the lid.

Apply a ring of caulk around the clamp hole and allow time recommended before adding water.

Step 14: Check Again And Done

Inspect the construction for any flaws. If satisfied, get ready for the test, as described in the next section.

How Bicycle Washing Machines Work

It is now time for the riding test. Put clothes in the bucket and add water. Add detergent through the valve and then close it.

Get onto the bicycle and pedal in reverse for about 15 minutes. You can do that at varying speeds to get an even better result.

When done pedaling, turn the bucket round until the valve faces down. Open it to drain water and then refill with an equal amount of water for rinsing.

You need to pedal for another 15 minutes for the rinsing. Again, drain water and open the bucket, and air your clothes to dry.

Wrapping Up

A DIY bicycle washing machine is an excellent project for off-gridders. We have described all the steps you need to go through to make it in this article. You can try making it, and let us hear about the success story.

Kindly share the article if you benefited from the information presented. We also appreciate your time at the Em Offgrid and invite you to explore the site for other related posts.