Human-powered washing machines are not a new idea, but the challenge here was to design a one that's cheap, portable and easy to use, yet gets the clothes clean and relatively dry. After working with models based on sink plungers, salad spinners and the like, the pair came up with what looks like a picnic cooler crossed with a top-loading washing machine. Mechanically, it’s really very simple, which isn’t surprising because the final design was developed on the spot back in Cerro Verde.
GiraDora is a plastic tub tall enough to sit on. In fact, it’s designed to be operated while sitting on it to keep it stable. Inside, there’s a second tub like that in a conventional washer mounted on a center post. The post is connected to a pedal on the base of the tub. The machine is filled with clothes, water and soap and the lid put back. The operator then sits on the tub and repeatedly presses down on the pedal with her foot. This works the mechanism that agitates, cleans and rinses the clothes. When the clothes are clean, a stopcock in the base is opened and the pedal worked again. Now the washer becomes a spin drier and the clothes can be hung up to complete drying in a reasonable time. The cost of the machine is about US$40.
Cabunoc and You have presented the device at several conferences and were awarded an NCIIA E-Team grant of $19,500 to help in bringing it to market. They hope to complete field testing in Peru in a year with 50 machines and begin selling them in South America within three years before moving on to India. Their final goal is to have one million users of the machines.