This project goes over the detail of how you can take an old 55-gallon plastic drum and turn that into a hand crank washing machine and a compost tumbler.
STEP 1 : THE BARREL SUPPORT
The framework has uprights on the edges, holding up the barrel all the way down. The upright on the sides is 3 feet long 2 x 4. The base that it sits is 3 foot 2 X 4. A long brace that holds the two sides together is three foot eight inches long. You can take apart the whole framework by unscrewing the side rails and storing the barrel for using them in an off-the-grid situation.
The barrel sits on a one-inch hardwood dowel which is installed through the one-inch hole at the top of the upright. These barrels have a line in the middle of them so it is pretty easy to find the center by measuring across the line and then dividing it in half.
STEP 2 : THE HAND CRANK
The hand crank is made of PVC pipe with some screws to the end side of the barrel. The hand crank gives you something to grab onto if it gets very heavy so you can pull it back up and really move it around.
STEP 3 : THE DOOR
It has one foot by one-foot door on the front. We use a couple of cheap cabinet hinges to hold the door up when unloading the clothes. It also has a little S hook latch that locks it into place.
STEP 4 : THE DRIANAGE
A hole down in the middle of the barrel is for drainage. A small plug and a cap act as a drain. The plug is put through the hole from the inside and sealed with the help of PVC glue.
STEP 5 : THE PVC PIPE AGITATORS
The next step is to add agitators to our barrel. As you rotate the barrel, the clothes will roll over those agitators back and forth and get the clothes moving a lot better and help clean it. We add 3 PVC pipes inside the barrel that act as the agitators.
STEP 6 : THE WORKING
You put clothes in through the top and add enough water just to cover the clothes, add any biodegradable liquid detergent and close the lid. Start moving the hand crank back and forth. This will agitate the clothes. The agitators slosh those clothes around, get them grinding against each other and that is going to clean all the dirt out of them.
After about 15 minutes of agitation, we pull the drainage plug off the bottom and drain the water or recycle it by collecting them underneath a bucket and pouring it around your plants and trees. As long as we are using biodegradable soap/detergent, the soap and the dirt that is in your clothes aren’t going to hurt the plants.
We put the plug back on, fill the barrel with some clean water and agitate for another 15 minutes. This is the rinse cycle. Pull the plug, drain that water or use it on your plants.
STEP 7 : DOUBLES AS A COMPOSTER
This setup can be also used as a tumbling composter. Compost can be made of just about anything that was once alive. You can use leaves, grass clippings, garden waste, kitchen waste, chicken manure, or any other waste material. Just dump all in there and turn the compost in there using our handle every couple of days for 2 weeks.
We want to keep the compost aerated so that the microbes and bacteria that break down the compost can utilize the oxygen efficiently and help in decomposition. After 2 to 3 weeks, you probably have some pretty decent compost that you can use in your garden. Also through the drain hole, we can collect the residue of compost tea which is high in nutrients. You can use that compost tea for plants that really need a good dose of nitrogen.