Do Houseboats Have Washing Machines?

If you are planning a trip on board a houseboat you are probably wondering if you will have a way to get clothes clean (besides dipping them in the water). In this article we will discuss washing machines and whether houseboats have them. 

Rarely will a houseboat have a large washing machine but many will have smaller ones that are considered “mini” washers or even manual washing machines. In this article we will discuss the different types of washing machines on boats and which ones work the best. 

The best way to know if the houseboat you are renting or borrowing has a washing machine on board is to ask the person who owns the boat. 

There are tons of amazing gadgets that are super popular and almost a “must have” for your boat.

Why Don’t Houseboats Have A Normal Washer And Dryer? 

There are a couple of reasons that houseboats don’t have a traditional washer and dryer. It’s simply because of 

  • Size
  • Weight
  • Electric usage 

The amount of space that a washer and dryer take up is quite a bit. If placed side by side they take up approximately 55 inches (almost 5 feet)! If you stack them (as you can with some machine styles) they are still 27-29 inches wide and 70-75 inches tall. 

Not only does the size they take up make them hard to fit on board but the weight can be an issue as well. A standard front load washer and dryer can weigh 325+ pounds combined. 

Now obviously if you have smaller machines they won’t take up near that amount of space or weigh that much but full sized unit just aren’t practical for most boats based on size and weight alone. 

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The other reason that traditional washers and dryers aren’t used is because of how much electricity they use. A traditional washer will normally use between 300-500 watts of power to operate while a dryer will use far more at 2700-3000 watts. 

Since houseboats have to run power off of generators when they are away from shore you will rarely find dryers on board because they are too much of a power suck. You will sometimes find washers however especially if they are a smaller size like found in apartments. 

Types Of Washers On A Houseboat 

There are basically 3 different types of washers that you will find on a houseboat. Those types are:

  • Traditional 
  • Miniature 
  • Manual

The smaller the houseboat you are buying or renting the more likely they are to not have any sort of washing machine on board at all. If you are renting a 40-50 foot houseboat then you will probably have a washer of some kind on board. 

Traditional Washer

This is the kind that is found in many homes and condos throughout the US. These can be front load or top load washers. While front load washers have issues with mildew they use far less water than their top load counterparts. When you are on board a boat with limited water supplies using less water is an important thing. 

Not only do front loads use less water but they normally use less electricity which means more of your generator’s power can be used for other things on board. 

Because of the amount of water and electricity used by these larger machines you won’t find them except on more high end houseboats or on larger ones. For most people a traditional washer on board is overkill. 

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Mini Washer 

A “mini” washer is considered to be any washer that holds less than 2.5 cubic feet. These are used in apartments or other places where you need a washer but don’t have the space or properly run water/electricity. 

These are more common on a houseboat simply because they can be used for a lot more situations without having to worry about using as much water or electricity. Some of the better models only use 6 gallons of water per load while a front load will use 15-25 gallons and a top load washer will use 40! 

This huge difference in water usage is why you are far more likely to see a “mini washer” aboard your houseboat than you are to see a traditional sized one. 

Some of the more popular models offer a variable water fill so you can choose how much water you need to properly clean your laundry to help you save even more water. At only 6 gallons you will be saving 2-4x over a full size front load washer and 6x over a top load! 

Manual Washer 

These are the most commonly used washers on board a houseboat. They will not take up hardly any room, can be stored anywhere, and use very little water and no electricity. 

Of course it isn’t all upside with a manual machine. The downsides are:

  • You have to do the work
  • They don’t fit many clothes

The first one is the main issue for many people. You have to make the washer work by pushing on a foot pedal, by moving the basket up and down or a host of other ways. Each way requires you to manually wash your clothes. 

Now it certainly is easier than the washboards that they used to use for laundry but it isn’t a walk in the park like we are all used to. 

The other issue is that manual washers don’t fit many clothes. One of the largest ones on the market is the Lavario Portable Washer.

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Even being the “largest” it’s recommended load size is one pair of jeans, two shirts, one pair of socks, and a pair of underwear. That’s an entire load! 

Manual washing machines are designed to be used when you HAVE to wash some clothes not because you want to go home with a suitcase full of clean ones. At most, you will only want to use a manual machine a time or two during your whole trip and that’s only if there is absolutely no way around it. 


Every houseboat will be different in regard to whether there will be a normal washer on board and how big it will be. You will rarely find a dryer on board because they require so much electricity so even after you wash your clothes the only way to dry them will be a clothes line or hang them over some deck chairs. 

Some houseboats will have mini washers, some will have manual washers, and some will have nothing at all. If you are renting a houseboat contact the rental company and ask. 

Even if they don’t supply one you can buy a great manual washer for not too much money if washing your clothes in the lake or river isn’t something you want to do. 

Worst case scenario you could always wash them in the sink or shower…. 

As always, 

Happy boating 

Matthew Robbs

I love the outdoors and especially spending time with my family. Whether on a boat or at the beach, my happy place is near the water.

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