Hands On: Yirego Drumi

We tried pedalling our clothes clean with this foot-powered washing machine

Update: The Drumi is finally in production as of late September, but without an exact ship date. Yirego, the company behind the electricity-free device, told us in late October that engineers are working to resolve final issues.

“No manufacturer has had any prior experience making a product like Drumi because it is so new and different,” Petal Wang of Yirego told Digital Trends in an email. The project is a great example of why crowdfunded projects take longer than expected to arrive — and sometimes don’t arrive at all.

Here’s our original hands-on with the Indiegogo device from December 2015:

Laundry day shouldn’t take an entire day, should it? That’s what happens when you let clothes pile up for a week, two weeks, or month. This is the cycle Toronto-based startup Yirego is looking to stop with the Drumi, its portable washing machine that uses little water and works off the grid.

Putting your foot to work and pumping water and detergent around a bowl filled with a small batch of clothes, the Drumi mixes old-school hand-washing with a modern-day eco-consciousness. Made to handle clothes on-demand, the idea isn’t to replace bigger machines but to rely on them a lot less. By reducing the amount of water and energy needed, plus the volume of clothes you wash per cycle, the Drumi is also supposed to be a time-saver, churning out batches in 10 minutes.

Small, but not too small

Upon seeing the Drumi in Toronto, our first impression was that it looks like a distant cousin of R2-D2, though without the wheels, funny noises, and lights. That’s because there are no electrical components inside. The unit is largely made up of a few key components that enable this washing contraption to do its thing. Weighing in at 15 pounds, standing 22-inches tall and with a 10-liter capacity, the unit is fairly small, yet sizeable enough to not be forgotten in a corner somewhere.

The run-through we saw was pretty seamless, with no real expertise or know-how required. You add clothes (including delicate fabrics) to the drum until it’s about half or three-quarters full. The glass has a marking, so you know when you’ve filled it up with five liters of water. You then pour the water into the drum, latching the white plastic cover to seal it right after. Add the detergent (and fabric softener or bleach, if necessary) into the opening in the cover, and then put the glass lid on top.

Pump the pedal for two minutes, then unlock the spindle in the back to release the soapy water. Add another five liters of water, pump the pedal another two minutes to rinse, and repeat the unlock process to get rid of the excess water. Pump again for another minute to finish off the cycle and tumble the clothes inside. Once finished, remove the clothes and line dry, or if you have one close by, use the dryer.

Conservation

The manual operation and lack of excess water leads to some impressive cumulative results. According to Yirego, today’s average washing machines use about 14 gallons (50 liters) per cycle, though Energy Star units can chop that down to just under 10 gallons. Older models are considerably higher, going all the way up to 27 gallons (102 liters).

The Drumi lets you do your laundry anywhere, because it requires no electricity and much less water than a full-size appliance.

Using the Drumi can lower a person’s carbon footprint by up to 10 pounds per week. Add in line-drying instead of a dryer and the lack of energy used to wash and dry clothes is pretty staggering. There are plenty of variables involved, however, but in any case, the energy savings are likely to be substantial if the Drumi is put to work regularly. However, its small capacity means you can only wash about six to seven items (about five pounds of clothing) at a time, so you won’t want to do a full load in the Drumi.

Those trying to cut energy bills are a key target market for Yirego, along with apartment dwellers, new families with babies, and even campers. People living in RVs, trailers and older condos without washers and dryers inside may also find the Drumi to be useful to clean stinky gym clothes regularly, instead of letting them hang around until laundry day.

More refinement needed

Despite the impressive operation, there are some kinks that need to be worked out. Chief among these is where the water goes out the back. The initial video introducing the unit showed it escaping into a drain, but that is not a practical option for many households, especially in apartments and condos.

Yirego Drumi
Ted Kristonsis/Digital Trends
Ted Kristonsis/Digital Trends

The final design will include a flexible hose that runs out the back and can be angled toward a drain in a sink or bathtub. Foot-pumping will help push out almost all of the water, except the excess amount may have a tough time draining against gravity if the hose has to go up and then down again. A mechanical or electrical pump may be necessary to give it the final push and force through the hose, though Yirego’s engineers are still not sure if it will be attached to the pedal or to the hose itself.

The run-through we saw was pretty seamless, with no real expertise or know-how required.

The drum in the unit shown to Digital Trends was also made of a lighter plastic. The final design is likely to use stainless steel or injection-molded plastic, both of which would be rigid and robust enough to withstand boiling water.

The unit has its main modular pieces, but there are no filters or other parts that need to be replaced on a regular basis. Yirego says it will recommend cleaning the unit every 60-90 days, though it will depend on how much it’s been used and what’s been washed inside. Washing clothes covered in pet fur may require more frequent cleaning with all the hair and dander accumulating.

As for how clean the clothes get, the company still needs to test how much bacteria is actually being removed from clothes washed in the Drumi.

Beyond clothes

Because you can better control how fast the Drumi spins, it opens up the possibility of washing other things beyond clothes, like small sports equipment, couch covers, very small rugs, and maybe even shoes.

Yirego hasn’t really tested for these things, focusing more on clothing that might need a wash immediately, like workout attire or sweaty jerseys after a game, plus really dirty baby clothes or something with a bad stain.

Conclusion

The first batch of Drumi pre-orders are set to be delivered in July 2016. The current Indiegogo campaign is offering units for $200 as part of a Black Friday promotion and will be delivered in October 2016. That’s a while to wait, but hopefully by then Yirego will have more information about how well the Drumi cleans and how much energy it saves.

Highs

  • Neat design
  • Good for off-grid use or camping
  • Uses much less water than standard washers
  • Lowers carbon footprint
  • Reasonable price with little upkeep

Lows

  • Water removal needs a hose
  • Doesn’t fully replace a washer
  • Stain-removal efficiency unclear
  • You have to wait to get one
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