• Question: What can you convert an old washing machine into?

    Asked by AmeliaE on 18 Jun 2020.
    • Photo: Henry Lancashire

      Henry Lancashire answered on 18 Jun 2020:


      I use some equipment which was originally partly made out of an old washing machine. It was a centrifuge, which spins samples around very fast, and is helpful for us to get bubbles out of cast polymers.

      Possibly the most famous reuse of a washing machine is in Graeme Obree’s Old Faithful bicycle, which used washing machine bearings. Graeme beat the Hour Record on the bicycle, as the person to ride the furthest distance in one hour.

      https://www.nms.ac.uk/explore-our-collections/stories/science-and-technology/made-in-scotland-changing-the-world/scottish-science-innovations/graeme-obrees-old-faithful-bicycle/

    • Photo: Rosina Simmons

      Rosina Simmons answered on 18 Jun 2020:


      That’s such a great question; it depends what’s broken on the old machine I suppose?

      If it can still spin, the motor to spin it would be great for anything that spins really fast (smoothie maker? workshop tools – of course, spinning things can be dangerous so make sure you’ve got an adult to help you with any ideas if you want to reuse the motor!) If you change the motor output so it doesn’t spin as fast (use a few gears) it could be used for something like a fan, as they don’t need to spin as fast as washing machines.

      I’ve seen some patio wood burners made out of the steel drum as well – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SYBUipJxInk Could put a grill on top and you get a BBQ. turn it upside down and have a rather unique looking lampshade?

      The glass door could be a nice fruit bowl? Depends on what the shape of it is, but some are half-flat.

      The metal casing could be used to do a DIY fix on a car panel or garage door maybe. They’re also pretty smooth so could have a whiteboard as well?

      The electronics are rather interesting: there are valves which stop and start the water supply, so they could be used in a automated garden watering system; there is the door lock, which could be used for remote locking applications; there’s the water pump and its filter; there’s the water level monitor and shut off switch; there’s the water heater element and temperature sensor.

      There are some weights in the bottom which stop the washing machine from moving around, so they could be use for these if you need to keep something from blowing away? Or pressing something together if gluing.

      The drum is attached to what some people call the “spider” and a bearing – use the spider and bearing together as a basis for a wind turbine, carousel of some sort, or just giant fidget spinner…

      You have all the screws, nuts, bolts, pipe clips, springs and shock adsorbers – all useful to have knocking around for DIY projects.

    • Photo: Oana Lazar

      Oana Lazar answered on 18 Jun 2020:


      Taking this question to mean that you have an old washing machine that still works but that you’d rather not use for your clothes…you could convert it into a rock tumbler for cool rocks you find! Rock tumblers basically just make rocks shiny by turning them over and over for a long time, usually several days. Actual rock tumblers which you can buy in shops are just tubs connected to a motor which spins the tub around at a speed of about once a second, and they usually also have something called “grit”, which is like a powder version of sandpaper to make the rocks smoother much more quickly. You could try putting the machine in a veeeeeery slow spin cycle, for example if it has an option for washing delicates like clothing made from wool, and disconnecting it from the water supply while making sure that dust and bits of rock can’t come out of the machine. Just an idea for repurposing an old washing machine which is still working properly.

    • Photo: Douglas Herbert

      Douglas Herbert answered on 22 Jun 2020:


      Well, a motor and a generator are fundamentally the same as each other, just used in a different way. I have seen people successfully use the motor from a washing machine as a small generator, hooking it up to a simple windmill to make a home-made wind turbine. Alternatively, you could connect it to the chain of a bike to create some pedal-powered electricity!

    • Photo: Tom Stewart-Brackenridge

      Tom Stewart-Brackenridge answered on 22 Jun 2020:


      A good question, the answer entirely depends on what you would like to do with it. You could keep the physical shape of the washing machine and use it for storage, or salvage it for parts and make something cool and unique with it which could benefit yourself or others.

    • Photo: Tom Rooney

      Tom Rooney answered on 24 Jun 2020:


      I like Douglas’s answer about turning the motor into a generator.
      I have a friend who lives “off grid” in Cornwall and generates most of his power from a water wheel he built from an old washing machine. The drum forms the hub of the wheel and he welded scoops onto it and channeled water from a stream on his land, via a sluice gate and aqueduct. He used the sprockets and chains from a couple of old motorbikes to gear up the rotation speed for the generator he made from the washing machine motor.
      He gets 240Volts at about 2Kwatts 24hrs a day.

    • Photo: David Linsell

      David Linsell answered on 24 Jun 2020:


      Building on the knowledge of the component parts, see previous responses, then may I turn the question around? What would you like to convert an old washing machine into? Where does your imagination lead you? What ingenious ideas do you have?

    • Photo: Katie Sparks

      Katie Sparks answered on 9 Jul 2020:


      All sorts of things – I guess it depends on if you want something useful or not.
      My husband is an artist and he’s made all sorts of random moving sculptures and “musical instruments” from salvaged things.
      What would you make from the different parts of a washing machine?
      I don’t know the parts of a washing machine specifically, but the main features I’d be looking at would be:
      – it can move water around
      – it has something to make things spin
      – it has a really solid base, so that things don’t vibrate too much to either move themselves or break

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