The initial brief for this project was to optimize water usage for Latin American families living in homes that lack access to basic water services. Although we explored a number of different approaches, we quickly realized that improving the way laundry was washed had the highest potential for impact.
Washing laundry is not only resource-intensive, but it’s expensive, time consuming and physically taxing. It takes hours to wash clothes (including fetching water, an exhausting task in itself), and many women do laundry several times a week. Because there are no dryers, it can take days or weeks for clothes to line-dry, by which point they often smell of mold. And, of course, the physical labor is taxing, often leading to back problems.
If only the laundry process could be improved, women would regain hours of time, suffer from less pain, and, ultimately, save money.
WHAT WE DESIGNED
Giradora is a human-powered washer/dryer for families across Latin America that don't have access to electricity and/or running water. It’s simple to use:
WASH: Put in clothing, a bit of water and detergent, put the lid on, sit and pedal. The tumbler inside agitates and washes the clothes in only a few minutes, at which point the water can be drained and saved for the next load.
RINSE: Repeat the first process, but without detergent. This can be done several times, and, again, the water can be saved for the next load.
DRY: Giradora has an internal clutch that, when activated, switches from washing mode to drying mode. In drying mode, the tumbler inside spins at high velocity when pedaled, using centrifugal force to remove water from the clothes. After drying in Giradora, the clothes can be hung for a few hours to finish drying—a tiny fraction of the time it normally would take.
In 2015 we partnered with one of Latin America’s largest appliance manufacturer to develop Giradora for distribution. This work is ongoing, and if all goes as planned Giradora will hit the market soon!
HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE RESEARCH
Time & Energy
Laundry is a weekly task that takes one or two complete days every week. In addition, women do small loads of laundry every night for school and work uniforms.
Arthritis & Hand Pain
The cold water and arduous scrubbing causes chronic pain in hands of fingers. This is especially problematic for people who suffer from arthritis, which is very common.
Many homes that have access to electricity cannot depend on stable power, partially due to improvised infrastructure. These power surges often destroy expensive appliances that families have bought, making off-the-grid options more enticing.
Lower Back Injury
Many of the women we spoke with suffered from acute back pain, and it’s no wonder: to wash the laundry they generally crouch and squat on the floor, sometimes for 8 hours in a single day.
Clothes can take up to two weeks to dry in humid areas (such as Lima, where we focused our initial research). Mold grows on the fabric and is known to cause respiratory problems, especially for children.
Men & Laundry
Typically a women's job, we set out to normalize men doing laundry. With the design of Giradora, doing laundry is a task that requires physical work for short bursts of time, which men enjoyed in our field tests. And because the design is more mechanical (no electronics!) the potential for fixing it themselves was also appealing.
AN EARLY VIDEO OF GIRADORA
AWARDS AND OTHER FUN STUFF
- The Tech Awards 2012. Katherine M. Swanson Young Innovator Award
- Red Dot Design Awards: Best of the Best
- James Dyson Award: Finalist
- Fast Company Innovation by Design: Finalist
- Core 77 Awards: Notable
- IDSA/IDEA Awards: Gold
- Spark Award: Spark! Highest Award
- NCIIA Sustainable Vision Grant