GiraDora, a leg-powered washing and drying device, makes it easier, faster, and safer to wash clothes.

It’s easily carried, which makes it possible to wash clothes nearby water sources, or inside if weather is bad.

The bucket is stabilized by the user’s sitting weight. It also solves problems like back and wrist strains, two of several risks involved with traditional hand-washing.

The designers have won numerous accolades for the design, including a grant that will allow them to launch a pilot program.

A glimpse into the blue washing chamber shows how a central column spins the inner bucket to remove excess water before clothes are hung up to fully dry, cutting down on drying time by weeks, in some cases.

How A Foot-Powered Washing Machine Could Change Millions Of Lives

Developed by two product design students, GiraDora could be the next big social innovation.

This is part of a series highlighting notable entries to our 2012 Innovation By Design Awards—Ed.

About a year ago, two design students named Alex Cabunoc and Ji A You traveled from their homes in Los Angeles to Cerro Verde, a 30,000 person slum outside of Lima. As students in the celebrated Design Matters program at Art Center College of Design, which focuses on social innovation, they had come to Cerro Verde as part of a special studio called Safe Agua Peru. Their goal? Develop a commercial product that alleviates issues related to water poverty, targeted at people who earn between $4 and $10 a day.

The students spent two weeks in Cerro Verde, working closely with inhabitants to prototype "co-created" products at a break-neck speed. Since returning, nearly half of the students have won International Design Excellence Awards, and a student-made documentary about the trip called Hands in the Mist has been shortlisted for a Young Directors Award at Cannes. Cabunoc and You’s design—a manually powered washer and dryer that costs less than $40 called GiraDora—has drawn special attention.

When they first arrived in the slum, the pair were shocked at the amount of time Cerro Verde’s inhabitants spent collecting the water needed to perform the most basic tasks. "So much time, energy, and resources are used for basic water chores like cooking and cleaning," remembers Cabunoc. "It leaves little time for other activities that might help one get out of poverty." In particular, washing clothes is a major timesuck—it can eat up as much as six hours a day. There are major physical challenges involved with doing a simple load of laundry, too: lugging heavy buckets of water from a clean site, for example, or finding a way to dry the clothes before they get moldy.

The duo knew they had uncovered a huge opportunity for innovation by design. Why didn’t a manually powered washer or dryer already exist? They got to work, building a series of study models based on salad spinners and other similar human-powered devices. But their first finished prototype—a spin dryer—didn’t quite hit the mark with Cerro Verde’s inhabitants, who countered with an idea for an ad-hoc combination washer and dryer. "They felt it added more value as one single product," writes Cabunoc. "This radically changed our design direction."

Their revised concept, developed on-site in the slum, is much the same as their current prototype. GiraDora is a blue bucket that conceals a spinning mechanism that washes clothes and then partially dries them. It’s operated by a foot pedal, while the user sits on the lid to stabilize the rapidly churning contents. Sitting alleviates lower-back pain associated with hand-washing clothes, and frees up the washer to pursue other tasks. It’s portable, so it can be placed nearby a water source, or even inside on a rainy day. It reduces health risks like joint problems, skin irritation, and mold inhalation. Most importantly, it uses far less water and cleans clothes faster than conventional hand-washing. This equates to more free time, explains Cabunoc, and the opportunity to "break the cycle of poverty."

GiraDora could have easily become another forgotten student project, left to languish at the back of a portfolio. But Cabunoc, who is clearly a budding entrepreneur, has spent the last six months pitching the idea to scholars and investors. He and You took GiraDora to Chile for a second test run, integrating user feedback into a second prototype. They were invited to pitch the device at a number of conferences, winning accolades from Dwell, Core77, Dell Social Innovation Challenge, and the International Design Excellence Awards.

Then, this spring, the team received a NCIIA E-Team grant of $19,500—a sum that will take GiraDora from a pitch deck to a real-world pilot program. Over the next year, the duo will travel back to Chile and Peru twice more, to test their business model and carry out long-term durability research. If all goes well, they could be rolling out a pilot program as early as next year, with plans to expand to India after that.

There’s still a long way to go, explain the designers, who say their five-year goal is to reach "at least 15%" of their ultimate goal of 1 million users. What’s the simplest metric they’ll use to gauge GiraDora’s success? "Ironically, when a family has outgrown their GiraDora by moving up economically."

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  • unfortunately the fastest way to get this into general circulation would be to "leak" the design to the chinese and let them pirate it

  • Kelsey Vere

    I would love to purchase one of these! Especially if the proceeds are going to a good cause! Now if only there was a foot-pedaled dryer to go with it for those cold months here in Canada when we can't hang them outside to dry!

  • Mizanur Rahman

    Could someone please answer the question regarding buying one of these "GiraDora" the human-powered washing and drying machine? Are they available for purchase?

  • Vicki Baker

    You should sell them for $60 each to those of in the U.S. who want one, and use the $20 extra to help buy one for the poverty stricken people who need it most. I would love to have one!

  • GiraDora has a facebook page. Like it to stay informed. I haven't found it for sale in the US yet but I saw a price of $40.00 so hopefully soon!

  • Krista Oestreich

    I would LOVE to buy one of these. We live off grid and use solar power but, won't have it up and going at such a capacity (in the foreseeable future) to have a washing machine. We do the laundromat. Not ideal since we don't live in town, the nearest town is across an international border, and especially with 3 small kids. This would save me loads of time/money. How do I stay tuned to find out when it will be on the market and where to get one?

  • Racker

    My compliments on this whole concept, great work!  
    I came back to this site after reading about it a year
    ago and I have been waiting to see when it would be available to purchase here
    in the US.
    We have soaps that are safe to use in gardens and streams. Easy to make launder
    soap recipes could be given out with the washers.
    I concur with many of the comments made
    here. I recently bought a solar charger for my cell phone. The funds I paid for
    the device will go to purchase more of the devices to be donated to people in
    areas that do not have solar or power resources to charge phones. Great marketing
    idea for your machine as well. Another power alternative could be an adapter to
    a bicycle; remove the rear wheel, bolt the adapter onto the rear forks, and petal
    the wash clean. You can find bike parts and frames in most countries to build
    this kind of power source. I also agree with the need for quick to get parts
    when something breaks - and parts will fail. 
    Bottom line, I advocate your device even
    here in the US
    for small apartments and for use if there is no power available; boiling laundry
    is wasteful on fuel and energy use.

    Can someone write an update on progress or
    developments on this concept? Thank you. 

  • AliC

    I have seen the patented Uk version, it is a very small bucket style washer. This looks a lot more robust and able to cope with larger items. I would dearly love one around the size engineered in this design, I am moving to a third world country and it would make my life a lot easier.

  • 4c Design

    This product was used on the The Apprentice (Original UK Version), it was being pitched to festival campers with very poor success. At that time I completely ruled out the product and dismissed it as well design but poorly conceived. Personally in a small apartment or while on the move I would still choose a traditional machine or failing that a sink (as I did do when backpacking OZ).

    But having said that I can see its uses to some people and in some scenarios. Amazing how placing a product in the wrong context can impact your opinion of it.

  • otter87

    I would like to buy one in the U.S. as well.  I'm a small apartment dweller and tried many methods of washing clothes.  I've found a hand agitator and electric spin dryer work the best and break down the least.  This would seem to combine the two into a practical solution for taking care of most laundry needs.  I would be happy to buy one with extra expenses to go to developing communities.  I would also love a white or neutral colored container to fit in more easily with the apartment setting.  Please get the support you need to produce your product and let us know when it is available.  I'll come back and check the website here to see how you are progressing.
    Thank you!

  • Gl West

    I REALLY want a foot powered clothes spinner. I efficiently wash my clothes but the wringing by hand is a killer! Btw, yes I can afford an electric washer and dryer and have had many. But I wash by hand now-by choice. How can I buy one in the US?

  • Debbie Casper

    I want one! How would I order one. It seems like alot people would want one!

  • Jeanne Link

    Echoing the comments of others: I would definitely be willing to buy one at a higher cost knowing a significant percentage of the amount I pay helps purchase machines for others in need. I believe there are sustainable/successful business models structured this way. One that comes to mind is the Kona Africabike

  • Jaipur_lalit

    This is a product not only for the poor. The rich cold use this machine and throw away the pedalling exercise machines, and save the environment too by reducing power consumption!

  • Shannon Uncensored

    As mentioned below, this is great for a lot of different groups of people (poor, survivalists, minimalists, people living sustainably, etc). I am a minimalist, and am looking to start living in an RV and traveling the country with my family, and this is something that would be excellent for RV life! It is extremely portable, low cost, low space, and much easier on the back and wrists than conventional (old school) clothes washing! I really want to purchase one! 

  • plutoishot

    This product could be taken so far and truly change the lives of many people all over the world - I would love one, and I live in Canada.  But think of these in urban home-less shelters? No utility costs for them to do their laundry, have control over your chores, and a bit more time inside when the weather is not ideal.  I can see so much potential for this; I true hope it goes to market, especially outside of South America. I would buy one in a heart beat!