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Home » Product & Planning Guide » Appliances » Washing Machines on Canal Boats & Narrowboats


It is possible to run a washing machine on board your narrowboat or canal boat providing you can generate sufficient power; either by shoreline, inverter or generator

Unlike some domestic appliances, you do have a wide choice of washing machines to choose from for your canal boat. Not only in size of machine but length of wash cycle, energy consumption and water usage. 
  • Size – a standard washing machine is 60cm wide. Although alternative sizes are available it is generally the depth and height that vary rather than the width. The height of a washing machine can vary from 60 – 90cm and the depth from 45 – 60cm. Compact washing machines are available, which may be easier to install in the limited space on a canal boat, but they are considerably more expensive than a standard size one. 
  • Water consumption – an average washing machine uses 11 litres of water for every kilogram of cottons it washes on a standard program. However you can find washing machines that use as little as 5.5 litres per kg or up to 14.1 litres. Although this may not be such a consideration in a domestic home, it is on-board your canal boat where you have a limited water supply. 
  • Cycle length – although this may not be a consideration in the domestic home, it is on board a canal boat as you may want to reduce how long you need to run your generator for if you are not on shoreline power. Some machines offer a quick wash in as little as 14 minutes
  • Energy use – an average washing machine uses between 1200 – 3000W so do research carefully depending upon the limitations of your canal boat power capabilities. It is the heating of the water that uses the most power as opposed to the motoring of the machine, therefore operating a cooler wash is certainly more benefical than a 60 degree wash. 
If  it is not possible to install an automatic washing machine on your canal boat due to either space or power limitations (or both) then there are other more traditional options available. Portable washing machines are very much still available and can range from a simple tub and seperate spin dryer to more sophisticated twin tub options. Power consumption with these units is low, around 100W-300W, however they are a lot more labour intensive than an automatic washing machine. 

Before making any purchase it is important that you check if your inverter is pure sine wave with adequate output to cover the motor starting. A power audit is also useful to conduct to ensure you have the power capacity on your canal boat. As the washing machine is such a high powered appliance, you will need to run your narrowboat engine to substitute the power requirements if you do not have shoreline power available. 
Laundry Products

Regardless of the type of washing machine you chose for your canal boat. you also need to give consideration to the laundry detergents you chose to use. In most cases the waste water from the washing machine will go directly overboard and in to the canal or river, which can be very damaging to the environment. On Canal & River Trust waterways, it is within your boat license terms and conditions that phosphate free cleaning products are used. In most cases common household brands are not to be used as they contain phosphates. However there are an increasing number of 'eco' brands emerging in to the market which do not contain phosphates which can be used safely. 

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