Laundry Day Again?

Designers:  Lauren Heckelman, Jane Hung, and Michelle Mueller

Advisor: Nancy Curtis, PT

Supervising Professor:  Kevin Caves



Commercially available methods of transporting laundry require strength and dexterity in both hands. Our client, Grace, has difficulty utilizing one of her arms and therefore must drag her laundry basket. She needed a way to transport laundry across her house and up a short flight of stairs without the help of her roommates. We designed a cart with a sliding platform that extends to the top step that will help Grace independently transport her laundry to and from the laundry room.


Grace has cerebral palsy, which means that she has damage to the part of her brain that controls muscle movement [1]. Cerebral palsy originates before, during, or soon after birth and is a permanent condition that does not worsen over time [2]. Common signs of cerebral palsy that affect Grace include limited muscle control, coordination, and tone [1], which severely limit the strength and dexterity of her left arm but only mildly impact her right arm and legs. She drags one foot while walking, so she wears an ankle brace and has limited balance that prevents her from climbing up or down stairs without gripping a handrail. She has full cognitive abilities and lives with several roommates in a house where she independently does most daily activities.

Grace needs a better way to transport laundry since only one arm can support a laundry basket. A set of three stairs poses an obstacle along the path from her bedroom to the shared laundry room on the opposite side of her house. Currently, she drags the laundry bin to the stairs, flings it to the top step, and then climbs the stairs while holding the handrail, often dropping clothes along the way. She uses a similar process to bring the clothes back to her bedroom. The house has narrow hallways and various floor types, and it should not be permanently modified (as it is a rental).

No product currently on the market addresses all of Grace’s needs. Some bags or carts use a tri-wheel design to climb stairs [3] [4], but they are difficult to maneuver and would prevent our client from holding the handrail. Motorized stair-climbing devices and wheelchairs also exist [5], but they are expensive to buy or build, prone to error, and take up too much space.

Project Goals

Our objective was to create a device to help Grace independently transport her laundry across the house. The device had to be easy to maneuver, require little strength, and be primarily operable with one hand. It could not interfere with her roommates and any modifications to the house itself had to be pre-approved. Additionally, the device needed to transport the laundry up three stairs and, due to space limitations, could take up no more storage space than a standard hamper.

Design and Development

Laundry 2015 Fig 1  Our team built a cart to help Grace move laundry through her house (Figure 1). This cart has a platform that slides out to rest on top of the 3-step staircase. The device, essentially a drawer on wheels, is comprised of two compartments connected with aluminum angle iron.

Grace can put her laundry basket on the shelf and push the device with her right hand. The sliding platform is used to transport the laundry basket across the stairs when it is fully extended onto the landing. Grace can then drag the laundry basket off the top panel and onto the landing (Figure 2). To ensure stability during this process, a magnetic braking system is activated when magnets on the device interact with the metal attached to the stair riser. Our client then must push the sliding panel back into position and move the device away from the staircase. This safety procedure provides more space for Grace to easily climb the stairs while holding the banister with her right hand.

Laundry 2015 Fig 2After she completes her laundry, she leaves the basket at the top of the stairs while she climbs down the stairs to get the device. Grace then pushes the device back to the staircase, activates the braking system, extends the sliding platform, and moves the laundry basket onto the device. Grace next pushes the cart back through her house and into her closet. The described methodology enables Grace to successfully transport her laundry through her house and up/down a flight of stairs.


Sliding platform:

The upper portion stores the laundry basket on the shelf and also contains a sliding platform (Figure 1). When the device is stopped at the base of the staircase, the sliding platform slides out to the top level of the staircase, which allows Grace to drag the laundry basket right onto the second level of the home. Underneath this platform, we have mounted a handle, so our client can pull out the platform comfortably.



The bottom compartment is designed for general storage and stability (Figure 3). There are hooks on the side of the cart to hang dry various items. When the cart is stored, the bottom portion acts as additional storage to maximize space and functionality. It also provides an attachment point for the casters (wheels), which help the client to easily move the laundry on flat surfaces. The device has four polyurethane swivel casters. Polyurethane casters make it easier for the user to push the cart across flooring transitions and carpets. The casters swivel to help with turning tight corners, such as entering and exiting her room, and allow the user to steer with only one hand. Larger diameter wheels also assist with traversing different types of flooring, so our device is equipped with 6” casters. In general, the caster type and size enable the device to be moved from her bedroom to the staircase.

 Laundry 2015 Fig 3

Braking mechanism:

A braking mechanism was implemented to prevent the cart from moving backwards when the sliding platform is in use (Figure 4). Magnets were attached onto the device and are attracted to a magnetic metal sheet attached to the bottom stair riser when the device is in close proximity. The magnetic attraction allows the device to gently lock into place when the cart approaches the stairs.


Accessory Modifications:

To help Grace effortlessly push the cart, we have added a handle bar, which is attached at approximately chest height (Figure 3). During prototype testing, Grace liked to push her shoulders into the angle iron to help her guide and propel the device forward. For this reason, we left the back angle iron posts longer. To ensure Grace’s safety, we also added 3D printed caps on the angle iron, so she would not hit her face. Overall, the device is the right size to fit into her closet and can be stored away easily.

EvaluationLaundry 2015 Fig 4

The cart was designed and tested to ensure that it met all of Grace’s needs and safety requirements. All materials and fasteners were chosen to hold a minimum of 40 pounds to provide a factor of safety of two since the heaviest typical load of laundry is 20 pounds. The cart dimensions were chosen to ensure that the sliding panel rested on the top step when extended to prevent tipping. The width and length were made as small as possible to fit in our client’s closet and maximize maneuverability. We tested stability by placing 40 pounds on the fully extended sliding panel to ensure that the cart could support the weight of laundry without tipping. Grace tested the cart holding a full load of laundry to ensure that it was light to push, was easy to maneuver, and reliably transported the laundry to the bottom of the stairs and up the stairs in a controlled manner. Grace also tested that she could push the device over all flooring types and transitions and that it could be stored in her closet. We observed that the device met all of these design criteria and administered a 5-point Likert scale survey to Grace to ensure that she was satisfied with the cart. She strongly agreed that it was easy to use and was an improvement over her original laundry transportation method. The results included in Table 1 show that the device accomplished all intended functions.


Table 1. Survey sent to client to determine degree of satisfaction

Survey Questions Strongly Disagree             Neutral           Strongly Agree
1) The cart is light enough to push easily             1             2             3             4             5
2) The cart makes it easy to push the laundry basket up the stairs                1             2             3             4             5
3) The cart is easy to maneuver around corners                1             2             3             4             5
4) The cart is easy to maneuver along the path to the stairs                1             2             3             4             5
5) The drawer panel is easy to operate                1             2             3             4             5
6) The braking mechanism works well and is easy to use                1             2             3             4             5
7) Is this new method (pushing a cart) easier to use than your original laundry transportation method (dragging a basket)?                1             2             3              4             5



The cart we developed successfully allows Grace to independently transport laundry to and from her laundry room in an easy and controlled manner. It prevents her from having to drag her laundry basket and ensures that no laundry will fall during the transportation process. The cart meets all design specifications and should remain an effective method of transportation for as long as our client lives in her current home. The device is personalized to fit Grace’s needs based on her feedback, providing space for her to hang articles of clothing and store small items. It is also cheaper than commercially available robotic alternatives and specifically designed to be operated entirely with one hand.



[1] NINDS Cerebral Palsy Information Page. National Institutes of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. 2015. Retrieved September 15, 2015, from


[2] Facts about Cerebral Palsy. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2015. Retrieved September 15, 2015, from


[3] Ez Stair Rolling Cart. AbleData. Retrieved September 14, 2015, from


[4] Curb-Climber Shopping Cart. AbleData. Retrieved September 14 2015, from


[5] Keating, Lauren. Students Develop A Wheelchair With Tank Treads For Traveling Up And Down Stairs. Tech Times. 2015. Retrieved September 5, 2015, from

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