Harvest bin washer

On our veggie farm, we use a cold water pressure washer to clean out our plastic harvest bins every week. Nobody really likes the job, and it takes a long time. We have played around with different systems for cleaning them, but none seems ideally efficient.

Roxbury Farm bought a conveyor-belt, self contained bin washer last year. They said it cost them a lot of money, but has some serious "quality of life" benefits: put a dirty bin on the belt, listen to the pressure washer do it's job inside, pick up clean bin from other end.

I think there's an opportunity for a farm-built bin washer that would be reasonably priced and could be customized for different size bins. Here are some requirements and ideas about how this might work:
Requirements:
- able to wash the inside and outside of bins;
- capable of handling different size bins;
- is efficient for one person or two people to operate, so that the operation doesn't involve standing around wasting time;
- would use a standard pressure washer to power the nozzles, so that farms could use an existing pressure washer or shop around for a good deal for the pum that makes it work.

Ideas:
- breweries/wineries use special pressure nozzles to clean the inside of tanks; they send a stream of high pressure water in at 360 or 180 degree pattern. These could be repurposed to wash the inside of a bin from all angles without the nozzle needing to move;
- on our farm, bins are usually dirtier on one side than the other. So maybe it's only necessary to have one high pressure nozzle in the washer, and the rest lower pressure nozzles. If bins could be fed in either open-side-up or open-side-down, the operator could choose which side is dirtier and orient it toward the high-pressure nozzle.

Anyone have a good bin-washing system on their farm? Have you used a "real" bin washing setup like Roxbury's? Any ideas for developing this project?

I'll try to post some photos of the Roxbury set up.

–Ben Shute
Hearty Roots Community Farm

Hi Ben,

What about the automatic dishwashers like in many restaurant kitchens? I wonder if the mechanisms they use could transpose onto what you're imagining. One person moves trays of dishes into and out of one, once the door closes the water, soap, etc. turn on and clean everything in 90 seconds (sanitize too with super-hot water). I know just water is probably all you need, but could be another starting idea to work from.

Also, seems like a washer might need to accommodate different shape/size bins over time–round, rectangle, milk crate, etc.

-Rachel

Most of us are far smaller operations than Roxbury thus a simpler arrangement could be constructed. I have been frustrated with this also even though I have a pressure washer. One requires a device to hold the bin so it does not move about and the ability to turn/flip thus addressing all sides. This is the most frustrating part as one must constantly stop/start, put down the wand, bend/stoop, pickup the wand to complete just one bin! An arrangement where multiple bins could be held off the ground and turned/flipped sans dropping the wand would be most advantageous.