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The Truth About Doing Laundry Off-Grid

I thought it might be a good exercise to try doing laundry without using the washing machine and dryer.  Whenever there is a hurricane approaching one of the preparation chores that I do (in addition to making sure there is enough water, food and supplies for several days) is to do the laundry while power is available.  Ideally, you’d already have clean clothes available, but what if there is an extended power outage?

I saved a few pieces of clothing, some socks and a large towel to do the experiment.

Washing

MobileWasher

I piled the clothes in the bathroom sink.  For clothes washing, I tried using a  Mobile Washer sample that I received..  It was easy to assemble.  The washer looks like a plunger, but without the rubbery plunger smell.

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The instructions simply say add soap and 4-6 inches of water and agitate the clothes using up and down motion.  I used my homemade laundry detergent added to some water.

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The socks were stained but I did not use bleach, as I wanted to keep the experiment as simple as possible.

Although the Mobile Washer instructions say you will feel a pulling action while the clothes are agitating, I did not really feel that the up and down motion was doing anything.  Perhaps the clothes had to be level to the ground or bathtub for this to work, as using it on a bathroom sink level felt unwieldy to me.  I wish I had a better result to report to you, but I always write the truth in these experiments regardless of expectations.

I contacted Mobile Washer after the experiment about my less than stellar results and got a quick response, which actually addresses what happened:

“The best way to get this action on the clothes is to make sure you have enough water so the clothes float freely, have a deep enough container (sink, bucket, tub etc) so that you can get some good plunging action without splashing the water out of the container.  When these steps are followed, the washer seems to have great results.  I can’t say that you were doing it wrong, maybe it just required a little harder agitation.

This is actually the first negative feedback we have received, so I do appreciate you letting me try to explain how it should work and what results you should be able to expect.  Normally the feedback is that the washer has pulled old stains and residual dirt and soap left behind by traditional washing machines. ”

I think the Directions for Use should mention the container should be deep enough for enough water so the clothes can float around.  The “4-6 inches of water” was quickly soaked up by the clothes.  The next time I wash off-grid, I will use a 5-gallon bucket.

Back to the story…  I resorted to washing the items by hand.  My hands did get all wrinkled and “prune-like” so if I do this again I would wear gloves.

After washing, I let the soapy water drain out.  I then rinsed the clothes with plain water in the sink.  The interesting part was in trying to wring all the water out.  Socks and shirts are easy enough, but the towel was quite heavy.  I had to wring it out in sections.

Drying

I found some space to hang the clothes using hangers and some of the shelving.  Because of the humidity, the socks and shirts took about 12 hours to dry, and the towel took over 24 hours.

Result

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T-shirts and blouses dried well enough with minor wrinkles when hung up in clothes hangers.  The clothes and socks smelled fresh and appeared to be clean enough.  The socks did not come out as white as when bleached and washed in the washing machine.

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However the towel took a very long time to dry, causing even more humidity with a slightly musty smell when it finally dried.

What I Learned

Living in a humid climate, if clothes stay wet long enough, there is a possibility of getting mildew, so you must try to wring out the clothes as well as possible.

If you live in a dry climate, the drying time would be a lot faster.

Having a clothesline outside would be much better than drying indoors as the hot sun would help dry things faster.  However because we rent, I doubt apartment management would look too kindly to having clothes flapping in the breeze out in the balcony.  So if I had to line dry, I would likely set the line across the bathroom.

Line dried clothes do not come out as soft as they do in the dryer.  On the other hand, this saves on wear and tear on the garments.

To minimize wrinkles, you need to “snap”clothes such as t-shirt and shirts before hanging them.

If you had to do laundry off-grid, you’d best have some backup clothes available to allow for longer drying time.

No doubt about it, washing and drying clothes are chores that would be much more challenging without electricity.   It is doable, and I am glad I tried this experiment.

By Aptprepper

11 Responses to The Truth About Doing Laundry Off-Grid

  • I live in Florida and in our humidity nothing will dry. we might have to go old school and get one of those manual tubs with the wringer built in.

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  • Years ago I lived in inner city Chicago. Between jobs at one point, I didn't have extra money for the luxury of a Laundromat, so I put the dirty clothes into the bathtub & walked on them for 7 or 8 minutes.

    Luckily, I also lived in an old house that had been converted to 3 apartments-1 upstairs & 2 down, with my apartment on the 1st floor downstairs in the back. The back porch was covered by the upstairs apartment's porch (which was unoccupied), so I strung rope around my porch & hung the clothes up there, hidden from view.

    To wring them out, I did what I could in the bathroom, then took the clothes outside, wrapped them around a 1 1/2" dowel I had attatched to the railing with large plumber's hose repair clamps, & just twisted the rest of the water out. This worked best for the heavier items, like jeans & towels. After "snapping" I hung them up.

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  • I've not done any practice laundry for survival, but I did buy a restaurant / industrial mop bucket to use for washing laundry. I plan to use the mop press to extract excess liquid out of laundry. I can't take credit for the idea; read it somewhere :o) Thanks for the mobile washer & detergent links!

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    • Thanks for that brilliant tip. In the past I had one of those huge mop buckets with the press... Wish I still had it. The tub part was plenty large enough to do several T-shirts or a pair of jeans ... I am definitely going to start looking for another one just for laundry. Thanks again. {:0)

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  • good ideal thanks

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  • I just attached a longer pole to a rubber plunger, and using a hole drilled into lid of a 6gal pail, stand up and plunge up n down holding pail steady between feet.

    The mop bucket wringer is perfect to get majority of water out. I purchased just for that after scratching my head last year trying to figure out how to better wring out water.
    Living outside of ocala, humdity stinks, but an afternoon in sun gets everything dry. I just purchased days inn quality towels, not as thick, but its shtf practice, im looking more function then soft n cuddly.

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  • I read in Joel Skousen's "The Secure Home" book that wringing out clothes is the hardest part of doing laundry off-grid. He suggests purchasing a "chamios" wringer which are used in car washes. They can be special ordered from most auto parts stores.

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  • Having one those handcrank washers will help. They do work(not as well as a machine) but have clothes to at least 80% of what your machine is better then wearing dirty clothes! Having this washer will be a barter item! people will need to have their clothes cleaned! After the 3 hurricanes here in Florida all within 6 weeks! Put the fact I had people asking me where I got my clothes cleaned. I told them I did them myself, I then found myself with a small business!, Doing my neighbors (2 kids(no diapers!) and 2 adults) earned help from this neighbor and several gallons of gas for my 1KW generator, which ran my chest freezer to which I froze 2 liters of drinking water in cleaned out pop bottles! Ice here in Florida after a hurricane is tradeable for anything! In helping my neighbors I helped myself by having extra eyes to watch out for the roving groups of people looking to take anything they can! I passed out several of the GMRS/FRS radios to my neighbors and had 10 minutes warning of a group of 12 to 15 people walking through our block. They came up to my door(by then everyone in the house had a gun in their hand) and my family and several friends about 20 of us were standing near the door. When I opened the door to ask what they needed their eyes got real big when their roving eyes saw a gun in everyone's hand. They then asked how to get to a nonexistence address! Told them I did not know where it was and they left in kind of a hurry! Found out 3 or 4 days later they had broke into and robbed a house 3 blocks away! Those extra eyes saved my family from possible harm and all it cost me was a few liters of ice water and willingness to share(I had put several things aside just for sharing!) I have a large water filter so that I could give away(I did) water. Having help in time of chaos is "Priceless" So put some items aside for your neighbors and have friends beside you instead of enemies(keeping your families supplies hidden away!)

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  • I love the prepping theme and I find great amusement in some of the preps.

    Having lived overseas for 10+ years provides some perspective. So I have to say if the shtf, you won't be interested or invested in looking and smelling your best, daily grooming, etc. Most of the human population, in fact, lives without our conveniences, grooming practices and middle class American customs. And they do ok. Yeah, you may be washing underwear and socks (daily, by hand and in a bucket) but if that seems challenging to you, you're prolly going to choose suicide because that isn't the beginning of the challenges you're going to face. And saying that makes me sad to think. So I must insist that you buy a bible, some good bible study guides and a few Derek Prince books - before you buy any more preps.

    Put on the whole armor of God. It will serve you for whatever comes, good or bad.

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  • Great Article. I would recommend getting one of those indoor clothes drying racks. Yes, please manually wring out as much water as possible so that the clothes will dry faster and not get mildew. I come from a place that all clothes was washed by hand when I was young. Thanks for the memories.

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