Doing Laundry Without Electricity
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    Default Doing Laundry Without Electricity



    How many of you are prepared to do laundry without electricity? My X-brother-in-law is an engineer who works at a power plant. Several years ago when a large portion of the eastern part of the U.S. had a power outage, he said it's not a matter IF we will have interrupted power, but when. Changes from the new leadership in Washington, D.C. may also be a factor to looming power-outages, brown-outs, or higher utility costs. So what can you do to prepare?

    I have a non-electric tumbling clothes washer (a Wonder Clean), as well as an old-fashioned plunger/stomper-style agitator that works great in a tub or bucket (a long-handled rubber plunger you use to un-stop a sink/toilet will also work as a plunger agitator), as well as a washboard. Most of these are available from Lehman's (www.lehmans.com). A 5-gallon plastic bucket (you can find them at the hardware store/home center in the paint department) works as a mini wash-tub.

    You can also wash more than one load in the wash water (just add more hot water to replace the displaced water in the wet laundry, and perhaps a little more detergent.

    The worst part about doing laundry by hand is wringing the water out of them. Most of us don't have an old-fashioned wringer to squeeze water out, so I suggest a mop bucket-wringer. http://www.nextag.com/bucket_-_wringer/search-html This will make wringing water out of the clothing a simpler task than doing it by hand.

    Water Temperature: You'll need a heat source for wash water. You can safely rinse in cold water. Most laundry detergents don't work in water colder than 65F. So if the water is too cold for you to keep your hands in, it's probably too cold for the detergent/soap to work. You can also dissolve powdered detergent in some hot water before adding it to the wash water. "Cold Water" is described by detergent manufacturers as 80-85F. Hot water also removes dirt better and kills germs - so use the hottest water possible for the fabric type, when doing clothes by hand. They will clean better.

    To supply hot water I suggest 5-gallon solar camp showers - http://www.soldiercity.com/5-gallon-...=24-26278428-2. These are black heavy-gauge plastic bags that hold 5-gallons of water and will heat the water when they are placed in the sun. They are also relatively inexpensive. You can also take a lidded, dark plastic tub and set it outside to heat water via the sun. Or paint a 5-gallon jug black, or stick it inside a black plastic bag. Five gallons is about all the water a person can easily pick-up, so that's why I use 5-gallon containers in this example.

    Detergent/Soap: If you have hard water, you'll get better results using detergent instead of homemade laundry soap mixtures. Low sudsing detergents will also aid in doing laundry by hand - the more suds and soap residue, the more rinsing you'll need to do.

    Vinegar: I'd suggest using vinegar in the rinse. It will aid rinsing the soap out of the laundry and avoid softener.

    After you've got the laundry washed and rinsed - don't forget indoor and outdoor lines or drying racks. If you don't have clothes pins or clothes pegs, you'll need those as well.

    I have a drying room in our basement so I can dry clothes ANYTIME. In fact, we normally do laundry at night while we watch TV and hang it in the basement. We've strung a series of lines in this room and have a ceiling fan that we turn on to aid drying. I also have an umbrella clothes line outside. Drying racks are very handy items to have as well. We rarely use the dryer....

    I'd also suggest using TIDE Smart Dry Hangers (Target/Wal-Mart). These are great for hanging clothes to dry. If our clothing normally hangs on a hanger, we DRY them on a hanger (on a long clothes rod in the drying room in the basement). With the TIDE hangers, you won't get "bunny ears" on your garments at the shoulders. The hangers are also vented for air circulation.

    Water Source: We have a series of rain barrels and other large containers that hold rain water collected from the roof via the gutters/downspouts. We use it for supplying water for the garden and landscaping, but in a pinch, would use it for laundry. You can also hang one end of a large tarp/sheet of plastic/plastic tablecloth/plastic shower curtain to catch rain water and direct/funnel it into some kind of container/s to get "free" water. Directing the water into a "kiddie" swimming pool would work great!

    Towels: Bath and kitchen towels take up a lot of laundry space, so keep a supply of microfiber towels around. You can get a bundle of them in the car-care department. These can be used for drying after a shower/bath and won't take up as much laundry space and will dry quickly.

    I hope we never have to use these rather primitive methods, but I'd rather be prepared to use them rather than struggle to figure it out if I HAD to have an alternative method.
    Last edited by Grainlady; 03-05-2009 at 02:51 PM.

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    Registered User old_lady_in_the_shoe's Avatar
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    I have alway thought I was pretty prepaired for laundry without electric...
    I have the wonder washer too...but love the idea of the mop bucket wringer!!!! I have one, but would have never have thought about using it for that. I have everything else.

    What do you think about boiling your towels, sheets and diaper (if you have them)... I have seen that done (on movies and from old books) but have alwasy wondered if it would be to hard on the clothes.

    And what about bleach? would you use it? or omit it during this time? Do you think I would require an extra rinse and be to much "water work" ?

    Love your imput and tips!!

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    I boil whites, and they go in the water first. . . then lights. . . then towels. . . then jeans. . . . then coveralls.

    We hand wring the clothes -- with 2 people. . .not so bad, you each twist an item of clothing together, from opposite ends.

    I avoid bleach -- makes the water unusable for any other clothing or other use, like watering the garden, etc. . . I guess you could use it for flushing the toliet.

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    Great ideas! Thanks for sharing all your tips. This might turn out to be a summer project to learn from before winter comes.
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    Thanks for the laundry tips.
    I've been thinking about laundry without electricity since our washer broke.
    In the summer I do heavily soiled laundry outside with the hose & a big tote.
    I use cold water though, sometimes from the rain barrel.
    It is a good idea to be able to heat the water in some way...using a bucket in a black bag will work nicely.

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    When I worked for Sears (briefly) fixing washers, I was surprised to learn that what washes clothes is this: water + movement. Warm water & soap help, but what gets clothes clean is water and movement. That's how folks wash clothes in a stream! I hope to God that I never have to use this knowledge, but there it is FYI.

    Judi

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    Very good ideas! Not being able to do laundry was the worse part of not having electric for 4 days. DH ran a cord from the generator to the washer for me on the 3rd day, then I hung the clothes on lines he put in the 2nd bathroom.....geesh, I thought that was roughing it lol.

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    Of the hundreds of things I can't do without electricity, laundry ranks pretty close to the bottom. For short outages I'll just let it pile up, longer outages wear it dirty, permanent outage do it by hand. My mother is like the queen of the washer women, still as likely to be found standing in front of a scrub board as a washing machine, I've done plenty of hand washing over the years. Most of us are washing clothes that aren't even dirty to begin with, so if we were doing them by hand I'm pretty sure we'd be wearing them longer and significantly reducing the volume of laundry we do.

    Now if only I could cook or heat my house without electricity. Wood stove is not an option, I don't have a chimney.

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    Master Dollar Stretcher madhen's Avatar
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    I set up my washer to flush its water directly out into my little fruit tree garden by the dogs' run, so the trees get watered every time I do a load of laundry. It saves wear and tear on the septic tank (no lint or phosphates going in to mess up the bacterial balance), and it gives the water a dual-use, which saves me energy and money (I'm on a well, so water pumped is $$) and keeps me in fresh fruit!
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    It doesn't help much if your electricity goes out, but if you just have a washer that goes out, and your electricity works, I have found that the dishwasher works just as well in getting clothes clean. I throw my hand towels/kitchen rags in there with a load of dishes, then just hang them to dry afterward. Works great!!
    DH aka Mad Hen
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    Quote Originally Posted by old_lady_in_the_shoe View Post
    I have alway thought I was pretty prepaired for laundry without electric...
    I have the wonder washer too...but love the idea of the mop bucket wringer!!!! I have one, but would have never have thought about using it for that. I have everything else.

    What do you think about boiling your towels, sheets and diaper (if you have them)... I have seen that done (on movies and from old books) but have alwasy wondered if it would be to hard on the clothes.

    And what about bleach? would you use it? or omit it during this time? Do you think I would require an extra rinse and be to much "water work" ?

    Love your imput and tips!!
    Thanks for the kind words!

    Boy, good question.... I remember my mother boiling my brother's diapers, but we didn't have a hot water heater back then. She would heat water in a tub in the yard (via the sun) as well as on the stove to do laundry in her wringer washer.

    I would only boil things if absolutely necessary - to kill germs - because it takes a lot of energy to heat water (using whatever your alternative source for heat would be).

    I never use bleach on laundry. With our hard water it doesn't whiten, it mixes with the manganese and turns clothes yellow and it destroys elastic. If you need to sanitize clothing, you don't need the recommended amount of bleach that is called for for whitening - a tablespoon is enough to sanitize a load of laundry in a washer. I use the sun for whitening. I also keep Graprfruit Seed Extract in storage and it would also work to sanitize if needed.

    If you use microfiber towels instead of regular terry towels (in an emergency situation), I'm not sure they can be bleached. I know you're not supposed to use fabric softener on them. Something to look up...

    FYI - The Solar Camp Showers will heat water up to 120F. That's a temperature many frugal folks set their hot water heaters these days. Hot Water - 120-140F. Warm - 85-105F, Cold - 65-75F.

    I also have a couple solar ovens that will heat water hot enough to pasteurize it, so that's plenty hot for laundry needs - even in the middle of winter. In a solar oven you can heat water in quart jars that you spray paint black using paint appropriate for heat (I used paint made for repainting bbq grills).

    Depending on the soap/detergent you use would determine how many rinses you might need. Vinegar is beneficial for removing soap, but how many people keep gallons of that in storage (I usually keep 6-8 gallons).

    I am stocked-up on Charlie's Soap. I only use a tablespoon of it the washer for a large load, so in the Wonder Wash it would only take a very tiny amount. The few times I used the Wonder Wash, I used Automatic Dishwasher Detergent in it. The enzymes lift dirt and it's low-sudsing.

    That's when I decided to figure out a way to wring the clothes out besides by hand . If you can wring out the water and capture it (the mop wringer/bucket), you can reuse it. Plus clothes are HOT from the hot wash water in the Wonder Wash. You could also use the wash water from wringing out the clothes in the mop bucket to soak clothes in (another old-fashiond pre-treatment method).

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    I agree with Monleywrangler. The longest I have every gone w/out power was 5 days during a bad ice storm. Laundry was very low on my list of priorities. Heat and food storage ranked #1. We have a wood furnace, so we had heat.
    If it came to hand washing clothes, I'd definatley extend the length of time between washes as long as I could.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Grainlady View Post
    Thanks for the kind words!

    Boy, good question.... I remember my mother boiling my brother's diapers, but we didn't have a hot water heater back then. She would heat water in a tub in the yard (via the sun) as well as on the stove to do laundry in her wringer washer.

    I would only boil things if absolutely necessary - to kill germs - because it takes a lot of energy to heat water (using whatever your alternative source for heat would be).

    I never use bleach on laundry. With our hard water it doesn't whiten, it mixes with the manganese and turns clothes yellow and it destroys elastic. If you need to sanitize clothing, you don't need the recommended amount of bleach that is called for for whitening - a tablespoon is enough to sanitize a load of laundry in a washer. I use the sun for whitening. I also keep Graprfruit Seed Extract in storage and it would also work to sanitize if needed.

    If you use microfiber towels instead of regular terry towels (in an emergency situation), I'm not sure they can be bleached. I know you're not supposed to use fabric softener on them. Something to look up...

    FYI - The Solar Camp Showers will heat water up to 120F. That's a temperature many frugal folks set their hot water heaters these days. Hot Water - 120-140F. Warm - 85-105F, Cold - 65-75F.

    I also have a couple solar ovens that will heat water hot enough to pasteurize it, so that's plenty hot for laundry needs - even in the middle of winter. In a solar oven you can heat water in quart jars that you spray paint black using paint appropriate for heat (I used paint made for repainting bbq grills).

    Depending on the soap/detergent you use would determine how many rinses you might need. Vinegar is beneficial for removing soap, but how many people keep gallons of that in storage (I usually keep 6-8 gallons).

    I am stocked-up on Charlie's Soap. I only use a tablespoon of it the washer for a large load, so in the Wonder Wash it would only take a very tiny amount. The few times I used the Wonder Wash, I used Automatic Dishwasher Detergent in it. The enzymes lift dirt and it's low-sudsing.

    That's when I decided to figure out a way to wring the clothes out besides by hand . If you can wring out the water and capture it (the mop wringer/bucket), you can reuse it. Plus clothes are HOT from the hot wash water in the Wonder Wash. You could also use the wash water from wringing out the clothes in the mop bucket to soak clothes in (another old-fashiond pre-treatment method).
    oh, yes, I keep GSE too, and never thought about using it...
    Honestly, I am a germaphobe!!! and so I am alway "thinking" about germs. I use to use bleach alot but do not use it nearly as much now.

    When we use to foster children (had 11 or so at a time) my dermatolagist told me to wash all laundry in the hottest water possible and illness would be way less...and once I started doing that, he was so right. Although it is not the most frugal thing to do, I feel it saves me in the long run, with no medical bills, perscriptions and such. Now I have a new front loader washer that has a sanitize cycle and I am in love... but I do believe that I may, in the near future need to be able to "do" laundry without electric and always want to be prepaired, not to mention, feel comfortalbe about things "being clean".

    We also sometime volunteer for a month at a time at various state parks and such and have to "do laundry" in our camper and the wonder washer is a life saver!!! love it, I give it 2 thumbs up!!!

    Thanks for all the info!!

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    Quote Originally Posted by madhen View Post
    I set up my washer to flush its water directly out into my little fruit tree garden by the dogs' run, so the trees get watered every time I do a load of laundry. It saves wear and tear on the septic tank (no lint or phosphates going in to mess up the bacterial balance), and it gives the water a dual-use, which saves me energy and money (I'm on a well, so water pumped is $$) and keeps me in fresh fruit!
    CAUTION: You need to be careful about discharging gray water from a washing machine that could contain fecal material (laundry containing underwear or diapers) due to the bacteria. Especially around gardens where food can come in contact with it. It's unlawful to discharge untreated gray water in most towns/cities, but if you are in the country, you may also have county regulations concerning gray water discharge.

    You have to make sure gray water doesn't discharge onto other people's property or run-off the property into the street and enter the sewer in our town. Chemicals leaching from discharged laundry water containing detergents/softeners/bleach/pretreatment products, etc. can contaminate ground water and can alter the pH of soil.

    Gray water needs to be used within 24-hours or it can become septic from food particles and body waste contamination.

    We water our landscape and gardens with rain water collected in a series of rain barrels (1,000-gallon capacity).

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    Master Dollar Stretcher madhen's Avatar
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    Mine waters fruit trees and some landscape shrubbery, and as it discharges directly onto the ground, there is no storage, to speak of. No diapers in this household and any fecal matter would be from my birds' towels. Been doing it for about six years now, and the trees aren't complaining. (Neither are the WEEDS!!)
    DH aka Mad Hen
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    Every time you spend money, you're casting a vote for the kind of world you want. Anna Lappe

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