Washing Clothes Without Electricity

Today I tried washing my clothes without electricity. Of all the things I have seen online from tiny spinners to foot pedals to big metal barrels, the one I thought the easiestRd is a five gallon bucket and a plunger (yes, that kind of plunger).

The cool thing about being retired is spare time.

What got me going was looking at two 5 gallon buckets with melted snow for my houseplants. I have a lot more pristine snow, and I jumped right in to test the manual clothes washer. Using snow melt seemed like a fun extra plus it was already in situ.

Not having tried this before, I brought one pair of cotton slacks and one pair of gray sweat pants.  The slacks were lightly dirty and the sweats were borderline toss in the trash dirty.  I mean dirty enough to make me think about whether I want it in my low water front loader.

Both buckets had about 2.5 gallons of room temperature water.  I dribbled in a little liquid detergent, one that declares itself to be biodegradable and good for the environment tree hugger stuff.  Not to mention easy on my septic tank wild critters.

I dropped in the cotton dress pants and started whooshing it around with the plunger specially purchased for this operation.  I would not recommend recycling on this item.

I don’t know how long it takes, so I kept it up a couple minutes.  Meanwhile I liked the part where my hands were not in cold soapy water like when I hand wash.  When I thought it was clean enough, I pulled it out to hand wring, and dropped into a dishpan to drain a little more water while I washed my next item.

Seems good so far.  Some of the folks on video use a mop bucket to squeeze water out.  It will get it dryer than what I did, without sticking your hands in cold water.  I didn’t buy one because it is big and bulky, but may later when I have a garage.

The handle is short so it was more comfortable to  sit down while washing.  I could replace the handle with a long one but prefer sitting down.

After it drains a bit, drop the garment into the rinse bucket and repeat.  Hang to dry.  I used my heavy wooden hangers.

I was going great guns on the grossly dirty sweatpants and it was very easy.  Got crazy and washed 2 pairs of dress slacks and three pairs of grungy dirty sweatpants.

This is a good wash for industrially dirty clothing that modern low-water machines do not clean thoroughly.  I used no spot clean, no spray, no toxic chemicals.  Even wet I could see it didn’t leave big stains.  Some of these sweats get machine washed 2 or 3 times before drying.

It didn’t take long.  I contemplated a 30 minute wash cycle, which was more like 2-3 minutes.  The plunger pushes water through the material very effectively.

Note:  before I post I want to mention I have a bit of upper body ache this morning.  Sweet!  Washing manually is good exercise without buying a gym membership.  Imagine how much we spend avoiding hard work so we can spend more money to exercise our bodies.  We work a lot of hours to pay for all this.  For a family of 10, I suggest sharing the benefits around.

This is very low cost.  I spent $10 on the cheapest plunger and two buckets, I don’t know their life span in this application, but guess it is pretty good. Modern washers cost about $500-$1500 and break down often since most now have computers on board.  Insurance has gotten expensive, too, because they break down a lot.

Recycling water.  My front load washer is low water use; however I would not want to recycle the water because it does not clean well without chemical pretreatments that I do not want in my organic garden.   For this reason alone I would consider washing in buckets.  I recycled the bucket water.

When the rinse water got too soapy for rinsing, I added soap and used it for wash water. I recycled all the water into my new 6×6 raised bed that is still composting. Without toxic chemicals, composters and plants see dirty water as having added micronutrients.

I wish we had this idea when I was growing up because washing laundry while camping all summer was horrible. We used a washboard right in the stream.  Hard on your hands and less effective.  It could not be done in the winter without heating masses of water if only to protect your hands.  I tried this first in unheated water because heating water off grid takes more solar panels or propane… which I don’t consider off grid.

Will I give up my front loading washing machine?  Nope.  I may extend it’s life by washing my super filthy stuff from grunging around.  Hmmmm now that I don’t “work” most of my laundry is super grungy from working around my 5 acres. I dress up to visit the library and grocery store or visit ingredients!  Mostly because I have a lot of that type of clothing and I like to get dressed up once or twice a week.

Overall, washing clothes without electricity is good for upper body excercise, is inexpensive, allows water recycling, and gets even filthy clothes clean without toxins.

It slows drying unless you use a press to expel water.  I haven’t used my dryer for 20 years except when I lived in moldy Seattle.  Texas and New Mexico have too much heat for the waste of dryers.

In dry dry dry New Mexico winters, drying inside increases humidity, a plus for skin and no money for an electric humidifier is needed.  In the summer, laundry dried outside is delicious smelling with no money spent on scented dryer sheets and no static electricity.  Texas?  Outside all year.

In a grid down situation like millions of US citizens recently had during Winter Storm Goliath

, it can keep you clean.  When your $1000 washer goes down and you have to wait days for a repairman, it can wash something for work or school.  I

n fact, after having a blizzard last week I am getting new snow Monday through Friday this week and it is snowing right now.  Brer rabbit is outside my window nibbling on some dry weeds I uncovered while shoveling snow for the past week.

I recommend you try washing clothes without electricity.


About rebeccatreeseed

I am a naturalist raised by naturalists. Treeseed is my earned name, while Rebecca is my birth name. I am of Northern European descent, with a quarter Irish.quarter thrown in. I suspect I was a product of northern invaders into Ireland into Ireland. but hard to say since DNA disproved the family story about Apache blood! I have found some odd ancestors to replace them. Last year I bought 5 acres of pinyon-juniper forest on the side of a mountain in Santa Fe County, New Mexico. I am fulfilling a lifetime dream of a cabin in the mountains and a food forest that will feed me and local wildlife. I want to share this new phase of my life with others that might be interested.
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2 Responses to Washing Clothes Without Electricity

  1. Helen says:

    There have been periods of my life where I washed everything by hand. Hard work but so satisfying to actually see the dirt coming out!

  2. Me too! This is so much easier and more effective. I don’t like my front loader very much, the low water models don’t wash effectively. I washed my “clean” sweats today and got stains out. I guess I still can because they never get set in by the dryer.

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