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5 Ways of Washing Clothes Off-Grid
Living off the grid is the modern form of uniting with nature and using its resources to their full potential. Despite having a poetic atmosphere, this lifestyle comes with a set of challenges.
Being on the grid, we often take our household appliances for granted, but when you decide to transition off-grid, you will realize heating, preserving food, showering, and even laundry become much more time-consuming. Fortunately, in most cases, there are off-grid appliances that can help alleviate some of the burdens of manual tasks.
When you live off-grid, everyday tasks tend to be more demanding and time-consuming compared to living on the grid, but it’s definitely doable.
Laundry isn’t the exception, our ancestors used to spend whole days washing clothes, but thanks to the advent of washing machines and other useful devices, cleaning clothes takes just a few hours.
In this article, we highlight five effective ways of washing clothes off-grid that we think will get the job done.
But first, why do we need to wash our clothes?
Why Do We Need to Wash Our Clothes?
Laundry day may not be your favorite day, but it is an important day.
We all know that using laundry detergent makes our clothes smell nice.
But in addition to smelling nice, washing your clothes clean removes dirt, bacteria, odors, fleas, mites, and other irritants found in clothes. Also, washing your clothes can reduce the incidence of infectious diseases.
Our ancestors may not have known about bacteria, but they surely knew the benefits of taking the time to wash clothes.
5 Methods for Washing Clothes on an Off-Grid Homestead
Below are some eco-friendly methods to wash your clothes on laundry day.
1. Hand Washing
Hand washing is what most people imagine when they think of washing clothes off the grid. It doesn’t rely on electricity, so in an emergency in which the power goes out, this is the method you will most likely rely on.
It’s also the oldest method in the book, and it’s this longevity that allowed it to go through many changes and adopt different forms.
While you still do all the heavy lifting, you now have tools that give you better results. Let’s take a look at some of the available manual washing tools.
Washboards have been around since the 1790s. As one of the earlier laundry tools out there, using a washboard is pretty straightforward.
Simply give the surface of your washboard a splash of water and scrub soap against the metal bars. Then, rub your clothes against these bars to remove stains.
We recommend letting your clothes soak in soapy water before using the washboard to speed up the cleaning process.
Total Wash Time: Place clothes in soapy water for 15-20 minutes. Then spend 30-60 seconds per clothing item scrubbing the dirty clothes.
Brush and Bucket
The brush and bucket method combines efficiency and great results. All you have to do is mix detergent and warm water in a bucket, then add your clothes. Once they’re submerged, leave them for 2-3 minutes so that soapy water infiltrates every part of the fabric.
From there, gently use a soft scrub brush against the dirty spots on your clothes. Don’t rub too hard, as it could damage the fabric. It’s also preferable to use a brush with soft bristles.
Total Wash Time: Place clothes in soapy water for 2-3 minutes, then scrub clothes until the dirty spots are removed, usually 1-2 minutes.
Bucket and Plunger
For this method, you need a laundry plunger, bucket, drill, and lid.
Make a hole in the lid and a few holes in the plunger to allow it to move freely in the water. Mix soap and warm water, put the plunger through the lid, seal the bucket, and start cranking the plunger up and down.
While you can use a regular toilet plunger, we recommend using a laundry plunge intended for clothes. It has a built-in breather to help clean clothes better.
Total Wash Time: Place dirty clothes in soapy water for 10 minutes. Then Place the clothes in the bucket and then use the plunger for 10 minutes.
2. Electric Washing Machine
We know what you’re thinking; electric washing machines are everything an off-grid lifestyle stands against. That’s true to an extent.
While they don’t match the primitive lifestyle as much as manual washing tools, you can find electric washing machines that consume small amounts of water and energy.
The reason we decided to include electric washing machines is that they free up time, and no list of off-grid washing machines would be complete without this included.
Some of these machines incorporate the primitive, old-fashioned spirit of the off-grid life that’s all about manual work. So, let’s see what electric washing machines suit the off-grid lifestyle.
Despite being an electric washing machine, the wringer washer isn’t as convenient as modern machines. Early iterations of the wringer washing machine have been around since the 1840s, but the more modern, electric models have been around since the 1950s.
Using it is straightforward. Add soap and water to the washing tub, throw your clothes in there, and let the machine do its business.
Once it’s finished washing, put your clothes through the wringer to remove excess water. You can drain the water by pointing the hose toward the ground.
Total Wash Time: 1-2 hours
Low Energy Washing Machine
Just because you chose to live off the grid doesn’t mean you can’t use a standard washing machine. That said, your machine doesn’t have to run on electricity. You can use alternative energy sources, like solar power.
As solar panels produce 250-400 watts an hour, they can power a small washing machine with no trouble. These machines will provide you with clean clothes while consuming little-to-no energy. However, solar panels may struggle with large washing machines. And you should know solar panels may not generate as much electricity in winter months when the days are shorter.
Total Wash Time: 30-60 minutes
Twin Tub Wash Machine
It’s called a twin tub because it has two tubs. The big one is for washing your clothes, while the small, spinning one is for removing excess water.
Although it runs on electricity, this washing machine requires some manual work, like adding detergent and water and moving your clothes from the washing tub to the spinning tub.
Not only is it energy-efficient, but you can also run it on a generator!
Total Wash Time: 50-60 Minutes
3. Foot in Tub
At first glance, the idea of washing clothes with your feet might seem repellent, but it’s more common and effective than you think. Mix soap and water in the tub, then add your clothes. Stand on the tub and start stomping on your clothes.
The idea behind stomping is to break down stains by imitating a washing machine’s agitating movement. It’s less physically demanding and takes 10-20 minutes, depending on how dirty your laundry is.
Sounds simple, and it is simple. This is also a non-electric solution for off-gridders looking to wash their clothes.
Total Wash Time: 10-20 minutes
4. DIY Bike Washer
Unlike all the other laundry tools on this list, this one requires craftsmanship to build.
Firstly, remove the motor and one side of your washer, then connect your machine to the back wheel of your bike using a rubber belt.
The mechanism behind it depends on using the spinning energy of the bike to imitate the motion of a standard washing machine. So, not only does this method guarantee clean clothes, but you also get a good workout.
5. Propane Washing Machine
Propane washing machines use propane gas to replicate the effects of an electric washing machine. These washing machines are designed for people who live off the grid.
These types of washing machines function by using propane gas to create the necessary heat for machines to wash and, oftentimes, dry clothes. These products typically have an internal propane heating element similar to how electric washing machines use electricity to heat water.
Although propane washing machines are reliable washing machines for people off-grid, it is important to mention that many propane washing machines come with propane tanks for fuel storage and need to be in an area with good ventilation for safety.
6. Laundry Mat
Even if you live in an isolated area, you can still take a trip to the laundromat to wash your clothes. This option is convenient because you don’t have to deal with the hassle of choosing a laundry tool and doing the physical grind.
You still get to enjoy the primitive aspects of off-grid life, as you’re not the one using electricity. An affordable option that involves a refreshing trip, laundromats offer great value for money.
Tips for Drying Clothes
Now that you’ve washed your clothes, it’s time to dry them. At first glance, it might seem like a straightforward process, but there’s more to it than what meets the eye.
For instance, we don’t recommend using a dryer, as excessive heat can damage the fabrics. And electricity needed to power a dryer can demand a lot from your generators. It’s honestly better to line-dry your clothes.
When drying your clothes in the sun, make sure they hang inside out so they don’t fade in the sun. Sunlight will naturally brighten your clothes and helps remove stains. In addition, sunlight removes odor and is anti-bacterial as well.
Avoid wringing your clothes when you wash them, as it can cause irreversible stretching, and you probably won’t use a dryer to re-shrink them. Squeezing them would be more effective.
How to Wash Clothes Off-Grid with Homemade Laundry Detergent
Laundry detergent helps separate dirt and grime from clothes.
Many homesteaders and off-gridders alike rely on homemade laundry detergent to wash clothes. This is because you can not only control the ingredients in the laundry detergents and save money over the long run by making your own.
Although it doesn’t have industrial cleaning ingredients, homemade laundry detergent can be just as effective as regular laundry detergent.
If you want to know how to make laundry detergent at home, we suggest the recipe from The Spruce.
Yes, washing clothes off the grid is a hassle, but just because you lead a primitive life doesn’t mean your laundry options are limited. You have more options than you think.
We brought you six ways of washing clothes off-grid that we think are both energy-efficient and effective. Each method has its advantages and requirements, so when choosing a washing tool, consider how it aligns with your needs and lifestyle.
As people transition off-grid, they will have to learn many new skills and be comfortable with learning new skills. They should even expect to make lots of mistakes along the way. Still, if they keep at it, it is a richer and more fulfilling life.
If you are interested in learning more, consider reading related articles on Soulful Prepper.
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If you are looking to buy cookware, you probably came down to ceramic cookware vs stainless steel cookware. Learn to see which is better for you.