TEOTWAWKI Clothes-Washing System, by St. Funogas

One thing we take for granted in this day and age is the ability to throw our clothes into a machine, forget about ‘em for an hour, then come back have them all nice and clean.

When I was born, my military family was so poor my mother washed diapers for two babies in the bathtub. Not only was it hard on her knees but also on her petite hands as she wrung out all those diapers before hanging them on the line. The day my dad made third class he borrowed a crow (third-class insignia) and wore it home. When my mother saw it she was crying, dancing around the room, and screaming all at the same time, “We’re rich! We’re rich!” His pay had skyrocketed to $190/month. They ran right out before my dad even got his next check and bought a washing machine on payments of $8 a month.

Washing in the sink or bathtub is fine for emergencies but my mother, rest her soul, and lots of other folks will testify that it’s not something you want to do for the long haul.

While living overseas, I washed all my clothes in a concrete laundry sink behind the house using my hands as an agitator, a scrub brush for the tough spots, and wringing everything by hand.

In my quest for self-reliance I knew a manual off-grid clothes-washing system was going to be desirable and in a TEOTWAWKI world, necessary. I also knew I didn’t want to be hand wringing them as my mother had done.

A kindly neighbor gave me a never-used concrete laundry sink that had been sitting in the grass behind his shop since forever so I gladly accepted it. After some research, I decided on a better system and turned the laundry sink into an outdoor sink for washing up after an especially dirty job, and also for cleaning garden produce before taking it into the house. But it still functions as a backup.

Hand-Washing Equipment

While browsing through Lehman’s Amish catalog, I found just what I was looking for: something called a “breathing mobile washer,” and “Lehman’s best hand wringer,” as seen in Photo 1.



Unlike a soft-rubber toilet plunger, the breathing mobile washer has a hard plastic bell with a sturdy plastic mesh on the bottom resembling a thick spider web. On top of the bell is a smaller bell with an air space between the two. Holes in the top of the larger bell allow water to pass up through the bell and exit at the space between the two bells. This flowing motion allows the mobile washer to move a lot of soapy water through your laundry when it’s plunged up and down.

The hand-crank wringer has brackets on the bottom with two large screw knobs for clamping it to a sturdy upright. The two rollers are adjustable for different thicknesses of laundry items, and below the rollers is a tilting plate that directs the water to the right or the left where it can be drained away.

When I bought both of these items six years ago, they were much less expensive than they are in the most current Lehman’s catalog, ($30 and $249 respectively). The going price for a plunger is around $30 at most places but for the wringer there are cheaper options available online. Whichever plunger you get be sure it has a wooden or metal handle, not plastic.

Design and Construction

Once I had the hand-washing equipment identified and purchased, I set about building a way to make these two items easier to use.

I drew my blueprints in Excel and designed a wooden stand of treated lumber that holds a plastic laundry sink on the right side and my wash barrel on the left, separated by tall divider to attach the wringer to as seen in Photo 2.




Back in Great Grandma’s day, washtubs were used but I avoided those for two reasons. First, I wanted to be able to drain the water into a gray-water plumbing system via a hole in the bottom of the barrel and the sink. Secondly, the basic laws of physics told me that as I plunged, I’d have more water flowing through the clothes in a tall narrow receptacle as opposed to a wide shallow one which allows more water to move to the sides instead of through the clothes. I chose a 20-gallon plastic barrel, 15½” wide and 26” tall, to give me a tall column of water and in practice has performed as expected, moving a lot of water through the clothes.

The wash barrel and the sink each have their own set of hot- and cold-water taps, threaded for hose attachments to give them more diversity and usability. On the wash barrel cold-water faucet, I attached a short piece of garden hose that reaches not quite to the bottom of the barrel. This keeps water from spraying everything in the vicinity when filling the barrel and with the water entering at the bottom, less soap foam is created.

I won’t go into the tedious details of the actual construction, but Photo 3 shows the blueprint I used which should be easy enough to follow. The dotted lines below the barrel show where the barrel is hidden behind the wood and the cutouts referred to in the blueprint can be seen and understood more clearly in the photo above. There are other ways to accomplish the same thing, holding the barrel steady, without going to the trouble of making cutouts.

I made two changes to the blueprint which don’t match my real-life washer. First, I replaced the bathtub-style lever-operated drain plug in the bottom of the barrel with a larger PVC valve to help the water drain more quickly. A simple rubber stopper doesn’t work because it gets sucked out as the clothes are plunged. Regardless of the plug style, a hole must be drilled into the bottom of the barrel to accommodate the drain system which in my case, is tied together with the sink on the right side of the stand. Use the largest valve you can afford to help compensate for wet clothes blocking the drain at the bottom of the barrel.

The blueprint also doesn’t show the slanting board at the top (as seen in the photo), to the left of the wringer. Its main purpose is to keep water from slopping onto the floor as the clothes are moved from the barrel and fed into the wringer. Once you have the stand completed and the wringer attached, you can figure out the best way to accomplish the task if you find it necessary. In hindsight, I would have used a 1 x 12 x 24” at a shallower angle.


Using the Washing System

You’ll quickly develop your own technique but for a starting point, here’s how I wash clothes in mine.

I begin by closing the drain at the bottom of the barrel and turning on the water. Once I have 4-5” of water in the barrel I add laundry detergent (any kind will work) then plunge it briefly to mix it in and be sure there’s not a blob of detergent sitting on the bottom.

When the barrel is about half full, I shut off the water and begin putting laundry in, plunging every now and then to help speed up the process of getting complete saturation with water. I then spend about five minutes plunging to get the soap worked into the material. After five minutes, I leave everything to soak while the soap continues to break down any hard-to-clean dirt and grease picked up while working around the homestead. I take a rest (it’s a pretty good workout) and go do something else for 15 or 20 minutes, then return and plunge for another five minutes. On a load that may have some particularly grimy denims, I let the load rest once more before plunging it a third time.

Once I’m sure everything’s clean, I drain the water. Since there’s no spin cycle, it takes longer for the water to gravity drain out of the clothes. Once the drainage has slowed considerably, I close the valve and fill the barrel with rinse water. The more wash water you drain away, the less soap there’ll be in the first rinse water. After filling the barrel halfway, I spend a few minutes plunging, then drain the rinse water. Experience will tell you how many rinse cycles you need. Heavy jeans and towels typically require three rinses, while sheets and t-shirts generally get two.

Once the rinse cycles are complete, I drain the water for the last time and leave the drain open. Next, I feed clothes one item at a time into the wringer, hand cranking as I go. I typically adjust the wringer pressure for the heavy denims first, then adjust it once more for everything else. The wringer is not difficult to turn and does a great job of getting the water out. Without a wringer, it’s hard on your hands to manually wring a week’s worth of laundry and you can’t remove as much water, slowing down the drying time. Even the hand wringer will leave more water in your clothes than an electric washing machine so they’ll to take longer to dry on the line. You may need to get up with the chickens on those days which are more humid, colder, or less windy than on optimal days. I only rarely have a load of clothes not dry in a single day, generally during the shorter days of winter when it’s overcast, so I finish drying them indoors by the woodstove.


This manual clothes-washing system sounds like a lot of work but like everything else in a self-reliant and post-TEOTWAWKI world, once you get the hang of it, it’s just another routine that you won’t give a second thought to.

Washing clothes manually post-SHTF will probably be something only a small minority of people will be adequately prepared for. Without a “breathing mobile washer” and a hand-crank wringer it’s going to be a real pain for most. On top of all the other manual labor people had to do in the old days, washing clothes was a time-consuming chore so they wore their clothes for longer periods between washings. Most of us will be doing the same but eventually we’ll have to wash them.

Most people can’t justify the cost to build a system like this anytime soon but it’s one more thing to keep on your buy list if things start to get dicey and it looks like we’re headed over the waterfall.

Based on my own experience the most essential part of a manual system is the hand-crank wringer. An inferior but workable plunger can be made from wood or metal. Many different kinds of wash tubs, barrels, or buckets could be used to hold the water. But the wringer is difficult to DIY and will do the most for speeding up clothes-drying time and for preventing long-term [repetitive stress] problems with your hands.

I finally quit using my TEOTWAWKI clothes-washing system when my hand arthritis got worse but I lived my preps for three and a half years and learned that it will get me through TEOTWAWKI much better than any other type of clothes-washing system I‘ve seen in my travels. I can also run my electric washing machine directly off my solar panels so until that wears out, I won’t have to resort to my manual system unless I have a long succession of cloudy days. As always, two is one and one is none so whatever happens, I’m well prepared.

I hope you are too.


      1. Hey idahobob, can you explain that washer in some detail? I’ve wondered about those but there’s not a view showing the insides to see exactly what the moving parts are and the working mechanism. I’ve wondered what the construction is like and how long they would last. The handle looks fairly sturdy and replaceable if necessary. Does the mechanism inside go back and forth or make revolutions like a wheat harvester?

  1. Very interesting system that obviously does the job it is designed to do. My back up system is a commercial / industrial mop bucket, plunger and hand crank wringer. I tested it out on jeans and sweatshirts, towels and overalls when I got and it does the job. Problem is it takes a long time to do what we would consider a ‘load of dirty clothes’. Hope it never comes to that, but it is better than going to the stream and beating the jeans against a rock!

      1. A commercial mop wringer is what we used in the sand box along with our rubber maid double mop buckets and a plunger with 1 inch holes in it. That along with some 550 cord looped, twisted and tensioned you can get the laundry pin effect. A Y shaped support stick helps with sagging.

        We were able with the mop wringer to get our clothes dry before wind blown dirt made them grubby again.

        Removing the wheels and placing on a stout table helps prevent the Hunchback of Notre Dame effect as well as adding hose bibs and some hose to allow draining into the drainage pit.

        We washed our underwear, socks, then shirts and lastly pants. That way you get best use of that water. You WILL NEED a dirty soapy water sump as polluting your water supply-making your Dog sick and or creating a nasty swamp to breed biting insects is bad news. We dug a 4 X 4 X4 pit to mineral dirt-gravel and back filled as needed to keep the bugs down.

        Post Grid Down a NEW Fashion style should occur. The Work Apron. It’s so much easier to wash a soiled apron than your shirts and pants. Well designed has pockets-loops for equipment needed. Made stout enough it will protect from thorns, rusty nails and barbed wire pretty well.

        1. Michael I started wearing aprons in the kitchen then realized an apron would keep my clothes clean while doing housework and now I’ve decided I definitely need an outdoor/garden apron. One with pockets for pruners and my Japanese hori hori knife, and gloves, trowels, seeds, etc.
          I’ve found a site that sells all kinds of linen and I’m going to use a heavy duty linen for the garden apron.

          1. Here is what I wrote yesterday:

            Absolutely! Here it is, and I do not make any money from sharing this. They do send a lot of emails if you sign up, usually with some very good prices though. I take advantage of them when they are something I can use and ignore the rest.
            Also as far as I’ve seen it is al 57-9 inches wide too. They have all weights for different uses and some that doesn’t even wrinkle too awfully much. They have tutorials too.
            All Linen Fabric

            This is the blog with info and tutorials

            If you sign up with them they do send a lot of emails, but in those emails there are a lot of really great sales on linen.

            This is the store part, which you can access from the blog:

    1. Hey Animal House, another comment.

      “…it is better than going to the stream and beating the jeans against a rock!”

      You got that one right. They use the rock method in lots of Third World countries and used to do it some in this country. Clothes wear out more quickly doing that which will be a concern when all the clothing stores become a distant memory, so one more reason to live our preps and test things out ahead of time.

      I can’t recall which massacre I was reading about many moons ago, maybe the Cherry Valley Massacre during the Revolutionary War, but clothes were so valuable and hard to make starting from scratch growing the plant fibers, that they would strip clothes off the dead massacre victims and clean them up to get the blood out, then reuse them. Clothes are one more thing we take for granted nowadays.

      1. Tough clothing that can with stand farm life is valuable. I get good quality at thrift stores or carhart on sale. For each of us I have 3 sizes for grand kids, 2 sizes for adult kids and skinny, chubby and fat sizes for grand mom!

      2. It’s funny, I live near Cherry Valley, used to even hunt in the area, but I’d never heard about the massacre. Learn something new every day. Learned enough today to last at least a couple of days.

        1. Hey BWL, this was in Cherry Valley, NY. My ancestors all lived through the massacre. Cherry Valley is such a beautiful place in a farming area and not too much larger nowadays. I could live there if it weren’t in New York.

          1. Yes, beautiful area and great deer hunting. Upstate NY is a beautiful place to live but the politics controlled by NYC are terrible. Politics is the only real reason for me to relocate. When/if I do relocate, I will miss this area.

  2. Great article. I bought a large bucket with a wringer on it which you normally use to mop floors and wring out the mop. I haven’t used it for that, I will use it for washing clothes if my power goes out for a week or more. Got the bucket with wringer from Amazon, however I did also see them in Walmart a while back.

  3. St Funogas,

    Fantastic!! I got one of those breathing mobile washers last spring, when the Wuhan red death was ramping up. I can’t remember who suggested it but I remember it was here on SB. Now I’m going to save up and get the hand wringer and print out your instructions to build a washing station.

    I admit, I am totally OCD About laundry (even with modern washers and dryer’s) I swoon over the washing machine and actually use a broom handle to agitate the clothes in the washer before it goes through it’s cycle.

    I’m having a really hard time with my husband’s work uniforms, he works with gasoline and diesel and I cannot for the life of me get that smell out of his clothes. I’m having to wash our clothing separately so that the smell doesn’t permeate everything we own
    Does anyone have any secrets to share about how to get petroleum product smell out of clothing? I’ve tried everything.
    It even makes the dryer smell too! Sometimes it’s so bad that if I lit a match I bet it would all go up in flames

    Have a Rockin great day!

    1. RK, You might want to line dry those gasoline uniforms. My new clothes dryer instruction book says never put those type of items in the dryer, even if they have been washed in a machine. Instructions say don’t even dry cup towels used in the kitchen on greasy items.

      Apparently it’s a fire hazard.

      1. Borax is also the best ever scent remover from a cat litter box. Mix in a cup of borax, and you will have ZERO odor. Radically better than baking soda.

        If you have kittens, don’t do this until they are eight weeks old. Very young ones often try sampling the litter, and you don’t want them eating borax.

    2. Glad to see you posting! How are you feeling?

      I second the suggestion to use borax, and also the suggestion to definitely not put oil- or gas-soaked garments in the dryer. Remember, you want the big kabooms THIS SIDE TOWARD ENEMY and not in your laundry room.

      1. Bear,

        Oops!!! I have put them in the dryer! Good thing I didn’t blow up the house and all the years of items I’ve stored up. Probably because I had the dry setting on low heat/ air fluff.
        I do use Borax, dawn soap, regular soap, soaking for several hours, Ect and they just still have the gas smell (maybe it’s me, I do have this obsessive need to have the laundry smell perfect)! I think I may probably need to “let it go “ and not be such a crazed laundry lady.
        I’m doing ok, this winter depression I get every year is really bad this year. I’ll be okay , you all are so great for asking about me and I appreciate the love and support i get from everyone here

        Hope you have a Rockin great day!!

  4. Very good article. What’s your recommendations for stocking detergent? Right now I stocked oxy clean simply because I am more worried about clean than smells and I just went that direction. I’ve zero idea how long it lasts stored or anything.

    1. I’ve stocked washing soda and borax, vacuum sealed with desiccant packets, and also gallon jugs of Dawn detergent. Those three ingredients make my own laundry detergent. I don’t imagine they’ll go bad over the long-term, but I haven’t tested that yet. The desiccant is mostly because chiseling powder off solid lumps is a pain.

      1. Hi Bear, I have had the jugs of Dawn fail and leak all over my stores. It takes a year or more, but the seam failed. I’ve had the same thing happen with laundry booster too, so I suspect the heavy fluid in plastic bottles will eventually pop a welded seam.


        1. Oh man, thanks for the heads up! Right now the bottles are lined up under the kitchen sink. I’ll go and put a plastic tray or bin under them for now, just in case.

        2. Hey Nick, thanks for the heads up. I use concentrated in large jugs and will definitely get those moved into bins so if they go, I’ll at least still have the detergent.

          After the feces hit the fan and we run out of detergent, I think we’ll be back to the olden days method of making soap from lard and lye extracted from wood ashes.

      2. “I don’t imagine they’ll go bad over the long-term”

        they don’t. had some for years, they just sit there. if you’re worried about leaks just keep it in a plastic grocery bag or a plastic storage tote – should do that for any stored liquid anyway.

    2. A concentrate detergent takes up less space. … I have an extra supply of hand soap bars, that I keep and ~cycle through. In the old days, people would boil clothes and bedding to kill lice and bedbugs. (Plus, kill any diseases and fungus too.) … Very Hot Water was used for cleaning in the home. Homemade soap was the cleaning agent.
      ……….. [According to the Internet, soap and detergents have an ‘expiration period’ because of bacteria, mildew, and mold (both a fungus]. ~Cycling through the stored preps helps prevent problems. “store what you use” + buy ~long term storage items from the excellent SurvivalBlog advertisers.

      Wikipedia has an article about Detergent, and how it differs from plain soap.
      “A detergent is a surfactant or a mixture of surfactants with cleansing properties in dilute solutions. These substances are usually alkylbenzene sulfonates, a family of compounds that are similar to soap but are more soluble in hard water, because the polar sulfonate (of detergents) is less likely than the polar carboxylate (of soap) to bind to calcium and other ions found in hard water.” [More information in the article]

  5. To remove the oily smell: Perhaps using LESTOIL, as a soak, followed up by a regular laundry detergent along with vinegar in the rinse. As an art teacher, I saved quite a few students clothing using LESTOIL in the classroom, (along with my own). Admittedly LESTOIL has an odor but it washes out, and it removes even dried oil or acrylic paint as long as it has not been put in the drier. It even saves paint brushes that have been left dirty for months. I just soak for a week then rinse then rinse in vinegar to bring back the bristles ‘spring’.

    1. Linda,

      I’m definitely going to try this one you mentioned. I’m desperate for something to work, I can’t stand how it seems to permeate every piece of clothing my husband owns.

      Thank you for a great suggestion

      Have a Rockin great day

  6. RK, I used to work in a job that got my work clothes oily and smelly also. Somewhere from someone, the suggestion was made to pour a can of regular Coca Cola into the washer for the wash cycle (along with detergent). I started doing that and it in fact made a significant difference in the petrol odor. Coke isn’t so great for drinking in my opinion, but it does have some other uses. And generic cola works as well. Hope this helps.

    1. JW

      I thought I had read somewhere about the cola method you mentioned but had forgotten about it till you mentioned it. I’ll give it a whirl (LOL) what’s the worst that could happen? At least the smell would be better

      Rock on

  7. RK,

    Not certain about the petroleum smell, but I suspect the clothes aren’t truly clean (or they wouldn’t smell). Stop by an ACE hardware and buy a tub of GoJo original formula hand cleaner, and smear it on oily spots prior to washing. If they are heavily soiled, we let the clothes sit for 30 minutes before loading the washer. GoJo does an amazing job of breaking down grease, oil, etc.

  8. Brilliant. I know exactly where I would build this too–on the back porch between the kitchen windows and the well. Our current back up system is just a plunger and a big plastic tub; tedious and not very effective but better than nothing. BUT, at least until the novelty wears off, I will have a supply of little hands who all want to take their turn plunging!

    1. The old European wine making technique works much better. Put the clothes in a tub large and secure enough to get into. A bathtub works very well, as would something smaller and possibly deeper.

      Remove shoes, wash feet and legs well. Climb into tub, and start singing and dancing. Warm water will be more pleasant when doing this. Stomp, stomp, stomp.

      Drain, rinse, repeat. Run clothes through wringer, and dry.

      I actually use the wringer in between rinses, as dirty soapy water gets out of the clothes much faster that way.

      This method is especially good for small young people (much splashing and fun), and for small older people whose arms and hands aren’t that strong any more.

    2. Hey Bear, when the wee ones get tired of hands, back in the olden days they had larger wash bins and used to agitate them with their feet like those European wine stompers. Your kids should love that.

  9. I wash my clothes now by hand. Have for the last year.

    I use baking soda. Put it in a toaster oven for about 3 minutes and turn it into washing soda.
    Use less than 1 litre of hot water for one outfit.

    Sometimes, I prescrub with a plain soap like dove in the armpits.

    Rinse until mostly clear(typically two to three rinses)

    Rewear outer clothing, washing underwear and socks much more frequently.

  10. I have been watching a modern hobo’s youtube channel for hints on austere living. He washes his clothes by “putting a couple of fist sized rocks” in a bucket with water, soap, and the clothes, and then shaking the bucket ( or letting the bucket shake in a vehicle, for example).

    You won’t do a household’s worth clothes in one go this way, but it seems like it would save a bunch of effort. I have a mop bucket and a mop wringer as part of my laundry plan, so adding a bucket and a couple of rocks is a no brainer.


  11. Watching my Mother hand wash clothes for a family of eight was a project that never ended. I remember the tubs, the wringer, line drying, etc… My job was to keep track of the clothes “props” and adjust them as necessary.

    Next to food and running water, clean clothes is another luxury that today’s young people overlook. If the SHTF, they will understand how hard it was to get to this point in civilization. (Putting on clean underwear everyday, Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh!)

    1. St. F,
      A really interesting article. And all the comments were superb. Brought back a ton of memories.
      My mother washing our clothes out back on a scrub board next to the cistern pump. That strong prairie wind would dry them quickly. Seems like sometimes our clothes smelled like the cistern water?
      We had an elderly neighbor lady who came over to the farm one day to show mom how to make soap. Us kids had to scrub up really hard with that new soap to get clean. But as a kid, the thing I was most interested in was when she took a mason jar and poured some grease in it to make a “cockroach and ant trap.” After seeing how they crawled inside and became stuck in the grease, and/or couldn’t make it back up the side….well, after seeing that, my mom’s mason jars weren’t safe anymore. My sisters and I had them everywhere and cockroaches and ants definitely weren’t safe on our farm any longer.
      I think I progressed to setting mousetraps after that, and when I got my first BB gun….

      We have been putting a small squirt or two of Dawn in the toilet bowl after every flush. Helps keep the pipes cleaner. Our nephew tipped us to that and we can see the difference when taking off the clean out lid and looking inside. He works for a large company and is always full of info.

      Our daughter going into hospital with pneumonia. Had Covid.

      God Bless All.


      Semper Fi

  12. Washing clothes by hand is bad enough, hanging them on a wire line outside when it is 20 degrees and the wind is blowing is torture. Make a plan for small loads more often and hanging them inside on a portable wooden rack (they fold for storage) or a set of lines. Many versions are available by internet search.

  13. Great article, I have had to hand wash off and on many years, renting houses some had washers, some didn’t. I would suggest getting the children involved in the process as soon as possible and have regular booster sessions to instill the understanding that sometimes life is not fun. It also gets them to think about taking better care of their belongings. Each person should have their own clothes hamper, and be responsible for their own laundry (all the time). When my oldest went to school, (kindergarden) he was shocked that the other kids didn’t do their own laundry.
    I would also suggest getting a large tub, or a plastic barrel cut lengthwise at about 1/3, and using the 2/3 section. Build a frame to support the barrel and have a support rail over it ( I use a metal swing set with swings removed and a double pulley system installed) This is for washing blankets and sleeping bags, they are extreamly heavy when wet. Use a sturdy smooth pole slid under the blanket with 1/2 blanket on each side. Use the pulley system to raise the blanket out of the water to drain. You may have to raise the blanket slowly to allow the water to drain for a while then raise it a bit more. Washing blankets will be nessary and figuring out how to accomplish it before you are in the “situation” is just common sense.

    1. Hey vcc, lots of great comments and ideas.

      I salute you for teaching your kids to be independent and self reliant as such a young age. I didn’t learn to wash clothes until I was 12 when my mother went to work. I got tired of waiting for clean clothes so I asked her one day, “How do you work this thing?” I thought it was fun and then started washing everyone else’s clothes as well. When Mom got home I got a good reaming because she hadn’t taught me the finer points of not mixing colors! Ah, the good old days. 🙂

      “Washing blankets will be necessary and figuring out how to accomplish it before you are in the “situation” is just common sense.”

      This is another really important concept I think more of us should be doing. Most of us realize it for things like gardening, but a lot of other things will have lots of surprises after the fact or steep learning curves if we don’t live our preps now, even if for a trial period. All the things that don’t work we’ll have plenty of time to go to the store and buy the things that will work, or the parts to make them ourselves. I think adequate water will be the biggest problem for most preppers after the SHTF.

      On your sleeping bag/blanket comments, those items will definitely be a challenge as you said. Another benefit of having a dedicated washing sink or barrel is being able to pull the plug and let them drain for an hour before trying to lift them. Some sleeping bags can undergo a lot of damage popping the quilting and clumping the batting when lifted wet.

      Thanks for the comments.

    2. I wasn’t quite as advanced as your kindergartner (!), but my mother taught me to do my own laundry when she went back to work when I went to high school (I was the youngest). When I got to college I was surprised none of my buddies knew how to do laundry, they’d save it up until they went home!

    3. As far as washing heavy blankets and sleeping bags, they will require less washing if inside a duvet cover or even a sheet sewed into an envelope with the blanket inside. There are also sleeping bag liners. Over all washing before going to bed keeps sheets and bedclothes cleaner. They will need to be cleaned periodically but it is easier to wash a sheet duvet cover then it is to wash a heavy quilt or wool blanket. Also sanitize bedding with fresh air and sunshine between washings will also help. People didn’t wash clothes as frequently as we do now because it wasn’t as convenient and they also had less clothes anyway.
      Some of the suggestions already mentioned and a few others will decrease the frequency necessary for good hygienic clothes washing.
      1. Wear an apron or smock to protect clothes
      2. Wash before going to bed and change into dedicated night clothes
      3. Use duvet covers on blankets
      4. Use sheets to keep mattress and blankets clean longer
      5. Hang blankets and other large items (rugs) outside frequently between washings when sunny and/or windy to sanitize and refresh.
      6. Brush off dirt and stains as needed and spot clean as necessary.

  14. Very nice Laundry set-up, St. Funogas!

    Yes, doing laundry by hand is not fun. I do not look forward to the day that I no longer have my washing machine and dryer.

    In the early years of my first marriage, we were in missions, and often didn’t have a washer or dryer or the money to go to laundry mat. I washed our laundry by hand in the bathtub or sink or a plastic tub, and hung it outside to dry, both stateside and overseas.
    Jim and I, have a washing system that we bought from Lehman’s years ago, that I have used a few times. I suppose we need to set up a laundry system and practice it a little bit more often, so that when the electricity goes away for good, this little aspect of cleanliness will not stress me out.

    We’ve already spoken to the girls that when the system goes, that we will be wearing our same outer clothes for several days in a row and now that they are adults will be washing their own by hand or we will all work together on laundry day…

    We should practice, but, I don’t want to wear line dried stiff clothes until, I have to…

    1. Hey Lily, you’re right, manually washing clothes even with the best system is more work than tossing them into a machine. It’s not so bad for one person so I like your idea of everyone doing their own laundry in a family setting. I think next time I have some grandkids over I’ll let them all have a go since you’ve piqued my interest as far as at what age could kids start using a manual system.

      You’ve also made me wonder if harder water in an area causes stiffer line-dried clothes? Mine are noticeable when I take them off the line but once they’re folded and taken out for wearing, I’ve noticed. And I like the smell of line-dried clothes.

      1. I, too, love the smell of line-dried clothes. I have been known to air out clothes, bedding from time to time. But, as I said, I’m not up for that type of work, until I must. 😉

    1. Hey JML, that’s a cool idea, I haven’t seen that one before. I’m hoping to learn to weld this year to take advantage of so many of the bike-powered low-tech ideas out there. Project #1: my CountryLiving grain mill.

      Your link brings to mind a post-TEOWAWKI “income” generating idea. In South America they have various businesses where they pedal around on a bike shouting out their specialty, such as knife sharpening. You take your knives out to the street, flag him down and he puts the bike up on a kickstand similar to the on in your link except much smaller and simpler, then runs his sharpener by bike power. So for those people who hate washing clothes post SHTF, perhaps they can bring their clothes out when the wash “machine” pedals past and get their clothes washed on site. The CleanClothesCycle™.

      If anyone takes advantage of this after the SHTF, please send royalties via The Postman. 🙂

  15. St Funogas marvelous post! Thank you, thank you, thank you for doing all the figuring out on this subject. I’ve been contemplating the issue because I’m the laundress here. I have done laundry by hand many times. A bazillion years ago I washed my daughter’s diapers out by hand in the tub and hung them out on the line in the to freeze dry in the frozen Wyoming winter. The wringing out is the worst part!
    I’ve been eyeballing that set up over at Lehman’s for years but never had the extra money at the time to buy the set up. They were a lot cheaper 10 years ago. Recently I have read reviews on that wringer that weren’t very favorable. Many of the reviews said the wringer was on the flimsy side. Perhaps you bought one when they were still sturdy. That is when I started to look at the industrial mop bucket alternative. It’s much more affordable too.
    I am going to give you system a good look see and adapt it for my situation.
    Vic, great points on the blankets. I especially like your idea because we have quilts and they are really heavy when wet.

      1. Hey TeresaSue, Even tea doesn’t help my proofreading some days. Lately it’s reading comprehension issues so when I’m off topic, that’s probably the reason.

        I’ve freeze dried clothes too, it’s interesting how that works. They get dry but stiff as a board and I’ve literally stood dry jeans up in the corner afterwards. It takes a little kneading to get them wearable. I hope your diaper kneading was good enough to keep the babies from screaming at you. lol

        I’ve never had the slightest problem with my Lehman’s wringer but like you said, they were probably better back when I bought mine. This is one more item keep my eyes out for at the auctions but haven’t run across one yet.

  16. Great article! I also washed diapers for 3 babies when I was young, in the bathtub! So.Much.Work! My washing machine had broken and we had no money to buy another one. A friend bought the part and fixed it for us. Even when I had a working washer, I hung the baby diapers out to dry in the sun in the garden area. The sun is an amazing disinfectant and bleaches things white as snow (when it’s shining).

    For now, my backup plan is a bucket and plunger. I have soap bars, extra detergent, borax, Dawn, oxyclean stocked up. But, also, people didn’t used to wash their clothes as often as we are used to. Jeans might be worn all week! Overalls were the standard fare for keeping dirt off clothes that could be worn again. I am very spoiled.

    I’m more worried about the quality of clothing! I’ve gotten used to cheap polyester blend fabrics that wash and dry quickly, but they’d never hold up more than a few years. Always good to have real jeans and real cotton shirts and underclothing on hand.

      1. Excellent! I’ve been meaning to get up to the thrift stores in the nearby town. There’s always used jeans there for a few bucks. I picked up a couple of old lady wool sweater jackets for a few bucks each. They’re ugly as sin, but so warm!! There are always snow boots and jackets after winter ski season too. I figure if I move to a warmer climate, I’ll just donate things back to the thrift store for someone else to use.

  17. During the warm months, I pump 50 gallons into a dark grey drum that warms the water up nicely. The 55 gallon drum sits above a deep stainless steel laundry sink on a heavy duty table that uses saw horses made for big logs. The table doubles as a folding table for laundry, and work table gardening, and projects. The barrel provide water to wash hands and face after gardening, and is located next to the garden. Simply open the facet at the bottom of the barrel to fill the sink.

    Soaking clothes for hours can do more to clean them that just agitating them. Because the sink is located near wooden railing of a fence, heavy soaking wet jeans are conveniently draped over the strong fence fence to drip dry. Works good in the summer and winter. Clothes can take a couple of day to dry in the winter, and are hung near the stove to make sure they are completely dry. Doing only small load at a time makes this possible for a single person. In the winter, smaller and light weight things are put into a large pot and boiled. This reduces the soap needed.and rinsing required, and thoroughly sanitizes the clothing without bleach. Off grid, avoid the use of bleach aa it is difficult to rinse it completely out and may rot your favorite and irreplaceable clothing. Use work clothes for work, and leave them dirty, and change cloths for the evening. In the old days, workers seldom wash their work cloths. Outter garments can be soiled with only day of work outside in the dirt. There is no way to continually be washing clothes by hand, and dirt will not hurt you. Use the same jeans or pants for the same work activity. Greasy jeans can stay oily and should be used for greasy jobs like working on the car. This way we do not ruin another pair of pants. Sounds tough, but it ain’t, but it is not always convenient. There are different clothes for different jobs, and occasions such as indoor and outdoor clothing, and clothes for sleeping….

    There is more, but between pickling eggs, I hope to complete an article today on some radio basics and simple to use radios that St. Funogas and others requested. It will not win any prizes, but it will get some more information out there.

    1. I second the idea about using specific clothes for specific tasks. As clothing gets worn out they move down to the dirtier tasks. Thanks for working on the article.

      1. Trying to make the radio article simple and comprehensive. Not easy. It’ll be big and hairy. Even when I cut things out, I just add more back. Hopefully there will something for everyone, as it offers many ways to get the job done, and at different price levels.

        Back to doing laundry

        The ability to produce lots of hot water is very helpful for clothes washing, and canning. This can mean running a stove hot and longer than is tolerable to run an indoor stove during fall and spring. Too keep it simple, I have an outdoor wood stove that is a summer kitchen, and out door winter heater, and hot water heater. Large pots of boiling water can take care of the dirtiest stuff.

        Living like a pioneer takes getting use to, but it is a life style that is sustainable, come hell or high water, and the techniques can be implemented anywhere you may land during the choatic circumstances of war.

    2. Hey Tunnel Rabbit, lots of good info and ideas.

      “Soaking clothes for hours can do more to clean them that just agitating them.”

      Definitely a good idea. I didn’t mention it to keep the article short but in South America, I used to put the clothes and soapy water into the sink the night before, let them soak for 10 hours, then wash them in the morning. It was a lot easier when hand scrubbing clothes without equipment other than a small brush.

      Your 55-gallon drum water heater is also a good idea. Warm/hot water helps oils and grease dissolve more quickly and easily in the detergent. I use a black plastic protein powder container (~1 gallon) on the back deck to heat my dish water and it makes a big difference on greasy items.

      1. Yes they are, and the critters around here like them too. Had a huge pot of home grown hard boiled eggs outside on the work table ready to be popped in the jars. While writing a few more lines for an article, some skunk or something got the whole thing! I still wondering what critter could haul off 8 dozen eggs without distributing the pot and making no noise, leaving no trace, no evidence that it was there, other than the missing evidence and two half eaten eggs! Whatever it was had a huge appetite, yet was able to slip past the gate without opening it a crack. It was not a skunk, because those are brazened and noisy, and it’s weight would have flipped the pot. If I gotta set a trap, I going to use….eggs. This thing is an egg monster.

    3. “There’s a bit in John Steinbeck’s book about living in a van (Travels with Charlie) where he rigs up an on-the-road ‘washing machine’ – basically a bucket and lid with the clothes and detergent bunged in. Once it’s all sealed up he suspended it with bungy cords inside the van’s loo and drove off for the day. At day’s end all the shaking around had ‘washed’ his clothes.”
      …….. (Comment from VanDogTraveler(dot)Com. May 30, 3014) [Actually, Steinbeck had a pickup with a camper on back. (There’s a picture somewhere of the truck at the Steinbeck museum.) ….. I’ve used buckets with clothes being washed, just by the road caused vibrations, when I traveled along on camping trips.]

      The real prepper would attach the ‘clothes bucket’ to a metal clothesline. The big family dog would be leashed to the bucket. As the big dog ran up down the length of the clothesline, barking at everything needing barking at, the clothes would be agitated and washed. …. The method wouldn’t work with a dog named Snoozer.
      TunnelRabbit has created a ‘passive solar’ system with the 55 gallon drum to use. The Internet has plenty of ideas about building low-cost passive systems for having hot water.
      …….. +Drying clothes outside is easy peasy, where there is low humidity; especially when the sun shines. Low humidity in the wintertime allows for drying clothing outside too. …. People with ice trays in a freezer, will see their ice cubes disappear. The fancy word for the process in a freezer is the “Sublimation” process. (Low Humidity clothes drying in wintertime is similar)

        1. Sorry to hear that; people become attached to their pets.
          Might be time to get another watchdog. A small one will listen and bark. The owner provides the shootin’ iron bite.

          Voting theft occurred in 2020. Mike Lindell, (My Pillow guy) released a video today, describing how the theft occurred, and how other countries, with traitors in our own countries helping, stole the election. The video is 2 hours long.

          “ABSOLUTE PROOF” available on Rumble and Gateway Pundit. ….. YouTube (owned by Google) took the video down. We are being censored.

          It’s time to secure the preps; we live in very dire times.

  18. Do not forget a washboard. Since I am older than you and was even poorer growing up I learned the value of a washboard quite young. They may look like they would cause more work but in fact a washboard will quickly remove stains that no amount of washing (even with modern machines) will remove.

  19. One other point. My parents made our own soap from grease and lye. My father would cut it up into bars. All the scraps and well used bars would end up in a mason jar which would be topped off with water. On laundry day a small amount of this soapy water would be used as laundry soap (1/4 cup or less) and the jar would get topped off again for next time. I’m not saying this was better than laundry detergent just that it works, it was cheap/free and that is what we used for years before I ever saw a box of Tide in the house.

    1. Hey OneGuy, I think we’ll be reverting back to a lot of those old ideas if the SHTF and the younger folks will finally appreciate us old geezers once more. I think they started losing respect when we have to ask a 8-year old how to work the darn cell phone.

      Seriously though, things like saving soap scraps would probably not cross the minds of any younger (or older) people if push comes to shove. All those little ones that go down the shower drain now would suddenly be very useful. I think I’ll cut a bar up and put it in a Mason jar and see how it works for dishes so I’ll remember better after the SHTF.

  20. Great article St F. Just a little warning, watch your fingers as you feed clothes into the wringer. My mom used a wringer washer when I was a kid, her and I both got fingers pinched. Definitely recommend an indoor drying rack for winter, freeze drying clothes takes longer and is hard on the hands.

  21. We bought the Wonder Washer many years ago from Lehman’s
    Homemade laundry soap
    1/3 bar of Ivory or Fels Naptha soap
    1/2 cup washing soda
    1/2 cup Borax add
    warm ingredients in 6 cups of water then put in 2 gallon pail along with a gallon and a half of water

  22. Wring clothes out before rinsing to remove most of the soap/dirty water. I had to hand draw all the water from our well as we did not have running water. That’s how I helped grandmother do it many moons ago.

  23. We did the laundry with the old fashioned ringer washer and the double tubs of rinse water all the way through high school. I got my long hair caught in the ringer once and, fortunately, Mom was there to turn it off before it scalped me.

    I view my poverty upbringing by parents that loved us and taught us the old fashioned values of honesty, faith, hard work to be proud of, preserving your own food and personal responsibility instead of victimhood mentality as the best training field one could ask for for this day and age.

  24. When my oldest was a baby, and my husband was overseas on a Westpac cruise, I stayed with my grandmother in Baja California. We had no electricity, so washed clothes and diapers everyday on a rub board in a big metal tub, two 5 gallon buckets for rinse buckets and hung them up on a clothes line.

    When my husband got back, we moved to Long Beach while the ship was in drydock. While there in old military housing, I rented a washing machine, but still hung my diapers on a line. They were so brilliant white from hanging in the Baja sun, other Navy wives kept asking me to do their diapers – and I just kept telling them to hang them on the line.

    Anyway, thanks for the article and memories it brought up.

  25. St Funogas,
    Your post brought back memories of boot camp at MCRD San Diego more than 30-years ago… we had the wash stations outside between the barracks, with a row of textured concrete sinks. On Sundays, we would take our cammies and skivvies outside with a bottle of Whisk, to scrub them by hand; hang them on the line for the day; then pull them in Sunday evening. In the meantime we would polish boots, write letters, go to church, and catch up on the studying. I never complained because I saw the utility and sense of learning such a (menial) task- and the discipline it instilled in the young Marines.
    When I was a younger lad, I recall my great-aunt having a stone sink with a rotary wringer in the basement. I was always fascinated with the device. I wish I would have foreseen the value of the device when the house was sold in 1998… I would have found a place to stash it!
    As always, thanks for the informative post- you never fail to pass on knowledge and skills to our fellow readers.

  26. We had a wringer washing machine when I was a child. My friends moms all had regular ones. But my mom liked how she could get the weekly laundry done for a family of 8 in less than three hours. We hung the clothes outside when it was warm and in the basement in the winter. We had a wringer washer when we were doing our pioneer thing in Alaska. Since I had to haul water for it I tried to do our washing at the laundry mat and usually hung it to dry at home. I had a line in front of our woodstove. I placed clothes pins about 2 inches apart on the line. I then hung the clothes on hangers and then hung the hangers on the clothes line. We also had a small upstairs railing that I hung hangers from. I used clothes pins on the hangers to handle small items like socks and baby clothes. This way I didn’t have to brave the elements . On a side note, pioneer folks had removable cuffs and collars that they washed when dirty instead of the whole outfit. I’m not thinking they smelled too great as it also was common to only take a bath once a week.. Also blankets were usually washed in the spring. That’s why sheets were used to save on the washing.

  27. On boat, I use a 6mm thick line passed through sleeves of shirts and leg off pants. This is done before hanging out. Thicker clothes at knot end.
    Thinner at other. This allows quicker drying clothes to be removed first.
    Clothes pegs are used to create separation of clothes.
    Hurricane proof…

    When washing blankets/sleeping bags, roll them onto a old fridge tray. This prevents damage to baffles in bags and allows heavy stuff to Pre dry.

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