Maintaining Your Household in the Post-SHTF World- Part 1, by S.T.

Today I washed clothes the easy way:

  1. I placed the clothes in the washing machine, added homemade laundry soap, and turned it on.
  2. When the washer was done, I transferred the clothes to the dryer and turned it on.
  3. When the dryer was done, I removed the clothes from the dryer and folded everything.

While my automatic washing machine and automatic dryer are working, I am sitting here typing this. I do this three times every week– once for my family, once for my father who can not navigate his basement stairs, and once for my aunt who also can not navigate her basement stairs.

Every household chore in a post-apocalypse environment will also require more work, from hauling or pumping water to chopping firewood to canning food. You will also have additional chores to make and replace the store-manufactured goods that you now purchase, such as bath soap, laundry soap, and making clothes.

Laundry after SHTF is a whole other story. Here’s what it might look like:

Summer Laundry

  1. Bring three 20-gallon Rubbermaid totes outside.
  2. Bring all laundry outside.
  3. Sort laundry by color.
  4. Place homemade laundry soap in tub #1.
  5. Fill all three tubs with boiling hot water.
  6. Place dirty laundry in tub #1.
  7. Using a plunger that is only used for laundry, plunge up and down for about 10 minutes.
  8. Ring out clothes, then place the clothes in tub #2.
  9. Using the plunger, plunge up and down for about 5 minutes.
  10. Ring out the clothes, then place the clothes in tub #3.
  11. Using the plunger, plunge up and down for about 5 minutes.
  12. Ring out the clothes, and then hang on the line to dry.
  13. Start the next load of clothes. Do you have clotheslines and clothespins?

Winter Laundry

  1. Bring three 20-gallon Rubbermaid totes into your basement or onto a covered porch.
  2. Bring all laundry to where the totes are located.
  3. Sort laundry by color.
  4. Place homemade laundry soap in tub #1.
  5. Fill all tubs with boiled hot water.
  6. Place dirty laundry in tub #1.
  7. Using a plunger that is only used for laundry, plunge up and down for about 10 minutes.
  8. Ring out clothes, then place clothes in tub #2.
  9. Using the plunger, plunge up and down for about 5 minutes.
  10. Ring out the clothes, and then place clothes in tub #3.
  11. Using the plunger, plunge up and down for about 5 minutes.
  12. Ring out the clothes, and then hang on the clothes drying rack in front of the woodstove.
  13. Start the next load of clothes. Do you have a clothes drying rack?

Having a few extra kids and plungers to help would be very beneficial, as they each can man and work one of the tubs, and maybe one extra child can also hang and fold the clothes.

The amount of laundry you do will increase post-SHTF, if you are a person who relies upon a lot of disposable products, such as paper towels, paper napkins, toilet paper, and/or Kleenex, because you will have to replace all of these with cloth versions. Do you even have these cloth versions of towels, napkins, and so forth available now or the various supplies needed to make them?

Below are some alternatives to the wash tubs and a plunger method:

  • James Washer, which is $579 without the wringer and $729 with the wringer. The reviews are not very good.
  • Home Queen Wringer Washer, which is $969 plus $175 freight, and it still needs electricity. Further, this machine is made in Saudi Arabia, so I would not count on any repair parts being available.
  • Wonder Clean Washer, which is only $47 and a good idea, but it only holds two shirts. What about the 10 pairs of jeans that need to be washed?
  • GiraDora is a foot-powered washing machine that costs approximately $40. This machine is not yet being produced, and I believe that when it is produced that it will only be available in third world countries. This would be a good option for the families with children and teens, because they could do the laundry with this foot-powered machine. Maybe someone can produce something similar using the metal drum from an existing washing machine. They would be the most in demand person in a Post-SHTF world. I know I would prefer a foot-powered machine to a hand-powered machine.
  • Homemade Washing Machine, which costs $35 + the expense of purchasing and mounting a wringer. This would be an excellent alternative for a DIY person (I would make it larger to accommodate two tubs and two wringers, add a drain hole in the bottom, and buckets (to make water disposable easier). I’d also want to use a stopper. Once the design and pattern is perfected, it would make a great side business selling to the non-DIY type prepper person.
  • The Big Green Washing Machine is approximately $169.95 (wringer) plus an unknown amount for the washing machine and stand. (No price is given on the website.) This is a great option for large families or any families who plan on taking in laundry after SHTF as a potential side business. I think in order to make laundry only take one day vs two days, a second machine would be very helpful so that there would be one for washing and one for rinsing.

Ways to Reduce the Amount of Laundry

Every adult in the house should have aprons, which are used when cooking, doing laundry, gardening, and doing any other chore so that the regular clothes (jeans and shirts) will be able to be worn more than once and up to five times between washings. The aprons will be washed more often. This will also save on the wear and tear of the clothing. Heavy duty aprons should be made from a dark “cotton duck” fabric.

Clothing Repairs

Replacement clothing will not be just a drive to the local Walmart, so you will need to be able to make clothing repairs and to remake clothing into other items. In order to make these repairs, you will need a well stocked sewing box filled with thread, sewing needles, darning egg, cotton embroidery thread (for use to repair socks), iron-on patches, quilting pins, and safety pins.

Cloth Diaper & Female Hygiene Considerations

If you have small children or are possibly planning on having children in a post-SHTF environment, there will be no more disposable diapers or disposable baby wipes. You’ll need to buy cloths for cleaning. So, for the cloth diapers, I suggest washing them separately using the three bucket and plunger system as described above. In the bathroom, keep one bucket (with a lid) ½ filled with water and a tablespoon of baking soda to hold the used diapers until wash day.

A separate bucket system should also be used for any washable feminine hygiene products and washable family cloths also.

The best bucket I have found for this is the square kitty litter buckets because of the hinged lid and the square design allowing it to set next to my toilet, where a round bucket will not fit.

Cover your bathroom sinks with a piece of plywood and add an old fashioned pitcher and bowl for face washing to brushing teeth.

Cooking

Cooking will be another labor intensive job with no electricity and no more store-purchased items, such as cereal or pop-tarts. However, there are ways to reduce the amount of work.

My plan for food is one pot or one pan meals. These include, for example, scrambled eggs and biscuits for breakfast, and split pea soup, beef stew, chicken soup, or beans all with fresh homemade bread or biscuits for lunches and dinners.

Have you ever cooked a meal on your wood stove? I do this two or three times every winter, just to keep in practice.

Wonder Oven

A wonder oven is a non-electric version of a modern crockpot and a pioneer version of a hay box cooker. You can get a free PDF sewing pattern for a wonder oven online.

This is a great option for the summer months. You just heat everything to boiling for five minutes on your outside or wood stove and then place the pot in the wonder oven for five hours or so. I have ceramic tile floors, which are cool in the summer and downright cold in the winter, so when using a wonder oven in the winter, I place two or three towels under the wonder oven box to help keep in the heat.

The wonder oven can be washed in the washing machine. However, they can not be put in the dryer, so consider adding a loop to both sections to make hanging on the clothes line easier.

The wonder oven is also a great way to contain the smells of cooking food from your neighbors.

Dishes

I will state up front that my new homestead does not have an automatic dishwasher. My old city home did have one, but I washed all of the dishes by hand everyday except when there was a large holiday dinner.

I purchased some good dish pans and use one for washing and one for rinsing. This allows me to dump the water (and any bleach) outside so that it does not go into my septic system and cause problems.

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