How To Clean Your Laundry After A Disaster

  • 56
  • 104
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

It’s my back to basics: How to clean your laundry after a disaster. Mark and I started making our own dry laundry detergent about six years ago when my friend, Kendra showed me how easy and inexpensive it is to make. I decided not to make mine liquid because of how much storage space it would take up in my small home.

Kendra and I actually got the giggles a few times because we had laundry soap/detergent everywhere. I never do anything small, I make three five-gallon buckets worth of laundry soap at a time. We had to let the equipment cool down and go back and make a little more. We made it for Christmas gifts for all of my daughters. They love the homemade laundry soap because it saves them lots of money, takes up a small amount of space and keeps their clothes really clean.

We all still use the product Gain fabric softener because we love the smell of it. Keep in mind that this recipe for laundry detergent or soap has very few “bubbles” when it’s in the washing machine. It has zero fillers like the commercial detergent products we buy at the store.

I use it in my HE washer because I only use 1 teaspoon per load. That’s it, one teaspoon. Be sure and verify your HE washer can use it. We have been using it for six years now, first with our Maytag front loader and now my Electrolux front loader. I’m sharing several ways to do laundry today, not just inside the house with our washers and dryers.

How To Clean Your Laundry

Laundry Detergent/Soap

Laundry Detergent/Soap
  • 1 Fels-Naptha Bar-grated either by hand (food processor, or salad shooter)
  • 1 cup Borax Detergent Booster
  • 1 cup Arm and Hammer Super Washing Soda (not regular baking soda)
  1. Instructions:
  2. Put these 3 ingredients in a blender to blend and grate the Fels-Naptha even more. After doing this, it will look just like the store purchased detergent, but will not include all the “fillers”. You will use less product per load and will have less “bubbles”. Remember, just having bubbles doesn’t mean clean. I use 1/2 to 1 teaspoon per load. I have an HE-High Efficiency washer, and it works great in regular washing machines as well. ***Please note: I now use only 1/2 teaspoon per load in my large capacity HE washer.

Laundry Soap Kit – Fels Naptha-3 bars, Borax & Washing Soda

Here’s the deal, I could go a few days and not wash my shirt or pants. Its the underwear. Yep, let’s just say it how it is. We all want to wear clean underwear. It’s no secret. I remember growing up and my grandmother would always shout “be sure and wear clean underwear” if we were getting ready to go somewhere.

Heaven forbid if you’re in a car accident and you end up in the hospital wearing dirty underwear. Enough said. This little washer bucket set can wash clothes very well. Oh, we could only wash clothes a little at a time, but that beats bending over the bathtub.

No Laundromats To Wash Clothes

If we had an unforeseen emergency the local laundromats will more than likely not be working, unless the power outage is confined to a very small area of our city or county. Another reason we need to keep up with our laundry is that we don’t know when the disaster might happen, and it’s hard when life gets hectic and we are running kids to ball games or lessons. If we keep up with it and don’t let the laundry build up we will be much better prepared. I did learn something from one of my daughters about our washing machines. She tried washing her clothes in the short cycle. It’s like 15 minutes and the clothes come out just as clean, in most cases.

Why didn’t I think of that? I would use less water and my clothes would be done in half the time. Keep in mind we don’t have anyone in our family at the moment that has a very much grease on the clothes when they come home from work. Therefore, the 15 minutes works great. Now I have a washer that washes my clothes in 15 minutes, this will certainly save me money on my expensive city utility bills.

Emergency Washing Machine YouTube

I want to share my  YouTube Food Storage Moms I did a couple of years ago showing how to use this beauty shown below. Remember, it now has two buckets instead of one, but you’ll get the idea.

Two Six Gallon Buckets

You will need two six gallon buckets, the five-gallon buckets are just not big enough. I use Gamma Lids for the top because it holds the plunger in place. Yes, I am color coded with my Gamma Lids. The color green is for the laundry. I had my friend, Wally drill 2-inch holes in the top of all the green Gamma lids. I have several sets of these.

Wash Clothes During An Emergency | via www.foodstoragemoms.comDrill Four Holes

Here, my husband is drilling the four holes in the bottom of the top bucket. This is my new technique to give the emergency washing machine a little more friction with the water going up and down with the plunger. There is about a three-inch area to give the water to swish around a little more when we wash clothes. Plus, this added feature will be great when we need to rinse clothes as well. I have two sets of these, one for washing and one for rinsing.

The four holes drilled inside the inner bucket will let the soapy water drain from the clothes after washing them. You will then put the soapy clothes into the second set of my washing machine design and “plunge” the soapy clothes in the fresh water to “plunge” and rinse the soapy water out of the clothes. Now the clothes are ready to hang on a clothesline, clothes rack or a fence.

Wash Clothes During An Emergency | via

The Blue Washer Plunger To Wash Clothes

Here is the washer plunger. It is totally different than the usual toilet plunger. It has four parts as shown and can really move the water around in the buckets. Please note when I purchased my mobile washer plungers they each came with a handle. Blue Mobile Washer Tool.

Wash Clothes During An Emergency | via

Easy To Store & Ready To Use

Here I am assembling the washing machine for storage until needed. I place paper towels between the buckets because they are so hard to get apart when they have been sitting in the heat in my garage for an extended period of time.

Wash Clothes During An Emergency | via

If you have this ready to use you will be ready for the unexpected emergency or disaster. All you need is water and about 1/4 teaspoon or less of my homemade laundry detergent to wash and rinse clothes. I hope I never have to use this, but I am at peace knowing I have this ready to go. Just add water, detergent, and clothes. Woohoo!

One bucket is for washing and another bucket is for rinsing the laundry. Gamma Seal Lid – Green – For 3.5 to 7 Gallon Buckets or Pails Gamma2 and Six Gallons Buckets. If you buy wheat like I do my wheat comes in six-gallon buckets, I save all of them for future use. I know you can buy Gamma lids at Walmart here in Utah, but I couldn’t find them in Arizona at the local stores. You can also order sets and split them with family and friends.

Galvanized Tubs to Wash Your Laundry:

Growing up, I don’t remember our clothes being stiff, but I am thinking they must have been. We used good old detergent in a washer and we hung the clothes and sheets outside to dry. We didn’t have a laundry room or closet with a washer and dryer inside. As I think back we had very few sets if clothes and that makes me now realize why. I am sure it was the cost, but I’m also thinking we wore our clothes more than one day.

I can’t imagine that today, but I am just thinking that was the case years ago. I did grow up with a washer and dryer by the time I was eleven. We only had a washer before that and hung our clothes to dry. Wow, I am starting to feel really old right now. LOL!

17 Gallon Wash Tub

By now you probably know I want to be prepared for the unexpected. This means I need to know how to do my laundry if the power goes out and know that I CAN do it. I am happy to report that I found one new option, and I really enjoyed just filling with a hose the 17-gallon high-grade steel Behrens multi-purpose steel utility tub made right here in the USA!  It’s rust free, odor free, rodent free. It’s galvanized and ready for me to do laundry outside!

Now you might be thinking, why don’t you just use the bathtub to do your laundry? Well, if we had water lines or sewer lines severed I don’t want to waste any water. If I use two wash tubs or buckets, I can use my detergent and use one for washing and I can use the other one for rinsing.

How To Do Laundry Outside And Really Love it | via www.foodstoragemoms.comLearn To Do Laundry Outside

Do you want to know why I think you will love doing your laundry outside, weather permitting? You can go outside to wash your clothes and put your feet in the grass or earth and feel the air around you. Just think, we can teach our kids what our grandparents used to do. They may have had a wringer washer years ago, or they had a washtub very similar to the ones above. Clothes like blue jeans are more difficult in these tubs, but hopefully you won’t be washing them too often.

Just get away from the electronics, your cell phone, and other stuff for just an hour or less. Go outside and have everyone in the family take a turn scrubbing their own clothes in a bucket of water. You can have them rinse them and hang them over chairs outside. If you have a clothesline, that’s even better.

You can hang a braided rope and secure it to two walls in the garage, or wherever. Just wash with the washboard, can’t you just picture the kids doing this with their own hands. Please be careful with babies or toddlers around the filled wash tubs. I would not leave the tubs unsupervised until emptied.

Have Your Kids Wash Their Own Laundry Outside

Trust me, the kids will learn to work and love it at the same time. Have them wash their own clothes and hang them up for a week. They will quickly learn what it would be like to live without electricity, at least, when it comes to washing their own clothes. I remember when my girls started doing their own laundry they were about 10 years old. They soon learned that all the clothes on the floor were now their responsibility. They actually enjoyed doing their own laundry.

You can buy galvanized buckets at your local stores, but they were actually cheaper right here on Amazon: Behrens 2, 15-Gallon Round Steel Tub (I think the 15-gallon is a better size than the one I purchased.)

Here’s my YouTube showing how to use my clothesline from Earth Easy Breeze Catcher Clothesline. I love this one because I live in an HOA (Home Owners Association) and this one folds up easily to store. It also twirls gently in the wind to dry my clothes, I love it!

I also bought a foldable dryer I could use as well: Lehman’s Foldable Clothes Dryer. I love items made by the Amish people because they are typically handmade and very sturdy. I still remember my mom having one of these!

This statement is off of the Lehmans website, and I quote:


Electric or gas dryers use lots of energy and are hard on your clothes, too. Using a wooden clothes dryer – even for some of your laundry – can lower your energy bill and make your clothing last longer. (Plus, you’ll be helping do your part for the environment.) Linear Drying Space – 40 ft
Upright – 70″Hx23″Wx48″L
Folded – 48″x30″x8″
Dowels – 3/4″OD
Weight – 18 lb. End of quote.

Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap for Your Laundry:

Lisa Bronner’s dilutions cheat sheet for Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap

Before I start giving you my ten great ways to use castile soap every day, I want to make you are aware I purchased this product myself. I am doing a review for myself and for my awesome readers. I kept reading about this castile soap. I read that it describes a type of soap that is 100 percent plant oils…no animal by-products like tallow/fat in commercial soap.

So I bought some from and started using it myself. I did contact the staff online through Dr.Bronner’s website to see if I could use their website link on my website so people could read more about it. They appreciated the fact that I asked before I used it. I thought that was very nice. What I LOVE about this product is that is it an inexpensive, environmentally friendly, biodegradable soap without the chemicals present in most other soaps, so we can use it to be green for cleaning and personal care use as well! I love all the essential oil scents!

Okay, so here is the real deal (note the ratios are castile soap to water):

Brush Your Teeth With Castile Soap

1. Brush your teeth, yes I tried it and LOVED it! You only need a few drops and you just brush your teeth without the harsh chemicals in the tubes we might purchase at our local grocery stores. Yes, I got the giggles the first time I tried it, but I am sold on it now!

Clean Your Countertops & More

2. Light cleaning: mix 1:4 ratio. Yes, you will save $$$$ using this castile soap! I am using a spray bottle when I dilute it. I use it full-strength from the original bottle if it is really greasy cleaning. I LOVE all the oil fragrances.

3. Dish soap: I use a 1:1 ratio….talk about a way to save $$$$

4. Mop the floor solution: Add your favorite one (mine is Eucalyptus) to a bucket of water-3 Tablespoons works for me.

Body Wash-Shampoo-Shaving-Pet Care

5. Body washing: Get wet and use a few drops of your favorite full-strength fragrance above….plus you can choose from many more on their website.

6. Shampoo your hair: Mix 1:3 ratio. These are high foaming soaps so they work great. If you had long hair I would recommend a conditioner. Dr. Bronner’s group has a conditioner, I just haven’t tried it.

7. Shaving: you use it as shaving cream…it lathers up really well and because it is made with essential oils your razor just slides…and no I have not talked my husband into using it, yet. It sits beautifully on the bathroom counter waiting to be tried…just saying…..

8. Dog Shampoo: 2:1 ratio, I used the Lavender on my dog, Boston. You just have to be careful with the solution with their eyes, nose, and mouth.

Vegetable Wash Made With Castile Soap

9. Vegetable Wash: add 1 Tablespoon to 2 cups of water…spray your fruit and veggies when needed.

Castile Soap Insecticide

10. Insecticide: general purpose spray for our indoor plants as well as outdoor plants. I use 1 Tablespoon (Peppermint) per 1/2 gallon of water.

I really want to try the lemon next time. I love the smell from all of the fragrances, just so you know. Here’s to cleaning a little more naturally.

These are my three favorite ones:

Please let me know of any tips you are going to use in case of an unforeseen disaster and you are forced by the circumstances to do your laundry by hand. I will add them to my post. Here’s to being prepared for the unexpected.

Subscribe To My Posts:

14 thoughts on “How To Clean Your Laundry After A Disaster

  • February 18, 2016 at 8:14 am

    Thank you for your review on the Castile soaps. I purchased the peppermint at Costco and have not tried it yet for some of the purposes you mention. I’m excited to learn that it can be used as an insecticide spray for my garden plants. I really need to get to using it and discovering all of it’s potential!

    • February 18, 2016 at 7:03 pm

      Hi Ellen, I had to smile when you mentioned you bought the peppermint castile soap at Costco! I saw it at Costco too! I bought the lavender (online) for one of my daughters in California and she loves it! The fragrance is so refreshing and relaxing! Thanks for stopping by, Linda

  • March 19, 2016 at 10:38 am

    I have found the Gamma Lids at WinCo Foods here in Phoenix.

    • March 19, 2016 at 6:26 pm

      Hi Matthew, that’s good to know about Winco selling the Gamma lids. I know Walmart sells them here in Southern Utah. I wish we had a Winco here! Thanks for the tip! Linda

    • November 26, 2018 at 9:04 pm


      I have found the Gamma Lids at WinCo Foods here in Phoenix.

      If you have a local Lowe’s big box store, they also carry them.

  • May 1, 2016 at 6:58 am

    I have wanted to try making my own laundry detergent for some time, thanks for sharing this recipe! I was wondering if you can tell me more of what you know about these products and how well people with allergies can tolerate them. We tend to buy the free and clear soap due to skin irritations with all the scented/colorful detergents.

    • May 2, 2016 at 6:16 pm

      Hi Jaime, I now only use 1/4 teaspoon of my dry homemade detergent per load large or small. I have a high-efficiency front loader and I have found I need very little detergent to get my clothes clean. As far as allergies, wow that’s a HUGE question to answer. I have a lot of allergies but everyone’s body is different. Can you see what the OTHER ingredients are in the free and clear soap you buy are? Also, how much do you have to use to get your clothes clean? Sometimes you have to keep using what you know your family can tolerate allergy wise. Linda

  • June 4, 2016 at 6:55 pm

    Love the idea of having a set for washing and rinsing, that way you can even soak a wash load while you rinse another. I found Gamma Lids on sale (with the different colors) at Emergency Essentials! That’s such an awesome idea to color code. That way food buckets can’t get mixed up with laundry ones. We’re already using green, but red is unassigned. Red reminds me of the color of my hands from hand wringing. LOL Did you find that the bucket holes drained off enough of the water so that wringing was less of a chore?

    • June 5, 2016 at 11:28 am

      Hi Debbie, I actually gave my “washing mobile sets” to neighbors one year for Christmas gifts. I save my six-gallon wheat buckets because they are taller for my mobile toilets and wash and rinse buckets. I think the holes help with getting rid of more liquid because I can use the mobile washer plunger push the soapy water down through to the bottom of buckets as I pull the inside bucket up. I had to come up with this idea because I thought to myself I can’t wring out all this water. It beats doing the laundry in the bathtub. I love that you found the Gamma lids on sale!!! I use red Gamma lids on my hard white wheat buckets. I grew up with hard red wheat and that’s why I use red for the wheat. Thanks for stopping by, Linda

  • November 26, 2018 at 9:18 pm

    Our kids are gone; but, the wife runs the washer almost continuously, or so it seems. In a pinch we could go perhaps 2-3 weeks without doing laundry; but, like dishes, she can’t seem to let them sit when there are enough to be done.
    We have a clothes dryer; but, in the summer we use the clothes line and in a pinch you can even dry clothing in sub zero weather, as long as it is not snowing at the time and there is sunlight. The clothing will actually freeze solid and then the ice will sublimate, meaning it transforms from solid to gas (water vapor) without the liquid phase. Dry ice does this as does ice in the freezer when left alone. Have you ever had full ice cube trays and when you don’t use them for a while the cubes get smaller? That is sublimation and something our pioneer ancestors counted on in winter.
    As for your soap recipe, I like it. We’ve made homemade liquid soap; but, that’s kind of messy. The wife is very sensitive to odors and we always use scent free products or she will often get everything from a headache to an asthma like attack.
    When I looked at your DIY washing machine I had to smile, since I think if you cleaned out all of the soap residue and use cream, it might make a nice butter churn. LOL
    I have used Gamma Seal lids for 2 decades and we store everything from bags of sugar to chicken feed in them. When my daughter was in 4H with her goats, these kept the goat feed at the local county fair. I’ve constructed a water filter with a Gamma lid and a Schrader valve that can be pressurized and produce water faster than a drip filter.
    I’ll have to get a clean new toilet plunger and play around with it. I suspect it won’t be too hard to make one of those work for the washing task.
    Growing up we had both an automatic washer and an old tub style washer with a ringer as well as a gas clothes dryer. My mom thought that the automatic used too much water for rinsing and didn’t spin out enough water, so after being washed, they were rinsed and wrung out in the old washer, cutting drying time in the dryer or on the line by a significant amount.
    To make clothing soft, my wife uses an unscented fabric softener, places a dab on a wash cloth and tosses it in the dryer with the other clothing. Works as well as the store bought dryer sheets; but, it’s a lot less expensive.
    Another reason to use your buckets instead of the bath tub is that you can position the buckets where they are comfortable and not kill your back leaning over and into the tub.
    Living on rural property we don’t need to do laundry to get outside and away from things. With two barns, a machinery shed, and chicken coop, plus a horse, goat, and small flock of egg layers, we get plenty of time outside and would no doubt save this method of doing laundry for the real emergencies.
    Your clothesline contraption reminds me of some of my 10×10 popup’s and for an HOA I guess you do what you must. Here we just string lines between trees or posts set in the ground and leave them up year round. I would never live in an HOA area; but, I am amazed at what you have accomplished with that yoke around your neck, LOL.
    We have several of the wooden drying racks like the ones from Lehman’s; but, Lehman’s is carrying fewer and fewer locally made Amish goods. We generally make at least one trip per year to Lehman’s and may make another trip before Christmas if the weather holds out. It’s a 2 hour (108 mile) trip, so once or twice per year is all we manage, and it has unfortunately turned more into a tourist destination over the years.
    Perhaps brushing teeth with Castile soap would work; but, so does a baking soda and salt mixture.
    For general cleaning we find that Dawn dish soap works for most things.
    We still need to start experimenting with the Castile soap.
    BTW, I get my Gamma Seal Lids from United States Plastic Corporation ( and lucky for me they have an outlet store only 50 miles from me, so an occasional trip saves shipping and allows us to browse their inventory.

    • November 27, 2018 at 9:17 am

      HI Ohio Prepper, oh my gosh, I love your comment the yoke around your neck (my HOA)!!! Amen! I used to be an HOA president up north and I swore Mark and I would NEVER buy a home in an HOA. And here we are with a YOKE around our neck!! LOL! I may have told you my dream is to go visit Lehman’s, it’s on my bucket list. You are truly blessed to have all the animals you have and the knowledge of being able to do just about anything! I LOVE your comments! Linda

      • November 27, 2018 at 7:07 pm


        I love your comment the yoke around your neck (my HOA)!!! Amen! I used to be an HOA president up north and I swore Mark and I would NEVER buy a home in an HOA. And here we are with a YOKE around our neck!! LOL! I may have told you my dream is to go visit Lehman’s, it’s on my bucket list. You are truly blessed to have all the animals you have and the knowledge of being able to do just about anything! I LOVE your comments! Linda

        I have friends who live in HOA controlled developments. Both are ham radio operators and both have issues with antenna placement. The interesting thing is that one became a ham after moving in and the other was already a ham and was warned; but, that has not stopped his complaining, LOL.
        I don’t consider myself blessed to live where we can keep animals and shoot guns; but, more than blessed for the fact that I knew I wanted this lifestyle from an early age. As a kid I loved being alone in the wooded hillsides near my house in the Appalachians of western PA. After college I looked for small towns and rural living, even though it meant long drives, anywhere from 25-40 miles one way to work, in all kinds of weather.
        It’s a long trip from Utah to Ohio to see Lehman’s; but, if you ever make it, let me know ahead of time. Lehman’s is in Wayne County near Holmes county, both of which are heavy Amish areas; but, we actually have quite a few Amish all around Ohio including not far from my homestead.
        While you are here, there are a lot of other things to see. One of my favorites is:
        The National Museum of the United States Air Force
        It is the official museum of the United States Air Force located at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, 6 miles northeast of Dayton, Ohio. The NMUSAF is the oldest and largest military aviation museum in the world, with more than 360 aircraft and missiles on display. Parking and admission are free.
        For those interested in Ham radio, we have the Hamvention in May. It is the largest Ham radio flea market and convention in the world and draws a worldwide audience and has been a continuously running concern since 1952 when I was only 1 year old.
        For high power rifle competitors, we have the National matches at Camp Perry Ohio on the southern shores of Lake Erie.
        While we do not have your mountains, Ohio is still a rather diverse and interesting place to live.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *