How To Clean Your Laundry After A Disaster

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Have you thought about how to clean your laundry after a disaster? We all feel better if we have clean underwear, right? Cleanliness is so important! Mark and I started making our own dry laundry detergent about seven 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 seven 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 by Food Storage Moms
Prep Time
35 mins
Cook Time
Total Time
35 mins
Servings: 1 container
Author: Linda Loosli
  • 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 fewer “bubbles." Remember, just having bubbles doesn’t mean clean. I use 1/2 to 1 teaspoon per load. I have a HE-High Efficiency washer, and it works great in regular washing machines as well. ***Please note: I now use only 1/2- 1 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 for 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 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.

Read More of My Articles  Best Clothesline-What Kind Should I Buy?

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 Clean 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!

Read More of My Articles  How To Do Laundry Outside And Really Love it

Clean Your Laundry W/ 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

Clean Your 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.

Kid Can Clean Your 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!

My New Washer:

I got this one about a year ago, it’s my favorite way to wash clothes in an emergency now. You can clean your laundry so many ways!!

Lavario Portable Clothes Washer


Final Word

It’s all about practicing to clean your laundry by hand before you have to do it! We can do this if we are prepared before we need to be. Thanks for being prepared for the unexpected. May God bless this world, Linda

Cleaning Bathrooms

These are my three favorite ones:

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

  • May 26, 2019 at 7:11 am

    I just hung new clothesline last month. I need to make a washer like you show. This is a good topic to cover that’s many ignore because it’s not cool and you can’t show it off at the range.
    We just got hit with tornadoes last night. Me and mine got lucky and are unscathed. Many are not.
    One of the things we’ve done in the past for folks we know is gather their clothes and wash them. They are always covered in debris, mud and fiberglass insulation.

    • May 26, 2019 at 11:41 am

      Hi Matt, I love hearing you hung a clothesline! I’m glad to hear you are okay and but I’m so sorry to hear some are not. Man, I forgot about the fiberglass insulation, yikes! Stay safe, I know you will. Linda

  • May 26, 2019 at 9:54 am

    Korean middle and upper classes all have washing machines, but the lower classes and especially those in more remote areas do not yet have that luxury. At the same time, Koreans are extremely clean people. And the way those who do not have washing machines do laundry is genius, in my opinion. They do not use plungers or washboards. They use buckets or tubs and they use their feet to agitate the laundry. The legs are stronger, so they can agitate better than arms, and it’s not so hard on the back and hands. And as a bonus, your feet get really clean.

    (PrepSchoolDaily dot blogspot dot com)

  • May 26, 2019 at 1:46 pm

    5 stars
    Hi Linda,
    Thank you for this article, so complete offering many solutions for washing clothing after a power outage or other disaster. I was very intrigued and watched the video on the Lavario Portable Clothes Washer and called my husband to look at them; he said “order it” and so I did. This one makes sense and hope it will help even with the small loads that I can wash in the tub or outside if needed. This updated article well worth reading today!!! (I think I found something that my young grandsons will think is a fun activity to do when they visit. What kid doesn’t like to slosh water all around?)

    • May 26, 2019 at 2:35 pm

      HI Carol, I love this new emergency washer! The Lavario is awesome! You can do sheets in it and even jeans! Kids love to slosh in water! You will be teaching a great skill! Good idea! Linda

  • May 26, 2019 at 4:31 pm

    Here’s a tip I got from someone who worked in a commercial laundry.
    Provided you don’t have really hard water you can use white vinegar instead of fabric softener. It softens the clothes and the acid removes any remaining soap or detergent.
    It is suitable for people with skin sensitivities and a big plus is it also cleans your machine so no more worries about that grey gunk that used to build up in the washing machine.
    I use 1/2 a cup per load and, for laundry buy the cheapest brand available.
    The vinegar smell dissipates almost as soon as I take the clothes out of the machine. If you like you can add 1 teaspoon of any essential oil (eg lavender, eucalyptus etc) to every litre/ 2 pints of vinegar.

    • May 26, 2019 at 6:45 pm

      Hi Carol, this is so funny you would mention white vinegar today. I put 1/2 cup or so in my load of bath towels today. I’m so excited to hear from you and how you use it! I love this! Linda

  • May 28, 2019 at 11:03 am

    Linda, a fun article for me to read! As a kid, we only had the Maytag wringer washer, but it still needed electricity! As I think back on one old house, it was set up to have the basics in one corner: hand pump well above a sink, a coal/wood stove, and a turnable pipe to pour heated water to either the wash machine or the sink. Or the bathtub just around the corner, lol. Fairly ingenious as at least mom didn’t have to haul water around in buckets, but still had to heat the water, then pour to spouts. If the electricity was working, she had an easier time of washing clothes. Oh, the Maytag sat in a porch next to kitchen, so if electricity was on, the machine pumped the water. The first wash load was niceties. Re-used the water. Third load was the rinse water from the first two. Um, yea, we used the siphoning method for this when electricity was spotty. Dear Gawd, how my mom was able to keep us kids and our clothes clean must have been hard. This kind of thing was very common back 55 yrs ago in rural areas. We also saved our shared bathwater to soak heavily soiled clothes. Lmao, but some people get grossed out when I offer my hot soapy bathwater to my son. Or him to me! Um, fresh clean water was the ultimate luxury when I was a kid.

    • May 28, 2019 at 1:57 pm

      Oh Wendy, this is the best comment ever! I bet we will be reusing our laundry water sooner than later! It’s amazing what they did back then, but that’s how it was. Boy, Maytag has been around a very long time! I bought a new washer and dryer a couple of years ago and I had always bought a Maytag. I struggled with buying a brand called Electrolux. It’s funny how Maytag was the brand our mothers used!!! Great story you shared, thank you!! Linda


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