Learn How To Wash Clothes During An Emergency
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Learn How To Wash Clothes During An Emergency

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Are you ready to learn how to wash clothes during an emergency? Today I am going to show you my do-it-yourself (DIY) portable emergency washing machine. Well, it’s actually two buckets that fit inside of each other with one new change to my original style. Here is my DIY laundry detergent recipe that is so easy to make using Fels-Naptha Soap, Borax Detergent Booster, and Arm and Hammer Super Washing Soda. Laundry Detergent

You don’t have to be a family that is trying to go off-grid for survival, or you experience a true natural disaster to take advantage of the washing system I’m suggesting. It is simply a system that can be your Plan B when it comes to doing the wash when other options aren’t available to you like times when you lose power to your home for an extended period.

The laundry soap I mention above is another example of clothes cleaners available as part of your efforts to be more self-sufficient. That way you aren’t always at the mercy of stores for needed purchases, government agencies for emergency supplies, or even your family for some of the services you need if you face some tough situations.

I wrote this post for my blog back in 2014, and realize many of my readers may have not seen this article.

Learn How To Wash Clothes During An Emergency

Clean Underwear

Here’s the deal, I could go a few days and not wash my shirt or pants. It’s underwear that concerns me the most when it comes to cleaning loads of laundry during an emergency situation. 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 you would be in a car accident and end up in the hospital wearing dirty underwear. Enough said. This little washer bucket set can wash clothes pretty well. Oh, we could only wash clothes a little at a time rather than a full load of laundry, but that beats bending over the bathtub.

No Laundromats To Wash Clothes

If we had a major unforeseen emergency the local laundromats will more than likely not be working, unless the power outage or property damage is confined to a very small area of our city or county. Another reason we need to keep up with our laundry is if our washer and dryer aren’t available for a number of reasons. It’s hard when life gets hectic and we’re running kids to the doctor, ball games, or lessons.

Read More of My Articles  Clothesline: Why You Need One

I did learn something from one of my daughters about our washing machines. She tried washing her clothes in a short cycle. It’s like 15 minutes. Why didn’t I think of that? I would use less water and my clothes would be done in half the time with much more energy efficiency.

As a matter of fact, that’s the cycle Mark and I use now for about 90% of our loads. If we have a large load, or maybe clothes with significant stains that may require more time and a stain remover, we’ll use one of the regular washing cycles.

Keep in mind, we don’t have anyone in our family at the moment that has a large amount of greasy or lawn stains coming from work or sports. Therefore the 15 minutes works great when using our regular clothes washer.

Emergency Washing Machine YouTube

I want to share the YouTube Food Storage Moms did a couple of years ago showing how to use the system shown in the picture above. Remember, it now has two buckets as wash tubs instead of one, but you’ll get the idea.

Two Six Gallon Buckets

You’ll need two six-gallon buckets, the five-gallon buckets are just not big enough for the typical wash loads families need. I use Gamma Lids for the top because it holds the plunger in place and helps keep the water and soap inside. Yes, I’m colored-coded with my Gamma Lids. The color green is for the laundry. I had a friend drill the two-inch holes in the Gamma Lids a few months ago.

Six Gallon Buckets With Gamma Lids

Washing Tool For Clothes

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 space between the plunger and the bucket sides to give the water space to swish around a little more when we wash clothes. Plus, this added feature will be great when we go 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 freshwater to “plunge” and rinse the soapy water suds out of the clothes. Now the clothes are ready to hang on a clothesline, clothes rack, or fence.

Wash Clothes During An Emergency | via www.foodstoragemoms.com

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 in the picture, and can really move the water around in the buckets. Update, this particular style is no longer available, but you get the drift. Washing Tool For Clothes

Read More of My Articles  Disaster Plans: They Aren’t All the Same

Wash Clothes During An Emergency | via www.foodstoragemoms.comEasy 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 amount of time.

Wash Clothes During An Emergency | via www.foodstoragemoms.com

If you have this ready to use, you’ll be prepared for an unexpected emergency or disaster. All you need is water, and about 1/4 teaspoon 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!

There is one more item I want to mention. Do you have a clothesline or a way to hang up your clothes after washing and rinsing them? I found a clothesline about a year ago from Earth Easy.  I had been looking for one just like this one in case I needed a dryer substitute in a pinch so I could dry clothes almost any time. I can fold it up and put it away, or leave it out all the time. It has a bag to store it in as well. My YouTube is on their website on how to use this clothesline.

Are you ready to wash clothes during an emergency?

As I’ve evaluated laundry chores that come our way during a power outage, local emergency, or in times of a natural disaster, I’ve tried to answer questions that I think may come up, such as:

  • How do you wash clothes in an emergency? This post is the result of that question from a friend.
  • How do you wash clothes during a power outage? Probably the most common situation is when your washer and dryer aren’t available.
  • How do preppers do laundry? This is an option whether you consider yourself a prepper or not.
  • How do you wash clothes at a campsite? If you’re going to be camping in the wild for a while, this equipment is a great laundry option.
  • How effective is hand washing clothes? I think this system qualifies as “hand washing,” but it’s sure easier on your hands.

Final Word

After originally writing this post, I have since upgraded to a Lavario Portable Washing Unit (currently unavailable). I have one for washing and one for rinsing. Please make a plan for washing your clothes when the standard washer and dryer approach is available. This unit will actually do blue jeans! So will buckets, and a washboard.

If you want to be a participant in more of a self-sufficient approach to living, particularly when things get tough, then this post is for you. You may need to make some slight changes if you feel you need to add bleach to stop the spread of germs. There also may need to be some adjustments to the length of time to wash things if you’re laundry is more cotton than delicate fabrics, etc.

Be creative in how you put this system to use. It could make all the difference when your family is faced with an emergency you hadn’t expected.

May God Bless this world, Linda

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48 Comments

  1. This is one I really need to do! We often lose power and this would come in so handy when you need to do those few things, because like you I can’t go without clean undies.

    Also love that drying line you have, our Earth store has something like that, I want to see if the set-up is as easy before buying.

      1. I just hang them over the shower rod. If the rod is a tension rod, be careful of the weight. I had no washer a number of years ago. Clothes got washed in the sink, unless I had more than would reasonably fit, and sheets and larger clothes went in the tub. Sure wish I had thought of a plunger! That would have helped a lot! Maybe two, one for each hand, when using the tub 🙂

  2. I have the Sunshine Clothes Dryer – you can see it here: https://www.prlog.org/11082585-sunshine-clothes-dryer-rotary-umbrella-style-outdoor-clothesline-made-of-wood-and-steel.html
    I had been asking for a clothes line and my dear hubby bought me this. I can get 4 loads of laundry on it and I love it!!! I use it all spring, summer and autumn…in the winter I use my electric dryer. I have a couple of wash boards that I could use if I needed to, but I like your system so much better! It is going on my Christmas list!!! I live out in the country and when we have storms we can be without electricity for a while, so this would be fabulous to have. I guess it would also be a good idea to have a few packages of new undies and socks around, just in case we have to go for years without having the ability to purchase new ones!

    1. Hi Susan, it looks like the one I chose. I love it! I love to hear you are using yours so much. I better get with it. I like the idea of new undies and socks as well! Great idea! Linda

    1. After tossing the dirty water refill with clean, rinse the plunger, then use the plunger for a few minutes. Slowly remove the inner bucket to drain the rinse water. You can repeat the step in needed.

  3. This is a really cool idea! I would like to add that a home generator could keep the wash going on and on when the power is out. When does the laundry ever end?

    1. Hi Roger, I totally agree the laundry never ends. I know a few people who have generators, but they are so expensive I won’t be getting one. They would be awesome! I don’t want to store gasoline on my tiny plot of land either. I think if someone can afford to buy a generator, I say go for it. We have friends who have a generator and they had to get permits to bury to install it on their property. They are set for sure until the gas runs out. Linda

    2. Too.much work
      I use scrub board from.my great grandmother have new square open net with suction cups goes over bathtub. wring
      stuff out and dried by next day
      Especially small things..but I’m a senior live alone.might not work for people with kids

      1. Hi Bonnie, that’s a great idea! But if the sewer lines are not working you will not be able to drain your bathtub. This unit or a washboard or scrubboard in a large bucket would be great outdoors. Linda

  4. You can also wring the water out of your clothes with this set-up. To do that, put the bucket with holes in it inside the shower (or out in your back yard, propped up on 2 pieces of 2×4 or 2 bricks), put the wet clothes inside it, put the no-holes bucket inside the bucket with holes in it (on top of the clothes), put the lid on the top bucket and SIT ON IT! Yes, your weight will mash the clothes down and squeeze the water out of the holes through the bottom.

    1. Love it! I’ve been coveting a pricey wringer like my grandma had, but now I can let it go. Thanks so much for the idea, Peter Piper, and for a great article, Linda! ❤️

        1. It’s a lovely concept! Question: wouldn’t a smaller hole in the lid still work, and let less water squish out while plunging?

          1. Hi Joyce, any size hole would work if it’s not too big or too small. The water doesn’t splash out that much, so whatever size drill you have I would use it. I mainly wanted it to keep the stick upright while using and storing the unit. Linda

  5. Is it possible to just have 2 buckets not 4 to wash and rinse? Could I just dump the dirty water? I bought 2 buckets and 2 lids but didn’t realize I needed 4 buckets! I haven’t had anything drilled yet because I wanted to ask first. 🙂

    1. Hi Kim, my first design of the bucket washing machine did not have a second bucket with holes. I mainly wanted to be able to do underwear, dishrags, hand towels, etc. I designed the second set of bucket washing machines with the holes to help drain and give some friction with the blue mobile washer plunger deals when I need to wash or rinse. Yes, you could get by with one set and dump the water. I’m glad to hear you are making a set, it’s so much better than using the bathtub or sink. We never know when the sewer and water lines will close or shutdown. Linda

  6. What about using the kitchen sink or the laundry sink in the garage and agitating with your hands!! I think you can get a less expensive solar clothesline at one of the big home improvement stores, I did. Also a rope and two trees will work.

    1. Hi, HLO, we can use the kitchen sink if the water is not contaminated and the sewer lines are working. I do not have a sink in the garage now, but they are great if you have one. I live in the desert and have one tree that I could use for a clothesline but I live in an HOA and the tree is in the front yard. We need to use or buy whatever works for our yards and our budgets. I wish I had a sink in the garage, those are awesome! Linda

  7. Thank You for your post. I live near theTennessee/Alabama line. We are without power often because of storms/tornados. A few years ago a tornado damaged the major TVA lines. That means the gas pumps also didn’t have power for several days as well as homes. I wish I  had this “washing machine” then. I plan on using it when we camp in our travel trailer also. Thank You!

    1. Hi, Algarita, what a beautiful name. Wow, I’m glad you are okay and your home is okay, I was in one tornado once in my life, and that was enough for me. Glad you can use this washing machine idea. May God bless you and your family to be safe when the next tornado hits. Linda

  8. Linda, we cannot make the photos in this article appear. I even went to Pinterest to see if I could get the photos. We have never had this problem with any of your previous posts. Please advise how we can have photos in your posts. I am attempting to use buckets to make this. We have the blue washer plunger. I even brought up a link to this post from my favorites with the same result.

  9. I have no idea what is happening. Rebooted both of our computers still no photos. The photos on all of the other sites we go to are showing up just fine. We use Windows 10 and IE 11. Your photos will show up using Google Chrome but not IE. The photos on your link above didn’t show with IE either. Previously the photos on all of your previous posts which I have saved would show up just fine but now none of these will show their photos either. Any ideas?

    1. Hi John, I just opened up IE on my husband’s computer and the pictures do not show up either. I only use Chrome on my HP laptop and my Mac laptop, my husband still uses IE. Most all bloggers only use Chrome so I’m not sure what to think. Let me ask my assistant. Thanks for letting me know. I’ll keep you posted. Linda

    2. Hi John, I did see this on Google: After upgrading or installing Windows 10 the default web browser is the new Microsoft Edge browser. But there may be websites that are not compatible with the new browser at which point you will need to use Internet Explorer 11 (IE 11). IE 11 is still included in Windows 10 but can be difficult to locate and launch. Not sure what to think. Linda

    3. John, can you please see if you are using the updated IE Microsoft Edge? It is now working on my husband’s computer IE Microsoft Edge version. Please let me know if it’s working for you. Thank you so much! Linda

  10. I just went to your site with the IE InPrivate Browsing turned on and your photos came up just fine but I couldn’t leave you this comment so I had to turn InPrivate Browsing off and come back to your site to leave you this comment and the photos would not show. Strange!

  11. Immediately after I clicked “Post Comment” I received the dialog box containing “Security Alert ‘Revocation information for the security certificate for this site is not available. Do you want to proceed? [Yes] [No] [View certificate]’ .” I clicked “yes”, the box went away, and the photos immediately appeared. I have now closed and opened your site several times and the photos are always there now. Any ideas?

  12. I apologize for me to keep posting but I thought you might want to know that the photos in all of your previous posts are showing up now, which they were not earlier.

    1. Hi John, my partner Alyssa and I were playing with some “plugins” to see why it was doing that. We are hoping it is now fixed. I’m not sure why you got the “security alert”. I have a Secure SSL certificate and my site is https is which is secure with security to stop hackers. I will show Alyssa what you wrote about making a comment and getting that statement. Thank you for your patience, Linda

    2. Hi John, I just made a comment via my husband’s email and I did not get the security statement. I’m hoping all is well now. Thank you so much for letting me know about the issue. Linda

  13. Hi Linda, You can get solar generators now Try “Patriot Supply” Yes, they are expensive!! I can’t afford one either. This company, however, does run a promotional special about twice a year.

  14. Another thing to consider if you have to wash all clothes in this manner, wash your “cleanest” dirty clothes first. Leave underwear until last due to bacterial contamination.
    Also, saving the water and using it to flush the commode.
    I’ve lived in Florida all my life and we have all kinds of hacks to survive hurricanes. Research some of the hurricane survival tips for additional ideas.

    1. Hi Crystal, oh, thank you for your great comment!! Great tip on washing underwear last! Makes sense! I’m sure you have seen it all in Florida, thank you for sharing! Linda

  15. One of the smartest things I ever did was to start making my own laundry detergent. I’d had the “recipe” for quite some time but finally got around to doing it and have never looked back. I love not having the behemoth buckets/pkgs around (which I can’t life easily anyhow), and have just my one container on the shelf by the washer. It smells so good and I don’t have the slimy feeling from store-bought detergent. I did buy a cheap blender and a cheap food chopper so I can dedicate them for making the detergent. This way I don’t have to worry about getting the soap taste out of the appliances. I have always used the “speed wash” cycle on my machine as we don’t get that dirty at our age. If there’s something really dirty, then of course, I use a longer cycle. But for us old folk, the speed wash works great and is easy on water and short. Unless I specifically want to shrink something, I never, ever use the dryer…it’s always the clothesline. I love the smell, the scratchiness of the towels, the ease on the power bill! When it’s too cold/wet to use it, I have 2 different sized Amish racks that go in the room that heats up the best. I do have the plunger (but I can’t find the handle!) that if necessary, I’ll use but I haven’t tried it out yet. I’m definitely going to get my husband to drill the holes in buckets. One thing I’ve always wanted was an old fashioned wringer (Lehman’s) but they’re expensive and unless the grid goes down, I can’t see storing it for “just in case.” I know, wrong attitude to have but maybe I can get that Lavario ?sp?) system some day instead. I’ll have to ask Santa! Yup, that’s what I’m gonna do!

    1. Hi Robbie, I have two of the Amish wooden clothes racks, I love them! I skipped don’t the Lehman’s wringer as well. As soon as I saw the Lavario, I bought one. Then a year, later I bought a second one. They are easy to fill, use, and drain. I knew I could use it for a small batch of clothes year-round. The wringer not so much. Linda

  16. I currently am washing many items by hand, especially lingerie. The warm water eases the arthritis in my hands. We do laundry ever 3-4 days so we never get behind in case of a power or water issue. I showed Tom this posting, and I hope he will construct it since we have most of the parts.

  17. Hello and thank you for this article, plus the many others you share and post. I have a question:
    I have saved the slivers of used bar soap for many years. Can these be used in your detergent-making, or do these soaps have too many ingredients that would mess up the formula? If these slivers cannot be used for detergent, do you have a good recipe for making new soap from old? I tried once, but it was a disaster.
    Thanks for any help you can give and Happy 2024.

    1. Hi Paula, I would say try them, soap is soap as in bars. If you’re worried about a certain brand use it for something else. My feeling is, I grew up using every bar of soap we had until there was nothing left. Or barely left! LOL! We would stack the bars and keep using them. Soap is soap to me. Thank you for your kind words, my sweet friend! Happy 2024! Linda

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