Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Are you prepared to handle Mount Washmore?

My week and a half without a functioning washing machine ended Monday afternoon. Let me tell ya, you really learn appreciate the conveniences of modern life when you have to do laundry for six people by hand! I'm glad that I faced this little challenge when I still had hot water flowing from from the tap and power to run the dryer.

This caused me to put some thought to the essentials you need to do your family's laundry in an emergency scenario. Clean laundry might not be your first concern during TEOTWAWKI, but I guarantee that you will be thankful to have a plan in place.

Breathing Hand Washer
Image from
Basic List of Laundry Supplies:
  1. Water - Do you have enough water stored to do laundry in an emergency? I know that I don't, but I hope to remedy this problem in the next few months. I do, however, have some natural bodies of water nearby. If I collected water from these sources, ran it through a rudimentary filter to catch sediment, and then boiled it, I could use it for my laundry. Sounds like a hassle, doesn't it?  
  2. A large pot or kettle - You need to be able to heat the large amounts of water it takes to clean your clothes. I plan on using my water bath canner.
  3. A way to heat water - I hope you've already thought about how you will cook your family's food during an emergency. Woodstove, outdoor grill, butane stove, whatever - the same thing can do double duty and heat water for your laundry. Just make sure you have enough fuel on hand to do the job. Of course if you are relying on some tiny little camping stove, it might not be capable of heating huge kettles of water.  
  4. A three month supply of laundry detergent - Track the amount of detergent you use over the course of three months, then make sure you have that amount on hand at all times. Don't forget to rotate your stored detergent since it does technically expire. A quick Internet search revealed that it lasts 9 months to a year if it is unopened. 
  5. A "washing machine" - When I washed all my family's laundry by hand, it was literally with my hands in hot soapy water. It got the job done, but I was left with tired, waterlogged hands at the end of it. A minimal investment in a plunger-type hand washer would have made my life so much easier. I washed my clothes in my laundry sink. You might set aside a couple of clean five gallon buckets for this purpose if you do not have a dedicated laundry sink. 
  6. A wringer - This is a more pricey investment, but key to a more enjoyable laundry experience. Otherwise you will have to use your hands to wring out excess moisture from your wet laundry and I can assure you from experience that you will not find wringing multiple pairs of jeans or a mound of towels to be fun. Lehman's sells two wringers ("good" and "best")and you can attach them to a 5 gallon bucket, chair, or other hard surface. 
  7. Somewhere to hang clothes to dry - An outdoor clothesline or indoor drying racks. Check out all the options that Lehman's has. No, this post was not sponsored by Lehman's! I just really like them. :)

For extra credit: 

You'll note that I haven't addressed ironing. That's because I don't iron if I can possibly help it! If ironed clothing is important to you, Lehman's does has a selection of irons you can use off the grid.

Have you ever had to wash clothes by hand for an extended period of time? What are your must-haves to do laundry in an emergency situation? 


  1. Yes - I have been through a few of these episodes over a 33 yr marriage.

    1 - wear outer clothes more than once! Especially work clothes.
    2 - I like Woolite. Less scrubbing.
    3 - use smaller & thinner towels.
    4 - plan on it taking longer to dry.
    5 - make the 'dirty laundry mountain builders' do their own!! It quickly makes a big impression.

    Really, children should be helping anyway.

    1. Good tips! I'll admit that I'm enough of a control freak that I didn't let the kids that are old enough to help assist me...

    2. A friend of mine plans to purchase a mop bucket with a wringer on it to squeeze the excess water out of her clothing. Sounds like a good idea to me, it will help cut down on the drying time.

      I enjoy your blog. Thanks!

    3. That is a genius idea! You could wash your clothes with that plunger gizmo in the mop bucket and then wring it out. I bet you could buy it for much cheaper than those wringers I linked.

  2. I made my first laundry soap yesterday, and have the leftover ingredients for more months ahead. Good idea!

  3. I was without a washer for three days and I realized just how fast the laundry piles up with just 4 people! I could not believe how dependent I was on it without even realizing it!!
    When the washer broke in the middle of a load, I had to scoop all the water out with a tupperware, dump it into a 5 gallon bucket and haul the bucket outside to dump it. Seven buckets later I was left with a whole bunch of soaking wet laundry. I wrung it all out by hand and let me tell you I am never doing that again!!!!!
    I am going to invest in the plunger and I think I have the other supplies around the house. And the mop bucket is a GREAT idea!