How do you do laundry when living off-grid with a limited power budget and water supply? Laundry is a big deal for a family of eight. When visiting third world countries we have done laundry in a tub and wrung it out by hand. But it is very time consuming to keep clothes clean by today’s standards when trying to live sustainably.
For over a year we have not used a dryer, with the exception of a few times at the rental house last summer, and we’ve lived without a washer for almost five months. Yes, laundry takes more time than it did with a washer and dryer, but is quite doable with a few simple tools. As mentioned in a previous post “Going Sustainable with Laundry,” we use Mobile Washers as the tool for washing our clothes, and with the sucking action of these special plungers it only takes a few minutes of plunging to get clothes clean.
We do a load of laundry every morning, five days a week. I can do a large load with a young helper from start to finish in about 40-45 minutes. That includes prepping the homemade detergent made from soapnuts (more about that some day), and watering the plants with the laundry water when we’re done.
The most difficult part has been removing water from the washed clothes to be rinsed out or hung to dry. Much of the year we have high humidity here in central Florida, and it can be almost impossible to dry everything before afternoon showers during rainy season. Last summer at the rental house we used racks in the house at times to finish drying while it poured outside. Miserable, because it brought even more humidity into the house for the air conditioner to eliminate. Not the most sustainable!
Removing water from a large load of clothes by hand can be tough. The exercise is good, but the skin around your fingernails gets raw. And it’s nearly impossible to remove enough water for efficient drying. Tiffany at No Ordinary Homestead gave me a tip about making a laundry press with five gallon buckets. I tried it, only I drilled more holes and bigger ones so the water could escape faster, and I drilled no holes in the bottom bucket so the water squeezed from the clothes could be saved and recycled.
Here’s how it works. The wet clothes go into a holey bucket which is placed into a non-holey bucket. A third bucket with a lid is placed on top of the wet clothes. Someone sits on the lidded bucket for about a minute, squeezing water out of the clothes. That is what you call sitting down on the job! The water runs down into the bottom bucket to be added back to the wash water or used to water plants.
The holey bucket idea works great for squeezing water out between washing and rinsing. It’s quick and easy. But it still leaves too much water in the clothes after rinsing to place on the line for drying. It would take all day to dry!
I looked into wringers, and other options. After searching and checking around, we ended up with a great piece of equipment that we’d never heard of before. In my next post I will introduce you to the Charming Spinner!
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