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Laundry Day: 18 of my Best Tips for Washing Clothes by Hand

village-living-washing-clotThis is a picture of my mom when she was my age.  She’s washing clothes with a village woman in Papua New Guinea.  We lived in this village for a short time when I was seven years old.  Laundry seems to be a huge off grid obstacle for women.  It seems that washing clothes by hand is impossible to imagine.  I can’t blame them for feeling this way.  Laundry is an overwhelming never-ending task, but so necessary.  I’ve heard many comments from women who think that off grid living sounds great, but they are decidedly convinced that they cannot wash clothes by hand.  I am here to say that it is doable.

Sometimes I look back in astonishment at how many clothes I washed when I used a washer and dryer.  I went to the laundromat every week when my oldest son was little.  He wore seven complete outfits every week and many of those days we were just home in the air conditioning.  We could have worn our clothes at least twice on those days and I could have cut my laundry in half.  Things have changed a little bit now that I do all of our laundry by hand!  So, how do I manage to get anything else done and still keep my family in clean clothes?  Here are my best tips for washing clothes without electricity and still have a life!

  1. Don’t get frustrated.  This is the most important thing!  Washing clothes by hand can be very overwhelming, especially if you are washing for a family.  I wish I would have had a list like this when I first started, but I learned along the way.  And I survived!  For however long you plan to wash by hand, just remember that millions of women have done this before you.  A washing machine is a modern invention largely for western countries.  Today, it is a luxury that many women in third world countries don’t have access to.  I don’t have to haul my laundry to a river and scrub clothes on a rock.  I have a wringer and access to clean water just a short walk from my back door.  I have so much!  These are things I remind myself when I do get frustrated.  It helps me keep things in perspective.
  2. We have town clothes and farm clothes.  I’m very careful about what clothes we wear around the homestead and which ones get worn to town.  We don’t mix the two.  If a nice town shirt gets worn around the homestead, it will very quickly become only a farm shirt.  We try to have unstained, unfaded, hole free clothes to wear to town.  Town clothes are taken off as soon as we get home and if they are not dirty, they are put away for the next time.  We work hard and our boys play hard, so we can be hard on our clothes at times.   Separating our clothes in two categories helps us be presentable when we need to be.
  3. I’m very conscious about what clothes go into the laundry to be washed.  I evaluate if clothes are really dirty.  Just because something has been worn once, does not mean that it needs to be washed.  Each member of my family has about five t-shirts in our rotation for farm clothes.  In the summer, everyone gets one clean t-shirt everyday.  In the winter, we try to get two days out of each shirt.  We also each have three pairs of shorts and pants, depending on the season.  We generally wear the same shorts for up to a week in the summer and one pair of pants can be pushed to two weeks in the winter.  This may sound crazy to people who are used to washing everything after wearing it once, but this is probably the most important practice for keeping my sanity while washing clothes without electricity.  Getting dirty is part of life on a farm/homestead and washing a pair of pants just to turn around and get them equally dirty the next day, just doesn’t make sense.
  4. When I decide that something will not be worn again, I put it directly into my washbin to be washed.  This really helps remove the sorting time later.  This way I don’t have to pick through every item of clothing that got into the laundry basket and wonder if it really needs to be washed.
  5. Before clothes go into the washbin, I shake and remove any dried on dirt, grass clippings, seeds, etc.  This is especially true of my husband’s pants pockets and socks.  Sometimes I think he brings the whole forest back in his pockets!
  6. laundry1These are the tools I use:  Mobile Washer, 5 gallon buckets, big plastic bin/tote, wringer, and washtub.  I put my clothes in my plastic bin inside the bathtub with enough water to enable the clothes to move around.  My bin can hold a normal sized load of laundry and takes 9 to 10 gallons of water to fill.  I use the mobile washer to plunge up and down, agitating the soapy water.  I generally do this for a total of 5 to 10 minutes with soak time in between.  There are also other ways of washing clothes without an electric washer, such as the WonderWash.  But methods like this all have one problem.  They can’t hold very many clothes!  If you are like me and have a family, I suggest using as big a bin as possible.  It helps to wash them all at once, as well as letting them soak while you do something else.
  7. I use 5 gallon buckets for carrying water into the house, as well as washing clothes.  The Mobile Washer is actually advertized for use in a 5 gallon bucket.
  8. I’m not concerned about colors and whites that are washed together.  It is a time saver to wash everything together and I have found that cold water hand washing does not affect colors like warm water in a machine.  The only exception would be an item that is brightly colored and brand new.
  9. I use water for washing and separate water for rinsing.  After the wash, everything gets wrung out and then put in the rinse water.  This is an important step!  It really helps to get the dirty soapy water out before clothes get rinsed.  You don’t want that going in the rinse water.  After the rinse, everything gets wrung again.
  10. laundry-tableUsing a clothes wringer saves so much time compared to squeezing clothes with your hands.  It is important to make sure clothes lay flat as they move through the wringer.  It can break zippers, buttons and snaps, so these are especially important to lay flat.  Some things take some strength to crank through, but a wringer can build up strong arm muscles!  A hand wringer is much safer than an electric wringer because there is no risk of fingers getting hurt.  If a finger gets close to being caught, simply stop turning.  I’ve never had an injury using my wringer.
  11. There are some things that I squeeze out with my hands because I don’t want to risk damaging them.  I learned this the hard way!  I never put my bras through the wringer anymore.  They have underwires and hooks that are easily bent or broken.  One size cloth diaper covers have many plastic snaps that can get stuck and broken.
  12. I always save my rinse water!  It is not completely clean water, but I use it for rinsing out used cloth diapers.  It would also be really useful for prewashing a really dirty item of clothing, cleaning the floor, or scrubbing the bathtub.
  13. Adult pants and shorts are the hardest clothes to wash, so I alternate days.  I wash mine one day and my husband’s the next.  Because they are usually very dirty, I wash them in a 5 gallon bucket by themselves.  I also do not put them through the wringer (literally).  There’s a reason why this expression came to be!  Some things are very difficult to crank through the wringer.  I’ve found that they get dry just fine on the line without wringing.  To keep my rinse water clean, I only put the pants in after I have rinsed and wrung everything else.
  14. Pajamas.  During the winter, I usually wash pajamas once a week.  We only sleep in them!  We get dressed as soon as we get up and they are put away for the next night.  I don’t let my kids run around in their pj’s because I don’t want them to get dirty.  Our rule is: Get up, get dressed!  In the summer, we all sleep in a clean t-shirt and wear that t-shirt the next day.  I wash pj shorts once a week.  Summer nights can be hot and sweating after showers is often the norm.  If we wore a shirt for sleeping and another shirt the next day, I would end up washing two shirts for each family member every day.
  15. diapers2Cloth diapers.  I could write an entire article about my experiences in hand washing these!  Let me know if that interests you.  I’m so thankful that my youngest is now mostly potty trained, except for nights and naps.  So I only need to wash two diapers a day and no poopy ones!  I’m so happy about that!  When he was little and using a lot more diapers, I used to alternate days with my other laundry, diapers one day and clothes the next.  I’m so thankful that I don’t need to do that anymore!  Now I put the diapers in their own five gallon bucket and wash them at the same time as everything else.
  16. Bath towels are an extra thing to wash, so I try to limit the times I need to wash them.  It usually happens every couple of weeks or when I see that they really need it.  If the air is very humid inside, I will often hang the towels outside without washing them.  The sun is great for sterilizing and taking out that mildewy smell.  We also never use a bath mat!  There’s a reason why hotels use towels for the floor.  They may be slightly thicker, but they are essentially a towel.  Bath mats take up a lot of room in the wash and take more time to dry.  We actually just use a hand towel.  It’s big enough to step on and that’s really all we need it for.
  17. Kitchen towels and dish rags.  I usually rinse these out in rinse water left from doing dishes.  This gets out any food residue.  Then I wash them with the rest of my laundry.
  18. Sheets are another big item.  These take a lot of water to wash and I usually have to set aside another wash day to do them because I don’t keep that much water in the house at any given time.  I wash pillowcases with my regular laundry, so they get clean more often.  I try not to wash sheets unless I really need to.  My best strategy for keeping them clean and lightening my laundry load is showering at night.  My boys shower right before bed and my husband and I only shower after our work is done for the day.  As an added bonus, it feels great to fall asleep clean after a hard day’s work.

I think I have washed everything imaginable from baby clothes to heavy Carhartt winter coats.  It really is possible.  Yes, a washer and dryer is easier.  But no matter how we choose to wash our clothes, let’s stop complaining about laundry!  There is always a woman somewhere who has a more difficult situation.  Remember the women in third world countries who haul their clothes to the river and scrub them on rocks.  Whatever our situation, we are so blessed.

 

 

 

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About JaimieB

Jaimie lives with her husband on their off-grid homestead known online as An American Homestead. They live with their two sons and her parents Tim and Joann on 50 acres located deep in the American Ozark Mountains.

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41 comments

  1. I’ve followed your husband’s other website for a few months and last week I caught up on the American Homestead videos. Jamie, you are not only beautiful outside but inside, too. You are a wonderful example for the rest of us. My husband and I live, with 6 of our 7 children, on 5 acres in the sticks of E. Texas. We’re not off grid and I don’t have to wash by hand but there are many things we do “the hard way”, as other people say. I have a wood stove to cook on in winter which also helps the wood heater in the living room to keep us warm. We don’t have heat in the bedrooms. My husband tells the kids, “You’re sleeping in your bedroom. You don’t play in there. You’re momma has plenty of quilts on the bed. Why do we need heat in the bedrooms?”

    I’ve so enjoyed watching you and your family share your lives with us! And, I’m keeping a notebook of ideas, projects and such I think we need or I want. Y’all are now a significant contributor to my notebook! I’ve just added the Mobile Washer to my list of things to purchase when finances allow. Thanks for all your hard work, Jamie, in helping us to see another way to get the seemingly mundane things done. I look forward to learning more from y’all! I pray all ABBA’s best blessings for your entire family!

    • Wow! What sweet compliments! Thank you! It’s wonderful to be able to share information with each other. I learn so much from doing and it’s nice to know that others find it helpful.

  2. Jaimie, I love reading your blogs and watching the videos. I’ve recently started hanging our laundry out to dry (probably the last 4 months or so). The laundry is so much stiffer doing it that way instead of in a dryer. I’ve put vinegar and baking soda in the wash to try and remedy that and I’ve also tried a tennis ball in our dryer for 10 minutes on air dry before hanging them out, but they are still stiffer than drying in a dryer. Do you have any ideas?

    Also, where can we find a Wonder Washer and Wringer at a reasonable price?

    And, do you do laundry every day of the week? I currently do laundry once a week in our washing machine but am thinking of doing it by hand once I can get all the equipment. We have 3 in our household.

    Thank you.

    • Yes, the laundry will be stiffer. I don’t do anything special to change this. We have just gotten used to it and it doesn’t bother us. We don’t have a dryer, so we never feel the difference anymore. 🙂 I grew up with clothes that were dried on the line. I knew about the stiffness, especially in heavier cotton fabrics, so I was already aware. The first time my husband put his socks on after I dried them on the line, he asked what was wrong with them! 🙂 It just takes some getting used to, but it doesn’t bother us now. If it really bothers you, have you tried an internet search? Maybe someone else has an idea.

      I don’t own a WonderWash. Are you asking about the Mobile Washer? I purchased my Mobile Washer and wringer from Amazon.com. They also have the WanderWash. They have the best prices I have found. When I purchased my wringer, Amazon was the only place that I could find one! This is the one I have. It is definitely an investment. I have never seen a cheaper one, but I’m thinking if it was much cheaper, it wouldn’t be very well made. http://www.amazon.com/GetPreparedStuff-Best-Clothes-Wringer-Hand/dp/B002QSXK60/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1409146573&sr=8-1&keywords=clothes+wringer+hand+crank

      I try to stick to doing laundry twice a week, no more no less. Once a week is not enough because the laundry piles up too much. I used to do laundry every day that the sun was shining. It got to be too much and I looked forward to rainy days! Now at twice a week, I feel that the laundry is still manageable, but my whole life doesn’t revolve around it.

      • add a cup or so of white vinegar to your rinse water — line dried clothing will be softer — this is especially true for socks / towels / cotton clothing. we never use fabric softener or a dryer. use vinegar in final rinse before hanging. hope that helps!

    • Tracy, please don’t think you need ‘equipment’ to get started! First, if you hang clothes on the line when the wind is blowing at least slightly, it will stop the clothes from getting so stiff. Second, why not start with hand washing your undergarments? I use an old detergent bottle. I cut the inner pouring piece out (some will just pull out but some need to be cut) so it’s just the bottle and lid. Use HOT water and a tiny bit of soap/detergent. Just cover the fabric with the water, leaving about half the bottle empty. Put on the lid and shake for about a minute. If you’ve used HOT water, you can feel the detergent bottle getting hard. Does this have something to do with air pressure? It sure seems to force the water into the fabric really well. Anyway, I leave the bottle of soapy fabric alone while I do something else, then come back and shake it hard for another minute. When I’m ready, I empty the bottle, squeeze out the fabric and repeat the process with rinsing. This works well also for pre-washing those undergarments that seem to have stains and smells that don’t wash out with a regular wash cycle. I was overseas for quite some time and learned that a water-proof bag (in place of the old detergent bottle) worked well to get bigger/heavier items clean. You can ‘agitate’ by throwing the bag back and forth between 2 people or just working it kind of like stomping grapes. Once you get started, things become easier! Trust me, if you just make a start, you’ll figure things out.

      • That’s a good tip Lilia! I may use that to wash socks in the winter when I don’t take the time to wash everything else. I can never have enough clean dry socks in the winter. I saw this product recently. http://thescrubba.com/pages/using-your-scrubba It utilizes the concept you were talking about. It seems kindof expensive to me for what it is. When camping, I will use a 5 gallon bucket and my mobile washer. You are right that you don’t need a wringer to get started. The clothes can drip dry on the line. A wringer is nice to have for squeezing all the yucky dirty water out after washing. I really believe that it helps get the clothes cleaner. But we all learn by doing and just trying new things! Thanks for that. 🙂

        • I also saw the scrubba bag thing and was intrigued by it. I bought it to try. It works just like the waterproof bag (issued to Army soldiers and civilians, if you happen to know someone who deployed and would send you theirs) that I have used. The little nubby things in it seem to help just a little, but the greatest thing was just to see how they managed to get the bag closed so neatly. I wouldn’t buy it again just because it is so expensive and I do have my waterproof bag. I will definitely use it, though, along with my (antique) wringer and my mobile washer. For drying jeans that I need to get wrung out to dry as quickly as possible, I’ve put one leg around each side of a small tree or a pole, then twisted the legs together to get the water out. In a real pinch, I’ve taken a mesh laundry bag with a few smaller things in it and swung the bag over my head (like a cowboy would do when swinging his lasso). The centrifugal force gets quite a bit of water out without wringing items that might get too wrinkled or stretched. It is nicest, though, to have the wringer!

          • Thank you both for those ideas! Yes, I meant to say mobile washer. I will check them out on Amazon. I have been looking for a wringer but they are at least $150 from what I can tell. Lilia mentioned an antique one and I’ve seen those going cheaper but have been concerned that maybe if I got one of those they would break and not be usable because of the age. Anyway, thanks for the tips and I like the idea of just starting with under garments first so that I can get used to it before eliminating the washing machine altogether.

    • Hi…I found that if I would take the time when the clothes were just about half way dry I would take them off the line and shake them and then hang them back up to dry the rest of the way. This was only ever an issue with me where the bath towels and pants were concerned.

  3. Way back when I was a girl and also when we lived in Germany laundry was done by hand and hung out to dry.
    My mother washed her whites separately soaking them overnight in her wash sinks before washing.. Then they were put in the brightest sun to dry and let the sun bleach them even brighter. The clothes were boiled in Germany
    in big boilers to get them clean, whizzed in centrifuges to wring them out. We used a scrub board, and double rinses with laundry tubs that were square and on wheels. You do not mention starching, we had a step after the last rinse to starch shirts, pillowcases and work pants. Besides making the clothes neat it made them easier to clean
    sort of a protective surface. Yes, we ironed the next day with the starched items being sprinkled and rolled in a basket so they could be ironed smooth and crisp with creases in the pants.

    We did the starching until at least the 80’s when wrinkle free clothes became popular along with the clothes dryer.
    Some of us still starch and iron good shirts so they are crisp and sharp looking.

    We did every thing by hand then and thought nothing of it. We had no concept it could be different.

    • Wow! You should see me right now. My jaw is on the floor! 🙂 I can’t imagine doing all of that to my laundry. I’m thankful for our t-shirts and jeans that don’t need ironing. I also wear skirts a lot, but the wrinkles always come out when they are hanging on the line. My husband has wrinkle free dress shirts and polo shirts that do just fine on the line. Thank you for telling your story! I love hearing about the old ways!

      People used to dress up more than we do today. Now we are so casual! My husband and I went to a funeral last week in our small town. I wore a skirt and dressy t-shirt top. My husband wore dress pants and a polo shirt. We felt overdressed! Especially living in the country, I have found that I never get the opportunity to really dress up because I don’t want to look out of place.

    • “We did every thing by hand then and thought nothing of it. We had no concept it could be different.” This is exactly one of the points that I was trying to make in my article Off Grid Living: A Woman’s Perspective. I love the way you worded it. I’m trying to learn more of the old ways, but I constantly feel like I have to work on my brain to get the convenience mentality out of my head.

  4. You addressed of the dilemmas I was concerned about when living off grid. I know laundry can be more time consuming than just about any other chore when it comes to farming and living off grid. Any tips to make it easier is sure appreciated. I’ve thought of running solar panels just to be able to use the washing machine on the spin cycle to remove excess water. Though I’ve read that the spin cycle on a dryer does not remove as much water as a wringer. Running the washer to actually wash the clothes would require a much bigger solar array which of course is a lot more expense. If I was smart enough I would figure out how to rig a washing machine drum to a bicycle or something in order to make the barrel spin to remove the excess water.

  5. Hallo people,

    Check out the progress of the revolutionary giradora manual “salad spinner” washing machine at https://www.facebook.com/GiraDora/timeline?ref=page_internal. This inventionwill ease manual washing incredibly.

    Question: manual wringers have vanished from the market in many countries. I believe none are made in Europe any more. The ones available on Ebay are ca. 100 years old and with perished rubber rollers.

    In the USA ,only Lehmans servicing the Amish people make 2 models. I believe your model in the photo is from Lehmans? Now Lehmans customers differ greatly in their written opinions of these 2 models.

    What is your opinion, please?

    (NB: in my view, manual washing discussions always overlook the problem of getting clothes dry enough quickly to avoid mould etc. in moist and cold and wind-still climates 7-8 months of the year. Especially at grid down.

    I do have a Wonder Washer but I am very aware that manual washing is only half the story; the other half is adequately quick manual drying in cold and wet or even just cool and humid weather. Hot air rises, so drying clothes in an attic is traditional in Europe, but which modern houses have an attic? One might have to improvise a drying area under the roof. So this is why a good wringer is vital.

    We cannot afford to get skin problems at SHTF just due to wearing still- damp washed clothes, we will have enough other things to contend with.

    • Yes, I’ve read about the GiraDora. I even studied it’s pros and cons. To my knowledge, it is still in the trial stages and not yet available on the market. My main concern about this “machine” is its size. This is primarily why I would never purchase one to use. It just doesn’t hold much! I imagine that it holds the same amount of clothes as the Wonder Washer. My other question is really about whether it really will meet the goal for which is was invented, being to help women in third world countries get their laundry cleaner in less time. I can attest to the fact that a significant amount of time in doing laundry is spent in drawing water from our well, getting it to the house and into my laundry tub. My well is only about 100 ft from my door. The water situation in third world countries can be very difficult with women walking a mile or more to get it. Regardless of how the laundry is done, water still needs to be used. I’m just not sure the GiraDora will solve the problem.
      I addressed how I hang clothes in this article. Tips for Hanging Clothes I completely understand your question! Winter with it’s cold temperatures and spring with its damp air can be real problems in drying clothes. I’ve hung clothes for days at a time on the line in the winter when my family lived in a travel trailer. The clothes were frozen, but they would eventually get dry as the water in them evaporated. It usually took 2 to 3 days. It was frustrating, but it worked and my family was never without clothes. I just had to plan according to the weather. Last winter I hung clothes in our house during freezing temperatures. It took about a day for clothing to dry that was not next to our wood stove. Next to the stove, things dried a lot quicker. The dampness from the clothes actually helps add needed moisture to the dry air in winter.
      In spring, I do not bring clothes inside. They just get mildewy. Even if it rains, I just leave them on the line. Again, they eventually get dry. It just takes longer. I’ve had clothes get completely soaked from the rain. I mean really dripping wet! But when the sun comes out, they will get dry. I just leave them on the line overnight and pray for better whether the next day. Line drying is possible in all seasons. I’ve never had my clothing get mildew outside, only inside. Hope this helps!
      I love my wringer! It has been going strong for almost 2 years. This is the one I have. I don’t believe that the original maker is Lehmans. http://www.amazon.com/GetPreparedStuff-Best-Clothes-Wringer-Hand/dp/B002QSXK60/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1409146573&sr=8-1&keywords=clothes+wringer+hand+crank

  6. Simple question , when not using traditional washer do we still use laundry detergent?

    thank you

    • Yes, laundry detergent is needed. You could do it the really old fashioned way and rub a bar of soap on the clothes and then scrub on a washboard. When using my method bucket/bin and mobile washer, I recommend liquid detergent. It’s much easier to dissolve in cold water. Heating up enough water to wash clothes without electricity is not really important to me. I feel like my clothes get clean without it. I also recommend using detergent sparingly until you get used to how much you need. Using too much detergent would require two rinses.

    • I have inexpensive laundry detergent by the gallons; bought when I first started stocking supplies in 2008.
      Now, I use Borax, Arm & Hammer, and Zote bar—very little suds, so very little rinsing needed.
      And clothes are spotless–if a bad grease spot, I spray with Shout it OUT!!
      I have the two tubs, the toilet plungers, a mop bucket wringer, and a washboard in the attic.
      I’m ready and not looking forward to it—but ladies, I am sure we will wear our clothes longer, line dry our towels after each shower/bath, and wear jeans as little as possible—like I do now!!!
      And I line dry all my clothes even now.

      • Oh, I have a laundry room (8 X 8) –what a waste of space. I drilled 4 holes, screwed in hooks, used S hooks and clothesline and made two drying lines there.
        Used a lot…and I found two drying racks–one huge wood one at a flea market for $8…what a find!!

  7. Yes, write the cloth diaper article, please!! This was really helpful and I’m pinning this for our next homestead which will, God willing, be off grid and also in the great state of MO!

    • It’s going on my list! Thanks!

      • Yes cloth diaper post please! We just bought our stash and will start using in a few weeks I will have 3 or 4 kids still in diapers. Potty training is slow in our house. We will be moving off grid to MO in the spring of 2016! Your story has made us a lot less nervous about making the change!

  8. Great blog especially for the campers. The plunger is a great agitator for washing clothes. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Thank you for your articles and videos. My husband has a dream to homestead and I am supportive of his dream and am learning all I can about living without electricity and running water to prepare for this transition. Sometimes what I read from others about this lifestyle is so negative and discouraging, but you write things in a positive light and give me encouragement. Washing clothes by hand is one of those things that I initially refused to do! But after seeing your family doing it and reading how you accomplish this task makes me feel like I can do it too. I am also a homeschooling mom, of soon to be 6 children. I have a 7 year old and 5 year old daughters I think I will train to be my laundry assistants! Many hands make light work!

  10. Thank you for this informative and innovative article. Your “can do” attitude and positive outlook is captivating. When I think of all the off grid chores I am likely to face, the laundry has been the most forbearing in my mind. I did purchase the plunger and have set aside the bin. The wringer is on my list.
    I saw an article where a 25 gallon drum was secured on a stand with a hand crank. Internal dowels were placed inside for agitators turning the drum into a washing machine. The clothes and liquid soap were first placed in the drum and then the water added as needed. Crank and rest for soaking times. All water was reused as it drained through a 1 inch hose attached on the bottom by a PVC on off valve with a hose quick release. After the rinse water was run through and drained, the drum was used to spin the clothes by fast cranking. Due to the larger area inside the drum, clothes had more room for the water to wash and rinse thus using less water. All hand cranking and the children loved to help. Seems it was great fun for them to crank and spin the drum. The cost to build was minimal, and it could be as large or small as desired. One person had it in the kitchen with the hose in the sink. They did laundry first thing in the am, then reused the water during the day for cleaning floors, pre washing pots and dishes during the day, and sent the remaining water to a grey tank for one more use outside.

    You blog is very inspiring. Your time and effort to write these articles is so deeply appreciated. I know I need to start these skills now even before we move. Blessings

  11. Awesome stuff! We have the same washer and ringer. We have sooooooomuch clothes. Ur tips I think will help. We have three children so we need to make it easier. I love your bin for clothes. Five gallon buckets just don’t work for all of us. And u are soooo right. U don’t have to start out with all that stuff. We had a blunger from the dollar store!!! We can’t use the wringer yet bc it won’t stay on a five galoon bucket. We are almost done with our cabin and the well should be dug soon then my husband will fix the winger perminate.I would luv to post pics of our family to share but am not sure how??? Thanks for your blog!

  12. I love your attitude! We are so blessed by the many conveniences and opportunities we have. What a more positive environment we would have if people would count their many blessings instead of thinking we have it so hard. We do NOT have it hard! Our lives are leisure compared to 99.9% of the human race throughout history. Clean water in a tap! Light at the flick of a switch (or strike of a match!)

  13. Jamie I read recently, that a trick to getting a few extra nights out of a set of sheets is to sprinkle a small amount of baby powder, talcum powder or even arrowroot powder between the sheets before making up the bed for the day. I live in sub tropical Queensland, Australia, and plan to do this once our hot humid summer gets here. This will be around Christmas when you and the family are in the shivery cold. Love your articles and your videos. Just one question. Do you ever get any down time?

  14. Dear Mrs Homestead,
    Sorry just couldn’t help but be silly. You noted that American women should be happy with the lot they live in compared to other countries. Be happy in your skin is one of my beliefs as well. I wanted to add to your comment on carrying there laundry to the river. The rivers in most countries contain large wild animals, in south American it includes the puma family. And Recently I was watching one of my favorite TV shows. It is an outdoorsman and his adventures. On one of the shows he was hunting in Africa, and the locals were having trouble with Crocodiles (spelling) or Alligators, (not much difference if you are inside). Well they did not have much luck hunting at first and then up or down river a young woman was taken. (By a Croc) and in a later scene she was being eaten by the croc, host and his PH just missed him. Later they both (if memory serves) shot crocs. And one they opened had a shirt in its stomach, no word on if it was the young womans or not. But those two croc’s didn’t make a dent. Everyday those people risk life and limb just to get water….

  15. Dear Mrs H,

    Sorry I should have included American Men in my post as needing to be happy with there existence as well…. Sorry

  16. My family and I are moving off grid onto our raw land this coming June. My youngest son will be 5 months old when we move out there and I will be cloth diapering. We have no septic and will be using a compost/saw dust toilet system. I am searching around for advice on hand washing the baby’s cloth diapers. I will be new to cloth diapering and I’m having a hard time figuring out the best way to wash the poopy prefolds. In my mind I’d like to essentially rinse them off before a presoak (is this step necessary? he is breastfeeding and has the watery milk poop) we also have no running water (which isn’t the problem) where I am getting stuck is the idea of his poop being rinsed down the sink (which will be into our grey water system. Can’t do that). So if I skip the rinse step all together and just soak them, what would be the best thing to do to dispose of the dirty water?

    • Before my baby was on solid food, I used two 5 gallon buckets for pre-soaking. I found this way was the easiest. One was for only pee diapers and one was for diapers with poop. I found that pre-soaking them all together got poop on all of them! My pre-soak water for both buckets was always the rinse water from the previous wash. Once I took off a diaper, it was dumped directly into one of the buckets. I never left them without soaking because the ammonia smell was just too hard to get out and the smell permeated everything in our small space. In the water, with the lid on the buckets, the smell was not noticeable. When I was ready to wash, I squeezed them out before washing. That way no pre-rinse was required. The soaking step took the place of the initial rinse that most diaper washing instructions recommend. Where did I dump the dirty water? The pee diaper water was dumped out with the rest of my laundry water, on the grass next to our laundry station. The poop water was dumped in the humanure pit where we also dumped our compost toilet buckets. Hope this helps!

  17. Instead of a wringer machine. I use the yellow mop bucket you see companies wash their floors with. The squeegee works great. It is strictly for laundry !!! Hope this helps.

  18. * Regarding Lilia’s question, she puts half a detergent bottle of hot water in, secures the cap, and the Half bottle of air heats up and increases in volume. Gases fluctuate in volume much more than solids or liquids.

    *Dan, a generator can run your washer, run it while using the washer, and possibly charge batteries simultaneously. Also, there are other things that need a huge solar array that can be run off your generator. I worked on off-grid houses in the old days, and they would use the generator for an hour or two to charge batteries for lights, and full time for machinery–power tools and the like. A solar array was a panel with coils of copper pipe painted black, circulated to bring the heat indoors, and photovoltaics were curiosities in science mags.

    *Jamie, I hope you don’t hand carry 5 gallon uckets from the well. If it is downhill or level, a cart could be powered or pulled. A guy wire with the capacity to hold the water could be built, a snatched block on the line, (that’s a pulley), and gentle guidance of the water to your door…

    I lived in San Francisco for many years, gale force breezes commenced about 3 p.m. daily. I always needed a method of opening up to the outside on the East and on the West side. My clothes dried even in Winter. (45° nights, 50° days). I hope to be on the land soon. I bought my ringer and mobile washer.

    *HI JayJay, I first saw your Borax, Soda Ash, Zote bar suggestion, couldn’t find a Zote bar, (was going to buy online), and then I came across Wellness Mama’s recipe:

    http://wellnessmama.com/462/homemade-laundry-detergent/

    She uses a bar of Dr. Bronner’s Castile soap, but I bought a bottle of the liquid Castile soap to make it, (I haven’t yet), instead of a Zote bar. To make the liquid, I will divide all the ingredients to make a half gallon instead of 5 gallon. (÷ by ten).

    *Jane, I have read articles saying that talcum powder is health hazardous, carcinogenic, I believe they said.

    *Tara, on cloth diaper washing,

    First, I hesitate to write this. I love my Mother, her being totally amazing in addition to my love. She is old school, coming up in the Great Depression. I want to honor my parents, as in the 10 commandments. I don’t want to go contrary to that. I hope this doesnt fail my quest.

    Anyway, regarding rinsing diapers, when I was in diapers, my Mom would put them in my hands and have me rinse out the poop in the toilet. First exposing the solids and agitating up and down, then letting the solids settle, and sticking hands with diaper into the water, and scrubbing embedded particles. I think an initial bucket to rinse out solids clinging to the cloth, maybe strain the water for multiple diapers–but I imagine you rinse immediately–then, in solid free water, soak them for the time allotted.

  19. Hi Jamie,
    Haven’t been on here in a while, but was surprised that you are not on video….just like email….!!!! I like it better when you guys did videos…..seems so much real….please start back with your videos…..

    Thanks

  20. Excellent tarticle ! Thank You Very Much 1
    Avoid more laundry by building (none available at local shops, here) a SCREEN.CLOSET. By hanging clothes already worn {on a hanger] in a closet with window.screen on 2-4 sides, with a translucent, corrugated .[slanted so rain will run.of side or back] top. ((Bottom–your discretion.)) AIR passes through & ozone & sunlight go a LOOOOOONG WAY toward sanitizing and freshening even sweaty, sequin-y belly-dance costumes, [[Or, so I’m told.]] May freshen & prolong time between launderings for “town-clothes”.
    *************************************************************************************HAPPY HOLIDAYS !

  21. I was thinking of my Great Grandmother reading your post! She was born July 6, 1896. I had many visits with her and I have her tea cups. 🙂 when she turned 100, her towns newspaper interviewed her and one thing they asked was what she thought was the best invention she has seen in her lifetime. She said #1 was a laundry dryer, and #2 the clothes washer.
    Last year our washing machine broke down. It was gone 2 weeks. Our laundry room had a utility sink which worked great for the antique wringer I got from a neighbor. I found that I could open the rollers manually to avoid the buttons and snaps on jeans. I would love to do more handwash but drying, well, I need to see how to line dry in Wisconsin winters.
    We had 8 children, only 1 is still home but we are now raising 2 little nieces, one still in diapers, which I use cloth. I found that it was easier to assign certain laundry to certain days. I did that when we had many kids still home. While the oldest was, say 13, the youngest was 1. Everyone had an assigned laundry day, typically 2 people’s laundry per day, then Friday was towels and bedding.
    We all have assigned towels. Everyone has 2 bath towels, 2 washcloths, and 1 hand towel for bathroom that everyone uses, but a different persons towel each week. Towels are washed once a week, but I knew exactly how many are washed each week.
    Kitchen linens can all be washed after evening dishes in the wash/rinse water, just adding extra soap, hen hang dry over night.
    Thanks for sharing your life with us!
    Shalom

  22. I think everything said made a lot of sense.
    But, what about this? suppose you were to create
    a awesome title? I ain’t saying your content is
    not good., but suppose you added something that makes people want more?
    I mean Laundry Day: 18 of my Best Tips for Washing Clothes by Hand
    – An American Homestead – Living Off Grid in the Ozark Mountains is kinda vanilla.
    You might look at Yahoo’s front page and watch how they
    create article titles to get viewers interested.
    You might add a video or a related pic or two to grab readers excited
    about everything’ve got to say. In my opinion,
    it could make your posts a little bit more interesting.

  23. Help. I think I’m missing something. Currently I use the washer to wash and spin my clothes. I hang things to dry either on the line in the warmer months, or on a rack by the woodstove during the cold months. How do I get the wrinkles out?? You don’t mention ironing anywhere, so that isn’t it. My tshirts, pants and cotton long sleeve shirts always look like they’ve been rolled up in a ball in the drawer when I pull out clean neatly folded clothes. Love all your helpful info!

  24. Living in China now and certain things we wash by hand here because these little washing machines don’t do so great. Lol the first thing i learned is wear the same clothes everyday, like you i may clean pants once or teice a week unless it is summer. I miss a washer,but since my wife is from China she always looked at me crazy when i talked about missing the dryer most.

    Keep up the good work.

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