Here we are in the middle of red dirt country, and as we prepare to build our new home, we get very, very dirty (and stinky)! Rather than drive almost forty-five minutes down the hill to the nearest town to do laundry, we chose to set up our own washing facilities right here on our homestead.
After reading about off grid laundry systems on the internet, I became completely intrigued by the 5 gallon bucket and plunger method.
First, get a 5 gallon bucket with a tight fitting lid – preferably one that screws off. Then purchase a toilet plunger – you know, the rubbery type with the (usually) wooden handle. Now cut a hole in the lid of the bucket right in the center just big enough for the handle of the plunger to fit through. Then, cut a few holes in the rubbery part of the plunger. Your washing machine is now finished. Just pour water in the bucket, add soap, or detergent, or soap nuts, etc., then add your laundry items, push the plunger in among your laundry items, place the lid on the bucket with the plunger handle going up and through the hole…
then plunge, plunge, plunge! Once you think your laundry is clean, dump out the water, add rinse water, put the plunger back in and the lid back on and…
plunge, plunge, plunge!
Sounds simple, right! It also sounds like a lot of work! 😉
Yeah – I want to be off-grid, but I never said I didn’t want some modern conveniences!
So, we set up a laundry room in our new metal shed…
The washing machine is our old one from the house we sold down in the valley. It is getting old, but still works just fine. We found an almost new propane dryer on Craigslist for cheap, and set that up right next to the washer. Do you like those shelves? The shelves were once a waterbed headboard from years back. Luckily, my ingenious pack-rat husband (“this may come in handy someday” is his favorite saying), found it was just the right size for our new laundry room.
We run the washing machine and dryer with our generator. We found that it was easier and faster to fill up the washing machine directly with the hose. We also heat water in a large bucket with a propane cook stove, and pour that directly into the washing machine. That way, we don’t have to turn on the generator until the tub is full of water and laundry.
Of course, we don’t use the dryer much right now because it’s summertime, so we use the solar dryer outside! However, in the winter the propane dryer will come in very handy,
One concern of ours, however, was the use of harsh detergents and the disposal of the wash water. What we did was set up a french drain system for the gray water (wash water) and this works very well. But, what about the detergents that could potentially harm the trees and bushes in the vicinity of the drain, much less foul the soil? The solution came last week in the mail!
Amanda Powell, from Econuts, was kind enough to send me a package of soapnuts, along with a package of wood dryer balls and several packets of organic laundry detergent. You may have seen this company when they were featured on “Shark Tank” on ABC. Not only are their products eco-friendly, but so is their packaging – they use little to no plastic, which is great for our environment! I had heard of soapnuts before and was very interested in trying them!
I tried several loads of wash with the soapnuts. My honest opinion? They work great on my undies, bath towels and sheets. My blouses and slacks got clean with the soapnuts also. However (I am being honest here), it did not work so well on our red-dirt-stained work clothing. I had to rewash those with a mild detergent to get the ground in dirt and sweat stains (and smells) out.
I like the soap nuts. Not only are they environmentally friendly and get most of my laundry clean, I also like the fact that I don’t have to live with harsh detergents and/or chemicals next to my body. I have fairly sensitive skin (especially in my armpits) and not using harsh detergents is great. However, I will still use detergents for our work clothes.
The wool dryer balls? These are fantastic! It’s funny – I had purchased some wool yarn to make my own dryer balls a few months ago when the skeins were on sale. But, because of our recent move, I just never got the time to make the balls! I was so pleased to get these really nice wool felted balls (they won’t unravel) to use in my dryer. As I have said before, right now we aren’t using the propane dryer much, but I did wash a load of permanent press blouses and slacks and hung them on the solar dryer. Then, when they were just damp I threw them in the propane dryer with the wool dryer balls for about 5 minutes and the blouses and pants came out soft and wrinkle free! Nice!
I am going to keep the dryer balls in a large glass jar with a lid so I can use just a few drops of lavender essential oil on them for a light scent. The glass jar helps preserve the scent. Amanda promised me that the essential oil will not disintegrate the wood balls (just an urban myth, I guess), and by keeping them in the glass container they will stay clean and fresh, and the lavender oil won’t dissipate so quickly.
So, there you have it. That’s how we are doing our laundry up here on our homestead. It’s really not much different that doing laundry with the power grid, and with the Eco-Nuts I don’t have to worry about fouling up our soil or harming any trees with harsh detergents.
Of course, if the SHTF (which many believe will be happening soon) I can always use the bucket and plunger method! 🙂
Disclaimer: Amanda, from Eco Nuts, generously sent me the contents of the package as described above. My opinions expressed are honest, as you would expect from me, and told as truthfully and completely as possible.
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