Laundry On the Off-Grid Homestead ~ 1

Our two youngest always hang the socks and undies on a rack to dry

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 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.

Plunging in the wash tub

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. 

Drilling holes to make a laundry press

Holes in the bottom...

...and in the sides

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. 

Place clothes into the holey bucket which is resting in another bucket without holes

Place third bucket with lid on top of clothes in holey bucket

Have a seat!

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!


Homemade Cottage Cheese and Butter

PS.  Be sure to read the follow-up posts about Laundry on the Off-Grid Homestead part two and part three!

Linked w/ Barn Hop, Morris Tribe, White Wolf Summit Farmgirl, Growing Home, Frugally Sustainable, Live Renewed, Our Simple Farm, A Rural Journal, Simple Lives ThursdayMy Simple Country Living, Ole’ Saturday Homesteading Trading Post,  and Seasonal Celebration Sunday.

14 thoughts on “Laundry On the Off-Grid Homestead ~ 1

  1. I found your blog via the Your Green Resource linkup today. I do use a washing machine…but when I can I like to let my clothes airdry outside. I would love to try handwashing my clothes sometime, since I’ve got the time. Do you find those mobile washers good? I’ve heard others recommend them, too 🙂 🙂 Love and hugs from the ocean shores of CAlifornia, Heather 🙂


    • So glad you found us! Yes, the mobile washers have been sturdy and do their job well. If you have lots of laundry I recommend getting at least two to make it go faster. Thanks. 🙂


  2. Love these ideas. We have an off grid summer cottage where we do laundry by hand ,but it’s only a summer affair… We use a bucket, ring out our clothes by hand and hang them on the line! You have some great info here if we ever need to wash full time by hand at home! Thanks for sharing!


    • That sounds like a good way to be in practice but still be able to enjoy modern conveniences most of the time. I must admit I would have had a hard time making myself do this if it weren’t for the fact that I HAVE to do it right now if we’re going to realize our dream of homesteading (debt-free). So it’s worth it to me!


  3. That’s a great idea! With fibromyalgia, it can be really hard to squeeze out clothes, but sitting is something that I can do pretty well! When you do almost everything by hand, anything that saves a little bit of energy and reduces muscle aches is really helpful… I don’t buy anything in buckets, but I will see if I can find some…


    • If it helps, we find most of our buckets at bakeries where they get pastry supplies in big buckets. A local Amish type restaurant has a huge bakery where I get most of them. I’ve also found some at grocery store bakeries. They usually throw them out when they are done with them. These are the same kind of buckets we use for our food storage…the lids must have the rubber gasket in them so they will seal well.


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