Laundry When Living Off-Grid


The evolution of laundry in our family directly correlates with our family’s growth. When we were a small family we washed and scrubbed our clothes in the creek or a bucket using a washboard with very little soap as it takes a while to rinse out the soap. Mom’s homemade lye soap and later lye/goats milk soap was/is a good strong soap for doing laundry and when there was a very dirty spot we would scrub that spot well with soap and scrub it on the wash board.

I do remember having fun trying to twist out the water in big items like sheets and blankets. Even with pants, two of us would grab a side and wring out the water by each of us twisting the pants in opposite directions thus wringing out the majority of the water before we hung it out on the line. We used to just hang everything on the clothes line but the weight tended to break the line no matter how many times we upgraded the clothesline and rebuilt it.

If we wanted to have hot water, it meant heating it on the stove or over a fire, which was easy in the winter as we always had a large pot of water on the wood stove for moisture in the air (wood burning dries it out) and for hot water. In the summer we didn’t use as much hot water (we did have one of those plastic bag camping solar “showers” that we heated water in). Although later I did end up building a solar batch heater using a plastic tank painted black and mounted on the roof. The problem is we had no pump so we had to haul the water from the creek up onto the roof to fill the tank and than it was gravity fed. It usually got way too hot. Now a small solar electric (PV) panel and a little DC pump can do it wonderfully. I don’t remember except vaguely once or twice using hot water to wash our clothes. I think once we had an infestation of lice and we boiled all of our clothes and various cloth sundries.


At one house we had a hand operated wringer washer which a couple of us kids got our hands stuck in when we were ringing out the clothes. It was a game for us kids as one kid would feed the clothes through the ringer while another would hand turn the crank.  It never really hurt as the kid cranking would stop as soon as your fingers were caught and crank backwards to get you out. To wash the clothes there was a handle to swish back and forth to tumble the clothes. It was fun to see how dirty we could get the water as that felt like we accomplished something.

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