Off-Grid Laundry Easy with Hand-Crank Wringer


| 7/25/2016 10:17:00 AM


Having clean laundry was my greatest off-grid obstacle until I discovered two secrets: rainwater and a hand-crank wringer.

1919 woman washing with baby

During long-term power outages before we transitioned off-grid, I washed clothes in a canning kettle.  It was not terribly difficult, but I was never thrilled with the results. I haven’t used an electric or gas-powered dryer for decades, so line-drying laundry wasn’t the issue. In fact, I think hanging clothes out to dry is therapeutic (all that fresh air and exercise) and enjoyable (no dryer racket or static cling).

The problem was getting the clothes clean. I would rub and scrub and twist the water out until I could twist no more. Small articles weren’t too grueling, but sheets, jeans and large towels held so much water that the clothesline sagged nearly to the ground. The fabric took eternities to dry and was stained by excess water marinating along the bottom edges for hours. I tried all sorts of soaps, but still had dingy laundry.

For a while, I thought, "Well, that’s just the way it is." But then I started some serious washerwoman research. As always to relearn old-time skills, I grabbed my books from the mid-1800s and early 1900s. Incidentally, sites such as OpenLibrary.org have made such investigation just a click away. At the end of this article are links to a few antique homemaking books in the public domain that can be downloaded and saved for future reference.



Early Laundry Routine

Because so many styles of mechanized washing machines have been designed and patented through the years, I thought washing clothes by hand must be absolute drudgery or inventors wouldn't have bothered.  Many lengthy books, such as The Laundry Manual; or Washing Made Easy by a Professed Launderer, 1861, were devoted entirely to washing clothes. Days of the week revolved around a laundry schedule:





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