Washing "machines"? - Mothering Forums
Country Living / Off the Grid > Washing "machines"?
BCmamaof6's Avatar BCmamaof6 01:12 PM 05-09-2006
Okay so after ghetting over the shock of being pregnant we are back on track with our Off-grid Move plans...and one thing that I'm trying to figure out is:


I usually do 5 loads a day!!!
I'm not sure how I'd do all that if I had to do it by hand. I can no problem...we do that a lot anyway...but to actually use one of those old scrub-boards & wringers... I'm just not sure I could do it, KWIM?
Especially the :

Is there any other option? Or any 'magic machine' that runs off of something other than gas or electricity?

What do you think would be the best method for lots of laundry.

(BTW: we've tried EC & it didn't work for us. And we could down-size our clothing...but I'd still have to wash what we DID have, YK?)

BCmamaof6's Avatar BCmamaof6 01:21 PM 05-09-2006
Oh! And what would be the best "soap" to use that wouldn't be toxic to the hands or garden...but would rinse out of the clothes (especially the CDs)?
wildflowermama's Avatar wildflowermama 04:52 PM 05-09-2006
Lehman's has some sort of crank washing machine. I'm dying to try it out at least for part of our laundry.

You could always (I've done this) just wash clothes in the bottom of your shower when you shower. If they aren't too stained this works. I just use castille soap.
Godiva's Avatar Godiva 06:06 PM 05-10-2006
Well, you can use the front loading washing machiene. They are very very energy efficient and easier on your clothes. They only use about 10 gallons of water per load. If you wash in cold water, you won't need much electricty or gas to heat water. We're moving off grid as well and I'll be doing the front loader, I just can't do laundry by hand I know I'm weak!
stretchmark's Avatar stretchmark 11:17 AM 05-11-2006
I think the only two options I have seen are the low-energy front loaders and the James hand washer from either lehmans or real goods (cheaper at realgood I think).

Also, check out the "diaper water" thread to see what is being said about the wash water.
BCmamaof6's Avatar BCmamaof6 02:13 PM 05-11-2006
I should have been more clear:
We are intending to be off the grid AND without electricity (or gas for that matter) so our wonderful front loader wouldn't work.
We are intending to use woodstoves for cooking, heating, hot water...candles & lamps for lighting, etc. It is our dream to be completely disconnected with modern "appliances" & "entertainment". We are already TV-free (we have TVs...but they are only used for movies) and slowly trying to wean from all other electrical things. The computer's gonna be a hard one though. :
Hopefully there'll be an internet cafe within driving distance.
isaberg's Avatar isaberg 04:27 PM 05-11-2006
Yeah, Lehman's is certainly the place to look to see what's out there. Much of what they have is off-the-grid, but not necessarily non-motorized, since the Amish/Mennonites actually do use a lot of gas-powered motors, including washing. They're off the grid, but not anti-technology in any sense. (Watching them will cellphones is always amusing!)

In Ecuador, every house had this concrete table with ridges and low edges out in the courtyard. You had a big, very hard bar of soap, and after soaking your laundry for awhile you'd pull out a shirt, slap it down hard a few times to work the water through (very satisfying!), then rub at spots with the soap. The concrete ridges would help with that. Then wring it out by hand, rinse quick, ring it out again, and hang up to dry. (A wringer would have totally helped in this case!)

This was a fabulous way to do laundry. Very soap/water efficent, only the stains took any effort, and less than you'd think, because, well, you never need to wash all parts of the clothes equally, just the dirty bits. And boy, were those clothes clean!

Drawbacks: this worked in Ecuador because it was always about 80 and the air was never humid, up in the mountains. I don't know about doing it in any more temperate area.
UlrikeDG's Avatar UlrikeDG 09:22 PM 05-11-2006
Originally Posted by BCmamaof5
I should have been more clear:
We are intending to be off the grid AND without electricity (or gas for that matter) so our wonderful front loader wouldn't work.
I think the first thing you need to do is find ways to cut back on the amount of laundry. 5 loads/day for only 7 people seems outrageous to me. That's more than double what I would expect!
newcastlemama's Avatar newcastlemama 12:54 AM 05-12-2006
Wow! You are really going all the way! My only suggestion is to repeat wear your clothing...this saves me on laundry. Also, I don't dress my toddler in "outfits"....The summer is great...just his froggie diapers!
farmer mama's Avatar farmer mama 01:48 AM 05-15-2006
I use a double wash tub with a wash plunger, wash board and wringer from lehman's. I do it in little spurts throughout the day. My kids wear the same clothes after a good airing for 2 days in a row, or more , I wear the same clothes all week. Of course we spiff up for town trips. For diapers, my little one is mainly diaper free, but I do use those old fashioned, fold your own gauzy diapers because they dry so quickly. I am also experiementing with lining his diaper with a big mullien leaf if a poop is coming, and then throwing it in the humanure compost. HTH
Jeanne_L's Avatar Jeanne_L 06:55 PM 05-15-2006
I was using the lehman's "wonder wash" for cloth diapers.
it works pretty well, although it doesn't do huge amounts of clothes (5 normal size loads of clothes would take you all day!!), and I would have to do several rinse cycles. but it was a good option for us at the time. (although ours leaked a bit... not sure if that was operator error or what). If I were using it for all my laundry I would definitely want to get some sort of wringer, too. The wonder wash was certainly a lot easier than hand washing in a bucket which is what I did when I was living in Tanzania for 2 years. Hand washing all of your laundry will definitely motivate you to wear your clothes a lot longer before washing...
For CD, I also used the old fashioned flat diapers which dry super quick.
Sounds like you are up for quite an adventure. Best of luck!!!
sahmof2girls's Avatar sahmof2girls 07:00 PM 05-15-2006
hananana's Avatar hananana 12:35 PM 05-18-2006
I used a Wonder Wash for about 4 months, averaging 2 - 3 loads a day for a family of DH, me and baby in cloth diapers. We only used it that long because the handle broke from the stress and strain. I am sure I could write to the company and get a replacement, but we found another alternative. Tub washing is also an excellent method. I found a plunger to work great for forcing the soapy/hot water through the fabric to get it really clean.

Here is a link on handwashing that I found helpful:
LeBoof's Avatar LeBoof 09:43 PM 05-22-2006
You might like some of the stuff here.
They have enviromentally friendly soaps (including for washing clothes). I had a link saved off that I would swear had a countertop washer that worked using the force of water behind it (which would be useful if you have a stream or good solar powered pump).Now I can't find it of course :/

judejude's Avatar judejude 03:02 AM 05-23-2006
OK, well we're not off the grid, but we'd like to be and so I do have an interest.
Anyway, I do think that you do too much laundry.
I wear the same skirt or pants all week and I probably wear 2 to 3 shirts per week. Our daughter wears the same shirt for 2 days unless she spills something on it but she does change her bottoms every day. I buy all of our clothes so that they all match all our other clothes. My daughter wears bright colors that all match each other (mostly) and dh and I wear grey and black mostly with a little color thrown in. The only thing that gets changed daily is socks and underwear. We each use the same bath towel for a week or 10 days.
My philosophy is: if it doesn't stink it's not dirty. Of course if you spilled some big thing on it that's a different issue. I wear a lot of black so most things can be perked up with a lint roller and since we homeschool we don't need to be looking fancy. Obviously if we go somewhere we make sure we look nice and clean.
This goes against my mother who changed our shirts several times a day, whenever we dribbled something on them.

It also works better the less clothes we have. The more clothes we have the more I can put off doing laundry and then is can be overwhelming. If everyone has 5 to seven of everything and then 2 or 3 nice outfits for dressier occasions then we don't get so behind on laundry.
I got rid of a lot of my towels too. I only kept 2 each, so I couldn't get a big pile of towels going in the basement.

just my 2 cents
BCmamaof6's Avatar BCmamaof6 02:28 PM 05-24-2006
I used to agree with the wear-it-lots & share-towels philosophy...
but in the last year we have had several highly contaigous strep/staph infections (org from an outbreak at school) & the docs (inc a ped. specialist) insisted that NOT sharing towels, NOT rewearing clothes & frequent washing of bedding in HOT water was the best defence in treating/preventing infection.

So...currently (especially while our kids are still at the same school) we are doing a lot more laundry than would be possible if we were off the grid, out of the city. KWIM?
We also have 4 swimming lessons a week so that accounts for 1-2 extra loads of towels right there.

Homeschooling was better for laundry. We could all just sit in our PJs all day if we wanted to.
nikirj's Avatar nikirj 02:42 PM 05-24-2006
We washed clothes in the bath tub for a while. We'd put about 4 regular-washer-loads worth in the tub, fill it up with soap sprinkled on top, and let the kids go nuts jumping around on it. Drain, squishing the clothes to get out as much wet as possible, refill with clean water, soak, let kids jump around again, drain and squish again.

I'm thinking it was roughly as water and soap efficient as a washing machine. It actually got the clothing CLEANER though. But we could not wring the clothes as dry as they get in a washing machine spin cycle, and boy were they heavy to carry out.
mama_daba's Avatar mama_daba 05:43 PM 05-24-2006
i can't find the web page but... someplace on the net there are directions for how to hook up an old fashion washing machine with a bike so you fill the washing machine ride the bike and it washes the clothes, i think some of the otehr suggestions here might be better than this though and for 5 loads a bike would be very tiring
mommy2001's Avatar mommy2001 11:05 AM 05-25-2006
I have the wonder wash-- now, it just came UPS yesterday, and for now my little boy loves turning the handle. We did three loads in yesterday and ran them through an old hand ringer that I got off of ebay, and then hung them out on the line. The three loads were one load for each of us-- the laundry that came from the day before. I think if you stuck with it and used this thing every day, washing what was dirtied the day before, then it really can do the job. I found it cheaper here http://beprepared.com/product.asp_Q_pn_E_MC W100_A_name_E_Wonder Washer# than anywhere else, and my wring I got for like $25. Its great, the laundry gets done faster and uses WAY less water than our machine does. Not gettin' rid of the machine yet though, hubby says he wants to see if I'll use the wonder wash for a whole month before he gives into the idea of selling the machines.