Day 13.  Today was wash day.  We have enough clothes to make it until Day 14 but I wanted the full emergency preparedness experience.  What I learned was that doing laundry in an extended emergency is going to be a real chore unless you have a few essential items.

First, I would keep 14 days of clean clothing on hand, at least socks and underwear.  Doing laundry in an emergency is such a big hassle that if a 2-week emergency turned into a 30-day emergency, I’d just wear everything twice rather than do laundry.    In winter, without a warm sun to dry your clothes, doing laundry would really be bad.

Here are the minimum supplies you’ll need.  Two or Three 5-gallon plastic buckets, detergent, an agitator of some kind, Six – Eight gallons of water (I used rain water), a wringing device, cotton or plastic coated clothes line and clothes pins.

If you use two buckets, one is for washing, one is for rinsing.  If you use three buckets, one is for washing, one is for the first rinse and one is for the final rinse.  Put 2 gallons of water in each bucket.  You should be able to wash 1 – 2 t-shirts, 2 – 3 boxers and 2 – 3 pairs of socks at the same time.

Go easy on the detergent, this is a small load of laundry.  Agitate the clothing for 5 minutes.  Here are two different agitators.  The first is Home Made by taking a $3 toilet plunger from Walmart and drilling six 5/8” holes around the plunger.  The second is a commercial model available for about $15.  Both worked well.  The commercial model seemed to move the water around a little more than the DIY model but both created some very dirty laundry water. (I washed 2 batches of laundry, 1 batch for each agitator).  If splashing becomes a problem, you can drill a 1” hole in the center of a bucket lid and put the handle up through the hole in the lid as you agitate.

Wring as much of the wash water out of the clothing as you can before placing them in the rinse water.  There are several ways to wring the clothes.  The first is the old twist it up as tight as you can by hand method.  While somewhat effective, this method will stretch your clothing, leaving it misshaped and sometimes leave your clothing with broken thread and torn material.

Second is to make a pressure wringer from two 5-gallon buckets.  Here is a picture of the one I made.  I drilled 5/8” holes all over the bucket bottom and 6” up the side.  Place the clothing in the bucket, place another bucket on top and put pressure on the wet clothing by pushing or sitting on the inside bucket.  I saw this on the internet and decided to try it.  It is only marginally effective.  The clothing on top seem to have the water squeezed out of them but the clothes on the bottom seem to have more water than normal.

Third is to buy a commercial wringer.  Here is a small wringer I found that fits on a bucket.  Because of its size, it will only handle socks, undies, dish towels, and clothing of that size.  It definitely wouldn’t be able to handle a pair of pants, shorts, man’s t-shirt, dress or skirt.  I might be okay for a woman’s cami or t-shirt.

The most frustrating thing about my laundry experience was not being able to properly wring out the clothing.  I’m going to buy a full-size wringer and metal wash tub for my storage.

Once in the rinse water, agitate for 3-5 minutes and wring the clothes out again.  If you are going to do a final rinse, then place the clothes in the third bucket and agitate and wring out the clothing for a final time (my first rinse water as so dirty that I had to do a second rinse).

I chose a sunny day, so even with the clothes be wetter than I wanted, they still dried okay.  You can put up a clothes line anywhere it’s sunny and where you have a couple of posts or trees that are close together.  Be sure to use a cotton or plastic coated clothes line, or at least some rope that is color fast or you may have the rope color bleed onto your clothing.  Keep a good supply of clothes pins in your storage.  They are available at the Dollar Store.

Day 13 and wearing clean clothes.


Ed Rogers
Copyright “Keep It Simple” 2014. All Rights Reserved.

Comments are closed.