Homesteading can quickly soil clothes, and electricity isn’t always hard to come by, so I’ve created a guide showcasing the best ways to wash clothes off-grid.
Living off-grid on a homestead is one of the most fulfilling things ever. But just like everything, it has its cons too; washing clothes.
Most of us have become accustomed to tossing our clothes in a machine, but if you live on a homestead, this may be difficult to make a reality.
Luckily, thanks to our ancestors and old-school friends who still wash clothes the traditional ways, we have a few great ways to wash clothes off-grid.
Sure, it’ll require a bit more manual labor, but since you homestead, you’re probably already capable of handling it.
Plus, manually washing clothes is proven to remove more soil and germs from the clothing, so even though it’s a bit more challenging, you’ll have cleaner clothes to wear.
I’ve also added a few modern ways to wash clothes and a smaller energy efficient electric washer and dryer combo. Let’s take a look at them now.
5 Ways To Wash Clothes Off-Grid
1: The Old-School Way
A galvanized bucket, washboard, and your hands; sound familiar? Most of you old-school guys and gals may have already used this method to wash clothes.
It’s an effective way to wash, and it works very well.
The only negative is that it’ll certainly be a workout – your forearms may be burning afterward, but your clothes will likely come out much cleaner than in a regular washing machine.
It’s a pretty simple concept; you fill-up the bucket with warm water, mix in some clothes detergent, and start washing; the washboard is optional, but it certainly helps.
2: Dunk N’ Bucket
This is one of my preferences because it saves the hands and wrist. You need a bucket with a top and something to push and pull on in a stick form, such as a plunger.
The top of the bucket needs to have a hole that’s just big enough for the plunger handle to stick through.
After you have it set up, place the clothes inside the bucket, add some warm water and detergent, close the lid, and start pushing and pulling.
This allows you to be vigorous with the push-pull action as there is no worry of splashing yourself with water.
3: Your Bathtub
I’ve done this a few times, by choice and necessity due to storms. I know a bathtub may not seem like the ideal place to wash your clothes.
However, it works exceptionally well. It’s super straightforward to do, as you’ll just need to fill up the bathtub and add in the clothes and clothes detergent.
I’ve found this choice to be beneficial because, with a bathtub, you can quickly drain and refill to wash out any soap and debris, which makes it very easy.
The only negative is that it can be easy to make a mess in the surrounding areas of the bathtub.
4: A Regular Bucket
This is the most manageable method on the list, but it’s a great option, plus it’s the cheapest of all unless you own a bathtub.
Nevertheless, washing in a bucket is one of the most popular ways to wash clothes off-grid.
It’s easy, as you’d only have a handful of clothes in at once; plus, it’ll be easy to empty the dirty, soapy water and replace it with clean water to rinse out the clothes.
This is particularly great to use when you have very soiled clothes, such as after you’ve cleaned a livestock pen or became muddy. It’s an exceptional way to get started, too, so get to washing.
5: Dasher Washer
The dasher washer is one of the neatest old-school methods of washing clothes that I’ve seen.
It’s a barrel, split in half, with an L pipe going into the side of the barrel and the other end sticking up to act as a handle.
The L piece is what will move the clothes around, so it should expand across the barrel.
This type of washing machine is prevalent among the Amish, so that should speak for itself, as the Amish are the ultimate off-grid dwellers.
They are available prebuilt, but they can be built at home for one-tenth of the cost.
5 Best Modern Items For Washing & Drying
1: Wonderwash Retro
If you want a washing machine that can be used off-grid, with no need to hook to a power source, then this may be what you’re looking for.
This portable washer can fit a few shirts and a pair or two of pants at once, making it best suited for single individuals.
It’s super lightweight, and it has a built-in soft agitator and a handle to operate it, which means washing the clothes is incredibly easy.
Plus, it’s super inexpensive and takes up very little space.
2: Lavario Washer
This is a similar concept to the “Dunk N’ Bucket” but with a much more fluid design. This design is unique, though, as it features a middle compartment used to house the clothes.
It works by placing in the water, detergent in the primary bucket, then putting the clothes in the central chamber.
After you do this, close it up and begin pulling the handle up and down. This allows for a very vigorous wash by pushing water through the clothes compartment continuously.
3: Caliger Clothes Wringer
I felt the need to include at least one wringer, as to wring out clothes manually could be exhausting to the hands and forearms.
The caliger can wring out most shirts and pants, although it may prove challenging to work with larger jackets.
It’s super easy to use, though, as it features a handle on the side, which rotates the top and bottom rollers to push the clothing through the wringer.
This is a must-have unless you prefer to wring dry your clothes.
4: Astoney Washer/Dryer Combo
This is a unique setup as it can be both a washer and a dryer, saving you money and space. It works like a regular washing machine, except the clothes compartment is sideways.
It features a handle on the side, which is used to wash and dry the clothes by rotating faster.
It’s the same as when a regular washing machine spins out the water, but in a smaller form. It’s not going to get your clothes entirely dry, but it will save you from having to wring out the water.
This machine is best for those of you who may have many clothes to wash, as some of the other methods can tire your arms out quickly.
5: Pyle Washer & Dryer
I felt that I should add in at least one electric washer and dryer, as even though power can be scarce on a homestead, some of you will appreciate having one.
I did want it to be small; this way, it would be energy efficient. This particular washer and dryer are on the smaller size, with an 11-pound capacity.
That should be enough for most clothes, although it’s not suited for larger items like comforters.
If it were me, I’d use this as my main machine and the others to clean extra tangible clothes, or perhaps use the others when the battery bank charge is running low.
A Few Tips Wash Clothes Off-Grid
Hang Your Clothes To Dry
Although this is likely already a familiar concept, it’s still worthwhile to be mentioned.
Hanging your clothes takes a little more time than using a regular, electric dryer, but your clothes will stay in better condition for much longer.
Plus, there is no risk for shrinkage. Hanging clothes is super simple; typically, two posts are placed 15 feet away from each other with a line running from one post to another.
There is no need for putting a post, though, as you can hang clothes to dry anywhere, but this will provide the best results.
You can also hand dry during the winter, even when it’s snowing. You can find that article here, where Jessica goes in-depth on how to hang dry, even in the most frigid conditions.
Use Natural Detergent
Suppose you’re like most people. You’ve probably become accustomed to using regular store-bought detergents produced by big-name companies.
These detergents often possess many chemicals that are not only unhealthy but eat away at clothing over time.
Plus, according to the USDH, most detergents have dioxane, which is considered a carcinogen to humans.
Natural detergents will provide fresher, healthier to wear clothes without risking any of the unnecessary chemicals.
Plus, natural detergents are great to use for outdoor clothing used for hunting.
Deer can easily pick up on the scents that are found in clothes detergent, so natural clothes detergent is going to benefit you big time if you’re a hunter.
Consider A Washboard
One of the most recognizable tools used for washing clothes is washboards. Just about every museum I visit has one, but they’re still incredible to use, even now.
They’re straightforward, and they’re usually made out of silicone now, although they’re available in the aluminum form.
Washboards are best used for rubbing out stains in clothing, such as knee stains on a pair of pants.
You do this by placing a small amount of soap on the soiled area and begin rubbing it on the washboard.
They can also assist in cleaning clothes in a bucket too, as it can be placed inside and used as an agitator of some sort.
Open Questions on Dealing with Homestead Laundry
What’s The Fastest Way To Wash Clothes Off-Grid?
If you’re comparable to most people, you probably have much better things to do than wash clothes, but since it’s necessary, I don’t blame you for looking for a fast way to do so.
The Dunk N’ Bucket will wash clothes faster than any other options noted here, as it quickly and vigorously washed the clothes due to the design concept.
The next fastest would be one of the non-electric washing machines, but the Lavario will provide the quickest wash out of the three of them unless you opt for the electric pyle combo.
Can I Wash Clothes Without Detergent?
If you want to take the old-school approach and wash your clothes without the use of a detergent, then this is entirely okay to do.
However, it’ll take a bit more work and rinsing to make sure the clothes become cleaned and sterilized. Stains will likely be harder to remove, but as for removing the soil, it’s feasible.
The main thing to remember is to be more vigorous in washing the clothes. You’ll need to move them around more and ensure they have a chance to be cleaned effectively.
Does Washing Clothes By Hand Clean Them More?
Most people think regular electric washing machines completely clean and sterilize clothes, but unless you have a washing machine that is priced as much as a beater car, this is not the case.
I’m not sure about you, but I’ve washed much cloth by hand in buckets, bathtubs, and more, and I always notice more soil removal vs. having them in high-end washing machines.
Hand washing allows you to move them around and agitate them. In a regular washing machine, they’re simply spinning around in a circle with a small agitator in the middle.
If you have been looking for ways to wash clothes off-grid, then this article should give you a head start on which methods are best.
I’ve washed clothes off-grid several times, and it’s not entirely complicated; it just requires a bit more elbow grease.
Hand washing can provide an effective, clean wash, although washing heavy pieces like blankets will be challenging, as they become heavy after being soaked with water.
If you’d like, you can consider a small electric washing machine, which can be powered by a battery bank or via a solar panel.
Nevertheless, off-grid washing isn’t as bad as it seems, so it’s a worthwhile option for those of you off-grid.