Keeping Clothes Clean Without Power

While doing laundry would seem to fall pretty far down the list of priorities after a disaster, it is actually fairly important. Wearing clean clothes is not only hygienic but a great morale boost. But washing clothes without the assistance of a washing machine, or even running water, is labor intensive.

Post-disaster laundry can be done much easier if you plan ahead.

You’ll need a five gallon plastic pail with lid, a plunger, a hacksaw, and a drill for this simple project.

Start by cutting out a small hole in the center of the bucket lid. One of the easiest ways to accomplish this is to use your drill to make a hole large enough to accommodate the hacksaw blade, then saw around in a circle. The resulting hole should be just large enough for the plunger handle to fit though easily.

Then, drill 5-7 holes in the plunger, like so:


At this point, you are essentially done building your new washing machine. To use, fill the bucket about 1/3 with clothes, then pour in just enough water to cover them. Add a little detergent. Thread the plunger handle through the lid, then snap the lid onto the bucket so the rubber part of the plunger is inside. Agitate the clothes by plunging up and down.

You don’t need to pump that plunger like you’re using a manual railroad car either. Just smooth and steady motions will do the job. Incidentally, this is a great chore for the kids in the house.

How long you need to agitate will depend on just how dirty the clothes are, of course. For lightly soiled clothing, 5 minutes or so might be enough.

Once the clothes are clean, you’ll need to rinse them in another bucket. Then, hang them on the line to dry.

Due to the small size of the bucket, you aren’t going to do a ton clothes at a time, of course. But you should be able to do several pair of socks, some underwear, and a couple shirts at a time.

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Jim Cobb

Jim Cobb has been a student of survivalism and emergency preparedness for almost thirty years. As a young child, he drove his parents nuts with stockpiling supplies in the basement every time he heard there was a tornado watch in his area. Of course, being a child, those supplies consisted of his teddy bear, a few blankets and pillows, and random canned goods he grabbed from the kitchen cabinets. Later, he was the first (and likely only) child in his fifth grade class to have bought his very own copy of Life After Doomsday by Bruce Clayton. Today, he is a freelance writer whose work has been published in national magazines such as Boy’s Life and Complete Survivalist Magazine. He is a voracious reader with a keen interest in all stories with post-apocalyptic settings. He maintains the Library at the End of the World blog and is also the Content Director for He currently resides in a fortified bunker in the upper Midwest, accompanied by his lovely wife and their three adolescent Weapons of Mass Destruction. Jim's first book, Prepper's Home Defense, was published late 2012 and his second book, tentatively titled The Prepper's Complete Guide to Disaster Readiness, will be out in mid-2013, both coming from Ulysses Press.

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