How to Wash Clothes without Electricity

How to Wash Clothes without Electricity - Off Grid Options |  {Mom with a Prep}

Have you thought of how you will keep your clothes, and extended to your family, clean during a time of power loss in your community?

I spent a small portion of my childhood following my Mom to the laundromat each week to watch our clothes. A washing machine was not a convenience we had. But imagine not even having a laundromat nearby to help keep your clothes clean? This is what residents in Moore, OK, Granbury, TX, and countless others in the aftermath of major storms or other local disasters are going through now. Finding sources of water, having soap, being able to wash, rinse and dry.

Previously, I talked about how to dry your clothes without power and gave you ideas on how you can set up a system at your home for ‘solar drying’. Today we’ll look at ideas on how to wash your clothes, with minimal water, to keep them, and you, as clean as possible.


SHAKE OUT FIRST – be sure to shake your clothes out well before any method of washing. This will get rid of dust and loose debris that only serve to dirty your water too quickly and it will save you time!

SOAK  Рas mentioned above, soaking clothes can really help the washing process go faster and more smoothly. Soaking helps loosen dirt and debris making it easier to remove.

DON’T USE SOAP – you can use a soap bar and brush to spot treat specific stains, but when you get down to general cleaning, use only enough to add the benefit because it will just add to your rinse time later if you use too much.

USE HOT WATER SPARINGLY – clothes can wash better in warm/hot water – so you can heat your water over a campfire first. This uses up valuable fuel you may need for your personal heat or cooking, but if you have an abundant supply, it can be helpful. However, your clothes WILL be clean if you use cold water.

BOIL YOUR UNDIES – In situations where you need to sanitize clothes, you can boil them in a vat of water over a campfire to help remove germs that may be left behind. This can help stop the spread of germs that might otherwise pass to make others sick.

WRING “DRY” BEFORE RINSING – Instead of transferring a bunch of soapy water into your rinse bucket, squeeze out as much water from your newly washed clothes before you rinse them. This will help your rinse cycle go faster to remove unnecessary water and soap beforehand.

And before drying – wring out those clothes as much as possible! Use 2 people if you can, and if not, you can use some heavy duty clamps to clamp one end of the clothing item to a flat surface and then wring it, or try this ingenious method of a DIY clothes press from 5 gallon buckets!

How to Wring Out Clothes with a DIY Clothes press from Live Ready Now - Mom with a Prep Blog (How to wash clothes without electricity)


Now let’s see some ways to help you with the clothes washing chores through ideas I found from¬†Pinterest!


Of course, you have a traditional wash basin and soap. Or using rocks along a stream to scrub and beat your clothes clean. Or your bathtub. But what about some other methods to help wash your clothes that might save you a little strain?

How to Wash Clothes without Electricity - Mom with a Prep BlogThis is a traditional view of a washboard and wash basin. The roughness of the washboard allows you to scrub clothes to get them clean. You can get a washboard through Amazon.

How to Wash Clothes without Electricity - Mom with a Prep blog

Using a 5 Gallon bucket and a plunger (this is a homemade washing plunger with pieces cut out of the rubber to allow water to pass through. Using a plunger helps agitate the water saving you a bit of energy from doing the process by hand. You can also buy a specially designed plunger for the job:

How to Wash Clothes without Electricity  - Mom with a Prep BlogThis one is from Amazon, but you can shop around for better prices or a preferred vendor. This is actually the method that I am prepared for. I know investing in a larger washing mechanism is preferable, but we had to make a choice between spending all we had on something to wash clothes with, or actually being able to prepare more fully in more areas and go with a low-tech option for now. But a better option is definitely on my wish list!

How to Wash Clothes without Electricity - Mom with a Prep blogThe Wonder Wash is a hand-cranked option that can wash a very small load of laundry with less effort from you. It’s popular with the RV crowd. I can no longer find the source of the review, but a forum I was on long ago had someone share their use of this and said that, in the end, this is really only good for clothes that are not heavily soiled and light weight, so take that into consideration and really research.

How to Wash Clothes without Electricity by Mom with a Prep BlogWhat about using an industrial mop bucket to wash your clothes in! It comes with a built in wringer!

How to Wash Clothes without Electricity by Mom with a Prep Blog

Plans for a DIY washing machine that saves the back if you’re good at building things!

How to Wash Clothes without Electricity by Mom with a Prep blogThis invention allows you to use something like a water cooler to wash your clothes with just a foot petal. I could not find reliable information on if this available in mass production, as it looks to still be in full development phase, but it may be soon!

How to Wash Clothes without Electricity by Mom with a Prep BlogWhile not necessary, a clothes wringer will definitely help with making drying go faster and more efficiently

Here is a video of someone washing their clothes outdoors!

I love her dark basin and will be checking feed stores and Craig’s List for one!

Granted, there are other ways to wash clothes, and ingenious people have come up with ingenious contraptions, but if you’re not an engineer-minded person, those contraptions can seem overwhelming. However, if you have the know-how – DO IT!

Check out Southern Prepper 1 and how he uses a couple of these products to wash!


YOUR CHALLENGE – make sure you have some alternative forms of cleaning clothes should you find yourself without power.

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  1. says

    This is fairly far down on my prepping priority list, but great to be thinking about! I like the DIY plunger method a lot. A good friend who lives in Paraguay washes all clothes by hand in a sink. and she is amazed at how much longer they last when not subjected to a washing machine! She says locally-made clothes would only last a few washes in an American household!

  2. Vickie says

    Wow, that 15 minute video is worth every minute of watching. I learned a lot from this post. Thank you very much.

  3. Deanna @ RoundTuit Place says

    I spent a year on a large property in a small hunting trailer, 5 people, and a laundry line. I washed laundry in a large storage bin with a washboard, rinsed in a different one, rung them out by hand and hung them on a line. Very intensive work. Very satisfying. I had more muscles. I should do it again.

  4. says

    I have the 36 quart (9 gallon) mop bucket with wringer. I have already used it a few times, and it works great. You can get them for around $30 from online restaurant supply stores, so it really is an inexpensive solution to this problem.

  5. Tony Teeples says

    I’ve seen another method of cleaning your cloths. It was on ‘Totoro My Neighbor’ a Japanese cartoon. In it the children put the cloths and water into a cement trough and then basically just stomped on them. The children seemed to be having a good time doing it.

  6. Sandra says

    I spent a lot of energy trying to bring a mop bucket from the US to Jamaica because of the ability to wring out my clothes since I need to wash outside. It does not wring the clothes satisfactorily. The standard bucket wringer does not pull tight enough to wring much water out of clothing – a mop yes but clothing no. I put it in the backyard and it was never used.

  7. Kezia says

    Had to laugh at this one. People have washed clothes without electric for many years. Did two years with no washer and no trips to the laundromat. Scrubbed the clothes in the tub – highly commend the soaking method and Fels Naptha for stains. Worst was in the winter, the cycle of waiting for them to freeze on the line,bringing in to melt and putting back out to dry was brutal.

    • says

      You’d be surprised at how many people wouldn’t really have a clue how to do it if their machine died for whatever reason. People are very reliant upon their technology.

    • Elle Hamilton says

      Dear Kezia. you do not need to bring the frozen clothes inside to thaw. Just leave on clothes line and they will dry. Have done this myself. So if you need to put clothes on the line in freezing weather just leave them there til dry. Don’t work so hard!

  8. Rain says

    Whilst watching Korean dramas I noticed that some people without access to washers and dryers would use a small plastic pool, not unlike a small kiddy pool. They step around on the cloths, not unlike making grapes into wine the old way.. Using your legs can be a lot easier on some people than using upper body strength.


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