Let’s Talk Dirty (Laundry, That Is!) Part 3 of 3…
by servantheart, Editor at Large
How will you do the laundry when IHTF?
Now, I realize that should things get really bad, doing the laundry will not be high on your “to do” list. Until that time, however, you’re going to want clean clothes, for as long as possible, anyway.
So IHTF, you’re “bugged in” (BIL: Bug IN Location) or on your Bug-Out, BOL, and dirty clothes are piling up faster than you expected – after all, the BIL/BOL is a pretty dirty place, right?! You spend a lot more time crawling around outdoors and moving about in the out-of-doors and in dirty places than you did pre-IHTF. Your whole tribe sweats more and gets dirty faster. What now?
If you still have electricity, or if you have a good backup system, or you’re wired to solar, you could use that for the washing machine you probably have; somehow, I don’t think most people will be doing this, however. So, what are the options?
I’ve already given you my recipe for cheap, effective laundry detergent (BTW, this is good for cleaning much more than just laundry). You did make a bucket or two BEFORE IHTF, right? So you’re good on laundry detergent. Or, you stocked up on soap nuts. Either way…
I was reading Foxfire 2 and loved the details on how they just boiled water in giant iron pots, boiled the clothes, and hung them across the nearest fence. Now, while this makes for nostalgic reading, I have to say that I would not choose this method of laundry post-IHTF. First, clothing is not meant to be boiled – few fibers today, especially coming out of China, as most of it is, would survive boiling or working the fabrics this hard. The color would most likely boil right out, and the fibers disintegrate during boiling. I have not tried this, it’s just what I think. And hanging clothes across a rusty old fence will give rust-stained clothing. Not the best option, IMHO.
If you’re lucky enough to have grandma’s old wringer washer that does not need electricity, you’re blessed, indeed. Oh, to have one of those that still works! You can buy a new version of these from Lehman’s for about $950 plus. Yeah, buy me one of those!
O.K., so no thousand bucks, no wringer washer. What now? Well, there’s always galvanized metal tubs, fiberglass or plastic laundry sinks, which you can buy at any home improvement store; what I really want is a set of the double old galvanized sinks for laundry; meantime, just any old large metal bucket or container that will take direct heat, such as from a wood fire, will suffice. If you don’t happen to own a wood-burning stove or a propane gas stove (and you probably would want to conserve fossil fuel, anyway), just heat your water over an outdoor fire in the biggest, sturdiest pot you can find. You’ll spend a good part of your day heating water and moving it, but, it is a way to do the laundry when the options are few.
Even if you can’t afford the whole washer, just a wringer is still a very useful device. Most of the old or antique ones I find have rubber rollers so broken down they are useless, or wooden ones damaged beyond repair. I did get lucky and find a great vintage wooden Montgomery Ward model that works quite well; it comes with some heavy screw-attachments; I attached mine to the top of an old, heavy wooden schoolhouse chair I found second-hand. It’s perfect! I place one laundry basket with wet clothing on the seat; I place a second laundry basket, empty, on the floor and behind the chair. I feed my wet clothes through the wringer, turning it by hand, and the clothing drops in the second basket, ready to be hung on the solar dryer (clothesline). For very heavy fabrics, I place one foot on the rungs of the chair to “hold it down” – necessity, the mother of invention!
A mobile washer is said to be a useful device; these look like a plunger, usually blue plastic cone with a wooden handle; they supposedly move the water in such a way it helps get your laundry clean. The plastic ones run $15-$20; these are also available in metal, and tend to cost a little more. I have one, but, honestly, I have not played with it yet; if you have one and have experience, please tell us about it.
Speaking of solar clothes dryers (clothes lines), you do have one, don’t you? Some communities with covenants and restrictions don’t allow them; but, if you have a six-foot privacy fence, who can tell?! Not only that, but when IHTF, covenants and restrictions won’t be on anyone’s mind. I call this a “prep”, as well as a barter item – and clothespins will definitely be barter items. Stock up while you can.
I do have a vintage 1950’s turquoise blue mini-portable washing machine; unfortunately, it is powered by electric, but I think we can fix that. It doesn’t hold much, though; but, it would be better than nothing, in a pinch. You can buy a small “Wonder Clean Washer” which is hand-cranked, for about $50.00 U.S.; I have no knowledge whether they are actually very good, but, somehow, I suspect they are not. Please tell me if you have positive results with these, however.
And, of course, there’s always good ol’ elbow grease and a rock!
What about stains? What things might be handy to get out stains post-IHTF? Baking soda, peroxide, white vinegar, lemon juice, salt, and denture tablets are all good stain removers. You probably will have a good stock of all these items; I don’t have dentures, but I do have denture tabs – I expect them to be a good barter item, as well.
If things get bad enough, you won’t want to smell too clean, anyway, and perhaps there is good news in that idea.
How will YOU do laundry when IHTF?