Off-Grid Laundry

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Going “back to basics” is a great way to save money and electricity, as well as learn a new skill. Since everyone has to do laundry, learning how to go without a washing/dryer or just reducing your use of them can be very useful.

Washing Clothes by Hand

When you think of handwashing clothes, an image of a pioneer lady scrubbing away on a washboard comes to mind. If you are a woman, you may already wash your undergarments or other delicates by hand. There isn’t any real secret to washing your laundry by hand. It does take some elbow grease, but it’s a worthwhile skill to learn.

The absolute basic way of washing clothes would be to fill up your sink or bathtub with warm water, add a few drops of your detergent or some other soap and start scrubbing. You can use a soft bristled brush, your hands or just scrub two pieces of cloth together. Once they’re cleaned, rinse with cool water and inspect to make sure you got everything out. Once you’ve got your clothes washed, it’s time to dry them.

Air Drying Clothes

Don’t hang your clothes directly in the sun. Direct sunlight will get your clothes dry more quickly but also causes a lot of stiffness in the fabric as well as sun bleaching. Definitely don’t air dry delicates in direct sunlight. Hang T-shirts bottom up. Clip your shirts upside down on the bottom hem rather than at the shoulders. Clip marks are far less noticeable here. Knit shirts, sweaters, skirts and other clothing should never be hung, as it stretches the material. Same goes for any type of knit, crocheted or wool bedding. Instead, lay these items out on a screen so they can dry flat.

Making Your Own Detergent and Fabric Softener

Here is one of the most basic recipes to get you started:
1 bar of Ivory soap, shaved (you can use a cheap cheese grater)
1 cup of borax
1 cup of Arm and Hammer Washing Soda

Mix and add whatever essential oil that is pleasing to you. The number of drops you will need depends on the oil you are using and how sensitive your nose is, so just use common sense. Drop in some oil, mix and sniff until you get to your desired scent strength.
As for fabric softener, the recipe is even simpler. Buy yourself a gallon jug of regular white vinegar and add in anywhere from 10-20 (or more, depending) of your favorite essential oils. To use this, you will first wash the clothes so they are clean. Empty the dirty water and refill the tub with cool water. Add in roughly a half cup of the vinegar mix and agitate the clothes a bit. Empty this out and do one final rinse (preferably under cool running water) to get everything out.

If you don’t like it, or would like to try something different, just do a Google search for “DIY detergents/fabric softeners”.
Laundry is a necessary evil, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. Next time you have a load, skip your machines and try it by hand. Or at least hang them up to dry.

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