Saturday, June 5, 2010

Survival Sanitation - Part Two - Doing the Laundry Naturally

Nature's Washing Machine

Good hygiene is an important part of dealing with a crisis or disaster and being able to keep your clothes clean could become an essential skill during a crisis. Your clothes can become “dirty” very quickly if they become contaminated by flood waters, smoke or chemicals or quite possibly due to an illness or injury. They can even look clean but be "dirty" from sweat, perspiration, or natural body oils. Wearing dirty clothes can also lead to minor health problems such as chafed skin areas or rashes on your body that could develop into serious problems. This isn’t a very pleasant or healthy prospect to look forward to if unnecessary. If you do have sufficient clothing available, you could always burn or bury your dirty clothes but this is an expedient solution that is not very cost effective or practical except in the case of extreme contamination such as injuries or wounds where there is a loss of blood or a bacterial infection is present. So what are some of the alternatives that can help you when doing the laundry naturally?

Modern day techniques for washing and cleaning require three major items that may be in seriously short supply during a disaster or in a crisis situation. These three main items are lots of water, electricity which may not be available and soap or detergent which may be in short supply or non-existent. Here are some alternative solutions!

If you do get lucky enough to have lots of water available, an extremely effective way of cleaning your laundry without detergent or electricity is to use plain old baking soda, sodium bicarbonate, in the water being used to wash your clothes. This is also a very low cost method. This method works best with water that has been heated. Even water that has been warmed by the sun can make this an effective method to help keep your clothes clean. Another advantage of using baking soda is that you can avoid the use of harsh soaps or chemicals that may cause skin irritations or allergic reactions in some people.

So what do you do if you don’t have a decent water supply like a pond, stream or river? It becomes time to let nature help you do the laundry naturally! A little “shake and bake” becomes the trick of the day as you do a “Nature Wash”!

Ultra-violet rays from the sun can be used to help keep your clothes clean. Simply place your clothes out in the heat of the sun for several hours. You will also need to expose all areas of your clothes to the sun by turning if necessary or hanging on a line. Then, after sufficient exposure, shake your clothes vigorously in a manner like you would a rug. Then leave your clothing out overnight to expose them to the morning dew. In the morning simply wring them out and re-hang to dry. Simple, easy and very low cost!

If you have a river or stream handy, you could always beat your clothes on a rock by the riverbank. This will require a great deal of effort on your part or you might get lucky and it will rain on laundry day.

Got Nature Wash?

Staying above the water line!



Theodore said...

Excellent post. I didn't know about Baking Soda... very cool! Saw this on MAKE: a while back:

Summary: get a bucket, a mesh bag, some PVC pipes, and a little scrap wood, and you can make your own muscle-powered washing machine. A little hacking on the design could make it wind or water powered fairly easily. Very handy.

Wretha said...

I have my own off grid or redneck washing machine, made with 5 gallon buckets and a toilet plunger, it works great, uses a bit of elbow grease but little water. :)

redneck/off grid washing machine

-Heidi said...

I read Wretha's blog about her off-grid washing machine some time ago. It was excellent and I'd make one too, except for space. Our off-grid home has wheels and very little room. I've been reading blogs about how the live-aboards (sail boats) do laundry and I love using ammonia. It is a no-rinse laundry approach, so it's very off-grid friendly. The ammonia smell goes away very quickly and I tested this with my husbands very sensitive nose ;) The only warning: never mix with bleach as it's toxic!

Thanks for the other great tips! :)

Wretha said...

Heidi, what a great idea! I might try that with my washing system. :)

What about doing small loads in your sink? That's what I'm doing right now, I just had a few socks and washrags to wash, didn't want to dig out the whole setup.

-Heidi said...

Wretha, I do that too! I'm stll trying to figure out what works best for us... but if I keep up on the little things (the things that need to be washed most often) like socks, underwear, etc... it seems like laundry day is only a few jeans.

I've been trying to wash what I wear when I shower (not while on me)! ;) I just have a small tub of the 9 parts water/1 part ammonia with me and use it before I shower.

BTW, I really love your excellent blog also!

chinasyndrome said...

Good info RW. Baking soda multi purpose tool.


riverwalker said...

Thanks for the great comments everyone.

As far as an expedient washing machine, a mop bucket with a wringer works well also...fairly compact and can be used in normal circumstances as well.

Although ammonia works, it may be a little harsh for most people.


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