How To Wash Your Laundry When The Power Goes Out

Survival hinges on essential aspects often overlooked in traditional guides, with sanitation playing a pivotal role. Dirty laundry is a common concern, and while washing machines have become a staple for cleaning clothes, the knowledge of how our ancestors tackled this task has faded away.

During my journeys through third-world countries, I delved into the daily lives of those in impoverished districts. Witnessing firsthand their reliance on hot water, soap, and manual labor to wash clothes, I observed people utilizing streams and rocks to maintain cleanliness. This experience not only offered a glimpse into minimalist survival but also prompted contemplation on how modern individuals would cope if electricity suddenly became scarce.

In a survival scenario, a washing machine may not be the most critical item, yet it undoubtedly simplifies the laundry process. With most survival guides neglecting this aspect, it became apparent that exploring alternative methods for laundry during unforeseen power outages is a valuable endeavor. This article aims to shed light on practical approaches to washing clothes when faced with unexpected challenges.

Choosing and Cleaning Survival Fabrics

Are you wondering about the fabrics you should use in your survival gear? Picking the right ones can make your life easier down the road. Different fabrics have various cleaning abilities, and some stains are tougher to get rid of. When it comes to survival gear, many people lean towards cotton, wool, and other natural materials.

These fabrics are often considered superior, even though they might not be as tough as polyesters. In less affluent countries, you’ll find a lot of polyester clothes because they can withstand rough treatment, including being washed with stones.

To avoid headaches with delicate fabrics, always check the label before purchasing your “survival clothes.” Natural fabrics like cotton and wool are comfortable and breathable, but they may not last as long as synthetic materials. Skip clothes that require dry cleaning—finding an open dry cleaner during a crisis is unlikely.

Cleaning Without Soap? No Problem!

cleaning without soap no problem!

A common question is, “What if I have no soap or can’t find soap plants?” Don’t worry; you can still wash your laundry with just water and a rock. In situations where resources are scarce, this simple method can do wonders. Agitate the clothes, squeeze them until the water gets dirty, and, if there are stains, use small stones to gently rub them out.

When looking for stones, find smooth ones with a surface like fine pumice. Be cautious while rubbing out stains—too much force can damage the fabric. Although this method works, don’t expect your clothes to be as clean as if you used a regular Laundromat.

While the clothes are still wet, hang them in a sunny spot with the stains exposed to the sun. This is a temporary solution until you can get your hands on some soap. It’s a

Here are a few methods to wash your laundry when there is no electricity:

Bucket Washing:

Bucket washing is a straightforward and efficient method for cleaning clothes without electricity. Begin by filling a large bucket with an adequate amount of water to fully submerge your clothes. Add an appropriate measure of detergent, considering the size of the load. Immerse the clothes in the soapy water and agitate them by hand for a thorough clean. Allow the clothes to soak, facilitating the loosening of dirt and stains. After soaking, drain the soapy water, refill the bucket with clean water, and rinse the clothes thoroughly. Once rinsed, wring out the excess water, and hang the clothes to dry. This method is simple, requiring minimal equipment, making it an excellent option for off-grid laundry. The versatility of bucket washing makes it an ideal choice for various settings, from camping trips to emergency situations.

Plunger Washer:

The plunger washer serves as a makeshift washing machine that can be easily assembled with a clean, new plunger and a sturdy container. Fill the container with water and detergent, placing the clothes inside. Insert the plunger and use it as an agitator by plunging up and down, mimicking the motion of a traditional washing machine. This method effectively cleans clothes and is particularly useful for small loads. After the washing cycle, drain the soapy water, refill the container with clean water, and repeat the process for rinsing. The plunger washer is a resourceful solution for those looking to replicate the washing machine experience without electricity. It’s portable and convenient, making it suitable for various off-grid scenarios.

Rubbing Board Technique:

The rubbing board technique involves using a washboard or creating a makeshift one using a smooth, sturdy surface. Apply soap to the clothes and rub them against the washboard to remove dirt and stains effectively. This method is particularly suitable for heavily soiled items. The textured surface of the washboard helps agitate the fabric, providing a thorough clean. After rubbing, rinse the clothes in clean water to remove soap residue. The rubbing board technique is a manual but efficient approach to washing clothes, reminiscent of methods used by our ancestors before the advent of modern washing machines. It’s a hands-on approach that allows for precise control over the cleaning process.


Stream or River Washing:

If you find yourself near a natural water source like a stream or river, take advantage of the flowing water to aid in washing clothes. Wet the clothes thoroughly, apply soap, and rub the fabric together to remove dirt. The current of the water assists in the cleaning process. Once the clothes are soaped and agitated, rinse them in the flowing water until all soap is removed. This method is not only effective but also allows you to conserve water, as the stream or river carries away the soapy residue. It’s a practical option for those in outdoor or survival scenarios where natural water sources are available. Stream or river washing provides a refreshing and sustainable approach to off-grid laundry, connecting you with nature while ensuring cleanliness.

Off-Grid Washing Machine:

For a more sophisticated off-grid solution, consider creating a DIY washing machine. To build this simple apparatus, you’ll need a large bucket with a lid, a smaller container with a tight-fitting lid, a plunger, and a drill. Drill several holes in the bottom of the smaller container to allow water to circulate. Place the smaller container inside the larger one, securing the plunger through the lids. Add water, detergent, and clothes to the larger container. Use the plunger to agitate the clothes, simulating the washing machine cycle. Drain the soapy water, refill with clean water for rinsing, and repeat the process until your clothes are clean. This off-grid washing machine provides a more automated alternative for those who prefer a hands-free approach to laundry without relying on electricity. The ingenuity of this solution makes it an interesting and effective choice for off-grid living or emergency situations.

Solar Bag Washing:

Harnessing the power of the sun, solar bag washing is an eco-friendly and efficient way to clean your clothes off-grid. Start by filling a large, dark-colored bag with water and adding a suitable amount of detergent. Place your clothes into the bag and seal it securely. Leave the bag in direct sunlight for several hours, allowing the heat to warm the water and facilitate the cleaning process. The solar heat, combined with the detergent, helps break down stains and grime. After sufficient exposure, agitate the bag to ensure thorough cleaning. Once done, open the bag, drain the soapy water, and rinse the clothes in clean water. Solar bag washing is a sustainable option, utilizing natural resources to meet your laundry needs, making it an ideal choice for camping or situations where electricity is unavailable.

Treadle-Powered Washing Machine:

treadle powered washing machine

For a more mechanically assisted off-grid laundry solution, consider a treadle-powered washing machine. This DIY device incorporates foot pedals to drive the washing mechanism. To create this contraption, fashion a wooden frame with a basin for water, a washboard, and a drainage system. Attach foot pedals to the frame, connecting them to an agitator inside the basin. To use, fill the basin with water and detergent, place the clothes inside, and start pedaling. The foot-powered agitation simulates the action of a traditional washing machine. After washing, drain the soapy water, refill with clean water for rinsing, and pedal again to complete the process. The treadle-powered washing machine offers a hands-free, energy-efficient alternative for off-grid laundry, allowing you to maintain cleanliness without relying on electricity.


Mastering the art of off-grid laundry is a valuable skill, especially in survival scenarios where access to modern conveniences is limited. Choosing the right fabrics for your survival gear sets the foundation for easier maintenance and durability. While natural materials like cotton and wool offer comfort and breathability, synthetic options like polyester prove more resilient to rugged abuse.

Understanding that soap might not always be readily available, the alternative method of washing clothes with water and a rock demonstrates resourcefulness. By agitating the clothes and carefully using stones to tackle stains, you can achieve a level of cleanliness that, while not equivalent to a Laundromat wash, serves as a practical solution in challenging circumstances.

Remember, off-grid laundry requires adaptability and creativity. Whether it’s using the power of the sun to dry clothes or improvising a washing machine with simple tools, these techniques ensure that cleanliness remains achievable even when traditional methods are out of reach. By embracing these strategies, you not only enhance your self-reliance skills but also gain a deeper appreciation for resourceful practices that our ancestors relied on for centuries.

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