Posts tagged ‘Off-grid laundry’

Homesteading: How We Do It

People often ask, so here is a short rundown of how things work here at Twin Lamps Farmstead.

Greywater System-Friendly Natural DIY Laundry Detergent

If you’re using a greywater recycling system on your homestead, you already know that harsh detergents and soaps are a no-no. You can buy natural detergents, but some of them are ridiculously expensive. The point is to spend less money not more, am I right? After looking around, googling, thinking and experimenting, we have come up with a very simple recipe for DIY laundry soap that is safe for your greywater system. It won’t hurt your plants and won’t harm the soil or the environment. It’s also pretty cheap to make. Cool, huh?

You will need: IMG_20160229_070151

This recipe is very easy. You simply combine equal parts of everything (like maybe 1/4 cup each) and mix it all together in a container. One small scoop per load does the trick. Most recipes call for lye or Fels Naptha soap, but with the yucca root powder or soapnut powder, it isn’t necessary. They are the “soaps” instead of lye or Fels Naptha. This recipe has no fragrance, but you could add an essential oil to it if you want it to smell nice. You could also technically use soapnut or yucca powder all by themselves as a totally natural laundry soap.

If you don’t want to buy washing soda or if you have an absolutely humongous box of baking soda (like we do for some reason), you can make some washing soda by spreading baking soda on a cookie sheet and baking it at 425 for up to an hour, stirring about halfway through the time. (At 400 degrees, baking soda undergoes a chemical process that changes it into washing soda.)

When rinsing your laundry, add 1/2 cup of vinegar to every 5 gallons of rinse water to soften and remove odors. You’re done! Laundry comes out fresh, clean and odor-free. More importantly, the greywater is nontoxic to your garden or your land.

*NOTE: Like many things, both Borax and washing soda can become dangerous to plants if too much is used, so don’t overdo it. This recipe works very well and you don’t need much; a little goes a long way, especially if you are using rainwater (it contains no minerals and it’s naturally soft).

An Alternative Method For Homestead Laundry

If you read our “Laundry on The Homestead” article, you know there are quite a few different methods for doing your laundry on the homestead, ranging from the very labor-intensive to the more laid back. There is however an in-between method. It combines some of the labor of hand-washing with the confidence and ease of a machine to create a middle-of-the-road product that we are very satisfied with.

Meet The Wonder Wash. It’s cheap, it’s cute, it works and to be honest, I wish I’d thought IMG_20160229_052050of it. Seriously, it’s so simple and works so well. You just add water (about a gallon and a half for a full load), add soap, add up to 5lbs of clothes, seal the pressurized lid and turn the crank. The instructions tell you how long to turn it per load, but to me it doesn’t seem long enough. I usually turn a full load for about 4 minutes. Then simply attach the drainage pipe and let the water out. You can either rinse the clothes in the washer by adding clean water and cranking some more (which I do now) or in a rinse tub (which I will do on the homestead). Wring and hang dry. Very easy and it cleans your clothes just fine.

We use this all the time already because though I adore my electric wringer-washer, this is much easier to use and requires less water. Sheets, small blankets, jackets and heavy sweatshirts fit in this little guy just fine as well, but for heavier blankets or coats, you’ll need to use a different method or go to a laundromat. You could probably smash them in there but it’s debatable how clean they would actually get.

It’s hard plastic that does not feel flimsy but obviously will break if treated too roughly, and it could use some stabilization when it is being cranked, because it moves a bit and that requires more work to keep it in place. It does have suction cups but they don’t prevent it from sliding. We plan to use screws to attach it to the countertop beside the sink at the homestead in order to fix this.

PROS:

  • It’s compactIMG_20160301_085849
  • It’s lightweight
  • It requires zero electricity
  • You have full control over how long clothes wash
  • It can use hot or cold water
  • It works

CONS:

  • It could use some stabilization to hold it while cranking
  • The drainage pipe is tricky and can be messy before you master it
  • For some reason, my washer has a pinkish tint; this is not a huge deal but… yeah
  • We recommend using a wringer; even with draining, clothes come out soaked

Overall, this little washer is definitely worth the $40 we paid for it. The purchase of the wringer will raise the cost of it overall, but a wringer should be purchased anyway, regardless of which method you use to do laundry. They are not essential, but your clothes will dry much more quickly if you use one. (You might think you can wring them out well enough by hand, but after you try a wringer, you will see that the difference is huge.) We are still taking our electric wringer-washer to the homestead but as we intend to build on to our solar energy system gradually, we won’t be using it for a while.

*This review is my own opinion and I was not compensated in any way. Bought the product with my own money.

Laundry on The Homestead

If you’re planning the move to your homestead property, one of the many things you’ve undoubtedly thought about is laundry. Depending on how primitive your accommodations are, there are a few options.

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The first is the most primitive: a washboard and tub. Most people are familiar with these, having seen them in old movies and on TV shows. The first tub contains soapy water. You would scrub the clothes against the washboard, then run them through the wringer into the other tub, which is full of clean rinse water. You can rinse them using another washboard if you like. Some recommend two tubs for rinsing. You then wring the clothes again and hang them on a clothesline or over a drying rack. To get rid of the wastewater, no plumbing needed. You simply dump it out in your greywater area.

This is the most basic laundry setup, requiring no electricity or plumbing and the most labor. You can certainly use a washboard and tub setup – it’ll work just fine – but you may want something a little less labor-intensive.

Wringer-washer

This is a wringer washer. It’s identical to the one I have in my home. We will be taking it to the homestead with us. I absolutely love it and will never use a “regular” washing machine again, regardless of where I live. It works similarly to the washboard and tub method, except the most labor-intensive part (the scrubbing) has been eliminated. It’s electric, but uses much less electricity and water than a modern washing machine.

To use it, first you fill the tub with about 15 gallons of water. You can use a bucket to do this or run a hose from a faucet directly in to the machine’s tub. (On the homestead, we will be using a wood stove with a hot water reservoir. It has a hose.) Next, you turn on the machine so that the agitator starts moving and add the detergent. Once it’s nice and soapy, you just add clothes and put the lid back on. You run it as long as you need depending on the load and amount of soiling (versus no real control with regular washing machines), then you wring, rinse, wring again and hang. To empty the water, there is a hose on the side of the machine. Some have a pump and others simply work from gravity. (Mine has no pump, but it empties in less than 5 minutes, so I don’t miss it.) This hose could be plumbed into a pipe that pipes it to your garden (as ours will be) or another drainage area. For now, I simply lay the hose in the shower and the water goes down the drain. If you’re going to use greywater to irrigate your garden, you’ll need to use more natural detergents.

These machines are very quiet and very efficient. The thing I like the most about them is that you can wash multiple large loads of clothes using the same water and they will all still be perfectly clean (start with whites and the least-soiled clothing).

You can of course use a standard washer and dryer on your homestead if you have electricity and plumbing. However, they certainly use far more electricity and water than the two options mentioned above, especially the dryer. When you get right down to it, a dryer is really only for convenience. A clothesline or drying rack in front of a wood stove works just fine. Some people don’t like the texture of clothes that have been dried on the line, but a little bit of vinegar in the rinse water softens clothes very well, ensures there are no leftover odors and does not leave a vinegar smell.

Perhaps the most important thing to many of us who dream of a homestead is cutting back on convenience and getting back to basics. The washing machine in my home has one button and one lever. I like that – a lot.

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