I am fresh off of an experiment with doing laundry, HALF off the grid.
I live in a fifth wheel, I have a washer and dryer recently given to me from a friend who found them on Craigslist, but do not have them hooked up yet.
I thought it might be instructive to do a small bit of laundry the hard way.
I have a propane stove and a medium sized ceramic covered water bath canner so I thought to myself, lets try this the old fashioned way by boiling some clothes and hand wringing them to hang dry.
What an eye opening experience.
I have renewed respect for those that came before me.
Remember, this is cheating.
I had a propane stove, lights and running water.
I first filled the big pot with hot water in the shower, then I put it on the stove and lit two burners.
I walked away and let it get hot enough that I could not stick my hand in the water.
I put in some dish washing soap because of the superior grease cutting abilities, I am not concerned with soft and fluffy, and then tossed in five pairs of cheap cotton socks and one heavily soiled thermal underwear top.
Remember, I am a single guy and a mechanic.
I deal with diesel fuel, gasoline, 90 weight gear oils and heavy duty grease.
Nasty things like brake dust, some of the nastiest things you want to talk about when it comes to getting dirt out of your clothes.
I threw the socks and one top into the pot and started stirring them with a wooden spoon.
I walked away to let them soak, the whole time two burners are going full blast.
One of the first things that struck me was how much heat was involved with this relatively small load of laundry.
It takes a lot of BTU’s to heat that much water, even using propane.
Then I went back and started agitating this little bit of clothing by hand with the wooden spoon. Shortly another revelation came to me, this is hard work.
It is mid October and starting to get chilly here in the Pacific North West so the heat was actually welcome.Imagine doing this when it is a Hundred degrees outside.
I stirred and stirred and stirred, trying to get the nasty stuff out of my clothes.
After a half an hour, I figured that was as clean as they were going to get and turned the burners off and went and sat down for a minute.
Then it dawned on me that I had to pick up that big pot of boiling water and dump it out.
I found some pot holders and grunted real good picking that thing up while taking it to the sink to dump it out.
Back to the shower to rinse, several times.
Now it is time to wring the water out, by hand.
Let me tell you, being a mechanic, I have a fairly good grip.
I wrung on those socks until I thought my hands were going to fall off and they were still soaking wet, ditto for the thermal top.
I hung them over the shower rod and looked at the time.
Not being the dullest knife in the drawer, I grabbed a laundry bag and loaded them up, jumped in the truck and raced to the nearest laundromat and tossed them in the dryer before they closed.
Several lessons were learned here.
One, it takes a huge amount of water and heat to do even a small amount of laundry.
Two, five pairs of socks?!
Three, it is very labor intensive.
Four, it can be very dangerous wrestling a very large pot of near boiling water full of wet and heavy clothing.
Five, if I had to do coveralls or jeans or sweat shirts, I would be there all week and I am just one guy.
I could not imagine what it would take to keep up with a family of four and all the laundry that goes along with that equation.
Towels, bedding, kitchen laundry, heavy coats, etc.
This was one VERY eye opening experiment and I am glad I did it but if the power goes out for any length of time, there are going to be a LOT of smelly people out there.
I called my Father and he told me of my Grandmothers travails with laundry back in the late 1930’s in Nebraska.
No electricity and no running water, she had a Maytag washer with a gasoline powered washer motor. Semi reliable I hear.
I actually remember seeing a few of these things when I was younger, I have no idea if anyone still makes such a thing.
I just wanted to give ones mans experience into the unkown, please tell me if you have a better plan.