Laundry is one of those tasks that are inevitable. At some point, you will need to wash your clothes. No matter the situation, life is a bit more bearable with clean underwear and socks.
While there are some arguments over how often you need to wash clothes, at some point, you will need to wash clothes. There are some considerations you should think about to make this task easier in your prepping.
For a long time, one of the most important items to stockpile for me would have been laundry detergent. Of course, food and water are always the most important, but a close third place would be laundry detergent. With four kids at home at one time, we used a lot of laundry detergent and I couldn't imagine being out of it at any time.
I have done the whole gambit on laundry detergent. I have made my own detergent. I have used powdered laundry detergent. I have tried the laundry detergent packets and pods. I use liquid detergent most of the time now because we have people with skin issues and need a detergent free of dyes and perfumes.
What should you consider when stockpiling and storing laundry detergent?
That depends. You do have to factor in a few things to consider.
If you have to use this in a power outage situation, what will be the easiest to use? Taking that one step further, if you do not have access to hot water or the ability to make water hot, what will you be using?
Hands down, liquid laundry detergent is the easiest to store and use in most situations. It dissolves easily in all temperatures of water and usually doesn't leave a residue on your clothes. What kind of liquid laundry soap to store depends on your preferences. I usually store the 100-load bottles because they are still easy to pick up and pour while still having the caps with the measuring lines. Like I said before, I store the laundry soap that comes with no dyes or perfumes. We have people with skin issues and I don't particularly like scented laundry soap. Plus, I think those scents can break down over time and not smell as good as when they were new.
Laundry packets and pods are pretty popular right now for their ease of use. We have experimented with them and I can see the appeal of why people use them. I think these packets/pods can store a year or two with no problems. However, we have opened some that were 3-4 years old and there is a noticeable difference in the quality of plastic surrounding the pods especially. Depending on the conditions that these packets/pods were stored, they could break down even quicker or last longer. I also don't find these packets/pods practical in a grid-down situation. They will be too much soap for a five-gallon bucket of water due to their concentrated state and the plastic will not break down in the water. In fact, I have trouble with them breaking down in my front load washer when I use cold water.
Laundry powder is easy to store also, but the powder will get hard. The powder getting hard is not a big deal as you can usually break it apart with your hands or use a hand grater to make it a powder once again. One of the other concerns about the powder is that it will not break down as easily in cold water. However, newer versions of laundry powder have become more cold-water friendly. Powder is usually easier on the pocketbook to purchase and store, but finding it in stores is not easy.
There are other alternatives for laundry soap to store that are worth consideration. Soap nuts can last up to years unused, if not longer. They are more difficult to use in that they seem to work best in hot water. However, they can be used 3-7 times without losing their power. Another option is liquid castile soap which will be gentle on your clothes and your skin. Castile soap might not work as well as liquid laundry soap, but the clothes would be clean.
Another alternative that I use to keep the ingredients on hand to make my own laundry detergent. I did this for a long time when my kids were younger and I was beyond broke. I liked it so much that I am still considering doing again. I keep super washing soda, borax, and bars of Yardley and castile soap in my stockpile. I liked the liquid version better and would make a five-gallon bucket full at a time. However, you can mix just those ingredients together and use them as powder, depending on the situation. In a pinch, you can use the super washing soda on its own to clean your clothes.
If you are accustomed to additions to your regular laundry routine, you may need to rethink their importance. I regularly use OxyClean to get stains out, whiten clothes, and help get the smell out of sweaty clothes. I store some, but I know that this may not be practical to use in a grid-down situation. The same goes for fabric softeners (liquid and sheets).
More practical items to store in terms of laundry would be white vinegar and bleach. Both of these products easily blend in water and are easier to use. Bleach will white your whites and sanitize anything that needs it. Vinegar will help soften your clothes and remove embedded odors.
How will you wash your clothes?
Washing machines are the greatest invention ever, hands down. Many women were thrilled with even the earliest machines because they saved time and labor. That being said, most machines today only run on electricity. To keep that happening in a grid-down situation, you need a generator to run your washer and one to run your well pump if you live in a rural area. Otherwise, you need a solar system to keep them running.
For those of us who do not have that set-up (yet), we need to look at non-electrical methods to washing clothes. One of the methods I plan to use is a washing plunger and the three-bucket system. The three-bucket system is quite easy: one bucket to wash, two buckets for heavy and light rinse water. This system is easy to use but can be very labor-intensive. You will not be able to wash anything heavy like comforters and winter coats. Towels would even be a struggle. You will also spend a lot of time wringing clothes unless you can get ahold of a wringer to help you get the excess water out.
Another method is to use a portable non-electric washing machine. Most of these rely on some kind of human strength, whether that is hand-powered or foot-powered.
The key for all of this washing, though, is that you will need to have water.
Either you will need to have a way to get water without electricity, have a rain catchment system, or have A LOT of water stored at home. If you consider that a standard front-load machine takes 12-20 gallons of water a load and a top-load machine can take 24-50 gallons a load, you will need a lot of water. You will probably need 15-50 gallons of water to do your washing in a grid-down situation depending on the method and the amount of laundry you will be washing at one time.
Water is essential to survival in more ways than one. You need it to live, but you also need it to keep clean and to sanitize. Having clean clothes (especially underclothes and socks) helps keep you healthy. You will need more water than you think. You should always be storing as much water as possible.
How will you dry your clothes?
While drying your clothes may not seem like a thing to consider, it is always good to have a plan in place. Drying clothes is not a high-tech affair. If you can run a clothes dryer with a solar system or a generator, that is great, but that seems like a waste of resources.
When my clothes dryer was broken down and I lived without one for two years (in Iowa), I used various methods. I have a fifty-foot, four-line clothesline outside that holds 3-4 loads of laundry. I can use that 6-7 months of the year. You can also use an umbrella clothesline or a retractable line to dry clothes outside. You also need a lot of clothespins. I have about 300 wooden and plastic clothespins to have enough.
In the winter, I use a large wooden hanging rack that holds approximately one load of laundry. I also had a couple clothesline strung in the basement to hang clothes. I would use hangers to hang shirts to dry to save room on the lines. This also meant I needed to do a least a load every day, but I could usually do two loads (one in the morning and another at night). They would dry in about 8-10 hours, depending on the thickness of the clothes and help humidify the house at the same time. While this seems like a lot of work, this just became part of my routine every day.
Doing laundry is work no matter how you do it, but it becomes a lot more work without electricity. Making the process easier and having a plan will help when you might need to make due.
And remember, staying caught up on laundry when things are going good is prepping.
Thanks for reading,
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