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In case you are new to PamelaFarms.com or, you are reading this at Preparednessblogs.com and are not familiar with our back story, about a year ago (almost), my husband and I left our “normal” life and moved to our “bug out” retreat full time. We started from scratch for several reasons too long for this post, but an important one was learning how to do things such as we would be doing in a post SHTF or EOTWAWKI situation, for extended periods of time.
We have read a bit about how people will go about doing their laundry, and it certainly seems like it is one of those things (for many), that we honestly believe people do not realize how difficult it will be until they are in the situation day in and day out. Prepping and doing are certainly two very different things, especially where laundry is concerned and we found that out first hand the hard way.
The photo below was our washing area for several months, and not only the laundry. We washed ourselves there as well, even in temperatures below 40 to 50. Was not fun. Currently, we use our bath tub, which is still not ideal (for laundry), but I like it better than the set up in this photo.
Like so many others, we really did feel like laundry was no big deal and would be the least of our worries. We spent our entire lives in a hurricane area and had to hand-wash many times. Sure, it sucks, but you do what you gotta do, right? Besides, we have food and water to worry about. Are dirty clothes really that important?
First, yes they are that important. Without proper hygiene and sanitation all the food in the world is not going to do us much good when illness and disease take over. Having clean clothes is an important part of good hygiene and sanitation. Tending to the garden and livestock is not just hard work, it is dirty and often unsanitary work. When you are hand-washing your clothes, you actually find out how dirty everything really is.
Second, as I somewhat mentioned already, doing things day in and day out is much different than planning for it and even much different than only needing to do it for a weekend or even a couple of weeks. Hand-washing, especially heavily soiled items, is very time consuming. At the end of the day when you are done in the garden, done tending to the goats and chickens, the last thing you want to do is take an hour doing laundry. If you do it first thing (which is best for hanging things out to dry), you will not feel like doing much else after. It is much more labor intensive than you may think, especially after a long day of hard work. Wet clothes are heavy and if you are not set up correctly, also very hard on your back with all of the bending over scrubbing, rinsing and wringing.
Third, and a big one that has the potential to make doing laundry a very big and difficult deal post SHTF, is the water that we all do worry about so much. Laundry is water intensive and in a situation where water is scarce, that makes things really complicated.
Our suggestions for making this task a little easier might seem over the top for many, but trust us, until you are actually doing it yourself, day in and day out, you really have no idea.
1. Have a proper laundry area, supplies and equipment (we are still working on the equipment ourselves).
Area: Ideally, a dedicated covered area, even if it is something like a DIY small pole barn, would be best. The cover not only protects you equipment and supplies, it also protects you (from the sun) while you are doing your laundry.
Supplies: Homemade Liquid Laundry Soap (I prefer liquid over powder for hand-washing, because you don’t have the issue of needing the powder to dissolve). Covered buckets to store the laundry soap (3 – 5 gallon). Measuring cup(s), wooden spoons.
This easy laundry soap recipe cleans your clothes and comes out to about only 3 cents per load!
1/3 bar Fels Naptha Soap
1/2 cup washing soda (found in laundry section of grocery store, not baking soda)
1/2 cup borax powder (the brand 20 Mule Team is a good choice)
2 gallons water
fragrance (optional) – your favorite essential oil(s) or candle fragrance found in craft supply stores
Grate the soap and put it in a sauce pan. Add 6 cups water and heat it until the soap melts. Add washing soda and borax. Stir until dissolved. Remove from heat. Pour 4 cups hot water into bucket. Add soap mixture and stir. Add remaining water and fragrance and stir. Let laundry soap sit for 24 hours (or until it gels). For a normal size basket of laundry, use 1/2 cup detergent per load of laundry (stir well before each use).
Equipment: This equipment is not cheap, however, it will be well worth the expense! Double sided wash tub (or 2 singles), with drains AND stand/table. It is very important to have it (them) a height that you are not having to bend very much while washing. Check Craig’s list, thrift stores, antique shops, etc. Lehman’s also has a nice one, if you are wanting new. Double is for washing in one side and rinsing in the other. The type with a drain is important, because you want to be able to easily drain the water into a waste-water container to be boiled and re-used. Dumping without a drain is hard on your back and increased chance of spilling on to ground causing loss. An agitator – I use a rake, but specific laundry hand agitators are available. A wringer – if you don’t get a wringer, I can guarantee you will wish you had!!
Equipment examples (from Lehman’s):
2. It is much easier to wash a small load every day, than it is to wash several large loads in one day. When hand-washing all of your laundry, try to get into the habit of washing each days laundry the next day.
3. Practice! We are firm believers in trial and error and practicing NOW for what you will be doing later. I know I have said this already, but it is so important to remember: Prepping and doing are two completely different things and even though a weekend or even a couple of weeks is not the same as day in and day out, we do feel it is still important to practice as often as possible, to get the trial and error out of the way, before each situation is life and death. Learn ahead of time, what works best for you and your family or group size. In a post SHTF situation, you really don’t want to only survive, you also want to thrive. After all, what is the point of surviving if you are completely miserable?
Until next time, have a blessed week! =)