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A storm just blew through your area and your power is out for a week.

Tomorrow is laundry day and your family has nothing clean to wear.

What do you do?

If the whole town is without power, you can’t go to the laundromat.

It’s time to get out the hand washing equipment.

There are different ways to wash laundry by hand and they each have their uses to help in an emergency.

Hand-Washing MethodBest For
Washing in a sinkJust a few garments
Washing in a bucket with a plungerSmall batch clothes for a single person
Hand-washing laundry stationWashing large quantities of clothes

A few things to remember about hand washing clothes:

  • Better for lightweight clothes
  • Better for lightly soiled clothes
  • Heavy clothes or jeans will take longer to dry

Washing in a sink

Many people already do this with garments that are labeled “hand wash only.” The sink is filled with warm water and a small bit of detergent (liquid is easier than powder). This can also be done in a bathtub.

Clothes are agitated by hand, rinsed in a sink full of clear water or under running water, and wrung out by hand.

For drying they are draped over a drying rack or laid flat.

This method is not very useful for even a regular load of laundry. The bathtub makes it more efficient, but is harder on your back.

Washing in a bucket

Washing in a bucket? Yes, a bucket!

This method uses a 5-gallon bucket, a special gamma lid with a hole, and a special laundry plunger.

If you don’t have the special lid and plunger, it will still work. It just might take a little more effort.

  1. Put clothes in the bucket. Don’t overfill; they have to be able to move around in the water.
  2. Add a small amount of laundry detergent. It doesn’t take much, it’s only a 5-gallon bucket.
  3. Fill the bucket with water to cover the clothes.
  4. Agitate until soap is dissolved.
  5. Allow clothes to soak 3 – 5 minutes.
  6. Agitate the clothes for 3 – 5 minutes by hand, using a tall mason jar, a long handled spoon, or a plunger (just not the one you use in a toilet). You can also buy a special laundry plunger that allows the water to move through and does a better job cleaning the clothes.
  7. Once the clothes are clean, dump out the water (or use a 2nd bucket)
  8. Fill rinse bucket with clear, cool water.
  9. Take one piece of clothing at a time, squeezing out excess wash water.
  10. Add clothes to rinse water.
  11. Agitate for about 1 minute to rinse.
  12. Wring out each item out by hand.
  13. Hang on a clothesline or drying rack to dry.


Clothes will dry faster in a sunny spot and the sun will disinfect them as well.

If using a drying rack, place in a warm place for faster drying.

This method works better for lightly soiled items and lighter weight fabrics. Heavy fabrics like jeans will take days to dry because you can’t wring enough water out of them.

Hand-washing laundry station

This method requires a bit more equipment and planning in advance, but it can handle large amounts of laundry and heavier fabrics.

This is the way laundry was done before automatic washing machines. This method also conserves more water.

This setup uses the following equipment

How do you use this contraption?

  1. Fill each tub about half full with water
  2. Add a small amount of detergent to the left tub (one with the washboard)
  3. Wash clothes one article at a time, scrubbing on the washboard if necessary to knock dirt loose. The laundry plunger can be used here to agitate the clothes.
  4. Wring clothes out, draining soapy water back into the wash tub.
  5. Rinse clothes in the rinse tub, agitating to rinse off all the soap.
  6. Switch the wringer drain plate to drain into the rinse water.
  7. Wring clothes out.
  8. Hang on a clothes line or drying rack.

There are pros and cons to this method.


  • Works better with dirty clothes
  • Wash water and rinse water stay separate
  • Clothes retain less water than other methods


You will get wet!


We bought long plastic dishwasher’s aprons to use to keep us dry.

Because of the curve and the light weight of the galvanized tubs, we inserted a wooden block between the two tubs to ensure the wringer had a solid grip and wouldn’t move or shift when in use.

What about detergent?

Any of these clothes washing methods use just a small amount of detergent to get the clothes clean. Gloves should be used to protect skin from over-drying.

Any liquid detergent would work for all three. Do not use a pod; they are super concentrated and formulated for washing machines, not hand washing. You should avoid letting the liquid touch your skin.

Powdered detergent is not recommended for sink hand-washing but is very effective for the other methods and stores well.

Many commonly used laundry boosters may not be available in an emergency situation. Make sure you store extras of those you will use.

As an alternative, you can store the ingredients to make your own powdered laundry detergent. We include our own detergent with our Laundry in a Bucket kit.

Laundry in a Bucket

We store 3 blue 5-gallon buckets with our hand washing equipment.

We include instructions so that even children and teens can know how to wash clothes with minimal instruction. Make sure to use the gloves in the kit.

Our Laundry Collection contains:

  • Handwashing & Drying Instruction Sheet (Laminated)
  • 72 plastic clothespins in bag
  • 2—50’ clothesline
  • 1 Pair Elbow Length Gloves
  • Laundry Agitating Plunger
  • 5 Gal Blue Bucket for washing w/ Gamma Lid (has hole for plunger handle)
  • 5 Gal Blue Bucket for rinsing
  • 5 Gal Blue Bucket with Powdered Laundry Soap

Laundry Soap

The laundry soap we use has ingredients to take out stains, freshen, disinfect, and thoroughly clean the clothes.


  • 3 lb. OxiClean
  • 3 lb. 7 oz. Arm & Hammer Washing Soda
  • 4 lb. Arm & Hammer Baking Soda
  • 4 lb. 20 Mule Team Borax
  • 4 bars Fels-Naptha Soap

Use: 1 Tbs. per bucket load of laundry


The Fels-Naptha soap was pulverized in a food processor and mixed with the rest of the ingredients in the 5-gallon bucket. The bucket has a blue gamma lid.

We color code our storage, and blue is the color for cleaning items.

Make sure to wear gloves when mixing and using the detergent.

Keep an extra bar of Fels-Naptha soap on hand. It can be used on stains and extra dirty areas of clothing.

What will you do?

Which laundry method works best for your family?

Are you interested in learning to make your own detergent? Do you want to buy a Laundry in a Bucket kit? Just the Laundry Detergent? Do you want a complete Hand Washing Station? Leave a comment or Contact us for pricing.

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