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Old 08-22-2010, 01:00 PM
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Default 5 Gallon Washing Machine DIY



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First off, this is not my idea, but thought it worth passing on:
http://www.off-grid.net/2010/04/22/d...-laundry-soap/

DIY washing machine and homemade laundry soap


Off Grid Washing Machine
What do you get when you combine a 5 gallon bucket and a toilet plunger? An off grid washing machine. Well, maybe not a machine in the traditional sense, unless you consider my hands the motor. This is something I have been wanting to make for quite some time now. The other day while I was in town, I saw a toilet plunger on the shelf and put it in my cart. I also picked up 3 bottles of Mrs Stewartís bluing, Iíll explain more about that in a bit.

Plunger with holes
This primitive prototype washing machine started out as a 5 gallon bucket and the plunger. I handed the plunger to PB and asked him to cut some holes in the plunger, that makes it easier to plunge the clothes without making tons of bubbles and a big mess. I left it up to PB to decide how to cut the holes and in what shape. He took it downstairs for a few minutes, then brought it back to me, he handed me the plunger with 3, perfectly round, quarter sized holes. he handed me the rubber plugs that came from those centers.

I had a few socks and a couple of thermal shirts, all white, that needed to be washed. I put them in the bucket, filled it with enough water to cover the clothes by a few inches, added some homemade laundry soap (recipe to follow) and began to plunge. It worked like a charm. But of course, PB is never happy with prototypes, he wants to improve things, so he decided that a lid was in order, the lid would keep the water from splashing about as I plunged the clothes. We didnít have a lid for the bucket, at least not one we wanted to cut a hole in. PB found another 5 gallon bucket, it had a bad place in the bottom, but it had a screw on lid. PB cut the bottom off that bucket and slid it into the first bucket, it fit like a charm.

Lid with hole

Lid with hole
Next, PB cut a hole in the screw on lid, he created a gasket using a prescription pill bottle, that keeps the plunger handle straight and keeps any water from splashing out of the hole in the top. Since the bucket is several inches taller now, the handle for the plunger wasnít long enough, so PB removed the original handle and replaced it with a longer handle. Now I can put the whole thing on the floor and plunge from a standing position, I get more power to my stroke now. It works great!

I washed the clothes, I removed the clothes, wringing each one by hand, then I dumped out the water. I added fresh water, a bit of baking soda, that helps freshen and helps soften the clothes too. I added some bluing, put the top back on the primitive washing machine and began the rinse cycle. I plunged for several minutes, until I felt like everything was rinsed well. I removed each piece of clothing, wringing each one, then I hung them on the clothes line to dry.

The next thing I want to get is a mop bucket with a roller wringer, thatís the cheapest way I can go if I purchase one, perhaps PB will make a roller wringer for me in the mean time, I wouldnít be surprised. I can use the roller wringer for my clothes, the water would drain into the bucket, it would take less time to dry on the line, and the clothes would not have to be hand wrung, that makes more wrinkles. Using a roller wringer, it would smooth out wrinkles instead of causing them, dual benefit.

Now to my homemade laundry soap, this is something I have been using for years, long before I moved off grid. it is so much cheaper to make and use, I have control over what is going in. My clothes come out clean, clean smelling, not smelling of perfumes and chemicals. My clothes are also softer.
The recipe is so simple, itís 3 ingredients. Bar soap, borax and washing soda (not baking soda). I prefer using a castile soap, you can use Dr Bronnerís, or my personal favorite right now, Kirkís Castile Soap, of course you can use a bath soap like Ivory, just donít use anything that has moisturizers or major additives, they may work for your skin, but they will not work well to clean clothes. You take the bar soap, grate it in a food processor, or you can do it by hand, you want to get it grated as fine as possible, I like to run the blade attachment on the soap after I grate it, just to make it finer, it dissolves better that way. Once you have the bar soap in powder form, measure it, you can just eyeball it if you want, it doesnít have to be exact. Add an equal amount of borax and the same amount of washing soda. Measure by volume, not by weight. So, itís one part powdered bar soap, one part borax and one part washing soda. Put everything in a container with a lid and mix it well, you might have to break up any lumps in the borax and washing soda.
I know a lot of people who use homemade laundry soap like to take it to the next step and make it into a liquid, some people just like using liquids better, they say the powder doesnít dissolve well, I have not had that problem, I think itís because I grate the bar soap so fine, thatís the part that will give you trouble dissolving, especially in cold water if you donít get it fine enough. Since I go ahead and take the extra time to use the blade attachment of my food processor, the bar soap is pretty fine and it dissolves just fine for me. If you want to make this into a liquid, just do a search for homemade laundry soap, youíll find lots of recipes that take the next step of making it into a liquid, I just prefer not to do it myself, it takes up much less space this way too.

You use 1-3 tablespoons of the mixture per wash load, no more, it will not seem like enough, especially if you are used to using commercial laundry detergent by the cup full, I like to use a coffee scoop, it is just right. This will not suds up in the water, if you feel like itís not enough, or you have an especially dirty load of wash, then run it through another wash cycle with another 1-2 tablespoons of powder, adding more to the initial wash will not get things any cleaner, in fact, it will defeat the purpose as it may not rinse out well if you add too much. Have you ever looked at your rinse water in the laundry? Notice how dirty and sudsy it looks? Thatís because your clothes are not getting rinsed out very well. Your clothes will be cleaner, fresher and will rinse cleaner using this homemade laundry soap. Give it a try.

Some of you might say that you remember line dried clothes feeling rough, scratchy, not soft at all. One major reason that happens is because not all of the commercial laundry detergent is being rinsed out of your laundry. Take a peek at the rinse cycle about halfway through, you will probably be shocked and disgusted at how dirty and sudsy the water looks, this is being dried into your laundry, chances are you will probably want to do a second rinse cycle after that. Itís amazing at how much dirt and detergent is left behind on your laundry, this is the main reason why if you line dried this laundry, it would come out stiff as cardboard and scratchy as well. I think you will be pleasantly surprised at how much cleaner your clothes will be, smell and feel, no matter how you dry them.

Now to the Mrs Stewartís bluing. One thing that commercial laundry detergents have are optical brighteners, this makes your colors look brighter and your whites look whiter. I say they do it to combat the dulling residue that is left behind from the detergent itself. Since the homemade laundry soap does not have these optical brighteners, eventually you will notice your colors and whites are not as bright as they used to be, so if you go back to what your grandmother used, Mrs Stewartís bluing, you will not have that problem. You use this in the rinse cycle. Be sure not to get any undiluted bluing on anything, it will stain.

Today, I used my improvised laundry washing ďmachineĒ, I used the bluing in the rinse, the only problem I have now is I am going to have to use this on the rest of my socks for sure, half of them are going to look whiter and cleaner than the other half.

Itís a funny thing, when I explain to my friends out here about my improvised washing machine, they each tell me that I am more than welcome to come over to their house to do laundry using their washing machine and dryer. In a way, it is not a surprising reaction, they think Iím doing everything the hard way, who in their right mind would want to do laundry by hand when there are perfectly functioning, modern washing machines and dryers available? Well, perhaps I am a bit nutty, living off grid, heating with wood, hauling my own water, generating my own electricityÖ it seems natural to me to want to wash my clothes by hand and dry the clothes using a solar dryer, a clothesline.

Of course I can use a washing machine and dryer, any time I want, but knowing that I CAN do it without electricity or machines, unless you count muscle power. I am now one step closer to being more independent. There is also a small laziness factor in there too. How can doing laundry by hand be lazy? Well, itís easy, to do laundry with a washing machine and dryer means I have to gather all the laundry, sort it and carry it down the hill to my neighborís house, itís a big hill. I am tied to his house for as long as I am doing laundry, then I have to lug those clothes back up the hill, did I mention itís a big hill? Then put them away. If I am doing laundry at the skycastle, then I can do them as I please, without having to lug anything up or down the hill, I can do the laundry as I go, I donít feel like I have to have a full load, I can do smaller loads with no guilt.

Would I recommend this to everyone? Probably not, most of the people I know wouldnít be interested. But for those who are interested, this is one way to do it. Even if you donít use the primitive method of washing, you can still use the homemade laundry soap, it will save you money, it will get your clothes cleaner (IMHO), and you will feel better about the whole thing. I know there will be someone out there with a dozen kids, several toddlers and at least one in diapers who will say they arenít interested in all the extra work, and to them I say, my heart goes out to you, and more power to you, thank God for modern conveniences like washing machines and dryers. You can still try the homemade laundry soap, it doesnít take that long to make and you will save money using it, plus the extra cleanliness factor of using the homemade stuff verses the commercial stuff. You also might want to put aside a bucket or two, and a clean (unused) toilet plunger, just in case, you just never know when it may come in handy.

One cautionary note, if you use a gray water system and your gray water pours out on plants you want to keep alive, do not use the borax, it will kill plants. Just omit the borax in this case and donít worry about it, your clothes will still come out clean.

I am now wearing one of the thermal shirts as a sleep shirt, it is soft as can be, it smells clean, not of perfume, but clean. Did I mention itís soft? I love the feel of the material against my skin, knowing there is nothing that is going to irritate my skin, not that I am particularly sensitive to things like that, itís nice to know that I donít have be concerned about it. It is possible to develop sensitivities by being exposed to chemicals over a period of time. And yes, I know that everything I listed above is a chemical, the difference is I know what these chemicals are, I can pronounce the names, they have been in use for generations. Yes, I feel better about using these.
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Old 08-22-2010, 01:06 PM
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excellent idea.
very innovative of you.
thanks for your excellent post.
Old 08-22-2010, 02:21 PM
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some real good information there,the mop wringer bucket one is worth the price of admission alone.
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Old 08-22-2010, 02:23 PM
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some real good information there,the mop wringer bucket one is worth the price of admission alone.
you need to hook up a windmill and a cam to push the plunger up and down.
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Old 08-22-2010, 02:34 PM
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Can get Towel Wringers for shops
http://www.dynajet.com/
http://www.northernautoparts.com/Pro...tModelId=15154

Mop pail wringers
Amazon.com: Deluxe Household Mop Wringer Pail - 46Pl 14 Qt Oval Plst Mop Pail: Everything Else[/url]

Amazon.com: Behrens 412W Galvanized Mop Wringer Pail: Kitchen & Dining[/url]

http://www.survivalunlimited.com/clothewringer.htm

Can also buy a stand for the wringer
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Old 08-22-2010, 02:37 PM
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Nice may have to build me one. The wife and I r going off grid and this has been one of her worries.
Old 08-22-2010, 02:38 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vegasrandall View Post
some real good information there,the mop wringer bucket one is worth the price of admission alone.
you need to hook up a windmill and a cam to push the plunger up and down.
Or you could just give the kids chores!
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Old 08-23-2010, 10:19 PM
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Very cool idea!
Old 08-23-2010, 10:34 PM
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anyone know of a cheap wringer better than the top of a mop bucket?
Old 08-25-2010, 04:52 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CUI BONO View Post
anyone know of a cheap wringer better than the top of a mop bucket?

Take 2 five gallon buckets that will nest inside each other (2 alike will work) drill small holes in one around the bottom every inch or so....put clothes in the bucket with the holes....put other bucket inside until it gets to the clothes and then sit on it (helps if you have a top on that bucket )...the pressure sends the water outa the clothes...voila!


Not perfect but pretty good.
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Old 08-25-2010, 05:13 PM
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sweet ive been lookin for a wash machine alternative *thumbs up*
Old 08-25-2010, 08:15 PM
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Excellent idea! I've been looking for a simple, efficient, compact, electric-free way to wash some small items. This certainly fits the bill. About how many pairs of socks/underwear can you fit in one load?

I wear work uniforms 99% of the week and the uniform company washes those. This setup can do everything else.

Thanks for posting!
Old 08-25-2010, 08:22 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rncmomx2 View Post
Take 2 five gallon buckets that will nest inside each other (2 alike will work) drill small holes in one around the bottom every inch or so....put clothes in the bucket with the holes....put other bucket inside until it gets to the clothes and then sit on it (helps if you have a top on that bucket )...the pressure sends the water outa the clothes...voila!


Not perfect but pretty good.
This also doubles as a spaghetti strainer... just sayin...
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Old 08-25-2010, 08:57 PM
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I will be building one this next week. Thank-you for your time and knowledge ! This is what this site should be all about
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Old 08-26-2010, 01:37 AM
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Quote:
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This also doubles as a spaghetti strainer... just sayin...

LOL.......
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Old 08-28-2010, 10:28 AM
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Now if I figger out how to hitch it to a windmill..... Hmmm.... That 'ud qualify for green power, wouldn't it? Maybe I could get a grant. Nah, my politics is the wrong color....
Old 08-28-2010, 10:46 AM
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I wish I would have thought of this when I spent my time in a cabin.. great post!
Old 08-28-2010, 10:48 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vegasrandall View Post
..
you need to hook up a windmill and a cam to push the plunger up and down.
Always wanted to hook up one of those stove pipe mini steam engines.. lol, but this looks like it would be right up its alley! .. or at least it would run slow for dedicates.. lol.
Old 08-28-2010, 10:52 AM
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Stove pipe steam engines???????? Please,a little more info.
Old 08-28-2010, 01:48 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Swamp_Hiker View Post
Always wanted to hook up one of those stove pipe mini steam engines.. lol, but this looks like it would be right up its alley! .. or at least it would run slow for dedicates.. lol.
Yes, please enlighten us. This sounds like a handy gadget....
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