Washing Clothes Manually and Easily:

breathing washer 12.20.14 014
While today we can enjoy washing clothes with a push of a button, one skill that is important to learn is washing clothes manually. If you lost power and weren’t able to wash in your automatic washer, have you practiced doing it manually? Wait..did I say, practice? Yes!
Not that manually washing clothes is overly complicated, but knowing how to do it effectively does matter. Typically you would use one bucket (or other container) for your soapy water and another for your rinse water. We actually prefer one wash bucket and two rinse buckets, to get out all that soap and grime.
If you are fortunate enough to have a washboard, then washing will go quickly and you’ll get a good workout too. There are many different types of washboards, but we recommend trying the Maid-Rite Washboard, Behrens Large Washboard, or the one pictured above that we use called the Breathing MobileWasher. All of these options are affordable ranging between $16-$22.
At first glance the Breathing MobileWasher might look more like a bathroom plunger, but don’t let the look fool you it works!
Now that you know what cleaning tool to use, maybe we should talk about the type of soap too. When using a washboard, we prefer to use a bar of Fels-Naptha. You can pick this up in single bars in your laundry isle, or online in bulk Fels-Naptha 24 count.

For washing with a MobileWasher, I use homemade laundry detergent. It is super cheap to make and depending on which recipe you use, works extremely well. This is my all-time favorite recipe for laundry detergent: Moms Super Laundry Sauce’. Another alternative though is a simple homemade liquid detergent recipe as follows (I recommend using fels-natpha in it):
Laundry Soap
If you happen to use store bought detergent or just prefer to stockpile it, I would choose one that is specifically made for cold water washing. This allows you to use cold water on all of your clothing, without the need for wasting resources to heat the water. At times this can be also especially important, if your resources are limited and you can not afford to use any extra resources to heat the water.
Now that we’ve covered the washing of the clothes, let’s talk about wringing and drying them. Wringing clothes out manually, takes a lot of work…and a lot of muscle! Years ago when I lived in a little duplex, I had to hand wash all of our clothes in the bathtub, hand wring them, and hang them out. I did all of that without a washboard too, which made things really tough! I look back though on that time, and am glad that I learned those skills. Yes it sucked royally, but If I had to do it now with just soap and water; I could.

So let’s get to wringing! You have a few options when it comes to wringing out your clothes. The first of course is to just do it manually. If you are in good physical condition and enjoy getting a good workout, this may be the method for you. However it is important to tell you that depending on the amount of clothing to be washed, you are going to be exhausted. If you are an older person, someone with more limited mobility, or a person that just wants to get it done quicker, you may consider using a manual wringer to assist you.

You can get a complete setup using items like these:
GetPreparedStuff wringerDover twin tubs

You could also just build your own setup like this one found at smallcabin.com:
small cabin

One quick note: add a bit of white distilled vinegar to your rinse water to help soften the clothes. Also before you hang each item, shake it out. This helps to remove excess water and pull out any large wrinkles.
To hang you can use a regular clothes line set in between two poles if you have the space, a retractable clothes line, or an outdoor umbrella style clothes dryer. In case of bad weather, you of course may need to hang clothing indoors. I usually do this in the shower so the excess water can drip down the tub, but you can also use a drying rack if you prefer.
There are two keys to proper drying. The first is to use durable wooden clothespins, either the traditional style or regular style. Personally, I’m not a fan of plastic clothespins. They break too easily and are a waste of money. The second key to hanging is proper spacing. If the clothes are crammed together, the clothes will not fully dry. Scatter them out a bit, as space allows.
Ta da…..
See there if you were to lose power, you now know how to wash and dry clothes manually & easily!
Two Last Reminders:
1. Remember to bring in your clothespins when not in use, especially if you use wooden ones. Otherwise they can get all mildewy…(is that a word) and funky, and who wants that!
2. Did you know that drying clothes outside can literally save you hundreds of dollars a year? Seriously! Check out this Cost Per Load Calculator to see for yourself.



  1. We practice washing our own clothes as well. and ALL of our 'gettin out the house' clothes are hung up to dry every time! Thanks for the links to help make things easier.

  2. I learned to use these as a child in an area where we had no running water. Then again as a single mom attending school. The first helped to get through a rough time. The second time I learned to also use clothes hangers. Even today I still will sometimes hang the clothes, which would be hung when dry, on the same hangers. This does several things, by hanging on the hanger, the clothes get preformed to how they will hang when dry. With pants, I learned to use 2 hangers, one leg on each hanger allows quicker drying while also creating a bit of a seam. This method also helps if/when ironing---they need less.