I’m living in a camper so I don’t have a standard washing machine. When you don’t have any spare change you don’t get to do laundry in a laundromat either. I’m lucky now. I have electricity. I also have a little tabletop washing machine that I bought some years ago with some birthday money. Before that, I washed my clothes with a simple, low-tech device.
How to Wash Clothes Without a Washing Machine
How to make a homemade, hand operated washing machine that really gets clothes clean.
My model is the Wonder Washer. It really gets clothes clean if the dirty water I drain out is any indication. It has a couple of drawbacks. First it’s small which means you don’t do more than a few items at a time. Second, it doesn’t come with a drain so you have to dump the water out. It does have holes in the lid so it holds the clothes in the tub.
My Wonder Washer
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Wonder Washer One
Before the Wonder Washer, I often did clothes with a manual washing machine. I had another model also called a Wonder Washer or sometimes just Wonderwash. It worked really well to but it was a pain to set up. It had a hand crank and the machine would move around unless it was really secured. There wasn’t clearance for my hand to crank so it had to be secured close to an edge of the counter. It did have a drain, but not a hose so it also had to be positioned over a sink or tub. I’m told, however, that people who do outdoor camping really like this machine.
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I found it simpler to make and use my own Handmade Portable Washing Machine. This device consists of one or two 5-gallon buckets, with or without lid and a (new) plunger. I modified the plunger to make it easier to plunge by drilling holes in the rubber cup. I learned the hard way. Drill the holes facing horizontally unless you like water sprayed in your face. Another option is to drill a hole in a lid to accommodate the handle of the plunger. The lid will keep water from spraying out. I never got that elaborate though.
Directions for Use
I always soaked the clothes really well. You can even soak them overnight. That requires less detergent. Then I plunged away for as long as I could stand it. Five or ten minutes would do it. If I was using the two-bucket method, I would just transfer the washed clothes to a bucket of clean water for rinsing. I’d soak again, but not as long this time, plunge and squeeze.
With one bucket, I’d either use the lid with holes to strain out the clothes, or put them in the sink while I reloaded the bucket with clean rinse water.
Now I hang my wet clothes in the shower to let them drip. I’d rather hang them outdoors but can’t do that in the park. Once the clothes are done dripping, I hang them on hangers about the camper. With the air conditioner and fan on, the clothes dry very fast. I’d love to have a hand cranked wringer, or a clothes spinner, but not sure just where I would put it.
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