$10 Washing Machine for Clothes and Dishes

I interviewed a group of full-time nomads in Quartzsite this year about many of their personal infrastructure solutions. In this case, I asked them what the best, cheapest, simplest, most effective method was for doing laundry off-grid.

All of them agreed that buckets are not just cheap, simple, and effective, but that they actually work better than the expensive machines at laundromats.

The idea is simple. You need two buckets, a lid, and a toilet plunger. It comes out to about ten bucks all together.

The two buckets are stacked. You have to cut a bunch of holes in the bottom bucket. Then drill a hole in the lid for the plunger to go through. Last, cut a bunch of holes in the plunger. It should look like this…

And like this when it’s all put together…

Now all you have to do is fill the bucket and add some safe, biodegradable Dr Bronners castile soap or something like it. (Because his is fine to dump on the ground afterwards.)

I start by washing my dishes in the water, and then add my dirty laundry. This means I am using the same soapy water twice, saving a few gallons.

I like to let the laundry soak for a while before using the plunger to agitate it for a few minutes. Then simply pull the top bucket out and the water will drain by gravity. If you’re using a biodegradable castile soap like Dr Bronners, then it’s totally fine to just let it drain onto the ground. You can also dump the soapy water onto the ground once you’re done reusing it.

Everyone I spoke to said they don’t rinse their laundry after they wash it. They said if you notice any soap on the clothes then you’re using too much soap. I have sensitive skin so I usually do rinse the clothes clean of soap before laying them out to dry.

Keep in mind depending on your humidity and temperature, drying could take a few days so be aware of that.

I really do feel like this method has done a better job than the laundromat, and you can’t beat the price!