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How to Make a Off Grid Washing Machine Using a Bucket and Plunger


DIY: Clothes Washer from Plunger
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For a few months I have been thinking about personal hygiene is a disaster context.  Basically, I feel like I have a decent supply of food and the essential equipment, not everything, but enough that I can keep Genny from starving in anything less than a full TEOTWAWKI grid down scenario.  However, having prepared, I find I am running out of storage space, and the way we go through bathroom paper products, I could never store a years worth in anything less than a tractor trailer.

This has caused me to look into cloth diapers, which turned into cloth toilet tissue, then I found sites like naturally cozy.  And while all of the above products are ecologically friendly, inexpensive, and more sustainable in a disaster than commercial paper products, I worry about how to keep them clean and the smell and “yuck” factor down.

Enter non-electric washing machines….  It does not take much internet searching to find people that have made bucket washers with 5 gallon buckets, lids, and toilet plungers.  I figured if they could why couldn’t I make a DIY Clothes Washer from Plunger

How to Make a DIY Plunger Washer

For my washer, I bought a simple plunger from the local box store, drilled some small holes around the base to help keep the water from over sudsing, and to help push water through the clothing.  I also unscrewed the short handle and replaced it with a mop handle so I don’t have to bend over and work as hard.  It also gave me more leverage.

I cut a hole the size of the handle in the center of a tight fitting bucket lid.

Washing Clothes Using the Bucket and Plunger

To wash all I do is add a few articles clothes to the bucket, about ¼ cup of my handy homemade liquid detergent,  and about 1 ½ gallons of water to the bucket.  Insert the plunger, and then lock on the lid.

I push the plunger around the clothes for a minute or 5 and then dump the dirty water, ass clean rinse water and repeat until the rinse water comes out clean.  If you want you could add bluing to the rinse to whiten your clothes.  I don’t do this right now, but I have some just incase this becomes my primary method of washing clothes.

I don’t ring out the wet clothes, as that causes wrinkles, and I HATE to iron.  So I just hang the wet clothes over the edge of a plastic tub until they drip dry enough to hang outside to dry.   Of course, mostly I skip that step and use the dryer because once I get the hang of using the washer if I have to, I feel confident that I’m not going to forget how so I can pack it away until I get some kids with diapers….

Published inDIY Prepper Projects


  1. Bowhunter154 Bowhunter154

    I converted a five gallon mop bucket with a wringer into the light load clothes washer and wringer.  Using a toilet plunger with two one half inch holes drilled near the top to agitate the clothes. The holes keep the soapy water from foaming up too much. The clothes are noticeably cleaner when washed by hand.  Works great on items like T-shirts, night gowns, towels, and underwear.  Beats twisting and twisting the wet clothes when pressed in the mop wringer a few times to wring out all soapy water and at the final rinse. All that twisting of the wrists could lead to carpal tunnel syndrome. The wrung out water is then used to mop the floors (if soapy) or water the garden (if plain rinse water).

    When I have to wash heavy items like blue jeans, I will use the spin cycle on the old and dying electric washer to wring out the final rinse water.  Jeans sour quickly if you don’t wring them out well. I also add about a cup of white vinegar to my final rinse water to help remove traces of soap and sanitize the clothes (3/4 cup of white vinegar to three gallons of clear final rinse water).  Clothes feel softer when the soap is all removed. Towels absorb better when not stiff with dried soap, too.

    Wash once and rinse twice. That’s how I do it.

  2. Anonymous Anonymous

    What I use as a camping clothes dryer is a 5 gallon bucket with several (read at least 100) 1/8″ holes drilled in the bottom. Transfer the wet clothes from your wash bucket into the dryer bucket, snap on the lid, tie a 6 foot length of good quality rope onto the center of the bucket’s handle and spin it about you like a sling. The centripetal force will sling the water from your clothes and out the holes in the bucket’s bottom. When water is no longer slinging out, your clothes are dry (comparable to a washer’s spin cycle) and ready for the clothes line.
    The lid I mentioned earlier is optional and the spinning will force the clothes to the bottom of the bucket thus preventing them from falling out. I like to use the lid as a just-in-case feature if the bucket’s handle comes loose. It will keep the clothes inside if that should happen and therefore clean (I hate having to do a job a second time unnecessarily).
    It also goes without saying that you want no one standing around you when you do this. Just because we prepped for a medical emergency doesn’t mean we want one (safety first).

    • Anonymous Anonymous

      That is SO cool, Sounds like a lot of work for a lazy guy like me, but really fun for my little nephew. Swinging a bucket on a rope would appeal to him, but on second thought he would probably let go on purpose to see how far he could fling the bucket…. Great comment, Thanks.

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