In many places across the world, people are thinking out of the box to make their own power-free washing machines. The majority of Africans wash their clothes by hand, either in buckets or in streams.
For those who use buckets, they prepare three buckets (although two will suffice). In the first bucket, they wash clothes using bars of soap to remove dirt and stains. The second bucket is to rinse the majority of the soap out, and the third is a final rinse.
Plumbing is a pipe-dream there. People walk for miles carrying their basins and dirty clothes to places where clean water is provided for drinking, bathing, and doing laundry.
Life is harsh, but these people thrive on the sense of community generated by gathering to do their chores. It is a social gathering for adults to laugh and chat, while children play.
I found a few creative ideas for DIY washing machines, and I even made one myself. This simple design is based on two buckets, one of which has some holes drilled in it.
DIY Washing Machine From 2 Buckets
- two large buckets
- 1 toilet plunger
- A strong rope with a carabiner attached (only if you have a strong tree you can hang the bucket from.
- Drill holes down the sides and at the base of only one bucket.
- Use sandpaper to remove rough edges around each hole.
- Drill a hole in the center of one of the lids.
- Drill holes in the rubber of the plunger.
- Feed the plunger's hand through the hole in the lid.
How it Works
Place the bucket with the holes inside the undrilled bucket, and add water and detergent. You don’t need to fill the bucket to the top.
Add your dirty laundry.
Put the lid with the plunger on the bucket so that the plunger is inside the bucket.
Plunge the plunger up and down a few minutes.
The holes in the plunger will agitate the water, stirring it up to get to at all parts of your clothing, and releasing dirt.
Drain the water by lifting the inner bucket out, and placing it on bricks to drain:
Use the outer bucket to drain clothes thoroughly by putting it inside the bucket with the holes, and pressing down until no more water comes out:
Rinse the wash buckets out, add clean water, and repeat the motion with the plunger to remove soap from your clothes.
You can rinse in this manner as many times as you feel necessary to remove all the soap. Use the whole bucket again to drain the water from your laundry in the bucket with the holes in it. (This is the part where a tree would be great, but it is not essential to your chore.)
Hang the bucket from the tree using a rope attached to the handle of the bucket with the holes in it. Make sure the tree branch, the rope, and the buckets handle are all strong.
Turn the bucket on the rope to really wind the rope tightly. The effect you are going for is very much like twirling the seat of a swing set, and then releasing it to spin rapidly on its own.
Release the bucket and watch as it spins all the excess water from your clothing.
Now you are ready to dry your clothes in the sun. Use the empty washer as a laundry basket so everything dirty is ready to wash. This washer is perfect for apartments, camping, tiny houses, and homesteaders.
Here are some innovative ways to make your own electricity-free washing machine.
This design shows you how to make a hand-cranked washing machine.
This is a slightly more complex way to build a washing machine. It does take up floor space, though, so it is not ideal for apartments.
This last one takes a lot more skill than the washing machine I built as you need to be able to weld to build it. The creators have found a way to get exercise, release stress, and do the laundry at the same time. This washing machine is pedal powered using a bicycle to generate the motion for the barrel to spin.
Have you made or are you using a similar off-the grid washing machine? Are you washing clothes by hand? Let me and the entire community in the comments below if you have any tips to make this easier or more effective.
Di-Anne Devenish Seebregts was raised in an environment where daily life consisted of hiking, environmental conservation, growing fruit and vegetables, and raising poultry for meat and eggs.
She combined her passion for the writing word with her love of the pride that comes with not relying on others. She raised three children (who are now adults) to value the environment, and understand the value of being self-sufficient.