The Lazy Person’s Guide to Doing Laundry: 9 Quick and Easy Ways to Wash Clothes Without Electricity

Whether you’re looking to be as prepared as possible for emergencies or planning on living off the grid, there are plenty of reasons to learn how to wash your clothes without electricity. It’s pretty simple, too!

Here are nine ways to wash (and wring out) your clothes without any electricity:

    • Use a washtub and dolly sticks
  • Make a hand-powered washing machine
  • Use a washboard
  • Use a pressure washer
  • Hand wring your clothes
  • Let your clothes dry in the Sun
  • Press clothes with three buckets
  • Use a mop bucket
  • Use a hand-cranked clothes wringer

 You’ll need to consider several different things to be prepared for washing clothes without electricity. You’ll need to have several other materials ready to help with most of these methods, and you’ll need to think about what kind of laundry soaps you’ll need.

How to Wash Clothes Without Electricity: A Guide

Washing your clothes without electricity is a multi-step process. Think about how you wash clothes at home with electricity; you have to wash and dry them. You’ll need to have a plan for each process.

There are four different processes you can choose between when you’re thinking about how you can wash your clothes. Each of these options has its ups and downs, and you should be ready to put in hard work:

  1. Use a washtub and dolly sticks
  2. Make a hand-powered washing machine
  3. Use a washboard
  4. Use a pressure washer

1. Washtub and Dolly Sticks

This method was standard 70 years ago before washing and drying machines were widely available for everyday families. Your grandmother likely did laundry like this!

A washtub is pretty self-explanatory, but dolly sticks aren’t standard anymore. Essentially, dolly sticks are large broom-type pieces of equipment with spools on end to help you use force to clean your clothes.

When you use a washtub and dolly sticks, you’ll have to heat the water before doing anything else. Then, you’ll need to add whatever soap you use. Throw your clothes in and get to work!

Make sure to have a separate place for rinsing your clothes. You’ll also want to use any sanitizer once you’re rinsing them.

The dolly sticks help clean the clothes, especially if you’re using liquid soap. You’ll want to soak your clothes enough to get them wet thoroughly, and for clothes that are stained or have tough spots, you’ll want to let them soak for a bit.

If you haven’t gotten a washtub and need to wash clothes and have no electricity, don’t fret! You can find any clean bucket or area where water can sit to clean your clothes.

2. Hand-powered Washing Machine (handmade or purchased)

This is a pretty simple way task that lets you do your laundry without electricity and too much effort! All you need is a plunger and a five-gallon bucket with a lid. The bucket will need to be at least two times the size of the widest part of the plunger (this is extremely important for your handmade washing machine to function correctly).

The premise behind a handmade washing machine involves using the plunger to “wash” your clothes in a bucket full of water. The easiest way is to create a hole in the bucket lid that fits the plunger’s handle. It’ll give your handmade washing machine some stability.

A handmade washing machine is similar to a wash bucket; you’ll need to fill the bucket halfway with warm water and dissolve whatever soap you’re using. Then, fill the bucket with clothes.

All you have to do from there is move the plunger up and down. The more range you can get while doing this, the cleaner your clothes will be. Try to lift the plunger completely out of the water each time you lift it. This might not be easy, but sitting with the handmade washing machine between your legs can help you stabilize it and give you additional strength.

When you’re done, you should move the clothes to another area for rinsing. When rinsing your clothes, you can add sanitizer to the water for additional cleaning.

This washing method is simple, but you’ll want to get the items before an emergency. You don’t want to use a dirty bucket or a dirty plunger!

3. Washboard

Washboards are pretty standard items and have become decorative in recent years. They’re simple to use, but you’ll find them a workout.

A washboard is a type of board filled with wood edges (or any other hard material) that helps you wash clothes through blunt force. You’ll also need buckets or a washbasin to help with the process.

You’ll want to fill the bucket with warm water and let the soap dissolve. Once you put the clothes in, roll up your sleeves and ensure they’ve gotten a good soak.

Then, you’ll need to take each piece of clothing and start rubbing it along the washboard individually. Nothing can make this process easier; you’ll have to put in the elbow grease and do it.

Afterward, you’ll want a separate bucket or area for rinsing your clothes. Again, this is where you’ll want to add any sanitizers you’re using to your clothes.

A washboard is a pretty standard method. You don’t need anything special except for the board itself, and it can be repurposed as a decorative item! This process is a great way to tone your arms, but be wary if you’re going to try and do it for multiple people. Washing each item individually can make take a long time.

4. Wonder Washer

You can buy a hand-crank washing machine, also known as a wonder washer, that helps you do laundry without electricity. It’s very similar to the handmade washing machine, but it will require much less effort, and you won’t have to build anything.

Pressure washers look like jars, and you have to put your clothes in, fill them with warm water and soap (like a regular washing machine), and then stir it all up! Some levers allow you to hand-mix everything without much effort.

The best part is that the pressure washer doesn’t require extra rinsing. You must drain the water once you feel like the clothes have been mixed around enough and add in freshwater. Add in sanitizer, repeat the mixing process, and voila! You’ve just washed laundry without electricity and with minimal effort.

This is the most straightforward process for washing your clothes without electricity. You don’t have to make anything; you can even turn the levers, rinse, and repeat while doing something else. It’s also a good option for anyone who might struggle with the physical requirements of the other options.

Dry Your Clothes Without Electricity

Once you’re done washing your clothes, you’re going to realize that you have several options for drying your clothes. You have a few options, and several other things will affect your choice. For example, if you’re somewhere that sees a lot of bad weather, you might not be able to hang your clothes up outside to dry.

An important step when drying out your clothes is wringing your clothes out. While it doesn’t dry your clothes all the way, it significantly shortens the drying time. No matter what, you’ll need to hang your clothes somewhere, outside or inside your home (like a bathroom), to get your clothes perfectly dry. You can also buy a drying board from many stores (or online) for drying clothes inside!

These five options are going to show you different ways you can wring out your clothes:

  1. Hand wring your clothes
  2. Let your clothes dry in the Sun
  3. Press clothes with three buckets
  4. Use a mop bucket
  5. Use a hand-cranked clothes wringer

1. Hand Wring Your Clothes

You won’t need anything extra for this drying technique. However, you’ll need to steel your mind because hand-wringing your clothes takes a long time. You’ll need to squeeze each item plenty of times; multiply that by the number of clothes you have, and you’re in for a long afternoon.

All you have to do to hand wring your clothes is squeeze them. The easiest way to do this is by twisting the item, letting the force of the material squeeze itself to get the most water out with the least amount of physical power possible.

Hand wringing can be a good option if you find yourself in a situation where you need to wash your clothes without electricity. You don’t need anything extra, and it’s a simple task that anyone can do. You can enlist any kids around to help!

2. Let Your Clothes Dry in the Sun

If you want to forget about your laundry after the rinsing phase, you can leave your clothes in the Sun. If you live somewhere that’s got excellent, dry heat; then this option can work pretty well. However, if you live somewhere humid, you won’t have a good time doing this. The clothes will stay wet, and you’ll have stinky but clean clothes.

You can run a laundry line by twine or rope between any two pole-like objects, whether off the side of your house or hanging from a tree branch. From there, pin your clothes on with clothespins (if you’re stretched for items, you can use things like bag clips or paper clips if your line is small enough).

Remember that your rope and supports need to hold the weight of multiple wet clothes. If you do this without wringing your clothes out first, the clothes will be even heavier. Make sure everything is strong enough before getting all your laundry in place—it’s aggravating having to redo all your work and potentially having to rewash your clothes because a laundry line fell.

3. Press Clothes with Three Buckets

This is an inexpensive way to bring your clothes, and it doesn’t require you to do much either! It’s quick and easy after the first time you make the setup, and anyone can do it.

First, you’ll need to buy three buckets. From there, you’ll want to cut holes into the bottom of two of them. Make three large holes in the first bucket and one large hole in the second. The third bucket you can leave untouched.

This process works by forcing the water out of your clean clothes with a bucket with no holes. Fill the bucket with multiple holes with the wet clothes, and place that bucket on top with one hole. From there, take the bucket with no holes and put it on top.

Push the top bucket downwards with as much force as you can. You can even sit on it! The water should drain through the second bucket into the third bucket. Do this process a few times, and you’ve got some well-wrung clothes!

Many people try doing this with only two buckets, but it doesn’t work. The holes don’t have anywhere to drain if you set the bucket with your clothes in it directly on the ground. The force you’re applying almost acts as a seal around the clothes, so the water has nowhere to go.

4. Mop Bucket

This method is super easy, and it’s great if you have a mop bucket around or you’ve found one for sale. The contraption has everything you need to be built into it for rinsing and wringing!

Mop buckets have baskets on top that let you place clothes in them and push a lever to wring them out. This is meant to be used on traditional mops, but it works well for clothes!

If you find a mop bucket, clean it thoroughly and sanitize it (probably multiple times). Wringing out your clothes comes after washing them, so any dirt or bacteria you get on them will stay until the next time you wash them—this can make them smell like mildew.

If you happen to have a mop bucket, then great! However, with Swiffers being so popular nowadays, you might not have an entire mop bucket at your disposal. If not, it’s probably better to invest money in one of the other methods.

5. Hand-cranked Clothes Wringer

One of the joys of the internet is that you can find almost anything you can think of. This includes a tool specifically meant to wring out clothes for you; all you have to do is crank it!

Hand-cranked clothes wringers are easy to use and will wring your clothes out extremely well in one round. Essentially, they’re two rotating cylinders your clothes go through to squeeze out as much water as possible.

All you have to do is turn the wheels, which you can easily do with one crank. It doesn’t require much effort, especially compared to the options we’ve already discussed. The cylinders do all the hard work for you!

This is a simple tool that’s also pretty inexpensive. The only downside is that only one article of clothing can go through the wringer at a time. However, they don’t take long to finish, so the process is still pretty quick—much quicker than hand wringing your clothes or letting the Sun dry them while they’re still sopping wet.

Materials You’ll Need

Even though washing and drying your clothes without electricity can be done in different ways, there are still other materials you’ll need to buy. Warm water doesn’t do the trick alone; you’ll need laundry soaps that do a little more than the standard laundry detergent and some sanitizing solutions to help you keep your clothes clean.

The first thing you’ll want to think about getting is washing soda or soda crystals. These were trendy years ago because they’re great at getting stains out of clothes and work well with any process requiring manual force. They’re still pretty popular in the DIY soap scene.

The rough texture of washing soda will help you clean your clothes and remove any tough areas you struggle with. You can think about it like a sponge; when you have difficulty getting dry food off a plate, you flip the sponge over to the rough side. The washing soda is your rough side for washing clothes!

Because of the texture, washing soda can be rough on your clothes. Try to be gentle when using it and apply as much force as necessary to keep your clothes as protected as possible.

Also, pay attention to your own hands when you’re washing with washing soda. These can wreak havoc on your skin, especially when the water already softens it. Try not to use too much, and stop if your skin gets too red or you find yourself scratched. It’s easier to harm your skin when it’s waterlogged than you realize.

Bleach is another common substance used when washing your clothes—with electricity or without! Bleach is excellent at sanitizing your clothes at the end of the process; you must be extremely mindful of how much you’re putting in.

You can buy different kinds of bleach, so ensure you follow the instructions before tossing some in. You may have to dilute the bleach with water before adding it to the water. Making mistakes with bleach can ruin your clothes, so handle it with caution.

Why You Need Soap

You’ll more than likely need to make your laundry soap as well. The detergent you find in stores creates a lot of suds, and you’ll have problems getting the suds out of clothes when you’re trying to wash them without the standard Washer and dryer.

There are plenty of recipes online for making your laundry soap. Many include essential oils, borax, and washing soda. Here’s the easiest (and cheapest option) for making your laundry soap. You’ll need the following materials:

  • 1 cup of borax
  • 1 bar of Fels-Naptha soap
  • 1 cup of washing soda

Making the soap is incredibly simple. All you have to do is combine the ingredients and put them in an airtight container. You can use one teaspoon per load! If you’d like to add some nice perfumes, then feel free to add drops of your favorite essential oils.

You can make this in much bigger batches, and you’ll probably want to if you’ve got a more prominent family to do laundry for. The process is so simple, and you can even gift it to friends who enjoy DIY Homegoods—this soap can be used in a regular washer and dryer with no problem!

Tips to Make Clothes Washing Easier

Now that we’ve talked about different ways to wash and dry your clothes, it’s time to throw out some general tips and tricks to help you along the way. By picking a washing and wringing method above and following these tips, you’ll be on your way to clean clothes without electricity in no time!

1. Shake Out Your Clothes Before Washing Them

Some people do this even when they use electricity to do laundry. You never know what might end up in your laundry baskets, especially if you have children. You might even find some extra money left in your pants pockets.

This will also keep the water you’re washing your clothes in the cleaner for longer. Most of the time, you have to get new water when you’re doing laundry because the water gets so dirty; you can save yourself a lot of time by removing debris from your clothes before putting them in the water.

2. Soak Your Clothes Before Washing Them

This tip will also help keep the water you’re washing your clothes in clean. Soaking your clothes in soap will remove any debris left on them after you’ve shaken them out, making them cleaner!

The soap will also have more time to work on the dirty parts of your clothes, so you’ll have to put in less effort to clean them. If you’re using anything that requires a lot of physical labor, this can save you energy and time. It will also help protect your hands if you use a washboard.

3. Don’t Worry About Washing Your Clothes in Cold Water

If you’re living off the grid or trying to cut back on electricity, you’re probably using as little water as possible. In that case, try to save the hot, boiled water for cooking or drinking. Your clothes will still come clean in cold water.

While clothes typically wash in warm water, some people only use cold water, even in washers and dryers that use electricity! You don’t have to worry about any of the dyes from the clothes coming out with cold water, so it’s a good idea if you’ve got any hand-dyed clothes. Here’s some more information about washing your clothes with cold water (and some good resources on why you should think about handwashing your clothes).

4. Boil Your Underwear

Your underwear is a pretty important piece of clothing that you want to ensure is as clean as possible. While soap and water do the trick for most clothes, you should consider sanitizing your underwear beyond using bleach or other solutions.

You can easily do this by boiling your underwear. It’s simple: place your underwear in a pot with water and on fire. Remember that you can burn your underwear if you try putting too many in at once. Ensure you leave enough room for your underwear to float and not touch the sides of the pot.


Getting your clothes clean without electricity seems like it would be pretty easy for anyone to do, but in today’s age, it may not be as simple for some people. Hopefully, this article opened your eyes to a couple of clothes-washing options you hadn’t considered before!

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