The simplest and most direct way to deal with dirty laundry, of course, is a simple trip to the laundromat. With a handful of quarters, I can do an entire load of laundry while working on my laptop, listening to MP3s, or whatever.

For nearly all “dirty laundry”, though, the problem is not that the clothing is actually “dirty” in the sense that it is stained or has actual dirt or grime on it. Usually, it has simply been sweated into so much that it’s beginning to get ripe. So the actual goal is to kill the bacteria and eliminate the odor, and the best way to do that is with plain ordinary chlorine bleach as a disinfectant.

So unless I have a lot of laundry to do or I have pieces that are actually muddy or stained, I avoid the laundromat, and instead do all my laundry a little bit at a time right in the van. To do this, I use a small hand-operated washing machine that I got online at Amazon. It is big enough to do five or six pieces of clothing at once, so if I keep up with it, I can run a load through it every 7-10 days and always have clean clothes. And unlike the laundromat, which takes a couple hours, the hand-operated machine works in just three minutes.

So at laundry time, I go into the Walmart and get a gallon jug of water and pour it in the washing machine. Then I add a dash of chlorine bleach, stuff the laundry in, screw on the lid, and crank the machine for three minutes. The chlorine cleans and disinfects everything, and also bleaches out the surface dirt. I can then remove the clothing one piece at a time, wring the water out, and hang it up to dry (I have a number of metal hooks on the walls of the van specifically for drying laundry.) Since the chlorine evaporates away, I don’t have to rinse them. T-shirts dry in just a few hours, and jeans are usually dry by the next morning. The dirty wash water gets dumped outside.

If there is light ground-in dirt on the clothing, I can usually get it out with a dash of soap—I use the same biodegradable campers soap that I use for washing up in the sink. After three minutes of swishing around, I dump the dirty sudsy water, add another gallon of clean water, and rinse for three minutes. Then wring and hang up to dry.

If that doesn’t do it, then it’s time for a trip to the laundromat.


4 thoughts on “Laundry

  1. The little gizmo works pretty well. I use just a dash of bleach–too much will indeed leach out the colors (though I don’t really care what my clothing looks like anyway).

  2. Meh, I don’t have the physical energy to turn a contraption like that for 15 minutes !
    Then how does the clothes spin dry?
    Way too cumbersome and it looks like a unexploded world war 2 missile

    I got :

    WASHING MACHINE SPIN DRYER WxDxH, 55x39x55cm GLW-82718

    The clothes or bed sheets come out nearly dry after washing and spinning, then i just hang them the front cabin, below the window eye height level, using the glove box, gear stick, and seats.

    Shirts are dry in 2 hours, bedsheets after 6 hours

    JUst having that sorted really is the finishing touch to being off grid/ self sufficient.

  3. garvint: The washing machine only needs to be turned for 2-3 minutes.

    I have no dryer–I hang my clothes up on hooks inside the van to dry.

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