How To Make Emergency Washing Machines

How To Make Emergency Washing Machines

Emergency Washing Machines

Today, I’m updating this post on how to make emergency washing machines. We need to get real right now, so many things are in short supply. Please check out thrift stores, garage sales, or wherever you can find some of the items discussed in this post. I have links below for some of them that I highly recommend.

We all want clean underwear for sure after a disaster, at the very least. I wrote this post using the Ball Clothes Mobile Washer (I’m sorry this one is no longer available), here is an updated model, Rapid Laundry Washer Plunger

You will use less water, electricity, and keep the planet a little greener by using just a bucket and a mobile washer. My design of the two five-gallon buckets with a Gamma Lid stores easily in your camping gear or RV. It’s easy to put together, as shown below.

While I’m at it, please stock up on the brand of laundry detergent you like to use. During a recent visit to some of my local stores, I found the shelves were bare. If you want to try making your own detergent as a backup plan, I have a good recipe for you. I have posted it below.

Ingredients Needed for Homemade Laundry Detergent

Just remember, there are zero fillers or fragrances in this homemade detergent, so if you like a particular one, use essential oils or use the bars of soap that are your favorite for washing clothes. You will not see bubbles because the fillers that generally provide that attribute to washing detergent don’t exist in this version. The bonus is you use so much less product per load. I have front-end loaders, so I use less than a teaspoon per load and I love it!

  • 1 Fels-Naptha Bar-grated either by hand, food processor, or salad shooter
  • 1 cup Borax Detergent Booster
  • 1 cup Arm and Hammer Super Washing Soda (not regular baking soda)

Emergency Washing Machines

How To Make Emergency Washing Machines

The picture above shows the two styles available, the Ball Mobile Washer with a straight handle and the one with the “T” handle. The one below was the original one which is currently unavailable.

Original Mobile Washer

They are back-ordered waiting for deliveries. Here’s the deal, people are beginning to realize how critical it is to be prepared, so products are getting harder and harder to find. It’s a fact, we all know it, or should.

Make Emergency Washing Machines

The handle stores easily inside the 5-gallon buckets with the Gamma Lid, (Mark drilled a 2-inch hole in the top lid).

Make Emergency Washing Machines

You tap the “ring” with the threads of the Gamma Lid on the top bucket with a mallet to secure it in place. This bucket will sit inside the other bucket. This Breathing Mobile Washer is hard to get now, but here is an alternative. Rapid Laundry Washer Plunger

Emergency Washing Machines

The units have four pieces that come together easily by screwing them together to make them ready to use.

Emergency Washing Machines

In the “top” bucket, Mark used a drill to make a few one-inch holes for the water to flow through when swishing the water. I have a “wash” bucket set and a “rinse” bucket set. I use a few paper towels between the buckets when storing them because sometimes they are hard to get apart, if you store them that way to save space.

Emergency Washing Machines

You can also use wash buckets such as these with the same mobile washers. Galvanized wash buckets. Or you may want a Columbus Washboard Family Size as well. You can find these, well, if you can find these, they may be available at some hardware stores.

Make Emergency Washing Machines

Emergency Washing Machines:

These are just a few of the things that you can wash by hand. I know heavy jeans would be a problem, but it could be done. I told Mark, “please no jeans if we have a power outage for an extended period.”

  1. Hand towels
  2. Wash towels
  3. Wash rags
  4. Cloth diapers
  5. Underwear
  6. Socks
  7. Cloth Menstrual Pads
  8. Cloth towels from the kitchen
  9. Sheets and pillowcases
  10. Shirts
  11. Blouses
  12. Skirts
  13. Pants

Homemade Laundry Detergent


Laundry Detergent/Soap by Food Storage Moms

Prep Time 35 minutes
Cook Time 0 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Servings 1 container
Author Linda Loosli


  • 1 Fels-Naptha Bar-grated either by hand, food processor, or salad shooter
  • 1 cup Borax Detergent Booster
  • 1 cup Arm and Hammer Super Washing Soda (not regular baking soda)


  • Instructions:
  • Put these 3 ingredients in a blender to blend and grate the Fels-Naptha even more. After doing this, it will look just like the store-purchased detergent, but will not include all the “fillers." You will use less product per load and will have fewer “bubbles." Remember, just having bubbles doesn’t mean clean. I use 1/2 to 1 teaspoon per load. I have a HE-High Efficiency washer, and it works great in regular washing machines as well. ***Please note: I now use only 1/2- 1 teaspoon per load in my large capacity HE washer.

Update: Lavario Emergency Washing Machine

I wrote this years ago, and of course, then people realized they better get prepared to wash clothes, including jeans and underwear, and also bedding sheets at home. Thankfully, Lavario came out with this gem. I bought one the minute I saw it on the internet. We just need options to stay clean when an unforeseen disaster happens.

Please, if you don’t have some method to wash your clothes, get something to wash at least your underwear. I don’t recommend the bathtub in case the sewers are backed up or the water is shut off. If you can’t drain the bathtub, just think about it, it would be a mess. This is now my favorite, Lavario Washing Machine. It looks like they have come out with a Lavario Portable Lavario Folding Dryer

Get a Clothesline and Clothespins

  • Lehmans Folding Drying Rack (this is one of the washing products I have so I can totally recommend it)
  • Clothespins (Please buy good clothespins if you have a clothesline-I highly recommend these because I use them)
  • Clothelines (I have this one because the sponsor shipped it to me, I looked for years to find this one)

Why Would I Want One of These Emergency Washing Machines?

Like the caption says, they are a handy item in emergency situations. Lately, there have been numerous news reports of families in a world of hurt because their homes, particularly their basements, have been either flooded due to a heavy storm, or their sewers backed up.

You see the families, with neighbors assisting, pumping, shoveling, doing whatever was needed to get the water, mud, and sometimes, sewer water out of their living space. In so many cases, they don’t have access to their washing machines because it was damaged during the emergency itself. Their clothes are a mess, as you can well imagine.

With one of these inexpensive but handy units, they now have a temporary solution to clean things. This is especially true if the whole neighborhood was affected, so no neighbor can offer theirs for use either.

Do They Really Work?

As I mentioned above, some items are more easily cleaned with these emergency washing machines than others. The toughest fabrics are jeans since they are stiffer, generally get dirtier, and you have limited room for multiple pairs in the washing tub.

At the very least, you’ll want to use the units for your underwear. That way you can feel somewhat “clean” as you go about your business following the emergency. The other items listed, like small hand towels, sheets, etc. should clean up well.

Can I Really Save Money Making My Own Washing Soap?

The first time my friend and I made the soap it became a real adventure. We had the ingredients scattered all over the countertop in my kitchen. Guess we didn’t have the top of the blender secured well enough. The second try was much better.

The soap works well and doesn’t require a large amount for each load of wash, whether in the homemade washing machine or my store-bought unit. The new “high efficiency” models usually have the capacity for larger loads, run very quietly, have cycles designed for each step, and use less detergent.

Mark and I have both noticed how well the clothes come out, how efficient the fabric softener is, and how short the cycles can be in most cases. Ours has a “fast wash” cycle that only takes 15 minutes. Boy that saves a lot of time on wash days, or evenings after a long workday.

Do You Actually Use a Clothesline When You Wash Your Clothes?

I can remember watching my mom hang our clothes on an outside clothesline when I was young. Of course, we lived in Las Vegas where the temperatures were pretty warm most of the year, so it made sense back then. The only time I’ve used one in years is when my dryer broke down and I needed to get some wash done. It wasn’t as efficient as throwing them in the gas dryer, but it did work out. I did notice that the clothes dried a little stiffer and maybe showed more wrinkles.

Final Word

These are just a few items to think about washing by hand. Thanks again for being prepared for the unexpected. Plan on seeing some surprised looks on your neighbors’ faces when you show up the morning after an emergency in clean clothes while everyone else looks a mess after you used one of these homemade units. You’ll be glad you have one of these, I promise. May God Bless this world, Linda

Copyright pictures: Children with hanging clothes, AdobeStock_73890537 by Alexandr Vasilyev

The post How To Make Emergency Washing Machines appeared first on Food Storage Moms.

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