DIY 5 Gal. Bucket Clothes Washer
By John D. McCann
In an extended emergency situation you will find the need to wash your clothes. Of course, if you do not have power, you will not be able to use your normal washer and dryer. The following article is an excerpt from John's book Practical Self-Reliance - Reducing Your Dependency On Others, which shows how to make a DIY Clothes Washer.
If you find yourself in a situation where you need to make your own clothes washer, all you need is a five gallon bucket, a snap-on/snap-off lid, and a basic plunger. What I mean by a basic plunger is one that does not have a fold-out flange for using with toilets. I had a hard time finding a basic plunger, as all the ones at Home Depot had the fold out flange. However, these type of plungers are heavy duty, so I purchased one and just cut the flange off with a knife. Now I had a basic plunger.
The best type of lid to use is an easy-on/easy-off lid which are available at various stores such as Home Depot. Unlike normal lids, these do not need to be pried off a bucket once you put in on. If goes on easily, stays securely on the bucket, then comes off easily. You will need to drill a one inch hole in the center of the lid, for the handle of the plunger to fit through.
Next you need to drill holes in the head of the plunger. If you don't, when you push down on it in the water, it will just suction the clothes. You want the water to be forced through the clothes, pushing the dirt out. I drilled eight 1/2 inch holes in the head of the plunger.
I have seen various configurations, but many that I have seen only drill holes in the top. I drilled four in the top, then alternated four in the side, off-set from those in the top. I felt this would better agitate the water through the clothes, as water could squirt straight up, and also through the sides. I can't scientifically prove this is better, but it works well. It should be note, that if the flange had not been cut-off then the water would not be able to squirt through the holes in the plunger.
You now simply fill the bucket half full of warm water, add a small amount of detergent, place the plunger in the bucket, and place the lid on the bucket, with the plunger handle sticking up through the hole.
I push the plunger up and down on the clothes for three to four minutes. I then empty the dirty water and wring the soap out of the clothes. I replace with fresh water and plunger again to rinse. I then wring the clothes out again and hang to dry.
As you can see, a clothes washer made from a five gallon bucket and a plunger is a simple project but will provide you with a means to keep your clothes clean when power isn't available. It works very effectively, and if you want to get fancy, you can buy one of those mop wringer buckets and use it to wring out the clothes after they are washed.
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