Prep Smartz Academy Article

There are situations that leave people in their homes/shelters without electricity for longer than five days.  During that time, it would be more comfortable to have clean clothes.  This article provides some options for doing laundry when you are without electricity.  A recipe for making your own laundry detergent is also included.  This information can help you prepare to make the best of the situation.

Clean laundry can be important during an emergency

Following natural disasters, like hurricanes, tornados and earthquakes, residents can find themselves with limited utility services.  That is not an exhaustive list, but it helps to provide you with a starting point for your emergency planning.  Your house or shelter may be otherwise habitable.  With a little amount of effort and minimal expense, you can easily be prepared for a period without normal utility service. 

Your emergency situations could include a washing machine malfunction.  There may be some laundromats that can bridge the downtime.  In some situations, going to a laundromat is not possible, e.g., during a weather event or quarantine order.  Having a laundry solution could address some of these situations.

Maintaining healthy sanitation practices is important to enduring abnormal situations.  During stressful and potentially dangerous conditions, domestic chores like laundry can be overlooked.  When you are preparing your emergency plans, laundry doesn’t seem critical.  While it is not a top priority, laundry is important to health and moral. 


During an emergency, it is important to maintain group moral.  There are many things that you can do to keep the group’s morale positive and constructive.  Personal sanitation can impact the group’s morale.  Keeping your laundry clean is a step forward in making the conditions more pleasant and maintain some sense of normalcy. 

In a hot climate with no air conditioning, clothes can become damp from sweat.  That can create the conditions for unwanted bacteria and odors.  Odors can affect moral!  Clean clothes not only make you feel better, they are a benefit to the group.

It is important to be active during many emergency situations.  Normally, doing laundry isn’t an entertaining activity.  It’s a chore.  Doing laundry, when there is nothing else to do, can be a form of entertainment.  It is a meaningful and productive activity.  Some of your group may not be interested in playing card or board games.  So, this can be an activity for those who are compelled to be productive.

Health Benefits of Clean Laundry

Letting your personal sanitation practices decline, to far, can lead to undesirable health conditions.  Your feet take you everywhere.  It is important to take care of them.  Clean socks are a key factor in keeping your feet from becoming a problem.  This is a top priority in the laundry food chain.  Other undergarments are next on the priority list.  You really need to reduce the risk of developing skin conditions from soiled laundry.

Dead skin cells can collect in bedding.  Your laundry plan needs to address cleaning bedding.  Sheets and mattress coverings are the most critical to keep clean.  Blankets and comforters are a lower priority.

Powerless Laundry Equipment

The equipment for personal laundry can be simple and even considered primitive.  Having your equipment prepared (before an emergency) is simple and inexpensive.  Take a few minutes today or tomorrow and get your equipment.  Take care of it now.  Below is a list of the basic items for powerless laundry.

5-gallon bucket – lid optional, but recommended

Plumbing plunger

Clothesline rope - it doesn’t have to be clothesline rope, it can be other type of rope, this is optional


Some upgrades are available.  Laundry-specific plungers are available.  Check the Prep Smartz Storez for some options.  You can also drill four or five ¾” or 1” holes in a basic plumbing plunger to improve the water agitation. 

These items are usually available at stores like Target and Walmart.  Some grocery stores and hardware stores may have theses items.  I have gotten free 5-gallon buckets from grocery store bakeries and doughnut shops.  It takes some effort to clean the icing from those buckets, though.

If you have a lid for your 5-gallon bucket, you need to make a hole to accommodate the handle of the plunger.  This will help keep the water in the bucket as you operate the plunger. 

Powerless Laundry Operation

Before you begin, determine where you will hang the wet clothes to dry.  If you need to hang a clothesline, do it before starting the laundry – always think a couple steps ahead.  Confirm that you have clothespins, too.

Confirm that you have laundry soap.  If you need to make the soap, a recipe is included below.  Pour clean water into the bucket.  The amount of water depends upon the amount of clothes you want to wash in per load.  You will need to experiment with the amount of water. 

Add the soap.  Like the water amount, you will need to experiment with the amount of soap per load.  Let the clothes soak for a couple minutes, before adding the bucket lid and begin agitating.  Check the clothes after a few minutes.  If they meet with your approval, empty the water and add clean water for rinsing.  Agitate the laundry until you are satisfied with the results.  You can wring the clothes before hanging them on the clothesline, but that is a personal preference.

You can also use this method to pre-clean muddy clothes, before putting them in your washing machine. 

Homemade Laundry Soap

This laundry soap can be more cost-effective than store-purchased soap.  It can be used in washing machines.  The recipe can be easily adjusted to meet your specific needs.  This soap is not required.  Store-purchased soap will work well, too.


  • Grater – a cheese grater works well; this will only be used for soap making
  • Storing container with lid – a plastic 2-gallon ice cream container works well
  • 1 tablespoon measuring scoop


  • 4lb       Borax powder
  • 1 bar    Fels-Nasptha, Zote or castile soap
  • 3lb       Clothes Washing Super Washing Soda
  • 3.5lb    Pure baking soda (optional)
  •             Oxygen Bleach (optional)
  •             Fragrance (optional)

Note: Zote can be purchase in flakes, so you don’t need to grate it.


  1. Grate the Fels-Nasptha bar
  2. Mix all ingredients

Laundry is rarely considered when developing an emergency plan.  It can be a huge relief and comfort, if you have prepared for this situation.  With minimal effort and expense, you can collect the basic items for powerless laundry – a bucket and plunger.


 roger eaton

By Roger Eaton

Over thirty years of experience in information technology and over seventeen years of experience in emergency services converged to inspire Eaton to develop Prep Smartz, emergency management software and Prep Smartz Academy.

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