Features December 2019 Issue

A Plunge into Off-grid Solutions Old and New

What did we think of the mop bucket and spinner as a laundry machine? It made it neat and easy to launder single items in a repeatable way for testing. In fact, it was a good deal easier on the hands than wringing. However, you can only spin one item at a time, and as a result it was no faster or drier.

We’ve also tested Laundry Alternative’s Wonder Wash, a modern take on a hand-crank bucket-spinner that dates back to the previous century (See PS March 2007). We also tested their compact plug-in spinner. We tried variations on placing the laundry in a net bag and walking on it; we often laundered a few things at marina showers by tossing them on the shower floor and marching around on them while showering, followed by a good rinse. It worked, but not a miracle-solution.

From top to bottom Callinger’s portable wringer, Lehman’s washing plunger, Laundry Alternatives’ minispinner and Wonderwash.

We still subscribe to the bucket and plunger school. Let the laundry soak for 30 minutes (hot water helps) and then churn away for 5 minutes. There are many variations.

We’re dating ourselves, but we grew up with a wringer washer, and as a budding engineer, one of our first jobs was fixing the thing when it was overloaded by feeding too much at once. The extreme pressure between the rollers reduced the retained water by about 30 percent, making rinsing more efficient and drying faster, but they can also be hard on clothes. All zippers must be closed. Delicate items should be placed inside T-shirts. Buttons must be folded in or they will crack. They still make clamp-on hand wringers (see the Callinger wringer pictured above), both for people that like it old school or have a cabin, and for car wash towels. They’re not going away.

Comments (4)

I have been using the Laundry Alternative spinner in my sailboat since 2014 and it is excellent at extracting water so clothes can dry quickly. It will hold a couple of shirts and shorts at one time. When washing nylon or pile clothes I can put them on right away and they finish drying in just a few minutes in warm weather. In cold weather we hang them inside the cabin and they are dry in the morning. I have a bucket in the shower and wash the day's clothes during my evening shower. Then I pack them carefully and evenly into the spinner. After a couple of minutes they are just damp and I either put them or hang them up to dry. It is important that the clothes are put in evenly or the basket will bump around and not speed up. Then you need to re-balance the clothes and turn it on again.

Posted by: JHuberman | December 9, 2019 8:03 AM    Report this comment

I used to have a 5gal bucket with a secure fitting lid, into which went clothes, a 3.5# agate and either wash or rinse water, which I hung from the Mizzen boom by a strong bungee, while sailing. Washed/rinsed as we sailed. After couple years, the sun ate my bucket, and until just now, I never found another. In the swimming pool section of Walmart, they sell a pool sterilizing compound in just such a bucket. I have no pool, just an old sailboat, can't have both, but they had a couple empty buckets they let me have. One will be the new washing machine as we are returning to the boat day after tomorrow. A replacement for the agate will need to be found. Other bucket a secure, dry container for food for our Dog ANA.

Posted by: Capt Chetco | December 8, 2019 10:27 PM    Report this comment

I used to have a 5gal bucket with a secure fitting lid, into which went clothes, a 3.5# agate and either wash or rinse water, which I hung from the Mizzen boom by a strong bungee, while sailing. Washed/rinsed as we sailed. After couple years, the sun ate my bucket, and until just now, I never found another. In the swimming pool section of Walmart, they sell a pool sterilizing compound in just such a bucket. I have no pool, just an old sailboat, can't have both, but they had a couple empty buckets they let me have. One will be the new washing machine as we are returning to the boat day after tomorrow. A replacement for the agate will need to be found. Other bucket a secure, dry container for food for our Dog ANA.

Posted by: Capt Chetco | December 8, 2019 10:27 PM    Report this comment

Have you tried the Scrubba Wash Bag? It's like a reverse wet bag. You put the clothes, water and detergent in the bag; roll and clip it, expel the air through a vent, then rub/roll it (it has washboard like ridges in the bag), rinse and then dry. You still have to wring the clothes however. We have used it on bike and sailing trips and it works very nicely.

Posted by: jbmowry | December 8, 2019 11:42 AM    Report this comment

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