The Last Frontier

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Wash Day At The Creek

Winter has barely gotten started good, but I already began dreaming of summer while doing the laundry today. Washing clothes is never my favorite chore, but during the summer it’s much more fun, at least for the boys. People often ask me how we wash clothes in the bush with no electricity or running water. Well, in a way, we do have running water --- the creek runs all summer, and all we have to do is run down there.

All of us haul clothes, plastic totes, soap, a pitcher and my handy, dandy “Rapid Washer” down the hill to the creek behind our cabin. Then we just make a day of it. We fill the totes with creek water, add a little laundry soap and clothes, and then I let the boys have at it ---  until they lose interest. There’s nothing Zeke would rather do than play in water, so he’s as handy as my Rapid Washer on wash day! 
Boys Helping on Wash Day at the Creek
The boys helping wash clothes at the creek last summer.
Here’s a picture of my “Rapid Washer”. It sort of looks like a metal plunger. Does a pretty fair job of cleaning clothes, as long as a steady supply of elbow grease is available.
Handy, Dandy Rapid Washer
"Rapid Washer" - It's sort of like a plunger
only it's metal. It's great for washing
clothes by hand.
To rinse clothes, I put a plastic basket in the deepest part of the creek (all of about 6 inches, if I’m lucky). Then add a few clothes, swoosh ‘em around a little and let the creek do the rest. We hang the wet clothes on branches to drip for a few minutes, and then hang them on a rope strung between some trees in the yard. If it doesn’t rain, we have clean clothes to wear the next day . . . but it always rains when clothes are hanging on the line.

Rinsing clothes in the creek
To rinse clothes, I put a few things in a
basket and then let the creek do the work.
Sure beats wash days during the winter. We have a little portable electric washer, and a drain pipe that goes through a hole in the floor. We have to run the generator for this, so it makes for a noisy day. While I wash clothes, Chuck uses the snow machine to haul water in 5-gallon buckets from the spring. Even little washers use LOTS of water. Then we have clothes hanging all over the cabin for a day or so. At least the washer has a spinner on one side. Before we adopted the boys, I used to wash clothes during the winter by hand in the cabin sort of like we do at the creek, only we had to haul the water up the hill to the cabin, and we didn’t have a snow machine back then. I can hardly wait until summer. 


  1. This sure brings up a lot of questions for me! Like how often do you do laundry? What kind of soap do you use? I am sure you are longing for spring. Laundry by the creek looks like a pleasant chore.

  2. I was washing our clothes in the bath tub just the other day. Our washer has been frozen for a few days now. I like the washer thing.

  3. Superb laundry workers. I was missing my clothes line the other day. Of course my laundry is in no way any comparison to yours! Longing for green...Melissa

  4. How often? Well, not often enough :) I try to do it once a week, but it's usually more like once every two or three. That's why we make a day of it. I make laundry soap from borax and Fels Naptha soap, but I think I'm going to try it with some of my homemade soap next time.

  5. Hi Melissa! I wouldn't want your laundry pile each week. At least there are only four of us. Zeke and Jed really are supurb helpers. :) I didn't have enough room to hanging everything in the cabin today, so I'll have another wash day later this week.

  6. Just found your blog! : ) I'm sure I'd rewear more of my clothes if I had to wash them the way you do. That's a lot of work, but I'm sure it's worth it to live where you do!

  7. Hello Tina. Thank you for visiting. We have our "town clothes" and our "bush clothes". The town clothes are also worn when we have company or go visiting, and get folded or washed right after wearing once. The bush clothes . . . well, when I can no longer tell what color they're supposed to be, they go on the laundry pile. lol! :)

  8. In the summer I often use a wringer washer so that I can recycle the water into my garden. Your methods made the wringer sound like a wonderful invention. Thanks for sharing.

  9. I have 5 kids and live in a city and boy do I do lots of laundry. I feel like a "pioneer" because I don't have a dryer and hang everything. Boy do I feel spoiled after reading your post

  10. LOL! But, honestly, I think it's much easier to live way out here without "conveniences" than it is to live without them in the city. I can't imagine having 5 children and having all those clothes hanging out to dry. You are more rushed to get to places on time and do things you must do than I am. It makes for much harder work, and to boot, you don't get to have the fun day playing at the creek with your children while washing clothes that I do. I wouldn't feel spoiled if I were in your position. I'd be thinking about where and how I could get away to some creek for the day with my kids to wash the clothes and have fun! :)
    Best wishes to you and your family,

  11. I'm really enjoying your blog. We have lived in the bush and experienced many of the things you mention. We now live on a boat.

    We finally found a great solution for laundry. The Laundry-Alternative. ( The "washer" is in the shape of an egg, about a 5 gallon bucket size, washes 5 lbs of clothes. Has a handle that you crank which turns the washer around and around.

    We also got the " spin dryer" which is an extractor and works amazingly well. 84 watts. Extracts water from 2.5 lbs of clothes in less than 4 minutes. Hanging closes dry in a couple of hours, seriously!! We are thrilled by the set. A great "off the grid" alternative.

    Love the pictures of laundry day down at the creek. Your blog is GREAT. Thanks for sharing your knowledge and experiences with us.


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