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Tutorial: How I Do My Laundry Using Two 5-gallon Buckets

By Howard Charles Best, July 24, 2009

(LLBest.com, )

March 8, 2013 update: I decided to revise this set of instructions based upon more than 3½ years of additional experience. During that time, I have used this method almost exclusively, the only exceptions being that I, on rare occasions, have used a front loading washer to wash small white items such as white socks (no bleach) or white handkerchiefs/underwear (bleach). But even then, I hang them up to dry.

I used to hate doing laundry, but now that I do a little bit every day, in my bathroom, using two 5-gallon buckets¹, it’s actually not that bad. It’s much more satisfying, and can actually be fun. I get to “play in the water” like when I was a kid!

Bonus: This method actually gets the clothes cleaner than a washing machine, it kills all of the bacteria, and it does not use any hot water or electricity! For example, one time, I washed 2 white dress shirts in a front loading machine using the maximum amount of liquid laundry detergent, a cup of bleach and hot water. Both of them still had yellow stains on the collars. So I washed them again, again using the maximum amount of liquid laundry detergent, a cup of bleach and hot water, but this time also putting stain remover on the collars and a generous amount of bluing in the "fabric softener" (final rinse) container. The yellow stains were still there! Then I proceeded to wash them one more time, this time using the procedure outlined below with 2 cups of bleach in the one and only wash step and a teaspoon of bluing in the final rinse. The results were nothing short of spectacular! Not even a trace of yellow stains on the collars, and the shirts were as white as new! Therefore, using bleach in an automatic washing machine is pretty much a waste of time and money. Bleach takes time to do it’s job of making white things whiter!

This may sound outrageous, but my method of doing laundry actually requires a 4 - 5 day cycle! 4 for colored and 4 or 5 for white.

Here is how I do it:

Day 1: (Wash) Wearing rubber gloves,² fill a 5-gallon bucket¹ ¾ full of clothing (packed down). While filling a 2nd 5-gallon bucket with cold water, add a capful³ of bleach (assuming that the bleach bottle is the small, 3 quart size), or, if your laundry is composed of all bleachable white items, add a cup (2 cups if there are heavy stains) of bleach and more liquid laundry detergent than usual. Otherwise, add a normal load’s worth of liquid laundry detergent. Fill the bucket ¾ full with water. Add the clothes, poking them down with a stick until enough air is released for them to stay under water. Add more water until the bucket is almost full. If possible, place the bucket next to a hot water radiator or a warm air vent.

Day 2: (Optional 2nd wash) If your laundry is all bleachable white and there are still stains visible, then, wearing rubber gloves,² wring the clothes out, putting each item into the 1st bucket and repeating the day 1 procedure.

Day 2/3: (1st rinse) Wearing rubber gloves,² wring the clothes out, putting each item into the 1st bucket. If only a capful of bleach was added in the previous step, then add another capful³ to the 2nd bucket while filling it ¾ full with cold water. Add the clothes, poking them down with a stick until they stay under water. Add more water until the bucket is almost full. If possible, place the bucket next to a hot water radiator or a warm air vent.

Day 3/4: (2nd rinse) Repeat day 2/3. Optionally, if the clothes are all white, then, ignoring the instructions on the bottle, add up to a teaspoon of liquid bluing and mix thoroughly before adding the clothes.

Day 4/5: (Dry) Wring the clothes out, again putting each item into the 1st bucket. If bluing was added to the final rinse, the clothes may look a little blue, but as long as they are wrung out thoroughly, they will simply look unusually white after they dry. Hang everything on a clothes line or on a folding wooden drying rack except for shirts, jackets, and sweat shirts, which should be hung on plastic hangers to dry. (I got my heavy duty wooden drying rack from Walmart for about US$19.)

¹ The 5 gallon buckets may be purchased from the paint department at your local Walmart™.

² Don’t waste money on ordinary rubber gloves. They won’t last. Go to the paint department at your local Walmart and purchase heavy duty black Neoprene™ gloves or Stanley™ HomeChem™ (Blue) Gloves (US$4.97).

³ Adding a capful (assuming that the bleach bottle is the small, 3 quart size) of bleach to the wash and rinse water is very important. Otherwise, bacteria will multiply, and you’ll end up with a stinky batch of laundry! This step can be omitted if a cup or two of bleach was added to the wash step. There will still be enough residual bleach left in the clothing, even for the 2nd rinse step.

I wring out sheets, blankets, and large items of clothing by hanging them, one item at a time, over a shower curtain rod which has been placed over the center of my bath tub, and then twisting and twisting and twisting until as much water has been squeezed out as is practically possible.

Hint: Except for the drying step, which is obvious, each day, on a calendar in your bathroom, mark which step you are on (W or R), so you don’t lose track.

Bonus: Wringing out the clothes by hand is good upper body exercise.

Note: For a suggestion on how to apply the above laundry system to a large family, click here.


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