How To Get Your Laundry Really Clean With Very Little Water & Electricity
Today I’m going to share with you my way of doing laundry when boondocking. Since we are boondocking in our travel trailer 95% of the time we have to do laundry efficiently using only our solar setup for electricity and conserve water as much as possible. In the beginning, we would go to laundromats but we found that they were normally far away from our campsite and they start to get expensive after a while. After much trial and error we ended up with the products we have now and so far I’ve been very pleased with how clean our clothes, towels, and bedding are after washing.
First, I’ll take you through the products we use to do laundry while boondocking and then I’ll take you through the process that gives you the cleanest laundry with step-by-step instructions. I’ll also explain my super water and electricity saving method for the times when we need to save even more water.
The Ultimate Boondocking Laundry Products
The Wonder Wash by the company “The Laundry Alternative” is one of the coolest gadgets I own and the best way to wash clothes by hand. It uses no electricity and can wash up to 5 lbs of laundry using very little water. It doesn’t even require very much work and effort on your part, especially if you use the right kind of laundry soap, I’ll get to that later.
The way the Wonder Wash works is it’s basically a plastic jug with an axel on each side. The stand is made of plastic, which is one of the main complaints people have about the Wonder Wash. It does seem like a pretty flimsy stand for a rolling barrel full of laundry and water but so far mine’s help up even after hundreds of loads of laundry. There’s a crank on one side and the lid has a watertight twist and lock seal. The bottom has a valve that you attach a spout to when you want to drain the water from inside the barrel. (I think it’s easier to just dump the water out after taking out the laundry.)
According to the instructions, you turn the barrel for 3-5 minutes depending on how many pounds of laundry you’ve loaded into it. The speed you crank should be one second per rotation. I’ll get more into the best method for washing clothes with the wonder wash later in the article but I just want to emphasize how easy it is to hand wash clothes with the wonder wash. It’s not hard to turn the handle and it’s even large enough to fit larger items like duvet covers and bedsheets.
It comes with detailed instructions for the amount of water and pounds of laundry to use together but you learn how much water is needed for the amount and kinds of laundry pretty fast. You won’t have to measure out the water and weigh your clothes. For instance items like pants and socks that tend to get dirtier may need a little more water to get the dirt out.
The Laundry Alternative as a company is very easy to work with, in my experience. I messaged them with a few questions one day and got an answer within the hour. They were very helpful and shipped my items quickly.
The The Laundry Alternative Wonderwash can be used by anyone, anywhere. It’s a very popular washer amongst RVers, campers, van dwellers, and people who travel because it’s very lightweight. But it’s not just for travelers, it’s a green product that’s, water and energy-efficient. Compared to going to the laundromat weekly or buying a washing machine it’s much more affordable. You can do laundry in your own home or apartment easily with the Wonder Wash. And it cleans clothes exceptionally well.
- Green Alternative To Washing Machines
- Uses Very Little Water
- Uses No Electricity
- Pays For Itself After A Few Months
- More Durable Than Other Brands
At first, the only thing I used to do laundry was the Wonder Wash, but I got tired of it taking 3 days for my soaking wet towels and hoodies to dry. After a little research, I discovered that The Laundry Alternative also had a very lightweight, portable, energy-efficient, and effective spin dryer. Once I added this product to my laundry routine my clothes not only were able to dry much faster they also became much cleaner.
The Ninja Spin Dryer looks a lot like a mini washing machine. There’s a stainless steel basket inside with lots of holes to let water through. The way it works is you load your laundry inside (up to 22 lbs of wet laundry), close the lid, and turn the lever on top to lock the lid into place and start the spinner. I expected a lot of lurching when I first used this machine but I was pleasantly surprised by how quiet and smooth it runs, even at a full 3200 RPMs.
Let’s talk about the 3200 RPMs, that’s extremely fast. A high-end washing machine will only spin at 1600 RPMs and a regular one spins at 800 RPMs. The clothes that come out of the Ninja Spin Dryer are much dryer than the clothes that come out of a fancy washing machine.
The water drains out of a spout on the bottom, you will need a small bucket to catch it or you can run it in your bathtub, as I do sometimes. The dryer only needs to run for 3-5 minutes. According to the manual, you should never run the Ninja Portable Spin Dryer for more than 5 minutes at a time and don’t let it spin without anything in it, doing either of these things could potentially burn out the motor.
The Ninja can take soaking wet laundry and spin almost all of the water right out. When the cycle is done the laundry is lightly damp and dries in just a few hours on a clothesline. Even thick towels dry ultra-fast after a round in the spin dryer. It amazing to see how much water comes out of my clothes just from spinning and no heat at all. I also use the spin dryer as a way to get my clothes extra clean. You can read more about that below.
It’s extremely portable weighing only 20 lbs and measuring 24 inches tall, 13 inches wide, and 13 inches long. It’s small enough to fit in a small closet or be stored in a tiny RV bathtub (that’s where I keep mine.) It uses hardly any power. I run it using my Goal Zero Yeti 1000 (click to view on Amazon) which is charged with solar panels. When running, the Ninja Spin Dryer uses 400 watts, and it only needs to be run for around 3 minutes to get most of the water out of my clothes and towels. It barely drains the battery even after using the dryer 5 or 6 times.
If you don’t have a solar set up the spin dryer can be run using a generator. If you use it in your house or apartment it’s going to make your electricity bill much smaller. A standard washing machine uses anywhere from 500-1300 watts and needs to run anywhere from 40 minutes to 1.5 hours. That’s a lot more electricity being used than a spin dryer that runs for just a few minutes at 400 watts.
If you don’t have room for the Ninja Spin Dryer there’s a smaller countertop version called the Mini Portable Countertop Spin Dryer 2. This one can only fit 2.2 lbs of wet laundry and only spins up to 1750 RPMs. But it weighs only 11 lbs, is 15 inches tall, and 11.5 inches wide and long. It uses 82 watts when running. You sacrifice spin power and laundry space, but you get an extremely portable spin dryer in return. Your clothes won’t be as dry after, but it’s still better than being soaking wet when you hang them up to dry.
The The Laundry Alternative Ninja Portable Mini 3200 RPM Spin Dryer has impressed me to no end. It’s built very well and runs just like new after countless loads of laundry and bumpy rides in the bathtub of my travel trailer. You don’t have to have the Ninja Spin Dryer to do your laundry well but I highly recommend it. Especially if you don’t live somewhere with a clothesline, hot sunny days, and tons of time to dry your soaking wet laundry.
- Uses Very Little Electricity
- Can Fit Up To 22 lbs Of Wet Laundry
- Laundry Is Almost Dry After 3-5 Minutes
- Runs Quietly
- Lightweight & Portable
- Spins 3200 RPMs
Even if you pair the Ninja Spin Dryer with the Wonder Wash you are going to have to air-dry your laundry for at least a few hours. If you live in a home with a clothesline in the backyard hang-drying laundry is no problem. If you live in a small apartment or RV space is more limited and you will need to have a rack to dry your clothes. Many RVers use foldable clothes drying racks (click to view on Amazon) that can be stood up in the bathtub.
I find that clothes dry best and fastest outside, and nothing beats the smell of sundried bedsheets and t-shirts. That’s why I use the wing style of drying rack like the Metaltex Vulcano Drying Rack. I put it somewhere near my trailer where there will be sun all day and use rocks or tent stakes to secure the legs to the ground. This style has tubes that sit flat on the ground and it’s easier to secure than other styles of drying racks.
So far the rack hasn’t fallen over even on fairly windy days when I’ve secured it to the ground. I do bring it inside my travel trailer when it gets really windy and it does take up a lot of space when it’s all folded out, but it usually only needs to be set up for a few hours. It’s made of durable aluminum and it folds down flat. I store mine in the bed of my truck.
The Metaltex USA Inc. Vulcano Drying Rack is very lightweight and super durable. It’s got a lot of space to hang clothes and the design stops clothes from dripping on each other. You can always hang a clothesline when you are around trees and you don’t have to use clothes drying rack but I highly recommend it because there’s not always trees to hang a line from. It’s also good to have something you can set up inside in case it rains.
- Durable & Lightweight
- Easy To Secure To The Ground
- Lots Of Space To Hang Large Items
When you wash clothes by hand or with the Wonder Wash you are going to be handling your laundry more than you normally would. If you use the harsh laundry detergents you would normally use in a standard washing machine you will get a lot of it on your hands and it may start to irritate your skin.
Also, if you only use the Wonder Wash and not the Ninja Spin Dryer there will still be some laundry detergent in your clothing even if you rinse. That’s why you should always use gentle laundry detergents like Soak that are no-rinse. And if you use biodegradable & environmentally friendly laundry detergents like this one you may be able to dispose of your dirty laundry water outside depending on where you are.
Soak is an amazing green product that really cleans. All you need is a teaspoon per load of laundry in the Wonder Wash, one bottle can do up to 75 loads. The laundry soap is made with plant-derived and renewable ingredients that are hypoallergenic, safe for hand and machine wash, 100% biodegradable, phosphate-free, dye-free, sulfate-free, and contains no glycols.
The main function of this laundry detergent is to clean your clothes by soaking. All you need to do is add 1 teaspoon per 1 gallon of cold water and let your laundry soak in it for 15 minutes. Then simply squeeze out the water from your clothes and you are good to hang them, no rinsing necessary. I like to rinse my laundry to get more dirt out but when I’m trying to be ultra-conservative with water it’s good to have a detergent that doesn’t require the extra water to rinse.
The Soak No-Rinse Plant-Derived Laundry Detergent is an amazing product that should be more commonly used around the world. It’s excellent for RVers, campers, van dwellers, and travelers who need to hand wash their clothes without damaging their skin, their clothes, or the environment. There are lots of different scents to choose from and there’s even a non-scented option if you prefer. It does a good job of washing all kinds of laundry and even gets the dirt and smells out of socks.
- 100% Biodegradable
- Safe For Hand Washing
- No-Rinse Necessary
- Only Takes A Teaspoon Of Detergent
- Made With Renewable & Plant-Derived Ingredients
How To Do Laundry When Boondocking So It’s Actually Clean
When we first started full-timing in our travel trailer a big question was “how do we do laundry while boondocking?” At first, we just went to laundromats but we soon discovered that not only were the machines spendy but they also cost a lot in fuel just to drive to a town large enough to have a laundromat. Then there were the hours of waiting for the laundry to get done. We only went to a few laundromats before we decided that there had to be another way.
We tried out some do-it-yourself washing machines (bucket & a plunger) but nothing really got our clothes as clean as we wanted them to be. Now after much trial and error, we have found a quick, easy, and efficient way to do laundry while boondocking that gets our laundry nice and clean.
We have some 7-gallon water jugs that we always keep some extra water in. I like to use them for laundry water so I know exactly how much I’m using. Even when doing laundry the extra clean way I still use very little water, especially compared to RV and traditional washing machines. I was able to wash 10 shirts, and 6 pairs of shorts with only 7 gallons of water, and I could have used half that using the water-saving methods if I needed to.
Luckily we were camping fairly close to a place where we could get potable water so I was able to do laundry the preferred way.
Step 1: Wash
You want to put the soap in the Wonder Wash before the water so it gets mixed around really well. You can load the Wonder Wash until it’s full of clothes but my favorite way to do it is to only load it so it’s about half full of clothes. For example, a half load had 5 shirts, and another had 4 pairs of shorts.
It’s totally up to you how much laundry you wash at one time. I think having more space to roll around makes the dirt come out better so that’s why I try to not overfill it.
First put in 1-2 teaspoons of Soak No-Rinse Laundry Detergent, then fill the Wonder Wash until it’s about half full of water, there are lines inside the barrel so you can get an idea of about how much water you are filling it with. The first line is about 1/3 full and the second is 1/2 full. The idea is to get enough water so the clothes will be covered in soap and water. You can add more later if you need.
I normally use cold water in the Wonder Wash but you can use warm water if you want. It’s not recommended to use hot water as pressure will build from and it may pop and hurt the lid. Once it’s filled with enough water I then add the laundry (in this case 5 shirts) and close the lid. The “wash” cycle is more of a soak and a wash. I normally turn the crank for about a minute to get the clothes fully saturated with water and soap.
The recommended speed to turn the Wonder Wash is one second per turn. If you can hear the clothes rolling around and the Wonder Wash isn’t lurching around you are going the right speed.
After a minute of turning you can let the laundry in the Wonder Wash soak for 15-20 minutes. I usually do 15 minutes for shirts and bedding and 20 minutes for more dirty things like pants and socks. The picture below is after the first minute of turning, it’s crazy how much dirt comes out even with just a little bit of turning.
After soaking turn the Wonder Wash for 3-5 minutes to get the dirt and grime worked out of the soaked laundry inside. For small half loads, I normally turn it for around 2-3 minutes and for full loads or ones with really dirty clothes like pants and socks I will turn it for around 4-5 minutes.
Now it’s time to load the clothes into The Laundry Alternative Ninja Spin Dryer. It’s really simple to use. Just open the lid and neatly place the soaking wet clothes in one at a time there’s no need to wring them out. You want the weight to be balanced so put the heavier items in the dryer first. The water left in the Wonder Wash will be really dirty. It’s hard to imagine that just a few t-shirts had so much dirt in them.
Once the clothes are in the spin dryer close the lid and turn the lever on top which will lock the lid into place and start the spin dryer motor. If not properly loaded it will bounce around and if the inside drum is hitting the walls of the dryer turn it off and reload the clothes so they are more balanced.
At the start of the spin, the dryer will move around a little before it finds its center but it shouldn’t be bouncing from side to side. It should start spinning very fast after a few seconds and water will start coming out of the spout on the bottom. I use a tub to catch the water coming out.
You can do this inside or outside. When doing laundry inside my trailer I will run the spin dryer in the bathtub so the water just goes down the drain. On nice sunny days, I do laundry outside and collect the water with a tub, then I dump it down the black or grey tank.
The spin dryer only needs to run for 3-5 minutes and the instructions say to never run the Ninja for more than 5 minutes at a time so the motor doesn’t burn out. I normally wait until the water coming out of the spout is just a few drops, which normally takes around 3 minutes.
When you turn the spin dryer off make sure you let the inner drum stop spinning before opening the lid. Now it’s time for the rinse cycle. The water coming out of the spin dryer is also dirty which shows that there’s a lot of dirt being sucked out of the clothes. It really helps my laundry get cleaner than just using the Wonder Wash on its own.
Step 2: Rinse
Take the dirty water in the Wonder Wash and the spin dryer bucket and dispose of it. Fill the wonder wash up to about the halfway mark again, this time with no soap. You don’t have to do this part if you use no-rinse laundry detergent like the Soak kind, but I like to get a little more dirt out of my clothes and the rinse cycle really helps with that.
Once the Wonder Wash has fresh clean water in it load the laundry from the spin dryer to the Wonder Wash. Place the lid back on and turn it for 3-5 minutes. This will really get the rest of the dirt worked out. Once you’re done turning the Wonder Wash you can put the clothes into the Ninja again. The water left in the Wonder Wash will be dirty but not as dirty as the first time.
Turn on the Ninja Spin Dryer and let it run for 3-5 minutes or until water stops coming out. Remember never let it run for more than 5 minutes at a time. It shouldn’t need that long anyways. The water coming out of the spin dryer should be fairly clean. Sometimes when washing really dirty clothes I will rinse until the water coming out of the spin dryer is dirt free.
Step 3: Dry
After the spin cycle, the laundry should be damp but not dripping wet. You can now take them and hang them out to dry. I use a winged clothes rack that secure to the ground using large rocks or tent stakes. The wind can start up at any time and you don’t want your newly cleaned clothes ending up on the ground.
I try and do laundry on nice sunny days but the spin dryer does such a good job that you can also dry your clothes on a drying rack like this inside your RV or apartment if you have to.
On hot sunny days, shirts and even pants will be fully dry in just a few hours. If I’m drying clothes inside it takes twice as long.
Step 4: Enjoy Your Clean Laundry
Congratulations, you have now done laundry without using a traditional washing machine. If you use solar power like I do you may have even done your laundry completely with renewable energy as well. I was able to do 3 loads of laundry using only 7-gallons of water and 100-watt hours total.
The Ninja spin dryer uses around 400 watts, and it ran for a total of 15 minutes (that’s 2.5 minutes per cycle). To find watt-hours you divide 400 by 60 to find the minutes. That’s 6.7 watt-hours a minute, times that by 15 minutes and you get 100 watt-hours used in 15 minutes. To compare, that is the same amount of electricity used by a 100 watt light bulb in 1 hour.
Tips On How To Conserve Even More When Doing Laundry While Boondocking
When boondocking or dry camping you aren’t always close to a water source. You need to conserve as much water as possible while still being able to do necessary things like laundry. These are a few things you can do to conserve even more water.
Use The Rinse Water For The Next Load
If you’ve ever used a washboard to do laundry you know the rule is to start with the cleanest clothes first. You do all your laundry in the same soapy water and it gets dirtier and dirtier as you wash. This is a great way to conserve water and you can incorporate this method with the Wonder Wash. For instance, you can do a load of t-shirts and save the rinse water and even the wash water for something like socks or even pants.
Use No-Rinse Laundry Detergent & Don’t Rinse
The Soak No-Rinse soap that I use doesn’t require you to do a rinse cycle but I normally try and do it anyway to get my laundry extra clean. Sometimes I don’t have as much water as I would like and I am only able to wash and not rinse. This is where the no-rinse soap comes in handy.
Even without rinsing your laundry will still be much cleaner than it was and the soap is so mild it doesn’t irritate your skin or damage the fibers of your clothes.
You Don’t Have To Use A Spin Dryer
When I first got the Wonder Wash I spend a few months doing laundry without the spin dryer. It wasn’t quite as easy and it required a lot of wringing to twist out the extra water, but it did the job without any electricity. The main reason I got the spin dryer was to shorten the drying time. Hoodies would take almost 3 days to dry fully and t-shirts took more than 24 hours.
You can have rainy cloudy weather for days on end and it takes even longer for clothes to dry inside or when it’s cloudy. Getting a spin dryer not only helps get your clothes cleaner but it really does dry clothes very well.
Have any questions about the best way to do laundry while boondocking? Leave a comment below.