Stuck in self-isolation? Do your own laundry

In these crazy times of self-exclusion, maybe it is time to do some of those projects you have had planned. Over the coming weeks we will post up some useful DIY projects that have appeared in Cruising Helmsman. If you have a job anyone can do why not send it in and we will publish it here. Check details at bottom of page.

For our first entry we thought many of you live-aboard cruisers would like an inexpensive way to do your laundry and maintain a safe distance from fellow humans at the same time.

Carting the washing ashore, finding a laundromat, getting the right change, waiting for the wash to finish and then having to use a dryer as well because wet laundry is heavy to carry back to the boat: this is all a chore no one looks forward to. It is expensive in both time and money and the dryer part is an environmentally unfriendly option.

Many boats now carry a washing machine to avoid this drudgery. The machines cost very little but, without huge water tanks, you would need a desalinator. You would also need AC power provided by your choice of a big battery bank and inverter or a genset. This will all cost a lot of space and a minimum of between ten and twenty thousand dollars.

You could of course just go into a marina and use their power and water, but that is also expensive, especially if you do it whenever you need to wash your clothes.

As boat laundry is not usually very dirty, mostly just sweaty and perhaps salty, it is not difficult to wash. Washing manually can be done in between other, more interesting things and will get your laundry perfectly clean. A few buckets and a sink plunger is all you need. Put the clothes, water and detergent in your bucket(s). Agitate with the plunger. Squeeze the water out. Rinse in clean water. Peg out. Done.

Any items that need more cleaning can be left to soak a while and agitated occasionally. Maybe they will even need a second bucket of washing water, but overall this method uses minimal water. The water can be from your tanks, or from any reasonably clean source. It does not need to be drinking quality. If emptying over the side please use phosphate-free laundry detergent, or see recipe below.

Not only saves money, but also frees your time for whatever you enjoy.

DIY laundry liquid

Makes 10 litres at a fraction of the cost of commercial laundry detergent, plus you can reuse the bottles indefinitely, reducing plastic waste. Ingredients:

  • water
  • 1 bar Sunlight or generic laundry soap or any similar pure laundry soap, grated
  • ½ cup washing soda
  • ½ cup borax.

Add 1½ litres of water and the soap to a medium sized saucepan. Over medium heat, stir until soap is completely dissolved.

Add the washing soda and borax. Stir until thickened and remove from heat. You can add essential oils like eucalyptus, lavender or tea tree, but these are not necessary.

Pour the mixture into a nine-litre bucket then fill the bucket with hot water. Stir to combine all the ingredients. The laundry liquid will thicken more as it cools. When cool, decant into containers.

Use ¼ cup per bucket of laundry, or whatever works well for you.

Recipe from Rhonda Hetzel https://down—to—

Here at Ideas Locker is your forum to share tips that make cruising easier, safer, or more fun. Email or write to Cruising Helmsman at GPO Box 606, Sydney 2001.

Petrea McCarthy
Pantaenius Sailing
Jeanneau Sun Fast
Multihull Group
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Multihull Group