Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Vansteading Chores - Laundry

I want to get some of my "old" posts out of the way before I start new topics.  I'll try to use the poll for a gauge and post on these topics whenever possible.  Thank you for your feedback!
I've posted about my preferred method of doing vanstead laundry in different forums... getting less than an enthusiastic reception.  ;)  Using this method many times over the summer, I'm sticking by it for a variety of reasons.  While travelling we typically use a laundromat (one load per week).  However, when boondocking or while docked at the "homestead", a trip to the laundromat isn't always practical.

I originally took a hint from our water loving friends and tried this no-rinse method. I've read about using ammonia on several forums, but this site states the breakdown environmentally. Check out the green factor: http://www.anything-sailing.com/showthread.php/2944-Washing-clothes-with-ammonia-to-save-water

The article talks about it being good for everything except stains; other sites say it is really great on stains. I've read that for odors it's the best.  It worked great on everything I've washed.

Oh, a few more things about using ammonia:
1) *Never* use it with bleach - it creates a toxic gas that kills!
2) Ammonia will dissolve latex - so don't wash latex clothing with it. I actually had to google latex clothing  'cause I didn't know... Well, I'll just say I don't have any of that!

My experience: it was *not* a good idea to use my latex gloves to protect my hands while agitating the clothes.   Use a wooden spoon or some other type "plunger" (more on plungers later).

3)  Do *not* breathe in the ammonia vapors!

If I have any question about an item I use Dr. Bronner's soap instead.

  • does not require rinsing (uses less water)
  • does not have some of the nasty chemicals that are used in typical laundry products
  • safe for the environment
  • used in a very small bucket (with lid)
My method:
Add clothes to a small bucket (that has a lid); add about 1/4 cup of ammonia and fill with water to cover clothes; agitate; let them soak about 5 minutes; agitate again; wring out and hang on a tiered clothes hanger. 

Here's another method I like that could be miniaturized with a smaller bucket and plunger size:


  1. I am so glad to see you finally publishing these! I know you have been researching this stuff forever, I have been hearing about those "sardine" stoves for years LOL! I love it all though! Keep it up, you have so much great info to share! I am very proud of my wife!

    97 Roadtrek 170P "Taj Ma Trek"

  2. Thank you for posting this, Heidi! I am concerned about laundry, mostly because the dogs, being old, have some accidents and I do more laundry for them than for me. And it has to get done and dry when needed, not later. So a bucket method would be good. Plus, most laundry products make me sick, even from residues, so laundromats could be a problem. I just ordered the breathing washer that Kate recommended, and I hope it will help make bucket laundry more efficient. The ammonia sounds interesting. Do you know if it is safe for foam? The dogs' sleeping pads are carpet savers, made from a thin foam attached to cotton cloth. Glued, I suppose. They stand up to lots of washing with regular soaps.

    Anyway, very good information!

  3. Thank you for the comment Sweet Husband!

    Judith, Maybe we can test this when we get there. See ya soon.... yay!

  4. Very interesting. I had never heard of using amonia with no rinse. Do you avoid the sudsy amonia & just use plain amonia? After drying, does the smell disappear? Amonia flares my asthma so I'm not sure about this.

    The rule for pet soiling is no amonia because urine contains amonia & the pets think it smells like the place to go.

  5. Thanks for the mention/link... ;)

    Can't imagine how you could wash with a smaller bucket, unless you washed one item at a time, I've gone to bigger buckets though I still use the smaller one for smaller loads, I have loads of washclothes and hand towels to wash each week, they fit just fine in the 5 gallon bucket washer.


  6. Hi Wretha! I really have learned a lot from you. Yes, we do wash less items. When you live in a van, everything must be small! -grin- One of our members made a smaller version here: http://twokniveskatie.blogspot.com/2010/10/laundry.html... if we had more room, we'd use your exact design... very helpful!

  7. great post. but PLEASE experiment using less ammonia. just a capful is enough!

  8. hey, also, urine contains urea, which is a solid and odorless and colorless, and it gives off ammonia in the presence of water. if you clean using ammonia products, animals will NOT be attracted to it. in point of fact, cleaning with ammonia is the best way to "reset" smells such as a blood or food spill so that animals will be disinterested.