Yesterday I received birthday presents from my family, and they were kind enough to get me just what I asked for: new toys for the new RV life.
- Some material for our tiny reference library including The Next Exit (2011), Camping with the Corps of Engineers, and this large print atlas for pouring over with the kids.
- A solar shower for showering outside and not filling up our tanks (and because outdoor showers are so delightfully decadent).
- A breathing mobile hand washing machine and small electric spin dryer.
While my sister makes fun of me for my list of practical items, I was seriously stoked. These are the tools I’m using to build my new dream-chasing life. They’re my baby steps to leaving behind bourgeoisie mediocrity. I nearly jumped for joy as I opened them!
I couldn’t wait to do laundry! This was the first time, so I don’t know what load size will be optimum, or how long a day’s worth of laundry will take me, but we did the trial run with five flat diapers and about as many cloth wipes, plus one cloth liner.
My parents thoughtfully provided a 5 gallon bucket with the breathing mobile washer, and we put it in the bathtub to contain splashes. With only a couple gallons of water, nothing splashed out so now I know we don’t need the bathtub precaution, or a lid with a hole in it (which I thought we might want).
I used four soap nuts, which is what I use in our washing machine. I don’t know of anyone who has combined these two uncommon laundry methods–soapnuts and hand washing–but I love my soapnuts and don’t see any reason why they wouldn’t work. In fact, the combo seemed to be a great success. After a minute or two of plunging, the formerly strongly smelling cloth smelled clean and pure!
I emptied the water from the bucket and filled it with rinse water. I’m not sure that this will be necessary with soap nuts for detergent. Soap nuts do not leave any residue in the cloth that needs to be rinsed out, and as I said, the laundry was already smelling like a spring morning. The water I dumped out was dirty. After doing a rinse cycle (just another minute of plunging in the fresh water), I emptied the bucket again and this water appeared to be clean.
For those who want a better idea of how this device works, here’s a YouTube video:
Next I searched for a place to use the spin dryer. I intended to put it in the bathtub, too, but the cord wouldn’t reach an outlet from there. The spin dryer spits out water, which is why I thought to use it in the tub. We eventually settled on the kitchen counter as the perfect location, with the empty tube hanging down into the sink. It was easy enough to transfer the wet diapers to the spinner–I squeezed the water out first, which in retrospect I think was unnecessary because the spinner is equipped to handle water. Set the timer for two minutes, and the thing turned on, releasing astonishing amounts of water into the sink, and humming a pleasant, quiet hum.
The diapers came out damp and I hung them over the shower curtain to finish drying. They definitely aren’t dripping–the spinner did a great job and if there was any sun today, I’m sure I could have had them completely dry in 10 or 20 minutes outside.
So, I’m happy with the equipment. The plunger shaped washer unscrews so that the base and the stick can be stored separately–nice feature for a gal moving into a 22′ home.
The spinner is tiny, but for our new home it’s kind of huge (18 inches tall). I’m not sure where we’re going to keep it but I’m pretty sure it will be an invaluable part of our routine and worth making room for. I don’t know of any of our cabinets it will fit in, except maybe the closet, but as the tiny closet is our only clothes storage, it will probably be full of clothes. The spinner might fit under one of the bench seats at the dinette (each seat opens up like a chest for storage), but with vegetable oil collecting equipment in one seat, and my plans to store baby wrap inventory in the second, I don’t know about that. It may be that the spinner lives in our shower (which we will not be using so often), and when we need the shower we’ll have to take the spinner out and set it on the floor/bed/table/kitchen counter.
With the spinner taking up so much room, I don’t know that we’ll have space for a five gallon bucket to wash in. The 5 gallon bucket is about as big as the spinner (and, no, the spinner does not conveniently fit inside). Maybe a smaller bucket (which might need a lid with a hole to contain splashes) would suffice and could be stored under the bathroom sink. Or maybe the five gallon bucket could be secured to the outside of the motorhome somehow, being light when empty and durable in that plastic bucket kind of way. Our shower has a little square bathtub which would work great instead of a bucket, but then there’s no easy way to dispose of the wash water without filling up our gray water tank, and I liked the idea of avoiding that since we’ll be boondocking a lot and not want to have to dump any more often than necessary. Further brainstorming is required here.
For drying diapers and clothes after washing, I plan to get an outdoor clothesline and an indoor one for when we can’t hang outside. We may attach a retracting clothesline to the outside of the motorhome that can be pulled out to hook onto a friendly nearby tree. The indoor clothesline solution might be a simple tension rod in the shower (and the shower rod itself as a second drying rack since the clothes will not be dripping), or something snazzier like this telescoping rack. So many possibilities.
Now that I’ve used my new laundry supplies, I’m thinking that once we’re on the road, it might work well to do laundry once a day, and that our trips to the laundromat will be infrequent indeed. Every day may sound like a lot of work, but both the washer and spinner are so quick and effective, that I think even several loads could be accomplished without too great a time outlay, and by keeping up every day, we’ll not have the problem of storing dirty laundry, and we can get away with fewer changes of clothes–both important in our tiny home.
I should also mention that I don’t expect to wash everything we wore each day. I’m a believer in re-wearing clothes if they don’t look or smell dirty. Undergarments excepted. Especially the bulkier items that would fill up a load in my new washing/drying system, can be re-used (thinking jeans here). So the daily laundry would likely be a few loads of diapers (we’ll have two in diapers but the flats we use are not bulky, the wool covers do not need to be washed daily, and we practice elimination communication with our babies, which reduces the number of diapers we go through), a load of clothes including underwear/socks and some shirts, and maybe another load of rags (we don’t use papertowels or napkins).
I’m pretty happy to find a laundry solution that is:
- more convenient than a laundromat
- more sanitary than a laundromat (and free from scents/chemicals)
- faster than conventional washers/dryers
- lighter on the planet than conventional laundry methods (much less water, much less energy)
- cheap and
- compatible with our low-electric needs since we plan to rely on solar for most of our energy