Introduction: How To: Bathtub Laundry

Picture of How To: Bathtub Laundry

There are many reasons why one might want to do their laundry by means of the bathtub style. It could be because you want to help the environment and use human energy as opposed to electricity, it could be that you are going through a rough patch with money, or because you're on the road and need clean clothes. For whatever reason, here's the best way to do it.

Step 1: What You Need

Picture of What You Need

- A large bucket or pail of some sort (I recommend those blue storage boxes)
**You can always use your tub as the bucket, but I wouldn't advise it, as you end up wasting more water than a regular washing machine, and generally get the clothing less clean**

- A rope/ wire/ anything you can dry your clothing on

- Yourself

- Whatever soap you wish to use

**In a pinch for soap, many have suggested to use 2-3 tablespoons of baking powder in the spin cycle (Step 3) and then 4-6 tablespoons vinegar in the first rinse cycle (Step 4)**

- Water

- Fabric softener (optional)

Step 2: The Presoak

- Put however much soap you believe is required for your load of clothing (I usually use only 1/2 of what I would use in a machine load) inside your bucket

- Fill your bucket with water to about the halfway mark

- Mix the water and soap with your hands until the soap is completely dissolved

- Put however much clothing you are going to clean into the bucket

- Add more water until it is at the brim of your bucket

- Leave for at least 15 minutes

Step 3: Stomping Time

**Make sure your bucket is somewhere where water damage is unlikely, and/ or is easily cleanable (which is why this is mostly done in a bathtub)**

After the 15 minute pre-soak...

- Get your feet into the bucket and start stomping!

- After thoroughly flattening one side of the clothing, move it around with your feet until the clothing is uneven again, and continue stomping

- Continue doing this for ten minutes

**For particularly thick or soiled clothing, many have suggested to do those items separately with a plunger**

Step 4: Rinse Cycles

- Start off by emptying your bucket of its water content (leaving the clothing inside bucket)

- Next, add more water to the bucket, but this time add it only to the halfway mark
**Now would be the time to add fabric softener, if you want (do this on your first rinse cycle only)**

- Stomp away!

- Continue stomping for five minutes

- After five minutes, go to the beginning of this step, and repeat twice (so that you have rinse stomped your clothing at least three times)

**This is why I said to use less soap than you regularly would, as this job can be increasingly difficult and wasteful when the regular amount of soap is used**

Step 5: Let 'em Hang!

Picture of Let 'em Hang!

Finding a place to dry your clothing is easy. If you live in an apartment, you can dry the clothing on your balcony off of a homemade clothing line made between two posts of some sort (I did it once with a weighted ladder and a weighted bar stool). Of course, if an area is not available outdoors, or in the winter, you can always dry your clothing over your bathtub (another reason it's called "bathtub" laundry).

Step 6: Feel Happy That You Saved a Buck, and Helped the Environment

Picture of Feel Happy That You Saved a Buck, and Helped the Environment

Congratulations. You used a little less water than most washing machines do and saved a lot of energy which goes into washing and drying your clothing. Don't forget the 2-3 dollars you saved as well!

**You can save the water you used as well and use it as water for plants and your backyard, although I would suggest checking your soap or doing a Google search to make sure it will be safe**


Giggy (author)2016-08-25

I would not recommend putting soapy water on your yard. It can kill the grass, a lesson I learned the hard way.

JaneL2 (author)2015-02-01

You should try Rockin' Green soap for bathtub laundry. It rinses out so well in my washing machine that I be it would make things easier for you washing everything by hand. It's awesome at getting stains and smells out without it being a big hassle. And, you can get sample packets from the web site that would be perfect if you're doing bathtub laundry because you're traveling. Check it all out at

denise.s.chambers (author)2014-12-28

Great article, definitely a habit to consider getting into: Bathtub Laundry.

denise.s.chambers (author)2014-12-28

Yeah I would totally be cautious about which products are used if it is being considered as plant water.

mary q contrarie (author)2011-11-07

I recently bought a plunger washer style hand washer kit. It comes with a special plunger for sucking the water through the material and then it has a special lift in the bottom of the bucket for the dirt to fall to. It is very cool.

Washing clothes by hand is manual labor. Great upper body workout. But if you need to save money it saves you the cost of both the laundromat and the gym.

Gearz (author)2011-10-31

If able to lift the bucket, you could also use the water to flush the toilet, you may be able to have a stopper of some sort and set the bucket over the bowl, maybe save the final rinse water in seperate container for the wash of the next load.
Just my inner cheapskate coming through

fegundez1 (author)2008-06-28

dont forget to use your wash water to water your plants,the soap will keep pests away!

knarx (author)fegundez12008-06-29

Will this not harm the plants? Just asking because I never heard that before!?

newera (author)knarx2008-06-29

No, using the soapy water will not hurt plants. In fact, some people have set up direct lines from their washing machine to a barrel outside which contains thewater. I think that he got 3 gallons of water from one load, but don't quote me.

blodefood (author)newera2011-03-01

As long as it is soap and not detergent. The soap should be free of fragrances and other additives.

josh (author)newera2008-07-01

We live in the desert and have a low water use washer, (naturally) all the grey water we use to water plants in our back yard. In some places this is illegal without a permit.

moseph (author)knarx2008-06-30

it is best if it is the hippy biodegradable kind though or it can alter the ph a lot.

cpgoofy16 (author)2010-06-17

you can use baking soda and vinegar for natural cleaning of clothes. It also helps take out the soap buildup of most commercial brands and renews the fabric.

blodefood (author)2010-03-16

Wow!  In my old apartment, I used a method something like this to save me money.  The machines in the building were expen$ive and money was tight.  I used my hands and rubber gloves bent over the tub.  I never thought of the stomping method which would have been easier on my back and gentle exercise for my legs.

By the way, you could, in a pinch, use a couple of tablespoons of baking soda instead of detergent.  Then, in the first rinse use twice as much white vinegar to soften clothes.  Better for you and better for the environment.

One problem, of course, is draining a heavy bucket of water.  Perhaps you might add a hole and stopper to your bucket to do that and then you could stomp some of the water out before wringing and hanging to dry.

(Note: your spelling of pale should be pail.)

Great "ible"!

treehuggers (author)2009-11-01

I just tried this out for the first time. Not only was it efficient, but a little bit of fun too! =) Thanks!

woodyardboy (author)2009-10-11

I suggest you look up SOAP NUTS and use them instead of any kind of man made detergent, or washing up powder. An eco-friendly natural way to wash your clothes, dishes, feet, car, elephant...

hk student (author)2009-07-19

If I remember correctly it takes less then 1 second for any chemical etc.on your skin to enter your system. I'm just not sure that this is the best practice because of what it you are exposing your organs, blood , endocrine system etc to. To prove this point think about the patch you can get from your doctor for motion sickness when going on a cruise. It works through osmosis. Saving the planet is admirable but saving our self is also as important . Just a thought.

taraist (author)hk student2009-10-06

The planet and yourself are inseparable, What's bad for the environment is bad for you. Use soap that is non-toxic and biodegradable, even if you use a machine. I'd suggest Dr. Bronners. They make a soap called ":Sal-Suds" that is for cleaning things rather than people, yet is fine to touch.

metqa (author)2009-08-03

i"m gonna go wash a load right now!

mooodi (author)2008-07-18

One thing you should mention which is undoubtedly only made clear in third world countries where handwashing is common, there are two types of soap. "Hand" and "Machine". Machine-soap contains enzymes that are active at high temperatures and will "burn" you skin leaving it shiny and plasticy to the touch. Hand-soap has enzymes which will be active at much lower temperatures, allowing cleaner clothes at lower temperatures and is more gentle on your hands. Needless to say the two can't be used interchangeably, the hand soap will get denatured and end up useless in a washing machine. When you're in a region where you can't get regular hand soap, you can use the machine stuff but do not let your hands/feet remain in the soap-water for too long and certainly don't do it if you have anything in excess of two loads. Rinse carefully in cold water and moisturize after you're done. Save the planet, but don't burn you skin :>

Waterproof gloves are something to consider either way

euroserf (author)mooodi2009-01-07

Hi from The Republic of Ireland, theres a zillion different recipes for " making your own laundry soap " if you go a-googlin' Try some of those using castille soap as a base and see if it is O.K on your hands...Euroserf !

i_was_like_you (author)2009-04-26

As far as this step, be careful of which detergents you use as the phosphates can kill plants and otherwise pollute the local water table.

ninapratt (author)2009-02-28

Um, "pale" means lacking color, or a kind of fence. "Pail" is a bucket. Sorry. I'm an English Major. Otherwise, great instructable. Another way to do laundry is to put the pail (tightly covered!) into the back of your car and then drive around. The bumps and jiggles clean the clothing by the time you get home. Not a good idea when it's below freezing and you leave the car for long periods!

i_was_like_you (author)ninapratt2009-04-26

Then to dry them, as I mentioned on another thread, just hang them on a clothes rod (marketed for hanging drycleaning) and drive with the windows partially down. Parking the car with the windows closed during the day will also help dry them. Added benefit, your car smells laundry fresh.

beatyruth (author)2009-04-09

And I'm with you--been singing that song for years. Women need to stop being doormats and learn how to be people. We will never be an equal if we don't stand up for ourselves and teach men to take care of themselves, that we are not slaves or punching bags!

multiplecats (author)2009-03-24

Great instructable, and nice to the environment! I learned how to wash stuff at home when I was a kid, watching my grandmother and mother. When I'm too broke to use the laundromat very often (like now), out comes the Woolite! I use the bathroom sink or a 5 gallon bucket, depending on how much clothes I need to wash. I fill 'er up, add the Woolite, add the clothes, crank up the radio, then splash around and make a mess. :) Never done it by foot, though... that's new, I may have to try it sometime! Always have done it by hand. You may want to try this for fast drying pants: If you have a standing floor fan, just fit the waist around the fan, put a towel under the feet so your floor doesn't get messed up, and turn the fan on. The pants will be bone dry in half an hour to an hour (depending on the fan speed and room heat). This is REALLY helpful if you realize one morning all your clothes are dirty and you're due at work in a couple of hours. :)

grebz (author)2008-11-05

If you have a radiator that might be a nice place to dry your clothes too

tghare (author)2008-08-04

Twenty some years ago I was stationed at camp Long, South Korea, the Laundry Ai-Gie-Mah took all of our uniforms and civilain clothes into the showers when we were away from the barracks. She wet them down, sprinkled the clothes with detergent and used her feet to work the soap through the clothes. She rinsed in a series of tubs then hung them out to dry. A very efficient operation using no electricity very little soap and water. I sort of use that method today with my polypropelene under garments and field clothing when camping. If you are careful, you can converve your water by washing yourself first, then your laundry. For heavily soiled items and heavy fabric like jeans, I would let them soak in a bucket of soapy water first. I use a biodegradable soap whenever possible or woolite when nothing else is available. I saw a lot of people washing their clothes on rocks by the rivers while in the mountains of Korea, I don't recommend it unless you are in a survival situation and have no other choice, it is very hard on the clothes and the envoirnment. REMEMBER - Always keep your brown water discharge at least 200 feet away from watersheds and lakes, the ecosystems can't take the imbalance.

beatyruth (author)2008-06-29

About 30 years ago, when the hubby and I were extremely poor college students, I had to do a lot of laundry in the tub. We barely had grocery money--let alone laundry money for awhile! This method will work for most things, but not for the heavy jeans type of items and towels, or those extremely soiled like diapers (best to go ahead and do those in the tub to avoid contamination of other laundry). The best thing I found to agitate those items was a toilet plunger that was used just for that purpose. Just one of the really cheaps works the best. You get a great cardiac workout using it and save your feet from coming in contact with the detergent. I had gorgeous upper arms back then, maybe I need to go back to doing laundry that way now that my family is grown!

LinuxH4x0r (author)2008-06-28

Might want to add this to the travel contest.

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