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

- 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!

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

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**

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    33 Discussions


    2 years ago

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


    4 years ago on Introduction

    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


    4 years ago on Step 5

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


    4 years ago on Step 6

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

    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.


    7 years ago on Step 2

    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


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

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


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    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.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

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


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    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.


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

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


    9 years ago on Step 6

    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.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    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"!


    9 years ago on Introduction

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


    9 years ago on Introduction

    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

    9 years ago on Introduction

    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.

    1 reply
    taraisthk student

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    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.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    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 :>