Date: 31 July 2018. Washing Clothes
Without a Machine (salt water versus ammonia)
Doing laundry aboard Seaweed has
long been a chore. I used to wash each night in the galley sink. A
teaspoon of Tide in water, plus lots of swishing the fabrics. Next
came repeated rinsing using precious water. Sometimes I opted for
the ammonia method. Now there are a couple schools of thought on
clothes washing without a machine. Here's my take on the whole
It stinks. Washing
clothes is labor intensive.
Taking clothes ashore to a laundry is a pain in the
I told you about washing clothes in the
Laundry Hauling Made Easier article.
When compared with carrying
everything necessary for a load of laundry
to shore, washing
aboard the boat is a far superior choice in my opinion.
It's not just gathering dirty
clothes, getting it all into the dinghy, and then bringing it to shore. I
have to be sure remember the detergent, have enough quarters, wait while everything is
washed and dried, then haul it all back in the dinghy, hoping I
don't get splashed on the way back.
Many will suggest those of us with
limited tankage should wash clothes with salt water. It is better to
save the drinking water from our tanks. Advocates will say washing
in ocean water followed by a fresh water rinse is adequate. I do not
believe that to be true.
To get out the salt
requires A LOT of fresh water.
Rinsing takes far more water than you can imagine.
Fabrics that have
salt in them do not dry properly. Men may not have difficulties in
the panties department. I did. Ugh. I want to feel fresh and salt
does not accomplish that.
Water laundry method used by sailors:
S/V Gypsy ↑
belonging to my friend Jessie.
A large motor sailor like
Jessie's Gypsy would have plenty of water tankage. He would
not have to use water conservation unless he was planning on
being at anchor for many months without a way to refill the
Smaller boats in the 30'
and under range often do not have the luxury of plentiful water.
Sailors of yesterday used to put their clothing in a
net bag. Tied securely to the mother-ship, they would toss the
bag overboard. While sailing between islands the ocean water
would clean the clothes.
We will not discuss any potential
should the clothes pick up jellyfish tentacles.
Jellyfish are the least of your problems. The major issue is
that clothes saturated in salt water will not dry properly. It
takes a lot of water to rinse out that salt.
Girls will not find salty panties a pleasant
Another option uses
ammonia. This method
requires the least amount of water. It is odiferous.
You will use the standard ammonia sold at the grocery store. This is
how I do it.
Start with about a gallon of fresh water.
I use my sink. You could use a bucket.
For me, leaning over a bucket does not work. I am most
comfortable at the galley sink.
To the water add *1/4 to
1/2 cup of ammonia. I opt for the plain stuff, not the lemon
scented ammonia. Nothing hides the smell of ammonia so I chose
not to add yet another chemical into the Petri dish. Stir the
water with your hand to mix.
*Regarding quantities of
ammonia to use: For relatively clean clothes a quarter cup is
sufficient. If your stuff is particularly dirty or grimy, use
more. 1/2 cup is plenty.
with your cleanest items,
drop a few at a time into the water. Swish.
After swishing, remove each item from the water one at a
time. Wring them out, letting the water go back into the
Pile the damp freshly washed items to the side.
I start with the cleanest items as
they won't get my water dirty so quickly. For me, that means
panties, nighties and such.
Continue dropping items
into the water. Swish them around a bit. I only move stuff in
the sink around for a minute or two. If an item is
particularly grimy I might let it soak for a bit longer. I've
used bar soap on spaghetti and tea stains, with little effect.
Should I have a lot of
items dirty I may start a fresh sink full of water for
clothes. In that case I'd swish the already cleaned clothes in
the fresh water, then wring them out again. This is not
necessary. It does minimally abate the ammonia
Before washing more
clothes I would of course add ammonia to the new water.
After swishing I remove the items. Wringing out the damp items
is not easy. I get as much liquid out as possible, then put my
items on hangers. Shirts and such are hung where the breeze or
a fan can facilitate drying.
RINSE. Air drying is all
that is required when using ammonia.
If water is in short supply use ammonia to clean your clothes. It
requires the least amount of water to do a load.
When the ammonia
dries it leaves no residue nor smell on your clothing.
Though ammonia does not require rinsing, the smell on damp clothes
gets to me. Fabric that reeks of ammonia does not make for a happy
boater. Of course down island or when water is in short supply
ammonia is an option. That's why I presented it here. Ammonia is not
my favorite choice.
Washing clothes while at anchor sure is better than
hauling clothes to shore.
Photo taken by Cheryl of three power boats at anchor.
After ammonia inevitably I go back to using Tide detergent. I like
the scent of Tide. One teaspoon in a gallon of water is sufficient
to clean a sink full of clothes. Using Tide requires a rinse, thus
doubling the amount of water required. Sometimes I end up using two
Though Tide or any detergent will
require at least one rinse it does leave my clothes and bedding
smelling fabulous. That is important to my happiness quotient. It
feels wonderful to lay down on clean air-dried sheets. I truly am
Having the ability
to wash clothes aboard Seaweed is totally worth it. Going to shore
for a laundry run simply is not fun. Frankly, when I am aboard my home life
is just about perfect. I don't want to be any place else.
More on laundry later. For now, I thank you for reading.
NEVER combine ammonia and bleach!!!
Together they create fumes
that CAN KILL YOU.
(Thanks to Bill for pointing out this
important fact in the Comments.)
Have a great day.
I'd love to hear your preferred clothes washing
And, do you regularly wash items aboard your boat?
Isis, a Snowy Egret ~
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