Eco-Living: Truck Bed Clothes Washer


My friend Rachel lives in a remote mountainous region and prides herself on being entirely off the electrical grid. She has solar cells, a diesel generator that runs off of vegetable oil, passive solar heating, windmills, rainwater capture, etc. Being powerful, independent – that’s the way Rachel likes it.

Now, she is not the only friend who lives like this, but upon speaking with her recently, a tidbit she mentioned really caught my attention. I had to share it with you guys.

When driving to work, she does her laundry at the same time.


Rachel lives on top of a mountain about 17 miles from the nearest town where she works, shops and runs errands. Up until recently she was driving into town with a roll of quarters and her loads of dirty laundry every few weeks. While driving past an industrial supply place recently, she was struck suddenly with an idea and made a quick turn into the supply warehouse entrance.

Rachel spoke with the serviceman in the warehouse about a particular item they had on the floor. She asked what it had been used for previously. She just wanted to make sure it would be safe for use in her new idea. The item it was labeled, and showed it had been used previously to ship and store highly concentrated industrial soap. The warehouse owner offered to wash it out before selling it to her. Within a few moments she emerged with the item in question: a large plastic 50 gallon drum with a removable ring-sealed top.

The next day on her way to work, she tried her idea out and it worked.


What she had done was this:

1. Place the drum upright into the truck bed.

2. Remove the top.

3. Throw in ALL her dirty lundry.

4. One small scoop of laundry detergent.

5. Fill to about 3/4 full.

6. Close the lid and seal with the removable metal snap ring.

7. Knock the barrel over.

8. Drive like a bat outta hell.

Actually the last step for Rachel is optional: she lives in a remote mountainous region, and the road provides a bumpy enough ride to really jostle the water in the drum.

After she came back home, she ran her clothes through a wringer. Dunked them in water again for a rinse and a re-wringing, and then hung them out to dry. Durign these winter months, she just hangs them to dry indoors.

Her friends at work love the idea, and a few will be sure to try out her idea also.


Rachel has given some serious thought about this whole idea, and also provides the following further ideas:

– Use less detergent. Start with about 50% less. She thinks this method of washing can get away with as little as 25% of the original amount of detergent you would normally use. The jostling around in the back of a car more than makes up for the cleaning power of a smaller amount of detergent.

– Use a plastic drum only: a metal drum will bang up your truck bed in a short time. Metal drums also usually have sharp edges.

– For smaller trucks, there is a risk of the barrel flying out of the bed. In this case, strap the barrel down. The water will slosh around plenty with the barrel fixed solid.

– When comes time to drain the barrel, leave it in the truck bed. Rachel rolls a shopping cart under the tailgate and opens up the top of the barrel, tips it over and aims it into the shopping cart, allowing her clothes to get caught on the shopping cart wire while the water passes through.

– Drip dry the clothes and/or send them through an old-fashioned roller-style clothes wringer.

I came up with this idea. No truck? No problem! Buy a smaller plastic barrel (like 35- gallon size) and try using it in a car trunk. Make sure the seal keeps in all the water, or else you’ll have a really “clean” trunk.


Don’t want to try it in you car? Rachel also mentioned that filling up a barrel as above and letting it crash down a hill would probably work, too. Another friend said a farmer should have a billy-goat butt the barrel around. But I don’t know any farmers with goats, let alone a goat that would be willing to cooperate enough to help do the laundry!

Wash away, and have fun!

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