Laundry the Old Fashioned Way

I’ve been asked what I do with my time all day on a boat. As noted before, even the most mundane tasks take extra time.

It had been four weeks since we last dropped our laundry off and for $31 US, we received three loads washed and air dried. So we have to weigh the benefits of cost of convenience or time at a coin operated laundry which would cost us $25 US all day, doing the same job.

We usually decide on paying someone. You ask why it costs so much? Well, these islands are surrounded by water. Salt water. Only a handful of them have any fresh water sources. Instead they have to use energy to turn salt water into drinking water. Thus the extra cost of simple washing and drying of clothes.

Finally we’ve arrived in the neighborhood to pay someone to do our laundry again, this time for $12 a load. Except, our car engine (read rubber dinghy) died and we couldn’t get our laundry to the merchant.

What to do?

Ah, the beauty of rain. Our temporarily out of commission dinghy fills up with rain water during the occasional shower. It makes for a great opportunity to wash some clothes.

Here’s a little secret about laundry on boats. We use ammonia instead of laundry detergent. The secret is that you don’t need to rinse. The ammonia cleans with a power only your grandmother or great grandmother could appreciate.


When there’s enough water in the dinghy, you gauge how many clothes you can get into the allotted water.

Then, you stomp on the clothes. The Captain said he wished it’d been grapes instead, though he was thankful for the clean undergarments.

The hard part is wringing the clothes out so you replace enough water to do another load.

Finally, and this is a trick, you find places to hang your clothes, keeping them safe from a gift to Neptune. Check out Wednesday’s Stove Top Grill.

I can only seem to get two loads done in one rainstorm’s deposit before I have to bail the dirty water away and wish for more rain… Or, not if we could only get to shore.

What are you glad you don’t have to do the old fashioned way? What do you think we should go back in time and re-create?

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About Nancy J Nicholson

Nancy J. Nicholson is a wife, mother, writer, and full-time sailor, writing of her adventures and creating contemporary mysteries along the shores of the eastern United States and Caribbean. She fills her time with new friends, exploration, food, knitting and reading.
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16 Responses to Laundry the Old Fashioned Way

  1. Awesome. At least you have clean clothes. It’s a good reminder of how spoiled we get in our land life. These are great photos and do help explain how we spend time . . . sometimes.

  2. Huh…never would have thought of that. Necessity really IS the mother of invention! There’s so many things I’m thankful for that we don’t have to do the old fashioned way – I wouldn’t know what to do without my microwave. (Although I did discover I could live without it after that last blizzard and power outage!)

    • Carrie, as resourceful as you are, I’m sure you’d find a way. Though I can see where technology is your friend. In our lives on the boat however, we have to weigh the benefits. The Captain and I look at the resorts and realize just how much we’re saving to see the same stuff for a longer period of time.

  3. Ginger Calem says:

    Now that is an adventure! Cool.

  4. That is amazing! How resourceful is that? Curious why you don’t have to rinse with ammonia. Thanks for sharing that tidbit with us!

  5. Carol Roe says:

    Ahhh better you than me! ( as I sit and listen to my washer spin out.) I see a bonus here. The dingy got washed, too. :) As many clothes as I have I do not think I could go for weeks without washing. :( Spoiled, right. Yep, I do not think I could do with out a washer. Still line dry when I can. With a grill I could do with out stove, oven or microwave. But love the conveniance of my coffee pat with auto start feature! I really, really, really could live with out the mindless television. News can be gotten from radio and papers. Information from books.

  6. Lesann says:

    I don’t envy you when it comes to handwashing. As a kid I had to use one of those old crank washtubs (which actually worked really well and explains why grandma could knock down a bull elephant with one punch), and never want to revisit the process. I bet you’re seeing some amazingly beautiful country – good settings and atmosphere!

  7. I know it can’t be fun to wash your clothes in a dingy but it sure looks fun. I do agree with the Captain, grapes would be GREAT fun. Thanks for letting us take a peek at your day.

  8. Creativity comes in many forms! Using your dinghy as a washtub is a clever idea and who knew about the ammonia tip? Thanks for another fascinating peek into your life at sea.

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