Washing Machine Broke? How to Wash Clothes Without Modern Conveniences

Updated on April 21, 2019

Desperate Situations Call for Emergency Measures!

This past weekend, my washing machine broke. As a stay-at-home mom with two little ones, this was automatically qualified as a desperate situation.

But as my great-grandmother used to say, pull up your bootstraps and carry forth.

You'll need an empty laundry basket to toss in the washed, rinsed, and wrung-out clothes.
You'll need an empty laundry basket to toss in the washed, rinsed, and wrung-out clothes.

Step 1: Don't Panic!

Your washing machine just broke.

In my case, when it rains, it pours! It never ceases to amaze me how much strength mothers really have.

Over this past weekend, as I was washing the fourth and last load of clothing for the day consisting of sheets, towels, and soiled playground laundry, my washer started beeping and a bright red code flashed on the panel.

I don't know how to read washer language. I did the next best thing and went to the internet. Frantically searching for the number-letter digits, I quickly came across other people asking the same question I was searching for.

The answer seemed simple enough. Something must be clogged. It was just a matter of finding out where the little plug thing was they were all chatting about in the washer support group.

Well, it didn't go as smoothly as it went for everyone else in the online forum that day. My washer quit. It had had enough of my daily demands.

There was only one problem. All the sheets, towels, and dirty playground laundry were still in the washing machine. The door was locked. I couldn't open the door. We placed a service call, but they can't come for four days.

In my mind, I panicked. Four days multiplied by four loads of laundry per day is sixteen loads of laundry. And that's only until they come to look at it. Never mind if they have to order parts and can't be here for another two weeks to actually fix it!

We thought fast, unplugged the washing machine, then plugged it back in. The door opened. As I was reaching in to remove the clothing, I saw immediately that the water hadn't drained. I realized what a mess this was going to be.

I couldn't just race down to a laundromat. My children were sleeping. It was late at night. I figured I would take care of it the next morning. The clothing sat in a basket until the next day.

What You'll Need

Items to have on hand
Laundry detergent
Two bins
Laundry basket
Water source
Dryer sheets


In hot weather, use a large plastic tote, kiddie pool, and metal party tub to wash your clothes with the garden hose outside!

Have at least two bins on hand for washing.
Have at least two bins on hand for washing.

Step 2: Get Organized

The following day I made a pot of coffee first thing. I knew I was going to need a lot of energy to get me through this day. My children were home all day because there was no summer camp that day.

Taking two children to a laundromat is not my idea of fun. For some reason, kids think it's a mini arcade. They want to jam up all of the coin slots on the machines thinking that they'll get a prize inside the washer if they feed it.

Plus, I only have two hands. It's a myth that a mom is like an octopus. In real life, we are just humans like everyone else. Keeping track of children, laundry baskets, traffic in the parking lot, and so forth is not something that I personally want to do first thing in the morning.

Instead, I looked around the house to see what I had to get myself organized.

I found some plastic bins not being used in the garage. Nothing fancy, but they are just going to be used to hold some dirty laundry, anyway.

I grabbed the laundry detergent and bleach—and headed back upstairs.

In the bathroom, I set the two bins on the floor, side by side. I filled one bin with white clothing, a little bleach, water, and detergent.

I put the laundry from the broken washing machine in the tub because it was all wet.

The bathtub had the drain plug. I filled the tub with some water and a little detergent. Not too much, because I knew I wasn't going to be able to rinse it out as well as a washing machine can.

Add detergent and water to one bin.
Add detergent and water to one bin.

Step 3: Wash the Clothes

Washing clothes isn't really hard to do.

It's very time-consuming. Four loads of wash took me about one hour per load.

The first thing I did was wash the clothing, sheets, and towels that were already in the bathtub. I scrunched up each piece, one at a time, and made sure they got some laundry detergent soaked in. I put the washed laundry in the extra bin, wrung out, but not yet rinsed.

Once I finished that whole load, I emptied the tub. Then I rinsed each piece. I would wring each piece out, then place it in a laundry basket. The final destination was either a laundry line (for sheets and towels) or the dryer.


Use cold water to keep costs down associated with hot water use.

Add bleach, detergent, and water to the bin of white clothes.
Add bleach, detergent, and water to the bin of white clothes.

Step 4: Bleach the Clothes

For the bin with the white clothing, make sure you don't add too much bleach.

I have made that mistake before and paid for it dearly. The bleach can be very harmful. It has burned my eyes. Worse, don't inhale it. It's better to use less than more in this case.

Make sure you rinse the clothes in this bin really well because they are soaked with bleach and detergent, which you don't want carrying over into the clothing once they are dry.

Laundry lines
Laundry lines

Step 5: Hang Laundry Up to Dry

I prefer a laundry line because the dryer costs money to run. If your clothes aren't wrung out well enough, the dryer will run longer, which costs more.

Last year my dryer broke twice. It was during warm weather so I was able to hang the clothes out to dry. I saved $60 one month from the electricity I wasn't using when I was hanging out my laundry.

The only thing I don't like about hanging out towels is that they end up feeling crunchy and stiff.

The good side to this is that everything hung out, especially sheets, smells so fresh—like fresh air!

At my house, the laundry line is an old dog run. It happens to work really well for laundry. I also drape blankets over the back porch when I've run out of room on the line.

I don't use my laundry line all that much though. I'm lazy. I admit it. I only use it when I have broken appliances and am desperate. (Actually, I'm not giving myself enough credit. I'm not lazy at all. I just have a lot to do. Hanging out clothes takes more time. I use my dryer to be efficient.)

Don't forget your dryer sheets if you use your dryer!

Hang towels and sheets up on a line. Use the dryer for smaller items of clothing.
Hang towels and sheets up on a line. Use the dryer for smaller items of clothing.

Step 6: Use the Laundromat If You Need It

When my dryer broke, I did go to the laundromat a few times to get by.

After all, it's hard to catch up when you can't even keep up.

At that time, what I would do is wash all the clothing and put them in baskets. If the weather was nice, I'd hang out what I could. Otherwise, I would haul it all off to the laundromat to dry.

Bring plenty of quarters. The places I've been have free drying if you pay for washing. Those places typically are more expensive.

Final Thoughts

Sometimes, life is tough.

I have first-hand knowledge and the experience to back up that statement, but we all have to go through it to get through it.

Besides, after wringing out a few of those heavy bath towels, you won't have to work out at the gym later. Laundry is a workout of its own kind! Lugging baskets of wet laundry is no easy job.

It also provided a bit of stress relief. Who needs a squeeze ball?

Do you have a laundry line at your home?

See results

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.


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    • profile image


      9 months ago

      My washer broke I went to Dollar store bought 2 totes and new plunger cut hole in and washed our clothes and rinsed them hung them out on clothes line.it works great . family of 3 .got new washer.will keep my totes and plunger as back up.

    • CraftytotheCore profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      Thank you Stephanie! It is very hard work. I did go to the laundry mat one day because it was raining. I couldn't believe how expensive it was. Then after drying a load of clothes twice, I realized the dryer there was broke. I wasted a few dollars and ended up drying the clothes at home anyway.

    • Stephanie Henkel profile image

      Stephanie Henkel 

      6 years ago from USA

      Washing clothes by hand sure gives us greater respect for what women had to go through before automatic washers and dryers! When we live in our RV for months at a time, we sometimes wash clothes by hand to avoid the expensive laundromats. It's hard work for just two of us--I can't imagine doing it for a family! You certainly are a resourceful and hard working woman!

    • CraftytotheCore profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      Hi Au Fait! Thank you for your comment! I went to the Laundromat one day when it rained. It was so expensive. After spending $2 on the dryer for several cycles, I found out it wasn't working. I do like having a place outside to hand clothes because I have found that helps cut down some of my electric bill.

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 

      6 years ago from North Texas

      Decided to check this hub out to see if you have any tips I might use. I don't have a family to do hand laundry for thank goodness.

      I live in an apartment with no washer and dryer. There's a laundromat on the premises, but it has limited hours and it's always busy. I just don't have time to run to the laundromat every day or even every week when I'm working. So I do a lot of hand laundry between trips to the laundromat.

      I remember my mother using a washboard when our wringer washer broke down, and there were 7 in our family.

      Interesting hub!

    • CraftytotheCore profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      Yes! We finally got our new machine covered by the repair agreement. Now I have way too much time on my hands because the new machine is way too efficient! LOL

    • Writer Fox profile image

      Writer Fox 

      6 years ago from the wadi near the little river

      I hope your machine is fixed now. Doing laundry by hand is time-consuming.

    • CraftytotheCore profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      Thank you for your comment! It's really hard work! I don't know how ladies washed clothes before washing machines were invented. I did get some good news though. My machine is under warranty, it just hasn't been fixed yet. We've had nice weather here so I'm still hanging laundry out on the line as I type this.

    • Francesca27 profile image


      6 years ago from Hub Page

      This was so interesting! I will keep your hub in mind and just try your method one day, just to see if I can do it!


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