After the pukefest, a handwashing tutorial


A few days ago, over a bucket of soapy laundry, I was thinking. We’ve been cruising for over half a year now, and one thing we’ve gotten good at is cleaning up after a pukefest. Bashing. Rolly conditions. Stomach bugs. Check. Since the majority of our laundry is done by hand, I thought it would be fun to write a tutorial on how to handwash puke-ridden laundry.

You ready? Okay, here we go. (I thought about including pictures, but decided to spare you).

1. First, gather all pukey clothes and sheets and put them in a pile.

2. Then get a five gallon bucket and a pair of rubber gloves.

3. Now, you’re going to fill the bucket with a few inches of fresh water. We’re going to work on the chunky chunks right now. No, you do not throw all the clothes and sheets in the water with a handful of laundry detergent. That’s call the washing machine method. We don’t have one of those. Also, you’ll end up with murky sudsy water with chunky chunks in it. You don’t need detergent and a bucketful of fresh water for chunky chunks. I repeat. You don’t need to waste precious detergent or water on chunky chunks.

Take each piece of clothing and hold it over the water. Scoop water with one gloved hand and rinse off out the chunky bits (that day, it was herring and avocado, woohoo!) Repeat with each item of clothing. The goal is to just push them off the clothing, like–what do you call it? Oh, a pre-rinse cycle. Squeeze out any water and set aside. Now you have a bucket of a bit of water with lots of chunky bits. Time to feed the fishies (dump it overboard).

4. Fill up the bucket with a bit more water, maybe 6 inches of water if you’re feeling flush. Add a bit of detergent. I learned a tip from The Voyager’s Handbook not to add too much; you’ll end up using a lot of water to rinse out the suds. Instead, add just enough to make the clothes slippery, or just a slight amount of bubbles when you agitate the water. The goal is not to have surgically sterile clothing, peeps. You just need to be clean enough to be invited to other boats for cocktails and lobster.

Wash each item starting with the least puked on clothing first. Wash from least dirty to most dirty. The reason is that you don’t want to start with the dirtiest piece of clothing and pollute all the water for the less dirty items. If the water is looking really murky and disgusting, throw it out and get a fresh batch.

5. But this fresh batch will be rinse water for the clothes that have already been washed. Rinse them out one by one. Again, don’t throw them all in there, because you’ll end up with a bucket of brown water and you won’t be sure that any of your clothes really got rinsed well. Rinse each item individually. Then use the rinse water to wash any remaining batches of clothes/sheets. We’re in the homestretch folks!

6. Keep repeating the process until you have them all washed and rinsed. Resolve to use Dramamine next time. Hang to dry on the lifelines.

This may seem like a lot of work, washing each individually and rinsing them.

It is.

If you want something easy, it’s called a w-a-s-h-i-n-g  m-a-c-h-i-n-e.

No seriously. I haven’t done controlled experiments but my hunch is that for the same amount of water, this method will result in cleaner clothes.

Happy laundry day!


7 Replies to “After the pukefest, a handwashing tutorial

  1. Oh my how timely. We have had everyone on board but me go down hard with a bad stomach flu. I hope your crew pukes less and less with each passage. take care!

  2. hey, My sea going name is Ralph Hurley as in one sea sick sailor, so I’ve dealt with this too. I find that threading a line through as many garments as possible then rinsing in the ocean can really help get the puke off. Agitate as needed then clean soak, agitate again and continue with the process. While you’re in the Bahama’s try getting some Stugeron, one truly life saving anti nausea drug available there by prescription…if you miss out there, get it in the DR, no script needed.

    1. Thanks Bruce. Stugeron is one thing we should have gotten beforehand. We’ll look into getting some. Luckily, dramamine has been pretty good to us…

  3. It was already mentioned above to use seawater, so I’m surprised you didn’t explain why it might not be a good idea to pre-wash with seawater

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