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Manual Laundry

Discussion in 'How To Save Energy' started by Leta, Oct 31, 2011.

  1. Oct 31, 2011
    Leta

    Leta Lovin' The Homestead

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    There is a lot in this subforum about hanging clothes to dry- which is fantastic- but less about washing by hand. I've only really read MamiPollo and Sunsaver as members who have consistently washed and dried in a non-electric way. And, please correct me if I'm wrong, but I think that they both are doing this for small households- MamiPollo for herself and one child, and Sunsaver for himself.

    I've been thinking a lot about moving to all manual laundry, and the challenges for me would be:

    -washing for four people, five when DSS is here (but he is such a big help and old enough to wash his own clothes, even by hand, so him being here would probably net less work for me, not more)

    - a climate that is very cold 6-7 months of the year (we are north of 45)

    - limited space- this is not a huge issue right now, because I have a spacious (if dingy!) laundry area in our basement, but it will become a much bigger issue if we move to the (far smaller) place that we have our eye on.

    - small children- My youngest is out of diapers (we used cloth) so that end of things is taken care of, but the jury is still out on having one more baby, which would represent a whole extra set of challenges, and a 5 year old and a 2 year old really create a lot of laundry all on their own!

    - Bedding and other heavy things. (I have already partially addressed this, but I have a ways to go yet.)

    The main thing that is keeping me from washing by hand right now is that I lack an effective way to remove the water from a large volume of clothes. I use a regular sized salad spinner when I handwash my bras and delicate knits, and that works fine for 1-2 small items at a time, but is not practical for the volume of laundry that my family produces. I would like to get a manual, commercial, 5 gallon salad spinner, but they are pretty pricey and I haven't had the scratch yet.

    I also would like to get a towel wringer. I have heard that they do an even better job than a salad spinner at removing water, but I have also heard that they will break buttons and that zippers will get stuck between the rollers. I think this would be good/useful for clothes without fasteners and for towels and bedding. But, again, wringers are pretty expensive. I think I'm going to get the giant salad spinner first, and then buy the wringer if I still think I need it- unless someone who's been there can tell me different! If you have any experience with this, I'd love to hear about it!

    I also have been slowly converting our stuff to versions that are more lightweight and that air dry faster. I have found that searching for "European" versions of things has been helpful (presumably because dryers there are not as common as they are in North America). We don't have any duvets or big puffy comforters. Our blankets are all thin, hand crocheted versions, our sheets are all sateen, not jersey or flannel. Our quilts aren't true quilts- I dunno that much about quilting, but my grandma made them, and I guess what they technically are are patchwork blankets, not quilts. They very thin flannel, doubled, with all the squares sewn into a blanket, and then topstitched. I waited until our heavy individually purchased washcloths wore out, and replaced them with far thinner washcloths that come a dozen to pack. All our kitchen towels are floursack type- they are actually birdseye diapers because they were really cheap. The thing I have yet to do is replace our bathtowels and bathrobes. I am going to buy the waffle weave (much lighter than terry cloth) kind from CottonAge.com, which, to replace them all for a family of five will cost about $150, which is unsurprising since it seems like everything I've mentioned here costs that much.

    I have observed that the traditional clothesline hanging method consumes a great deal of space, which is a big factor in indoor air drying. Something that we have done to save space is to hang chain rather than rope. Then, when I put the clothes on hangers, I hang each hanger in a single chain link. Then I leave about three chain links empty between hangers. That way, everything stays spaced enough to dry well, even if the clothes are blown by wind outdoors or jostled by people indoors. Also, chains don't really develop sag the way lines do, so that's nice.

    For things like socks, undies, and washcloths, a clip and dry hanger saves an amazing amount of space. I have come to the conclusion that I need one of these per person in my household, plus one each for the kitchen and bathroom. (We use almost no paper goods, so I have a lot of cloth napkins, hankies, etc.)

    I have a lovely fold up wooden drying rack that is a floor model, but it is not really the best thing for us. My kids always want to mess with it, and we have pets. The dowels work extremely well for towels, though. I think that what I would like to do is build a DIY version of the Kitchen Maid- think an extra wide ladder, made of dowels, and hoisted up and down by two pulleys. That way, I could mount it over the wood stove, lower it, load it, hoist is up out of the way, and get the wood stove going. Does anyone have something like this? Do you like it?

    I have a plunger, and a scrub brush that has fairly soft bristles. There are ridges built into the side of my laundry sink. Would it be worth it, you think, to get a Rapid Washer or a washboard? Both?

    One thing I have thought of but have yet to try is to load a gamma seal bucket up with water, soap, and dirty clothes, and let my kids roll it around.

    I have read that to really get laundry clean, you need to rinse it twice. I have a washtub stand that came with our house and I like it a lot- it's metal, and it folds up- but it only fits two tubs on it. It's great for doing laundry outside on summer days. I have been debating getting another tub on legs, so I can have a tub for washing and two rinse tubs. Is this worth doing?

    I would really appreciate feedback!
     
  2. Oct 31, 2011
    Homemaker

    Homemaker Lovin' The Homestead

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  3. Oct 31, 2011
    dragonlaurel

    dragonlaurel Improvising a more SS life

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    I used a bathtub and stomped/danced around in there with the clothes then wrung them out and rinsed. That gets way too hard on the hands and It was only me and hubby. (We lived off grid for over a year before, and no nearby laundrymats. Washing our clothes this way was part of our normal life then, but wringing them was the chore I came to hate.

    Check out the James Washers. www.lehmans.com/jump.jsp?itemType=PRODUCT&itemID=4084 There is a wringer available to go with it.
    There is frequently a waiting list to buy a James washer, since they are popular and not made by many people yet.

    If y'all are good at making stuff- you might improvise something similar, but I would definitely include some kind of wringer. I wonder if any plans are available?
     
  4. Oct 31, 2011
    Beekissed

    Beekissed Mountain Sage

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    When we homesteaded, we used a washboard and a manual wringer...this insures you can stop it before it breaks buttons or zippers. I love the chain idea for outdoors and I often see the local Chinese folk using the hanger method on racks outside the back of the restaurant.

    We used the clothesline in good weather and hung on hangers and on poles mounted from the rafters in foul weather....the heat from the wood stove dried them by the next morning but they tended to be stiff, of course. This is really no big deal and the stiffness goes away with the warmth and movement of your body.

    We once had purchased a stainless steel rocker-type washing machine that you manually agitated with a swinging bar that swept across the bottom bach and forth. It was okay but it didn't have a second tub or wringer to utilize and it didn't handle large loads well. When we lived in this manner(off-grid), we had anywhere from 6-8 adults and 2 small children or babies at any given time as our family came and went.

    We only had two small rooms in our cabin in which to live at that time, so once a month we'd load up all the laundry(up to 13 black garbage bags)and go to the laundry mat during the winter months. Between those times we'd wash out by hand and just be very careful about the use of good clothing vs. work clothing.

    My current house has clotheslines strung in the attic, so I know the original owners utilized this method to dry clothing in the winter time.
     
  5. Oct 31, 2011
    FarmerChick

    FarmerChick Super Self-Sufficient

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    Is it worth doing?

    ONLY YOU can answer that? Truly. No situation will fit everyone ever.

    I would not attempt this and I have only 3 in the household. It would take alot more time than I can allow because of my schedule right now.


    If you really WANT to do this then do it. Get yourself on a schedule. A little laundry every day is what I would try to tackle. Cut down your clothes usage and get rid of alot of things. Buy items that are 'easier' to do by hand, like don't buy big bulky blankets etc like you said.

    I am at the point in SS that I pick and choose the convenience that works best for my lifestyle. If you don't work outside the home you have more time to schedule more time consuming chores. But then again you may not, like me...lol. Even tho I left my real job about 6 years ago between the farm and kiddo and wanting to live life with less time consuming chores, I wouldn't give up my washer and dryer for anything lol
    BUT I do use them smarter of course. I line dry a few things, few things do go in dryer that I want in there, washer I do large loads, cold water. Towels we use a few times before washing---you know, all the savings tips to try to save some electricity.

    So is it worth doing? It may be for you but give it a try. Best you can do. If it seems overwhelming in the end, you can always go back to washer/dryer. Good thing about today is, the convenience is there to fall back on if wanted lol
     
  6. Oct 31, 2011
    Beekissed

    Beekissed Mountain Sage

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    Yep. The only way I'd go back to the old hand wash and mangle is if I no longer lived on the grid and running water/electricity wasn't available. That is when it is necessary...but the time it saves when it is not cancels out the money saved by doing it by hand otherwise. Dryers use more electricity/gas and are the culprit when money saving laundry tips are handed out, usually.
     
  7. Oct 31, 2011
    FarmerChick

    FarmerChick Super Self-Sufficient

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    we did a 'long' week camping 'more' primitive at the beach....lol
    water and elec. hookup only. state park, no laundromats in the area close.

    I washed Nicoles t-shirt/undies and shorts, few of Tonys and mine and that got us thru the extra days til home. I washed in a tub outside out camper on the spigot. Hung line dry between trees. It was to refresh clothes and it did beautiful as expected.



    so it is what you can do when you need or want to do it.......follow you and your idea of perfect living.
     
  8. Oct 31, 2011
    i_am2bz

    i_am2bz Lovin' The Homestead

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    I really like this idea; has anyone tried it? :D

    I've hand-washed using a 5 gal bucket with toilet plunger (a new one! ;)), just to see if I could do it. The worst part was rinsing & wringing. :/

    I think another idea is getting used to what you consider "clean" clothes; just because you've worn something once doesn't necessarily mean it has to be washed.
     
  9. Oct 31, 2011
    moolie

    moolie Almost Self-Reliant

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    Modern-day North Americans have real "wash-o-mania" compared to people in the past. There was a recent news story about a young man from my province who didn't wash his jeans for over 2 years--and when they were tested the bacteria levels were no higher than any other piece of clothing that had been worn once or twice.

    Back in the day, people only washed the layers of clothing worn next to the skin--undies, undershirts, socks.

    Pants, skirts, overshirts and jackets etc. were merely brushed and spot cleaned as necessary.

    BUT, people only wore clothing made of natural fibres such as wool, linen, and cotton. Wool does not hold body odour, linen has anti-bacterial properties, and cotton was not grown with heavy amounts of pesticides and fertilizers as it is now. Synthetic fibres hold more bacteria and body odour because they don't allow the body to breathe like natural fibres, and thus need to be laundered more often.

    Each member of my family does his/her own laundry. My daughters usually team up, to make full loads and share the job--they only wash once a week: colours and darks (they put their few white items into my laundry). Hubs washes our darks and colours, I wash our whites and towels/bedding. Hubs and I do our laundry every two weeks.

    We each wear jeans/trousers for a full week unless spilled on, shirts and socks/undies get changed daily. Sweaters in this house are wool, and get washed at the end of the winter season unless spilled on. Bedding gets washed every two weeks, towels get changed every week but washed every two weeks. Hubs wears wool dress trousers to work and has these dry cleaned quarterly--he has 3 pairs so each pair ends up getting worn for about a month each (he changes into jeans when he gets home)

    We don't stink, we're not dirty, and we save water and soap AND wear and tear on our clothing by not over-washing our clothes. I still own and regularly wear a skirt, a few jackets, and some pairs of socks that I owned when I was in high school (over 20 years ago).

    We hang nearly everything, either outdoors or on an indoor drying rack and several railings that separate the levels of our home (about 30' total length of indoor "laundry line").

    If we had to switch to manual laundry, we'd each wash out our undies/shirts each night and hang to dry as we do when we travel. Jeans/trousers, towels and bedding would be annoying, but still do-able if we each washed our own with our feet in the bath tub when needed. We'd get a wringer because I hate wringing jeans and towels and can't imagine wringing sheets.
     
  10. Oct 31, 2011
    Beekissed

    Beekissed Mountain Sage

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    I re-use clothing quite a bit and especially more so when times are tight or when there is no electricity available. I agree that people wash their clothing too often...and often their bodies too often as well.
     

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