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Hand washing clothes

So, my washing machine (which I bought second-hand-but-still-pretty-new for $450 not a whole year ago), is not working. Something electrical, I'm hesitant to get out an electrician because they usually charge up the wazoo just for a callout, and God knows how much it will cost on top of that to actually fix the problem.

Despite all this, I still had a basketful of clothes that needed washing. So I did them by hand. Filled the laundry trough with water and a bit of washing powder, chucked in the clothes, mixed them around with my hands, drained the water, refilled it with clean water and agitated the clothes a bit more, then did it a third time, rinsing each item under the running water before throwing it in the washbasket. I then hung it out still dripping wet.

While I was doing this I realised a few things
- Hand washing is gentler on clothes.
- Hand washing doesn't use any more water than a machine wash, and possibly uses less.
- Hand washing requires people energy, not electrical energy - so it's cheaper, more environmentally friendly AND I get exercise (God knows I need it!)
- Hanging clothes out dripping wet gives the lawn a bit of water.
- The whole process takes maybe 15 minutes.

So, does anyone have info about handwashing clothes in a way that works better? I finding using one trough results in water getting everywhere, and I don't think I've thoroughly rinsed the soap out of some things. Is there a more effective way to wash and rinse? A way that uses less water?

Is there an effective way to spin/wring clothes without using a washing machine? Most items are fine hanging out dripping wet - but certain items stretch if weighed down with water, and in winter when I hang stuff on airers inside, I don't really want the washing dripping on my carpet!

In the end it would be awesome if I could set up a grey water system too, so the water in the trough can go on the garden instead of down the drain - being in a rental though, this could be challenging.

I'm really liking this idea, because I often mention how most technology is BAD for us (less exercise, more power usage etc) and of course people will reply, "But you wouldn't be without so-and-so convenience." or "Shall we go back to living in caves?" Ditching the washing machine would be putting my money where my mouth is essentially.

I'd love any advice!! Oh yeah, and I'm in Australia if it matters.


( 21 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 28th, 2009 03:17 am (UTC)
Heh, I really can't help with much because I have only done this several times myself and haven't put that much thought into it. I hope someone has some good info/ideas on this subject!
I do want to point out though, that I would think you use more water because you have to rinse several times with running water etc, but I think all the other points are right on especially since you are conserving energy and using your own energy!
Same theory about washing cars, they say the mechanical ones you go through use less water than when you do it at your home with the hose because everything is timed etc.
Mar. 28th, 2009 03:25 am (UTC)
With the individual rinsing I was putting the smaller items under the running water and giving them a thorough rinse while the rest of the trough was filling, as I rinsed things they'd go in the washbasket. In the end the big items just got sloshed around the trough-full of water.

If I could devise a way to easily get that water on the garden though - the concerns about how much water I'm using don't matter anywhere near as much, because it will be going where it's needed anyway.
Mar. 28th, 2009 03:45 am (UTC)
Aw, I see, that does make a difference (rinsing while filling). I didn't realize that you were doing that--good idea! I wonder if you could run some sort of simple drain system straight to the garden? Heh. Now you have me thinking. =)
Sort of OT, but I had a problem with my water/sewage backup this past winter and I had to create ways to use water for washing my hair etc, brushing my teeth, etc... without letting it go down the drain for several weeks. The biggest problem was that it was freezing outside so that when I dumped it, it just turned to ice. The good thing was my water bill was very low that month.
So really, the more I think about what you are doing, the more perfect it becomes!
Mar. 28th, 2009 03:26 am (UTC)
I know some people put the laundry in the bath tub and add some soap and have their kids stomp around in it. Clean the kids and the clothes at once i guess. You can also use the soapy water to flush your toilet. I don't know if the soap you use is okay for the garden, but if it is, then you can definitely water the plants with it!

I'm spoiled now with a washing machine in my basement. But before i lived in this house, i was washing my clothes in a large red bucket, and hanging them in the rooftop garden. I watered the plants with the rinse water. Just make sure to rinse the clothes well, or they get a bit soap-stiff. I think the more roughly you handle them, the better. (unless they are gentle fabrics, of course.)
Mar. 28th, 2009 03:32 am (UTC)
You can buy pressure washers (small containers with sealed lids). They're compact, so you can't wash a lot at once, but it's pretty effective. Not sure about the availability in AUS but I bought mine here: http://www.lehmans.com/shopping/product/detailmain.jsp?itemID=1600&itemType=PRODUCT&iMainCat=673&iSubCat=674&iProductID=1600

The seal on mine is shot so it leaks when I turn it but it's far cheaper than shelling out money to use the laundromat.
Mar. 28th, 2009 03:39 am (UTC)
I have been trying to figure out ways to save on electricity and since the warm weather is coming here I decided to try one of these....

It works great - you just put your clothes into a tub with a little soap and plunge the rapid washer. It uses less soap than a normal washing machine and when you are plunging it the soil and dirt are pushed out. It is not rough on clothes.
One of things to remember that if you are hand washing and it is something that is heavily soiled then take and out it into cold water for at least 1/2 hour and then wash it. This will help take out a lot of the dirt etc. because it will loosen it in the fibers of the fabric.
Now I have a hand wringer that I am trying to replace the rollers on - this is also something that will help if you do not want to hang things dripping wet.

I hope this helps a little.
Mar. 28th, 2009 08:33 pm (UTC)
Lehmans is the shizznit. If you're looking for a non-electric way of doing anything, go there. As far as laundry goes, I think they have almost all of your options covered.

And just don't learn the hard way, like I did, that you can't line dry jeans in very cold weather. Freeze drying don't work for clothes. I think it took two hours just for the jeans to thaw out before they could start to think about drying.
Mar. 28th, 2009 04:14 am (UTC)
if you put 1/4 cup of white vinegar in the rinse water, you can avoid the Stiff Towel thing
Mar. 28th, 2009 06:28 am (UTC)
I use this thing here: http://www.laundry-alternative.com/washing.htm
It's not really good for bigger/heavy items (towels, sheets) but works great for everything else.
Mar. 28th, 2009 07:39 am (UTC)
You can put them in the washing machine or the bath tub and use a toilet plunger to agitate the clothing. Also, as someone else stated, you can stamp up and down on the clothing while it is in the bath tub.

To get the water out, a wringer works well.
Mar. 28th, 2009 11:18 am (UTC)
Mar. 28th, 2009 12:33 pm (UTC)
Use a second bin of clear water for rinsing.

I use a washing machine but hang all my clothes to dry ... outside in the Summer, and on a wooden rack and on doors in the Winter.

Live Green!
Mar. 28th, 2009 12:41 pm (UTC)
It always kinda weirds me out when I realise most people in the U.S. use a dryer instead of a washing line.

In Australia they're still somewhat luxury items, mostly used when it's raining and there isn't enough time (or space) on an indoor airer. The Hills Hoist in the backyard still reigns supreme.
Mar. 28th, 2009 06:19 pm (UTC)
Yeah it is weird that more people do not use outdoor dryers - it has a lot to do with convenience and time I think. I would love to be able to use a clothes line all of the time.
Here the weather turns too cold in the middle of October and sometimes by the end it snows and then we have snow until March. I have been able to hang clothes outside 2 times this month, but it takes about 6 hours for things to dry because it is still cold.
I have an indoor line, but without a wood stove it takes about 2 days for lighter things and up to 4 days for heavier things to dry. I use it, but if it is for my husbands work clothes I need to dry them because he does not have very many.
Some people think that I am crazy for hanging things outside, but since I have been doing it for the last 4 years I have noticed that more of my neighbors have outdoor lines. I think with the energy prices going up here the US will see more outdoor lines.
Mar. 28th, 2009 10:54 pm (UTC)
In an Aussie Summer, on some days you can hang your stuff out and 10 minutes later it's bone dry.
Mar. 30th, 2009 03:45 am (UTC)
i love it! so easy.
Mar. 28th, 2009 04:23 pm (UTC)
I do "tub laundry" when i run out of quarters at school! I've been thinking about this actually, and i've been doing pretty much the same thing you have, and it really isn't that much of a hassle. I've just been wringing them out by hand, and then if they are still drippy laying a towel underneath the rack =)
Mar. 28th, 2009 04:51 pm (UTC)
Maybe I'm use to the wash machine, usually, I throw a load of clothes in, and then go back outside to work, and then when I think they might be done, or it's a good time to go and check on them, I switch them to the dryer and put a new load in, and then go back outside. I'm so use to multitasking, right now it's calving season, so I have extra towels that were used to dry off cold baby calves. But there's allot more work to do outside right now, from tagging and vaccinating newborns, checking cows every two hours, feeding cows, sorting off pairs, doctoring sick calves, cleaning the stalls in the barn, the calving chute area, etc. Not to mention fixing fence from the last blizzard that blew through last week. I just don't have the extra 15 minutes or energy to wash clothes by hand.Lord finding the energy to clean the house for 15 minutes is a chore, it's a pick up while you go, and if you see a major mess, clean it up. Usually my counters in the kitchen are filled with calf bottles, vaccine guns, and tags. Or we have a cold calf laying near the fireplace, warming up, so there's extra blankets to wash, along with the towels the guys grab to dry the cold calf off. Finding time to fold all the clothes is a chore, usually that's done while watching TV, in between the midnight and 2am cow checks.

We rerouted the water that is used for the dishwasher, wash machine, and sinks so that they will run onto the tree grove, it keeps the septic tank from filling up with water and waters the trees. It wasn't hard to do, just find main water lines for them, and then we drilled a hole in the basement wall, and rerouted it, took us about 3 hrs to do.
Mar. 28th, 2009 06:19 pm (UTC)
Buy a washboard. You can often get these at Walmart and they are a lifesaver if you're going to be doing much hand laundry. Pretreat any stained areas before you start, and wash one piece at a time. The way I used to do this was one (small) pretreat bucket, and two larger ones: one to wash and one to rinse. Wringing out the stuff before you rinse helps you save rinse water (which is the big water pig, since you have to change it out much more often).

You *can* efficiently wring out clothes by hand (you twist the bejeezus out of them) but it is *very* hard work, and tends to be pretty rough on the clothes too. Well made work clothes hold up fine to twisting but I would not do it to any outfits I liked. A hand wringer is how our ancestors got around the wringing issue: this is just two rollers that bolt onto the side of your washtub, and you turn the crank to wring out the water. They run about $150 new, so look for used: a lot of them turn up in antique stores and ebay in the $30 range. These work really well... the clothes are at least as dry as a spin drier makes them.

One thing you can try to save on rinse water is using a lot less, or no soap. It's mostly the agitation that does the work of getting your clothes clean when you wash, although soap/detergent does have a beneficial effect, especially if you've got any stinky people in the house.
Mar. 29th, 2009 11:14 am (UTC)
It was only when living in a shared house in the city that I had access to a washing machine. When I grew up, and now, we never had a washing machine - too expensive on the elctricity bill to run. Mum and I do handwash all our stuff. Its time consuming, but not actually a big deal, and when we do be bedding we just take it in a big load to the laundrette to the big industrial washers.

Having no washing machine is not a problem for us. :)And thats me running a theatre group as well so often having to wash loads of costumes.
Mar. 29th, 2009 06:10 pm (UTC)
A side note. You have to be careful about the type of detergent you're using. Unless you're using a plant-derived soap, it is not safe to use on a veg. garden (borax related issues). And, if you're using commercial soaps, many of these have phosphates or other nasty chemicals you don't even want on your ornamentals.
( 21 comments — Leave a comment )

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