“Care for your clothes like the good friends they are.” ~Joan Crawford
I promised that I’d revisit how I wash laundry, since I don‘t use the manual washing machine (mostly because it aggravates my carpel tunnel), so here we go…
It’s pretty simply, really. I hand wash everything.
Laundry really isn‘t that difficult of task, these days, if you understand the science a bit. There are laundry detergents readily available that are designed to work in cold water, which saves on energy to heat water. Personally, I use plant based detergents that are safe to discharge as gray water, so that we aren’t polluting the land.
Even with the proper detergent, getting clothes clean requires a fair amount of mechanical energy to wash everything out of the fibers. In your automatic washing machines, this happens by being moved around in the tub of water by a center agitator, or tumbled through the water by a rotating drum (same as with the manual washer).
When it comes to hand washing, this can be done by…well, your hands…or by use of other tools. The majority of the time, I choose to use a manual agitator that resembles a plunger.
This allows me to agitate the clothes through the water relatively easily, so it not only is less work than with just my hands, it also makes it easier to wash more items at a time. Efficiency and time saving is important, after all.
When it comes to difficult spots or stains, I tend to go a little old school and use a washboard. A few years ago, I was fortunate to find a glass one in good condition and it works well.
Now, for those that have never used a washboard and may be interested in doing so, I think it’s important to understand that it’s not a magical solution. There are fabrics & stains for which it is not appropriate. For mud or grease ground into denim, for example, I’ve found the best solution to be a cheap scrub brush from a discount store. For spots on delicate fabrics, I like to use a silicone scrubber that’s normally marketed for washing dishes.
You get the idea… It’s simply a matter of understanding the fabrics you’re working with & being creative in finding a solution. But thousands of dollars for a fancy machine and a continual expense of fuel to run it, actually isn’t a necessity.
My current choice of laundry basin is a cheap plastic tote. It’s a practical, inexpensive solution that is useful for other things and also allows me to collect rainwater directly in the tub which saves a step in the process. This won’t be the permanent choice, of course. I’m working on deciding what fixtures to put in the house I’m designing to make the process as simple as possible because I am not planning space for an automatic machine.
Possibly the most difficult part of hand washing is wringing the clothes, at least for me. There are commercially available wringers on the market or you can find your own method. In the past, I made a press wringer out of an old baby gate. These days I use a similar method, with a different tool: a mop wringer.
The concept is pretty simple. Rinse water (with vinegar, as that helps ensure all the detergent rinses out) is placed in the bucket. Then the rinsed clothes are rung out, which allows the excess water to flow back into the bucket to rinse more clothes.
Clothes are then hung on a clothesline to dry for the wind & sun to dry. No dead dinosaurs (or money) wasted to dry them. You may also note the lack of chemical fabric softeners used in my process. This is also the case when I use an automatic machine. They are terrible for your fabrics & reduce the lifespan of your clothes. Even worse, the scented ones are terrible for your lungs as we were never meant to be breathing those synthetic fragrances. Simply using vinegar in the rinse will ensure that the detergent rinses clean, soften your clothes, and not damage your fabrics.