adventures in laundering

Inspired by Shasha Cedar’s post “Slow Washing,” I decided to wash three loads of laundry by hand yesterday.  What was I thinking?  Uh… don’t ask me.  No, truly, it was a great learning experience, but probably not something I’m going to take up into my usual household routines.

I used our large bathtub for my laundering adventure, using cold water, Seventh Generation perfume-free detergent, and lavender essential oils.  If all else failed, I wanted our clothes to smell clean.  I had intended to wash the cleanest stuff first and then reuse the soapy water for the next load.  Let’s just say I have a new appreciation for how water extracts dirt from clothes.  The water was dark grey and opaque by the time I got done with it, not quite suitable for a second load.

Isaiah and I tromped through the water with our feet for the first load, trying to create some agitation.  I don’t think that ended up being very effective.  Instead, I sorted through all the wetness, personally treating the dirtiest places on each piece of clothing.  By the time the laundry went through the rinsing bath, I felt like things were at least clean enough to wear again.

I wrung the laundry out by hand.  Each and every piece.  Twice.  I scrubbed the stains by hand, appreciating electricity on a whole new level.  (A coarse brush or a washboard could really have come in handy.)

In spite of all my wringing practice, everything was still sopping wet.  So, I enlisted the help of my washing machine for the spin cycle only.  Then, I hung each load out to dry.

The trick to line-drying clothes is to remove them from the line as soon as they’re dry.  If you don’t, they become crispy.  We have had our share of cardboard towels and t-shirts around here, so I try to avoid them as much as possible these days.

I don’t know — I felt like things came out pretty clean.  At least they didn’t stink.  The stains could’ve been worked over a bit better, but they were as good as can be expected without the proper tools.

You know that old song for children: “This is the day we wash our clothes, wash our clothes, wash our clothes.  This is the day we wash our clothes so early Wednesday morning”?  The reason washing your clothes is the only thing you do on Wednesday is because it takes all day.  Take my word for it.  I, for one, would like to wait to undergo that scale of handwashing until I own a Lehman’s hand washer.  With a wringer.

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    • Shasha Cedar
    • June 5th, 2008

    Congrats on trying hand washing. It *is* such a chore. I can say that the hand washing machine makes a huge difference. But what even helps more is the soak the clothes overnight. Regardless of what type of machine I use in the future, I think that simply soaking the clothes and then briefly agitating makes a big difference in the cleanliness of the clothes.

    Congrats on trying it!

  1. Wow, impressive! Kudos to you!

  2. So. . . _why_ did you do it? I can’t imagine putting forth that much effort, although I guess it would be a good learning experience. And it’s certainly the greenest way to do laundry.

    • KaraB
    • June 5th, 2008

    Well I’ve got just the thing for you….and old ringer washer machine sitting in the basement of the old house!!!

  3. manhattandoula:

    Why _did_ I do it? I didn’t think about it much beforehand, to tell you the truth. (I was trying to articulate some sort of sensible reasoning for this post, but I was somewhat distracted by a little boy who didn’t take a long enough nap.)

    I handwashed my laundry partly just to see if I could, I think. If our ancestors handwashed their laundry in the river, could it be so bad? I think I did it to see how necessary our electricty-gobbling appliances really are. Dishwashers are convenient — true — but once you rinse all the dishes off, does it really save you much time and work? I know just how much to value the washing machine now.

    Now that it’s summer and I have few commitments to outside-the-house activities, it’s a good opportunity to slow down and rethink the way I do things. And I thought it might be fun for Isaiah. (It was for a while, but it got too long… and too slippery on the bathroom floor.)

    I learned the value of good laundry tools — something I would not have valued without my experiment. I learned that there are good green solutions and bad green solutions. Mine was mostly bad, but now I know that for sure. I don’t mind the time commitment to hand-washing, but for a novice without tools, it’s very messy and intensely laborious.

    I did not handwash the laundry to value my clothes. But I learned to value my clothes. I want to care for them and have fewer of them now. If our great-great grandma Waltraud washed her clothes in the river, I bet she didn’t have fifteen outfits.

    Shasha Cedar stressed in her comment how much soaking the laundry helps. I confess that I’m soaking a mixed load of laundry in the bathtub tonight, just to see the difference. Three loads in a day is not too fun, but one every once in a while can’t be that bad. Maybe on days when I’m feeling particularly green, I just might work on refining my handwashing skills some more.

    • clbeyer
    • June 5th, 2008

    Alright, Kara! 🙂 I might just have to try that out!

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