Friday, May 6, 2011

Washing Clothes by Hand (My life history of laundry)

Recently, we moved into an apartment with washer and dryer connections.  We then bought a second hand washer and dryer and have very much loved the convenience.  Do you know why we've loved it?  Time for a bit of my life story....
After a series of major financial setbacks, our family was living in a motel for several months.  There were four of us at that time and it was very cramped and tight quarters.  We were very eager to get out and move into a real apartment as soon as we could!  When we finally had income again, It wasn't enough to get almost any place for several miles.  We FINALLY found something that was affordable.  It was about 600 square feet.  It was small, it was old, it was in an interesting neighborhood, but it was "ours."  It also had no washer and dryer connections, and as you can imagine, no room for portable units.  There was also no laundry facilities anywhere around.  We had to load up our laundry in the car and drive close to a mile to the nearest laundromat.  But the laundromats near us had very poor quality dryers, so we would either dump tons of money into the dryer or dry it till it was just damp, then hand it up as soon as we got home.  You can imagine how much space we DIDN'T have to hand things up.  We had some people from church let us do laundry at their house a few times, but each of hem seemed to have issues of their own to deal with so it was very rare that we could go over long enough to do laundry for 4 (and later 5) people.  We found a laundromat about 4 miles away that had free dryers as long as you did the laundry there.  It was great, except for the things that got in the way:
Money was tight, VERY tight, so we often wouldn't have money to do laundry very often.
Most of the time we lived there, we had a very small car and it was night impossible to fit our kids, ourselves AND our laundry all in there.
To combat that, either my husband or I would go alone to do laundry, but we had to wait until he did not have class, he did not have work, and the laundromat was open (the last was was at 9:30, but they always locked the door 5 minutes early).

So, when one of these things got in the way, and we needed clean clothes (for church or my husband's work uniform or just clean underwear)  what do we do?
Wash our clothes by hand.

For those of you looking to tone you arms, this is a great exercise!

So, now that we have a washer and dryer, what would make me think to write this post?

Our washer and dryer BROKE!  Within a week of each other!  When the dryer broke, we figured it was just the heating element, since everything else was working.  My hubby said he'd take it out and go get a replacement, but he's been swamped with school and work and hasn't had any time.  So I would just put everything on hangers and hang it all up in the closets and bathroom.  Since there''s an extra spin cycle on the washer, it wouldn't take TOO long for things to dry.  Then the washer started making funny noises and would be REALLY loud when it was agitating the clothes or spinning!  Consequently I would only do laundry when we were about to leave the house for about an hour so I wouldn't have to listen to it.  The laundry wasn't getting done as fast that was so yesterday afternoon I decided to just live with he noisiness for a few cycles, and put my husbands filthy work clothes in the washer.  After agitating, the washer made a weird buzz sound and then stopped completely, and wouldn't start again.  I could also smell a slight burning smell, which was strongest behind the washer.  I really should go into appliance repair to find out what these things mean!  I even tried leaving it alone for a while to see if it worked when I came back, but no.  So what's a homemaker to do?  I have a washer full of dirty clothes and dirty water, my husband has no clean work clothes to wear to work the next day....good thing I have experience in hand washing! 

So I will now let you know how I wash clothes by hand.  In case any of you are ever caught in a similar situation.

To do this you will need:
a clean bucket ( you could just do it in a clean bathtub or cleaned out sink, but this seems to help contain spills in my experience)
laundry soap (the liquid kind is a lot easier on the hands and won't dry your skin out as easily, or you can wear rubber cloves, but I always for water in mine so I just use my hands.)
running water
dirty laundry

First, go through mount washmore and figure out what you need to wash the most.  If something is wet or has food on it, I wash that first.  Full your bucket loosely with he things you want to wash.  This makes very small batched of laundry, but I guarantee you those small batches will get a lot cleaner than one big batch!  Plus, after you hang them up, especially in a limited space, hte air can circulate around them better and they will dry faster than one big mega load.

Next, add laundry soap.  You don't need very much at all since there aren't many clothes in there.  I also like to add a bit of baking soda in, especially for work clothes or anything else that gets really sweaty.
See how there's only a little bit in there?

Now this is where you have to decide what you can do.  I do this in the bathtub so I don't get water all over the place, but doing this in the sink would save you back, but you'd have to worry about splashes, and filling up the bathtub itself takes a lot of water to be able to agitate the clothes.  I put my bucket in the empty bathtub.  That way I can agitate it really vigorously and if it spills out of the bucket it doesn't matter!

Now agitate the crud out of that little bucket!
video
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My camera will only let me do 5 second videos, so I just have little clips.

After several minutes (5 to 10 depending on how dirty it was), or if you can see nay visible marks are gone, drain the dirty water out of your bucket.  If you have a clean bathtub, you can just plop the clothes right down in there, otherwise, just do slowly and when you only have a little water left, lay the bucket on it's side so the last bit of excess water can drain out.  If you have small children, most likely they're calling for your attention by this point, so now's a good time to let the water for a bit to figure out what they want, but don't forget about the laundry, you're not done! 

Now is the time to tone those forearms!  After rinsing any excess dirt out of the bucket, pick up each piece of clothing and twist and SQUEEZE!!!  Then put it back in the bucket.  Do this with each item until they've all been wrung out. 
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For small things like socks, I just squish.
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Then your clothes will look all crumpled and matted down.

Fill the bucket up with water again, agitate again, drain and ring out again. Repeat again if necessary. 

Shake out he cloths and hang then on hangers that won't rust, or on a drying rack if you're lucky enough to have one.  Hand the hangers somewhere where they will get lots of air circulation around them.  Doorways are good, but a little inconvienient if you have to go through them a lot. one of my favorites was at our last place we had cieling fans in every room, and at night  (so it wouldn't drive us crazy during the day) we'd hand na equally weighted hanger on each side of the part of the fan that comes away form the light and put the fan on the slowest setting.  Things dried so much faster.  Only do that with light items, and don't blame me if you break you ceiling fan.We called this our spin cycle!

So if you can't get to a washer and you need to do laundry, this could work for you too!

Note: I've also heard of people who one have to wash a few small items, putting those items in a Ziploc bag with a bit of laundry soap, then sealing it, mushing the bag around a whole lot, drain, rinse, repeat.  I haven't tried it personally, but it sounds good for traveling!

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