Thursday, August 19, 2010

Washing Clothes

I sure like my washing machine.  I've never had to wash my clothes at a laundromat.  I've always had a washing machine at home.  Always a good one too.  But what if the washer didn't work?  My eldest daughter and her family were very poor for a couple of years.  They couldn't even afford to pay the fifty cents per load at the laundromat.  She washed their clothes in the front yard using a five gallon bucket.  She used a toilet plunger to agitate the clothes.  After several "loads" were washed she'd empty the bucket, fill it with clean water then rinse the clothes back in the bucket, again using the plunger.  Then she hung them on a clothes line.  It was a much harder method of washing than what I do, but you know what?  Their clothes were clean!   
What about the detergent?  Most people use way too much detergent.  It doesn't get the clothes any cleaner.  In fact, using too much makes it more difficult to rinse it all out.  I actually read the directions on my Costco detergent.  The container says you get 200 loads in the 28 pound bucket.  I do.  Do you?  I have a front loader.  The directions for it say to use either extra special twice the price detergent OR use half the amount of detergent that is recommended if you use regular detergent.  A regular load takes about 1/3 scoop of detergent.  My machine uses even less.  Around my house I bucket will last between 6 months and a year depending on how many people are milling around. 
If the power went out for good how would my clothes get washed?  Now if I was using the 5 gallon container and plunger system I'd probably use more detergent overall than what I use in the machine.  But still, one bucket should last a long time.  I usually have 5 buckets on hand.  Thinking about this as I am writing I realize I need to up this amount.  I'd like to have about a 10 year supply of non-perishables stored.  It's easy to do.  Before I started using the proper amount of detergent I was going through one bucket every month or so.  All I did to get the five was continue to buy the laundry detergent even though I didn't really need it. 
I have a couple of clothes lines and clothes pins.  Lots of clothes pins.  When my oldest kids were young I used the clothes line every day.  I worked from home so it was easy to take a break from working and hang up or take down clothes.  Now I usually use my propane drier although if needed, at any time I could switch back to the clothes line.  I also have two indoor drying racks that can go near the wood stove. 
I use bleach for my whites (only 1/3 cup per load according to my machine).  This means a gallon should last almost 50 loads.  I have 5 gallons for laundry (and more for cleaning, and even more for water purification).  If we had to go to a bucket washing era I'm sure we wouldn't have any more white clothes in our wardrobes.  We would still be bleaching rags and diapers just to sanitize them. 
One of the kids wets the bed.  When he does I use 1/3 cup of vinegar instead of the bleach.  It gets rid of the odor.  Again, a gallon can last a long time.

A trick that we have around here is that when everything is laundered and put away there is a place for it all to go.  There are enough hangers, enough drawer space, and enough shelf space.  What I have found is that most people hate doing laundry so they don't do it often.  Then they need so many clothes that they don't have the space to put it all away when it's clean.  Nothing more stupid than to wash your clothes only to keep them on the floor or bed or sofa to get tossed around and thrown back into the laundry because nobody knows if they are clean or dirty. 


  1. A bucket and plunger is much easier than using a washboard. Most people have too many clothes. If you go back 100 years ago people had a couple of sets of clothes. That was all. One for wearing and one for the laundry.

  2. You don't use a washboard to "wash" your clothes you use it on problem areas. If you have a stain that your automatic washer won't take out a washboard might do it for you. So I say use both a washboard and the five gal bucket and plunger.