Tuesday, March 2, 2010

cutting costs- laundry

Way back when, we used to have a washing machine here on the homestead. It was an honest to goodness technologically advanced apparatus even, not  an old fashioned wringer type  or anything. Unfortunately when people see a washing machine they are going to use the thing as often as possible while they have one available to them. This is especially true of road dogs, people in transition and the trail hikers, all of whom we have opened our doors too in years past. Though they can go  weeks on  end in stinking, dirty clothes and with out bathing  in a proper shower, when   they see  those two  modern conveniences   in places they land, they are going to use them to their full advantage and then some.

Ya see, it wasn't the use of the machine itself back in those days that was the issue, we weren't as frugal a few years back as we are now. It was the amounts of water  that people were using while washing their clothes and bodies that was the problem. As I have mentioned before, our only water source here is  a cistern. For two people  it is more than enough water storage. For four people in a dry year it is a bit more difficult. For anything over that it becomes  a challenge to keep water use  to a minimum so that we dont run out. Often times through the years we have had eight to ten people here at a time and for a while there were thirteen of us.

After several mishaps of running the cistern dry over the years(either from too much washing or malfunctions with the machines), having to make emergency water runs to the pond to have any water at all and then a few years of drought on top of it all  we pulled our washing machine out. We began going to the laundry mat to do our clothes. It worked well if you got to the laundry mat  before it opened and raced to find a machine or three quicker than  any one else. Unfortunately over time as gas prices went up and the economy went down, the laundry mat became down right expensive. Every two weeks it was 15 dollars to  have clean  clothes. when the driers went from 8 minutes a quarter to 7 and then 6, we  decided that 30 dollars or more  a month was too much just  to have some  clean clothes.

I really wanted to find us an  old wringer machine. I had actually grown up with one as a child of the 70's. Granny had one at her summer camp   and it   was a lovely monster. I  recall going out to the back room, which was also the bait, tackle, beer fridge n fish butcher room to sit and watch the machine clean the clothes while talking to  gran. Looking back on it now it was a comfort  thing and relaxing in its own way, much like watching a fish tank.When the clothes were through, I would help to feed the clothes to the wringer and hang them out on the line.

Unfortunately,  wringer washers these days are few and far between. Many folks have rediscovered there grandness and have gone back to them. Many are now planters for flowers and  most have long been forgotten about and left to  rot away a sad, horrible death in falling down  barns and garages across the lands. On the rare occasion that one can be found,  they tend to be very expensive  and entirely out of our price range. While the dream of having my very own wringer washer  hooked up to  pedal power  remains, we had to come up with a solution that works for us in the mean time.

The purple tub is for washing and rinsing. The wash tub is for washed or rinsed clothes (or for boiling whites in) after wringing and the mop bucket and wringer are my wringer.The plunger is for agitation of the water and clothes. The wringer wrings clothes out pretty good and is much easier on the hands than wringing by hand.

The only thing that doesn't wring well are blue jeans and over the years I have learned that jeans really don't need to be wrung out and dry just as well leaving them to drip. The only thing that I can not wash in this manner is blankets. We still run them to the laundry mat a couple times a year

I think most of our clothes come out cleaner using this method than they do in a machine. I do a wash, rinse, rinse cycle on the clothes. If they are extremely nasty they get a pre-soak as well. Socks,undies and wash cloths are boiled on the stove in a wash tub before washing and then . If water if truly minimal and clothes are extremely grimy, a half cup of ammonia can be added to the rinse water.  The odor dissipates while the clothes hang to dry.

  A Large load of clothes take me about an hour total from start to finish with a couple few minute soaks to rest my arms. An average load uses about 25 gallons of water. Since we don't use harsh chemicals in our laundry ,our gray water from washing is used on garden beds in the summer. We line dry all the clothes  both summer and winter.

In the winter washing is a bit harder unless I bring the whole system, which I can do, inside. I must admit this winter since it is just the two of us here, I have been taking our one large load to town each month and just washing it there and bringing it home to dry on the line. For 4 bucks our wash is done while we do our running about and it saves me a bit of a hassle and a bunch of pain. My bones  and muscles aint what they used to be.

With the cold blast of weather, I decided to dry our clothes at the laundry mat as well  on our last town trip. It is now a quarter for every five minutes of drying and the machines have all went up another  quarter per load . I wont be doing that again soon.

A friend of ours has a couple videos for washing clothes with alternative methods.

I know others  use alternative methods for washing clothes. What is your system ? What other ingenious ways have you run across or employed in cleaning your clothes? What tips or tricks or suggestions do you have for those either by choice or out of necessity find themselves with out a washing machine?


  1. I do mine in the kitchen sink with a washboard and wring by hand. I also have a wonder wash for when I'm feeling lazier, which saves time but you still need to rinse in the sink. I've been thinking about a mop wringer, but they are so derned big for indoor use.

  2. they are big but i throw mine on the back porch when not in use... there has to be a way to mount just the wringer part to something that would fit over the sink.. i just dont know how..

  3. Another thing is to watch how you wear your clothes. We have two sets of clothes at our house... the wear around the hut stuff and the nicer, go to town stuff. (gg) Day to day around the hut clothes, we'll wear a day or three as long as they are clean and not too bad. Usually simple stuff, tshirts and shorts or a skirt. Since we're not like hauling dirt or doing manual labor for the most part, they stay pretty clean. And likewize... if we put on a nice clean shirt and jeans for town or an event, if they are not dirty and all, they get hung up on a coat rack for another day. That REALLY saves on the amount of stuff to be washed.
    We use the laundry mat, but when it's possible, we bring the washed stuff home to line dry. That works out nice and it's always sweet smelling in the sunshine.

    Love your blog!

  4. ty sherri.

    when around the house we do the same..when day in and out you are playing in the same dirt n grime there is no point in putting on clean ones each day.. we have inside clothes and outside work clothes ... both of which get worn several days before hitting the dirty clothes basket.

  5. howdy! i've just found your blog, so i may be telling my grandmother how to suck eggs (in which case, please forgive/ignore), but lehmans (www.lehmans.com) has a decent selection of Useful Things along these lines (some very expensive, but good for getting ideas). the washers and wringers are expensive, but the laundry plunger isn't too bad!