A Guide to Hand Washing Clothes Without a Washer or Dryer
So there we were. Whispering sweet nothings into each others ears. Saying our final goodbyes to each other, as they were carried out the front door. Never to be seen again.
That was the last time I saw my washer and dryer. Appliances that had been through hundreds of loads with my family. Appliances that had been through belt buckles and floods. Appliances that had been broken and repaired. Cried on and overloaded. Appliances that offered a convenience I find myself missing currently.
So by now, you're probably wondering how my family's laundry gets done. Most days I am there, wondering the exact same thing. After heated arguments (yes, me and my significant other had those), pregnancy emotions on high (I cried while eating a whole box of apple fritters), and lots of regret, I got down to the nitty gritty. I had a bathtub. I had laundry detergent (we make our own), 1/4" nylon rope, and too much dirty laundry.
What You'll Possibly Need
- I bought an industrial bucket with a wringer, which I highly recommend, as traditional clothes wringers range $90-$200+. I searched to no avail for a cheaper wringer, so trust me when I say, the industrial bucket works amazingly well at a fraction of the cost.
- A scrubber (helps get the stains out).
- A laundry basket.
- Laundry detergent. (We make our own, but Seventh Generation is really good.)
- An agitator. (You can use your hands or a plunger with holes in it—anything to stir the clothes.)
- Scrubbing board.
- Clothes pins.
- Some type of line. (Nylon rope works really well.)
- Distilled white vinegar. (A great replacement for bleach and works amazing on stains.)
- A bathtub or other large tub.
Do You Really Need a Wringer?
Unless you have man hands—meaning hands that are used daily in some type of demanding job—please don't try to hand-wring them. I did it. I wanted to curl in a corner and die less than half way through the load. I hadn't even rinsed them yet. My hands were burning so bad I would rather them be dipped in acid and fall off then ever do that again.
How to Hand Wash Your Clothes
The rest, well, it's pretty straightforward.
- I wash clothes when the laundry basket is full. That is exactly one load of hand washing (about 1/2 a load in a traditional washer).
- Don't worry about separating your clothes, as the vinegar acts as a bleach counterpart. So your whites will be bright, your clothes will be soft, and your stains will be gone.
- Fill your bathtub with cool to cold water. Fill it only high enough to cover all your clothes.
- Add your detergent of preference and a cup of vinegar. If the load has some heavily soiled clothes, lightly mix the clothes with the detergent and vinegar and let it sit for 10-15 minutes first.
- Get to agitating. This could be with your hands (I use my hands and it's rather fun), a plunger with holes in it, or some type of pole. You just need something to stir the clothes rather violently.
- Got your load washed to your satisfaction? Water an odd color? Just overall tired and having the urge to burn your bathtub yet? Good! You're halfway done.
- This is where the wringer becomes your absolute best friend. Before you rinse your clothes, you need to wring them. From my first few failures I learned that super wet and soapy clothes don't rinse easily. So don't be like me. Wring first, then throw them in your laundry basket until the entire load is wrung to your satisfaction.
- Then fill your tub back up with cool to cold water. Take that beautiful laundry basket full of wet clothes and dump them right back into the water. Do some more agitation, drain the tub, and wring them all over again. This time, you need to take more care into how wet they still are when you go to put them back into the basket for hanging. Super wet clothes take hours to dry on line, whether inside or out. I know because I hand-wrung my first few loads, and couldn't get them dry enough.
Drying Laundry Without a Dryer
All your clothes wrung? Feeling super accomplished? Ready to sink into your bed and take a nap? You're done! No more hard work! Now you just hang your clothes on a line, whether it be inside or outside.
I would recommend you have at least two. One for outside and one for inside to cover in the event of rain. We have nylon rope and a green, wind-resistant, hanger-friendly line outside, and a pink line inside the laundry room.
If you can't hang a line outside on a patio or yard, then find a space inside for it. If you have a laundry room (a room with a drain), hang a line in there. Your clothes will take a little longer to dry, but they will be in a safe location. Don't have a room like that? Use your bathtub. You can hang a line over your tub or even use a shower rod (placed on your long back wall) and hangers with some clothespins (for the smaller clothes like socks and underwear) and they will drain into your tub.
In the end, sure, I could pack up my kid, load up my car with clothes, and head over to a laundromat to spend in upwards of three hours guarding my clothes while trying to entertain my kid, spending a few dollars in quarters and $3 or $4 in gas. However, this method uses less water and less detergent. Sure, it's time consuming and slightly burdening (especially for me currently), but it's somehow grown into a family event. My husband wants to hang clothes, my kid wants to wash them, and wring them, making for quite an entertaining 45 minutes of family time.
So in the future, I will make sure to not sell my washer and dryer too early, but for now, I'm having fun, our clothes are cleaned, and I'm getting some exercise, all while saving money and sharing in laughs every few days.
Questions & Answers
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