although i have a washing machine, i had the opportunity to try first hand doing all my laundry without it for 8 months. our washer broke down and for one reason or the other, no one bothered to examine it for that long. i purchased and acquired a few items in my quest to make this chore as streamlined as possible.
first off, i bought a glass washboard and metal plunger. why glass for the washboard? glass seem to be more durable than the metal ones and they seem to be gentler on the clothes. i reserved this for really heavy, grimy stuff that needed a good scrubbing to get clean.
as for the plunger, i have read you can use an ordinary toilet plunger and get nearly the same effect but the metal one has some fancy construction to it that allows air into it while it plunges into the clothing, helping to blast out dirt from clothes.
to begin with, i used both of these inside in our bathtub. i put about an inch of water into the tub along with a teaspoon or so of detergent, added the cleanest clothes first, rolled up my skirt hem, took off my socks and started stomping and plunging. after several minutes of this, most were clean. i’d wring them out and throw them into a laundry basket and grab the next set of the next dirtiest clothes and repeat. once i got through my stack, i’d scrub anything that was still showing dirt with the washboard. if anything needed to soak longer, i’d transfer it to the sink for soaking. then, i’d drain the water and start over, this time without the addition of detergent. i usually had to do the ‘rinse’ cycle a few times just to get all the dirty water and detergent out of them. then, i’d hang them on the line to dry.
this eventually evolved to outside using a double wash basin. of course, i couldn’t jump in there anymore, but having the plunger waist high made it a lot easier to do the job. about this time, i purchased a wringer that mounted between the two basins. while i LOVED the wringer, it saved me from so much pain with my hands, it started falling apart at the clamps and started rusting in areas. not cool for an item i paid over $100 for. so, i sent it back and never purchased another one.
one washer i’ve always coveted but never could fork out the money for is the james washer. with the wringer attachment, it will agitate and wring out your clothing for very little effort on your part. if we ever lose this washer and decide not to get a front end loader, i’ll be investing in this instead.
after awhile of washing all the clothes and diapers by hand, i decided i’d like to try the wonder clean washer. this little thing will hunt! while it can’t tackle the larger items, it is super for smaller items. i used it to wash diapers, wipes, shirts, socks and undies, even a few skirts and shorts. fill the washer with the amount of items to be washed, add up to 6 quarts of hot water, a teaspoon or two of detergent, place on the lid (this can be tricky, make sure you get it sealed. i found that standing on a stool above it and applying my body weight helped to to get it to close properly), and start cranking. once the drum gets going, it is super easy to continue the spin. i’d just watch the clock and spin it the recommended minutes, stop it, drain it into the kitchen sink and rinse the clothes in the other side with a bit of water.
all these methods were eventually used in conjunction with each other. over time, i learned what worked best for what items. for instance, it’s easier to wash towels, sheets and blankets in the bathtub although wringing them out by hand is very hard. having two people to do this job makes it easier. each person grabs the opposite ends and then one holds their end while the other twists or they both twist in opposite directions. jeans, shirts and long skirts are best washed in the double basin washtub with the plunger. smaller hand towels and wash cloths wash well in here as well. and, as i mentioned above, the smaller items wash up quick in the the power washer.
towards the end of my tour of laundry, i purchased an old electric maytag washer and wringer. (i know, it’s electric but i figured i’d give a shout out to this amazing washer that can be purchased for about $20). to this day, i prefer that to my other electric washer and i hope to have it running again this spring (the hose came unattached and had rotted through. i’ve never had clothes clean so thoroughly as using this thing. and the wringer is amazing at getting the water out. i wish it had a hand crank option so i could use it with the double basin! it handled large loads well and washed things quickly, without all the whistles and bells of the modern washer. the woman i bought it from only did so because she was elderly and her husband was in a wheel chair and could no longer help her with the maintenance of it. and, she had gotten her thumb caught in the wringer and almost tore it off so he didn’t want to risk that anymore (the wringer can be extremely dangerous, if you get one, always, ALWAYS keep children away from it and pay attention to yourself).
i look forward to hand washing our laundry again some day…when there are less kids, less diapers and less clothes!