Before Dave and I moved to Texas, we lived in a small cottage, which did not have washer/dryer facilities; so we had a laundry “date” every couple of weeks. We packed up all of our laundry and took it to my mom’s for her to do (haha Mom, just kidding). No, we took it to Dave’s mom’s house for her to do (haha, Mom Sifford, gotcha!) But seriously folks, we took it to the local laundry mat. It was so nice to get all of our laundry washed, dried, and folded in a few hours and not have to worry about it for another couple of weeks. Then on the way home, we usually picked up some tacos from the local eatery (a romantic way of saying Taco Bell) and made a fun afternoon of it.
After we moved here to Texas, thankfully there was a local laundry mat that worked well for our needs. This time, I had the pleasure of going into town with our neighbor, Danielle, for the first several months, to do laundry together. But I knew, with our new off-grid lifestlyle and our worldview, I would need to eventually set up a system of hand washing and drying our clothes here on our homestead.
I had been drying clothes on the wonderful clothes line my mother-in-law had given me but had not yet started hand washing clothes here at home, even though the Lord had by now granted enough water to be available in our cistern. To be honest, at first, I was more than a little apprehensive about washing all of our clothes by hand. Why was it that I was so afraid of broaching this laundering method with myself when it is the way it had been done for centuries before the industrial revolution? The unknown scared me a bit and seemed overwhelming. Eventually though, I began to “scour” the internet and research all of the wash tubs to be found, and spent probably too much time searching for the “perfect” set up. In retrospect, I believe I was procrastinating and in denial. Finally, Dave and I discussed it, and realized, uh, any old tub should do the trick. So we went out and bought a few inexpensive, galvanized tubs locally, I took a deep breath, and I’ve been hand washing our clothes for several months now! I know, pretty anti-climactic, isn’t it?
Anyway, for those of you who, like I was, might be wondering how to get started, it’s pretty simple. By the time I got to washing clothes this way, Danielle had already been washing clothes by hand for some time; and she helped me a lot, and has some hand washing laundry tips and then some info about her manual laundry set up. For myself, I use four buckets: one for pre-soaking clothes, one for the main washing, and two rinse buckets. I put about six ounces of hydrogen peroxide in the main wash bucket per load of whites as my bleach (try it, it works!) and I use a splash of white vinegar in the final rinse bucket to soften the clothes. One of my other neighbors puts a bit of fabric softener in her rinse, and I might try that as well.
First I put a little laundry detergent and some water into the pre-soak bucket, along with the dirty clothes, let that set for a little while, and then transfer the pre-soaked clothes to the main wash tub:
I highly, highly recommend the Rapid Washer sold by Lehmans. If anything happened to it, I might drop on the ground sucking my thumb in the fetal position — that is how valuable it is to my clothes washing experience (I wouldn’t really do that, but you get the point 🙂 ). The proof is in the dirty wash water, and you can get a good amount of clothes clean in a short amount of time.
I use it for about 10 minutes per load:
Time to transfer the washed clothes to the first rinse bucket:
And then onto the final rinse. Another neighbor recommended using the Rapid Washer for not only the wash cycle but the rinse cycle too, to push all the soap out of the clean clothes. I tried that, and it works really well:
We decided to invest in a commercial grade wringer, considering the anticipated heavy usage. Dave put together a sawhorse for it as a stand, and with some bracing, it works beautifully:
Last stop, clothes line:
I also began making my own laundry detergent, which saves a lot of money. You can find recipes at the website Soaps Gone Buy. The one I use most often is to grate three bars of Fels Naptha soap, and combine that with 1 1/2 cups of Arm and Hammer Washing Soda, and 1 1/2 cups of Borax. Some people use Zote soap in place of Fels Naphta. The recipe mixture works great, and costs pennies per load, using only two to three tablespoons each. As an alternative, one lady I know uses only baking soda for her wash; and her clothes look fine!
This experience has brought me another step closer to not being afraid to try new (or old, in this case) things, and to think outside the box to do whatever works best. It used to take a good chunk out of a day away from our homestead to do laundry. Now I can simply step outside when I have a free hour to do a couple of loads, while staying at home helping Dave on the homestead. It’s also a step closer to less dependence on outside resources. What a blessing!
And I love working outside in the fresh air and not melting away in the stuffy laundry mat. It also provides a great time to pray or listen to a sermon or Christian audio teaching as well. (Eph. 5:15-16: “See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.“)
Once again, I’m very thankful to God for allowing me to live this lifestyle, farther from the distractions of the world, so I may focus on Him, His Word and living obediently before Him.