Sunday, March 23, 2014

Looking at Doing Laundry Without Laundry Facilities


( Drawing: )

  Just after 9-11, my husband and I had a prescheduled trip to Russia.   We spent a month in Far Eastern Russia, five thousand miles East of Moscow, near Vladivostok, and then ultimately in Moscow.  Although there was a laundress at our hotel when we were in Vladivostok, there were no laundromats.   In Far Eastern Winter, you are wise if you pay for your hotel only one night at a time. Power outages are frequent and if you have paid for a week and the power goes out, and you can locate another hotel, then you will not be refunded the balance from the original one. For this reason, we were reluctant to send laundry to the laundress and then lose it when changing hotels might be necessary.

                In that setting,  I washed laundry in our hotel bathroom sink daily.  All underwear and shirts were washed by hand with a small amount of bottled generic Woolite I had brought from the US.  Once a week I washed skirts and larger items. (I did not wear pants to go out, as this would have identified me as an American, and after 9-11, you were wise to dress as a Russian.)    When the clothing was washed, rinsed, and ready to dry, I either placed it on a coathanger in the shower for the day, or placed the underwear or shirts on the heated towel rack in the bathroom, which I was told was connected in some way to the boiler. We established a routine in the first week, and this kept the extra errands to a minimum. We also came home with everything we intended to bring home with us, and this is always a plus !

              Doing larger amounts of laundry with limited water, limited power or tough weather conditions can be more difficult.  After Hurricane Isabelle, we were without power at our original farm for about two weeks.  Large families generate huge amounts of laundry and sometimes, it simply needs to be washed.
The way I did laundry post Hurricane Isabelle was to prepare a bucket of tepid water and place a smaller than normal amount of conventional liquid soap in it.  Then the clothing soaks in it for about an hour.  Then I would remove the clothing, wringing it out, and place it into a second bucket with plain water. After about thirty minutes, I would move it on to a third and final rinse bucket.  Then, I would do a final wringing using a clean and new wringer I had purchased some time earlier from Sam's Club, which actually had been intended as a mop wringer and bucket.

This is the Rubbermaid Wave Break.  It wrings out clothing, including towels, sheets and the ends of blankets one side at a time. This sells for about forty dollars at Sam's Club and is worth every penny when it is necessary to employ in  the alternate manner I am suggesting. I was very lucky to have thought of this in advance of actually needing one.

           Wringing out the clothing had been essential during the weather conditions which occurred during Hurricane Isabelle. The conditions were extremely damp, and without having all the moisture possible removed during wringing, the clothing would just hand indoors remaining wet even after a day, and potentially molding if simply left that way. I was glad I remembered that I had bought one of these for this exact purpose some time earlier.   Sometimes, the best strategy is to fashion a clothesline and hang your clothing outside. However, during the days that followed Hurricane Isabelle, this was not an option. In a great many other scenarios, it might not be either.  My mother used to hang Winter laundry in our garage during the coldest parts of of the year. My parents, who were very early to the sustainability movement from their time in Europe, did not use a clothes dryer unless they absolutely had to.

            I use blankets in dog houses during the coldest months within our dogs large commercial grade kennel. In Spring, these blankets need washing, and I am not about to throw them into my washing machine, even if I can run a bleach load afterward.    I wash them by placing each blanket for a day in a large washbasin with cold water, liquid commercial detergent.  They do need some form of agitation, and I do this by having bought a large sized toilet plunger.  The plunger is marked with magic marker and says "Dog laundry agitation only".   (This way you can be sure that no one used your plunger in a toilet in the off season !)   I soak and wash one blanket per day in Spring.   Then, I wring them out by hand and hand them on the back of the fence of the unoccupied kennel to dry.  Most are completely dry in about a day, and ready to be bagged in plastic in the barn for next year.

(Graohic: )    Certainly, you can make your five dollar clothesline as long as you want or need.

          These are the laundry strategies we have used here for the purposes of "laundry survival".  Your family size, available storage, the availability of hanging space in a laundry room or outside, all dictate what would be possible for you.  What IS important is that you give some thought NOW, before an emergency which adversely impacts how you would do your laundry occurs.  Now is the time to gather items needed to do laundry in adverse conditions. Remember that keeping the clothing clean that is in contact with your skin can go a long way in helping to prevent skin issues and potential infections, which often occur during emergency breakdowns in normal water and electricity supplies.

You can buy the Rubbermaid Wave Break here

This post is part of a series on remaining clean and healthy in emergency conditions:

This is my prior post:


Sunnybrook Farm said...

I like your wringer bucket idea, you have really figured this stuff out! I don't throw anything away and still have my great grandmother's wooden washing machine that I need to get back into a ready state. The wringer need reworking but other than that it should work once the cedar wood swells tight again. I have also found that many stores sell bars of laundry soap that will store easily, big lots sells Zote from Mexico which is also scented with citronella that keeps mosquitoes away.

JaneofVirginia said...

I buy Zote now at Wal-Mart. It works well at removing stains by rubbing the soap on the stain on wet clothing. I also keep Fells-Naptha soap bars for laundry use and to make some old fashioned skin remedies when grated.
I'm glad someone else is thinking about doing laundry without a washer and dryer. Thanks for posting.

Tewshooz said...

I must be older than dirt, because I remember my mother doing all laundry by hand on a washboard and then rinsing in two tubs of water and hanging clothes to dry. Outside in summer and down in the warm basement in winter. She would wring the clothes by wonder she was so strong!! I have her washboard, still. I like your mop bucket can be used to mop floors and do laundry. Wonderful.

JaneofVirginia said...

I don't think you're old. When my parents moved to the country some of the farm mothers still did laundry by hand, and it was a source of pride. My mother was from London, and didn't want "washerwoman's hands". Although she never had a dishwasher a day in her life and did her own upholstery ! We had a washing machine and did not have a dryer for years, but only used it in emergencies when we did.
I have two of the Rubbermaid Wave Brake buckets. One is in the barn and I use it to mop the concrete stalls for the horses and alpacas (yes, every day.) The other one is quite new and is in the garage, only being used about once or twice a year for emergency wringing. The wave break rinser gets much more water out of clothing, blankets and sheets than I can do myself. Thanks for posting.

Tewshooz said...

We still don't have an electric dishwasher....never had one. Kids used to be the dishwashers and now that we are empty nesters my DH does them. Works for me!

JaneofVirginia said...

I like having a dishwasher, which I use on holidays, when there might be a lot of dishes. However, sometimes simply doing a few dishes is quicker than loading and unloading a dishwasher. My daughter uses hers only very rarely.

kymber said...

Jane - excellent post as usual and very good product recommendations. you will remember way back when we arrived at the Manor in December 2010, that we were without water for almost 3 weeks. not such a big deal since we had access to so much fresh snow that we boiled and used for washing up and laundry. laundry was done in 3 big bins in the tub - wash, rinse, repeat. We so enjoyed that set-up that we were here for a year and a half before getting a washing machine which we ONLY use in winter. and we hang our clothes to dry in our computer room to add moisture to the house and they dry just fine after hanging for a day. but during spring, summer and fall - we wash our laundry in big bins outside in the yard and hang them on our outdoor line - our clothes and sheets always smell so good. we have an old drafting table that jam and i use to wring out large items. we love doing laundry this way and hate when we have to use the washing machine in the winter - bahahahah!

but i will have to look into getting one of those bucket wringers!

your friend,

JaneofVirginia said...

Thank you for your comments. It's always great to get your perspective !
In your location, a beautiful breeze comes through so that a dryer is pretty much a come-down from how wonderful sheets, pillowcases and blankets can smell if dried in the wind. In my location we have oppressive humidity and heat without wind for much of the year, and so line drying can be tougher. Add to that, the pollen which can impregnate the sheets and cause allergies, then we have to be much more careful. Still, many times, the low tech option is cheaper, healthier and in some ways easier once we are organized ! Thanks again for your post.