I’ve always wondered what it would be like to do laundry by hand, but with the availability of laundromats or home machines I’ve found myself making excuses why it wouldn’t be worth my time. My excuses have vanished though, now that we are paying around twenty dollars a week to do laundry here at the apartment. Not only that, but with spring coming very soon we’ll be heading out to the land to start construction on the house. If we’re going to be spending days at a time out there, I wanted a way to wash clothes without a machine. Add to that the fact that we won’t have running water for at least the first year… yeah… it’s time I learned to do laundry the hard way.

The first steps were to procure the necessary items: buckets, plunger, soap, washboard. A wringer would be awesome, but we haven’t found one yet that is in our price range and in working condition. The buckets were free from the WalMart bakery. Some WalMart’s charge, some don’t. I personally think the ones that do charge have employees pocketing the money. If that’s the case near you, I’d find another source. The plunger we purchased is called a Rapid Washer. We found that Emergency Essentials had the cheapest price on these at $14.95 + $6.00 shipping and handling. None of the local stores carry anything like this, and when I asked I was given all sorts of strange looks like I was some sort of crazy person. The washboard was an antique store find. For a few dollars, you can pick these up at antique shops, flea markets, yard sales, or farm auctions. The soap is homemade soap from store bought ingredients. Here is the recipe I used:

– 1/2 cup 20 Mule Team Borax
– 1/2 cup Arm & Hammer Washing Soda
– 2/3 bar Fels Naptha soap grated small

I decided to do this all in our tub because I had seen videos of the process and it looked like it would make a mess. Boy, am I glad I did that! The plunging action shoots jets of water up out of the buckets every few seconds. I had to stop and modify my set up a bit after plunging for a few minutes because the hard buckets were banging against the hard tub and it was making an absolute racket that I’m sure our neighbors wouldn’t enjoy. I just tossed a towel underneath to muffle it. The clothes soak in the first bucket on the right, with about a tablespoon of the homemade detergent tossed in. I left them for about a half hour before plunging. The plunging took about 5 minutes, and a few of the items needed some work on the washboard. Then the clothes got wrung out and tossed into the second bucket for their first rinse.  Plunged them in the second bucket, took them out, wrung them, then plunged them in the third bucket for their second and final rinse. After just one little load the water in the wash bucket was a murky grey and the rinse water had to be changed over. I poured the first bucket out and filled it with clean water, then rotated the buckets so that the new water was on the far left as the second rinse, and the wash water was now the old first rinse bucket. I added a bit more soap, and got the second load soaking.

A wringer would have been lovely to use at the end of the second rinse. Instead, I wrung each item by hand as best I could, then hung them up to dry on some makeshift lines in our bathroom. We don’t have a lot of room for hanging, so we’re going to pick up some cheap plastic hangers to hang more items from the shower curtain rod.

So that’s my venture into hand washing laundry. Will I do it again? Of course. I’ve got another load soaking as I’m typing this. I still haven’t tried jeans, but I figure if I can save us at least $16 a week doing the little stuff by hand, then it’s worth it.