The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Homesteading laundry

Washing clothes in a wringer washerVisiting civilization, I load Mark's mom's washing machine with load after load of dirty laundry.  Every few weeks, I wash my clothes in the wringer washer, but Mark tends to throw his in a pile  in the corner of his room and wait for six months until he visits his mother.  The time has come for me to take the bull by the horns and take over our household's laundry rather than just my own!

In the summer, I wonder why anyone would do their laundry with anything except a wringer washer.  Standing in the hot sun, cold water dripping off my elbows, I wash my clothes with creek water and dry them with sunlight.  As the fall advances, though, I try to remember why I use a wringer washer, my hands freezing solid in ice water until I can barely feel them and they turn bright red.

The obvious reason to use a wringer washer is that they can be used without running water --- essential on our homestead --- and can be left outside to freeze with no negative repurcussions.  When done properly, using a wringer washer also saves water.  For the 0.05% of my reading audience who would ever consider using a wringer washer, I've compiled a list of wringer washer tips.  Enjoy!

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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You can actually presoak overnight in soapy water overnight in summer, tho be sure you will then follow thru with the rest of the load--don't leave soaking too long in hottest days or will get very sour smelling! To save water, you can actually reuse rinse water in the tub for the washing of the second load. Having rinse water hotter rinses better. In hanging out--if you stretch your clothes and hang straight, they dry quicker! (How many times do I remind Maggie of this?!) People from New England know how to hang out clothes, even in bitter cold days--they arrange the clothes in a warmer place first, fold sheets so they are easier to handle, wear gloves while hanging out, etc--looking for the good drying wind. (I have hung out diapers by just bending them over the line and letting them freeze to the line--yes, freeze-dried them! The best lines are not those that are circular, but the long wire ones can be raised with a real long stick (about 10 ' tall). I remember our mailman friend in the country used to say that he knew people were out and about when he drove by and saw the clothes flapping away on the line! It is true that when they freeze the clothespins freeze, too, and then might break if yanked off--probably the old-timey one-piece pins are the best. Last: I used to get the kids out in the yard and tell them to call out:"Blow, Wind!" And sure enough, their calling did make the wind to blow!--adrianne

Comment by Anonymous Thu Dec 18 14:51:25 2008
Good idea about pre-soaking! I'll have to try it out, along with warm rinse water!
Comment by anna Thu Dec 18 18:35:27 2008
Hello, thank you for sharing your Walden Effect with the world! I have a question about wastewater on your land. Even with two people, natural or even without soap... there will still be wastewater. You mention washing in the creek. Have you investigated french drain/wetlands water processing techniques? Any insight is appreciated, thank you!
Comment by Clary Fri May 20 10:36:58 2011

Clary --- good question! We don't wash in the creek; we wash with creek water pumped up to our plateau. That makes a greywater system less important since the laundry water sinks into the soil up here and has no chance of reaching the creek to pollute it.

We do have a graywater system for our kitchen sink, though, since that's a lot more water. (Well, not more water at one time, but we do dishes a lot more often than we wash clothes.) Check out our King Stropharia greywater system to read all about that --- it's been working great!

Comment by anna Fri May 20 16:36:48 2011

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