Sunday, November 1, 2009

Time to Come Clean


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 see they've raised the price a couple of dollars, but it's still a good deal in my opinion at $17.95:




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.

Susan

7 comments:

Manette said...

Susan,
This is very informative and I hope will help more ladies realize that they don't need those fancy washer/dryer combos that so many see as a necessity of life. I've been hanging my clothes out on the line for almost two years now. I enjoy the time early in the morning, both summer and winter. I've found that the clothes will dry if the temperature is above 40 degrees outside. If not, I use the drying racks inside near the wood stove. Have you seen the really big drying rack that Lehman's sells, I hope to get one of those this winter.
Happy wash day!
Manette

Raine said...

Thanks for the post, Susan.
We have a washer & dryer in our home, but both have seen better days, and it seems like they're getting to be more trouble than they're worth. The washer overflows if we forget to turn off the water valve, so it takes 3-4 trips to turn water on & off each load [and has warped the floor from times we haven't turned it all the way off and it's overflowed], and it's only hooked up to cold water, which I worry is not good enough to sterilize diapers. Our dryer just uses so much power, I bought a clothesline to replace it, and am just waiting for DH to have a day off with suitable weather to put it up for me.

We had considered buying one of the old style wringer washers for diapers & things, or one of the double laundry tubs, but I see that I've been procrastinating too - we already have buckets [big plastic totes] and a washboard, so I may try your method for the baby clothes & whites that need warmer water, and not worry about replacing the electric washer when it finally wears out.

I use the same laundry soap as you do, and find it works better than most commercial detergents - sometimes, I'll put a cup or so of storebrand oxyclean in mine as well. For fabric softener, I add a tiny bit [about 1/4 to /8 cup] of scented concentrated fabric softener to a gallon of vinegar. The vinegar is a great softener & deodorizer, and the small amount of softener still gives it a light floral scent.

jules said...

With your laundry soap recipe, does it make powder soap? Or do you make it into liquid? I've been wanting to try this as I've heard it really gets clothes much cleaner than store soap.

Thanks.
jules

Anonymous said...

Good post as always Siffords:

What do you do to dry the laundry when it is cold and raining outside?

From the land of humidity and green moss.
- The Irwins

David and Susan Sifford said...

Thank you all for taking the time to leave a comment. We appreciate it.

Manette, I have seen the Lehman's drying rack and it looks great. I have one very similar that I was blessed to pick up at a thrift store for $5.00. It is not as sturdy but I look forward to using it more this winter.

Raine, thank you for reading our blog! Sounds like your current setup is pretty time intensive already. I hope your laundry endeavors are successful and you find a system that works well for you.

Hi Jules, yes, the detergent recipe I use makes powdered soap. The website I mentioned in the blog post, soapsgonebuy.com, has other recipes that make liquid soap as well. It probably comes down to personal preference. I hope you like it after you try it!

Hey Irwin family! Good question! This will be the first winter I have dried laundry on the line. Since we get a lot of sunshine in the winter here in TX, I estimate I'll wait the 2-3 days until the rain or snow leaves and sunshine returns. But it should be interesting. I do have a drying rack on which I can dry some things but I will probably keep an eye on the weather predictions and schedule my laundry accordingly.

Thanks again all!!

Susan

Aurora said...

Back home in India, we alwasy used our hands to wash clothes. Even though now I have waher/dryer I still use my hands to wash most of the clothes.It saves a lot of electricity,water and ofcourse its a good form of exercise.
Keep up your good work.You are living the life, I'm planning for my future.
You two are an inspiration.
-E
http://aurora239.blogspot.com

April Bauer said...

Susan,
This is a great post! I have been hanging clothes out my entire life. There were times in college and early in my marriage that I would use the dryer some for towels when it rained, but I haven't used it in over 2 years now. I remember hanging clothes with my Granny in the winter time and she told me that clothes are always softer after they freeze (she lived in SC). I do agree with her. I have 3 folding racks I use inside on the wet days and take them outside when it's sunny. I am thankful that I had my mother and both grandmothers set an example to me how to hang clothes.
I too have been using your soap recipe and it does work great on diapers too. One day I hope to wash the way you do, like when we move back to the states where I actually have a yard. I don't want to do it in the house.
Have a blessed day!
April