Thursday, 2 October 2014

This is the way we wash our clothes

Everybody sing:

This is the way we wash our clothes,

Wash our clothes,

Wash our clothes.

This is the way we wash our clothes

Early in the morning!

 Do you remember that song from your nursery days? It sure comes in handy these days.

 When we were flat hunting for our move to Wales, we were on a budget and nearly everything we looked at was small and expensive. Enter the amazing flat--affordable, large and spacious (though slightly wonky) but it had one drawback.

 A big drawback.

 There isn’t a washing machine.

 But Spidergrrl, why don’t you just save up and buy a washing machine?

 Ah. But there’s the bigger drawback.

 There aren’t any pipes for a washing machine. You need water pipes that hook the washing machine into the plumbing in order to wash….and there ain’t any.

 I’ll admit when I first found that out I wanted to cry. There is a launderette right across the street that we could use, but it is frightfully expensive.  But actually the solution is fairly simple.

 We wash by hand. Not everything. Just our smalls (underwear, socks) and maybe a tea towel or kitchen wipe up cloth or a shirt. But we do wash every day.

 Once every three weeks we go to the launderette and wash and dry towels, sheets and Spiderman’s heavy trousers  at the cost of £10. But every day we wash the previous day’s stuff.

 It is not as horrible as it sounds. The soaking takes the most time and the actual washing bit takes about 20-30 minutes depending on how much there is to be washed. Through trial and error (and with a bit of specialist equipment) we have it down to a science.

See the yellow bathtub?

1) First, after our morning baths we put the clothes on to soak in the red bucket. I fill the bucket about half full of hot water and add one capful of Bio-D eco liquid detergent and give it a bit of a swish to activate the bubbles. Leave to soak  until the late afternoon or evening. We tried using our beloved soapnuts for this--but they don’t like soaking for so long. They leave a weird musty smell in the water so we save the soapnuts for the trips to the launderette.

Always wear rubber gloves to protect your hands

2) When we are ready to wash I go at it with the my trusty potato masher. This is the first agitation cycle. Just pound up and down 50 times (or for one verse of the Blaydon Races) and watch the bubbles reactivate.

3) Empty the bucket into the tub and you will notice that the water is very grey.

This is because dirt had come off the clothes as well as the fact that our clothes are all dark. We gave up whites years ago--you had to do them in a separate load and they never looked clean enough without toxic bleach. So now all our smalls are dark.

4) Now comes the scrubbing bit. I use some gentle olive oil soap and 79p scrub brush and scrub the dirtiest areas of clothes--crotches, armpits, collars and soles of socks as well as any stains on tea towels (there are often red paprika or yellow turmeric spice stains on towels)

5) Put all the soapy clothes back in the red bucket and repeat step 2. Agitate again with the potato masher 50 times (or the second verse of the Blaydon Races) then drain into the tub.

6) Using special gadget number two: the industrial squeeze-y mop bucket. This is great for helping to wring the water out. Squeeze soapy water out and put clothes back in red bucket. This really does help with the final rinse cycles --if you squeeze soapy water out then you only need to rinse twice (not three times).

Can you see the keyhole tattooed on the back of my neck?

7) Put all the clothes back in the red bucket and cover with water again. Give it a good ole swish about with your hands to release any soap. You will see some bubbles at this point. Drain the bucket again and refill for the last time with clean warm water.

I store my vinegar in a squeeze-y ketchup bottle
8) I add a few squirts of orange vinegar (white vinegar that has had orange peel soaked in it for 2 weeks)  to the last rinse as a fabric softener and a rinse aid. It really does help get the last bit of soap out and the orange adds a more pleasant smell than plain white vinegar. The smell completely dissipates as it dries but the orange adds just a bit of sunshine to it.  Give it a good ole swish round.

9) Drain the bucket for the last time and use your industrial mop bucket to squeeze as much water as you can. I’ll be honest--I had hoped it would wring ‘em dry, but it doesn’t. But as the wringing is the worst part it does take a LOT of the worst bit out of it. In the beginning BB (Before Bucket) I had to wring everything 10-15 times and it would still be dripping and I’d have to blot it all with towels and then we had all these wet towels all over the place and it took bloody ages and I was cross and exhausted. Now, I wring as much as I can using the bucket, shifting stuff around and giving it another press can really get more water out, and then finish by hand wringing in the sink.

You don’t need to wring much--maybe five more squeezes--and no blotting with a towel unless it is a big heavy item like a t-shirt.

10) Then set up your clothes horse (drying rack) in the tub and hang stuff to dry. I leave it until bedtime and then we take it out of the tub and put it by the dehumidifier. In the morning I flip everything so it can dry evenly and by the next evening it is dry and ready to be put away.


That’s it! It really goes pretty quickly and we make sure never to overload the bucket--the more that stuff that has to overlap when drying, the more time it takes to dry.

How clean is our stuff? Very.

How dirty was our stuff to begin with? Probably not very.

 So it stands to reason it would come out rather clean. I can’t say this would work for a large family or someone with kids who got muddy, but for two fairly clean adults, it works a treat.

 I would also say that washing by hand cleans Spiderman’s shirts better than machine washing --the collars are no longer grubby. Like those old 70’s adverts for Wisk --(google this if you don't know what I mean)  a bit of scrubbing on the “ring around the collar” does wonders. 

 How hard is it to do? Not very. I’ve got into a routine and it is saving us mega money --imagine if we had to spend £10 EVERY weekend at the launderette.

 No thanks. That idea won’t wash with me.

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