March 1936. Crabtree Recreational Project Photo by Carl Mydans

Recently, we had an “episode” with our eight year old energy/water efficient washing machine.  Although we do wash by hand, we do use our machine especially when things get a little rushed around here.  This show down with technology has gotten us to thinking more seriously about trashing our machine and going “cold turkey,” so to speak. It also made us search out the some interesting factoids about hand washing vs machine washing.

Here is some of the info we have collected.

Hand washing/ Machine washing Pros and Cons

Cleanliness: Hand washing gets stains out better because even pretreated stains on clothes  are washed  the exact same way as the other clothes in the washer.  Stain removal by hand washing by using a scrub board or brush is more direct and, thus, effective.

Clothes Preservation: Hand washing preserves the life of your clothes compared to most machines.

Energy efficient : Hand washing is energy efficient as it uses only your human energy. Solar powered machines and the manufacturing of the washer both use energy from outside sources.

Health benefits: Hand washing gives a good workout, especially if you do some creative tinkering and do it by pedal power or treadmill power. Can save you money by canceling your membership to the gym. Better for the planet.  Machines cannot claim this.

Water savings: The new water saving machines do not use enough water to thoroughly cleanse the clothes of all residue.  Would need to actually measure the water used in hand washing to determine its water saving virtues.

Using the right (non toxic) detergents, both hand washed  and machine water can be used as grey water.

Labor intensive: Hand washing is more directly labor intensive (but see labor saving.)

Soaking your clothes overnight can help remove dirt before washing when hand washing.  Wet laundry can be heavy to lift.

Perhaps the kids can foot stomp your dirty clothes clean in their pool and make a game out of it.

Labor saving–depends on your definition

Hand washing involves your personal labor. With machines the labor is “transferred” as you work at your job to get money to keep the machine running. Therefore, both require labor directly or indirectly.

Noise factor: Hand washing is quieter (unless your kids are stomping your clothes in their rubber pool!)

Time saver: Machines rate high in this category if you consider that you are free to do something else while the machine is washing for you.  And only if your income is at the level where you can afford to do the repairs.

Dangers to children:  both are dangerous for children if left unattended as the child can fall into the hand washing water and drown.  With machines, the child can get inside of the tub.

How many of our readers wash clothes by hand, care to share your tips and techniques?


  1. Jane says:

    My Husband is building me a hand washing machine for Christmas, similar to a james washer. I can’t wait to ditch the machine.

    • Alice says:

      When you husband is done with your washer he can make me one too.

      • Angie says:

        I would like one too I have 7 kids and renting a washer and dryer is to much if you can…Thank you and God bless you

  2. Abraham says:

    I have a question. What kind of soap or detergent could someone use to wash cloths by hand safely and naturally? What did people use back in the day?

    • Alice says:

      I have been looking into this.

      I’ve been told that if there is a Hutterite community anywhere near you ask to go and learn how to make soap when they next make a batch. Unfortunately none anywhere near me that I can find.

      I’ve been making lye using hardwood ash and rainwater through a straw and gravel filter. Check the strength of the lye – egg, feather and float tests are supposed to work. Then the reaction between lye and some fat or oil produces the basic nearly-liquid soap paste. It’s hazardous – best done in a fume cupboard! And takes 3 h of cooking/stirring. So I have bought a batch of this soap base from someone else in the first instance. Dr Bronners is a similar kind of thing. I hope to do the reaction myself next year if I can organize it.
      Then I dilute the soap base with rain water, add washing soda and a bit of essential oil for flavour. Works for me but it is fairly alkaline so best to wear heavy duty rubber gloves. I have heard borax boosts the washing power, like the other commenter Julia uses.

      • Julia says:

        @Alice, The recipe I use can be found here: http://greengoddess.co.nz/ (along with lots of other useful recipes)- except I find it works far better with a handmade soap with the glycerine still in it and I use a whole bar rather than the amount recommended. Sometimes it’s really liquid, sometimes gloopy depending on the soap you use. The advantage with this soap when handwashing is that it isn’t slimy like commercial preparations and therefore requires less rinsing.

      • CE says:

        @Alice, Home made soaps are very alkaline and can burn. Generally they were made a year or more ahead. Then they were held and as they aged they mellowed and became less caustic to human and clothing. It was not unusual for soap to be aged 2 years before use. Then it was used as hand soap or grated for laundry or dish soap. Soaps and detergents are not the same thing and work differently. Detergents are better at getting out oil or grease. Presoaking or prespotting with a detergent can help.

    • T.J. says:

      @Abraham, we picked up some “Soap Berries” from the vendor next to my wife at the farmers market this summer. They are a natural, organic cleaner and work great either in a machine or by hand. I was very skeptical at first, but now I’m a believer!

    • Stacy says:

      @Abraham, We don’t always realize that soap is not always needed to wash clothes to get them clean. When hand washing we can boil water to disinfect clothes. The water works to dissolve dirt, especially when left to soak overnight. And hand scrubbing pushes the water through the weave to dislodge the dirt which is the whole idea of washing in the first place. When grease or oil type dirt is the problem, a soap and hot water is used to dissolve the grease (water only is not effective). Dressing with this in mind is helpful also. We should wear a light layer against our skin (which emits an oil when we sweat.) Another layer over this light layer when needed and always an apron when doing any work. The apron can keep the dirt on it for extended periods (a few days unless it’s unsanitary around food or such). The second layer can be worn several days, but the layer against the skin should be washed after one wearing normally.
      So the idea is– if I wear a light shirt over my body and underarms, and of course underwear — and then a dress over this — the dress should be able to be washed without detergent if I’ve worn an apron over it. I would change my light shirt and underwear daily and wash with detergent and hot or boiling water. The apron could be washed weekly. The dress washed after a few wearings (about as often as I wash my body).
      Fresh scents can be added to the laundry rinse water, such as lavender.

  3. Kelli says:

    Hi there,

    I actually do both hand and machine washing. The majority of the bed, bath, and kitchen linens get washed in the machine, while I prefer to wash my clothes by hand. I usually let the linens soak in buckets or the wash tub before putting them in the machine. The water used for soaking is then used to either water plants or sometimes I may use it to rinse the toilets after scrubbing. Overall I would say hand wash if you have the time and space. I found a wonderful antique double stand wash ringer that helps drain out excess water, which can be used around the house for something else. Another thing I’ve noticed with the “energy saving” machines is how quickly gunk builds up around the upper and lower base. At one point I found myself having to wash the machine before putting in the clothes. Yikes! Be sure and keep a good hand salve around if you decide to do all hand washing.

    Happy Washing!

  4. Terry says:

    I had to wash by hand last summer when we had an issue with the tub which developed a complete stoppage. I did it outside so I could more easily hang the laundry on the line. It was VERY labor intensive!! At 60 my arms and hands are not as strong as they once were and I was sore for days afterwards. I did let the clothes soak for a couple of hours. It was very inconvenient to have a tub for washing, a tub for rinsing, and all that wringing. If it was something I had to do all the time I would definitely look for a wringer. I did look online but they are very expensive. Of course, I was not prepared and did not have a scrub board either.

  5. Julia says:

    I just sold my washing machine last week!
    I find that with my homemade washing liquid (homemade soap, washing soda, borax and eucalyptus oil) and a good overnight soak that everything including the mud caked, grass stained gardening clothes comes out much cleaner than in the machine. I lived for a long time without a washing machine and only a small kitchen sink to wash everything in and never found it a problem. I think the secret is a good glass or tin washboard and not letting things pile up too much so it doesn’t become a daunting task.

  6. Nebraska Dave says:

    Hand washing clothes? I admire those folks that want to do wash clothes by hand, but as for me the good old washing machine is the ticket. I do think folks use way too much soap in the washing machine. I use only about half the recommended amount with a wash cycle. The lid is up so that when the wash cycle is over the machine stops. This will give the clothes a soak until I decide to reset the timer to go through a complete wash and spin. Sometimes the whites soak over night. Always they come out nice and clean with half the soap.

    Have a great laundry day.

  7. Amy says:

    We have had a Lehman’s setup for awhile now. We are a family of four so it is a lot of work to do handwashing all the time. I remember doing cloth diapers when we didn’t have a washer. Yikes. I don’t know about clothes preservation. Many collars have been stretched out and buttons ruined from the hand wringer. I tend to think clothes aren’t made very well now compared to the way they were back then. I also wonder sometimes if the handwashers use more water. It seems like I have to drain and refill the tub a few times to get the wash clean.

    Anyway, I’m wondering what folks do in the winter if they don’t have an indoor area to do the wash like that. I can’t imagine dealing with cold water in freezing temps!

  8. julia says:

    Don’t forget that most clothes aren’t made as well as were many years ago. Colors fade, material pills, seams split. Hand washing is actually more economical…although I work about 45 hours a week so I do have to use the machine for towels, jeans, etc. I almost always hang dry. Also, for apartment dwellers hand washing beats looking for quarters and paying to do your laundry.

  9. Hayden Tompkins says:

    When I was growing up, our washing machine conked out on us and, having no money for repairs, we rode our bikes to the laundromat piled high with laundry OR washed them by hand in our big roman tub.

    Even though we had to ride our matching bikes with our matching helmets pass all of the kids I went to school with, I would have rather done that 10 times a day than wash our laundry by hand. (The towels! The jeans!)

    I applaud your willingness to go completely off the grid but may I make a suggestion? Keep the washing machine for the days you just don’t feel like dealing with the laundry by hand.

    Also, I really hated having to wash by hand anyone’s underwear but my own. Then again I was 13 years old. 🙂

  10. Hayden Tompkins says:

    I forgot to mention, when hand washing, it is very helpful to focus on scrubbing the major ‘dirty’ spots in addition to the stains. (Usually inside out, since that is where the main skin-to-fabric contact is.)

    For shirts, that means focusing on the collars and underarm areas; for pants, focus on the crotch area and hems; and just extrapolate for whatever item of clothing you are working with.

  11. Jill Richardson says:

    I just visited and lived with some Mexican peasants for a week over Thanksgiving. One of their few sources of income are the sales of their handicrafts, and they do gorgeous embroidery, so I bought a few shirts and then got clothes for my roommate’s young kids as gifts. And after I bought them, I thought “What were they thinking, buying hand washable clothes for kids?” Then I realized my mistake. The peasants who made these gorgeous clothes ONLY handwash their clothes. There isn’t an alternative.

    Typically in our house we use the machine to wash clothes, but then hang the laundry to dry. I hand wash some things, when needed.

  12. SarahS says:

    my daughter is in the Peace Corps, and would agree that clothes are not as well made as they could be. We’ve sent replacements for t-shirts, ect that wear out quickly on a scub board, and being in a damp, humid climate makes it difficult to dry without molding.

    If you hand wash, use a mesh bag to “twirl” clothes drier before hanging, the spinning action really whips the water out.

    Scub a dub!

    • Stacy says:

      @SarahS, I’ve not heard about twirling the clothes in a mesh bag. Great idea! Thanks!

  13. llvonn says:

    I use both a machine and handwash items. As I live alone, with a dog, i only do one or two washes every one or two weeks – one clothes, the other bedding/towels. Those usually get done in the machine. I have just started using homemade laundry detergent (soap, washing soda, borax, baking soda).
    Delicates like bras etc get handwashed. Large items like blankets and underlays, woolen jackets etc get handwashed in the bath – they won’t fit into my machine.
    I put detergent in the bath, add water, then add the item. I leave it to soak for a few hours or overnight. Then I rinse (let the water out, put new water in and agitate). I then jump on the item to get most of the water out so I can hang the item out on the line.

  14. Becky says:

    I have six children and we generate a LOT of dirty laundry. We have been handwashing for about 8 months and I can honestly say that our clothes have never been cleaner. We use a huge tub for wash, a large tub for 1st rinse and a 5 gallon bucket for the 2nd rinse. We use Lehman’s Rapid Washer (kind of like a powerful metal plunger) and do not have a wringer. It’s very labor intensive and I’m usually quite tired afterward, but it’s still the best option for us.

    My electric bill dropped $75 when we started handwashing. And our water bill dropped $30. That alone is all the encouragement I need. However, on really cold days, I’m not adverse to taking the jeans and blankets to a laundromat. Other items are just done either in the bathtub or kitchen sink. I sincerely hope others will at least try handwashing for a month to see the difference it makes for the clothes and for their bills.

  15. Suzanne McDaniel says:

    I was clothes by hand.. have for about 2 months now. It’s really not a huge hassle! Right now it’s hard as we moved and my wringer and such haven’t arrived yet and wringing out the stuff by hand is hard.

    We’ve got 3 kiddos and have a decent amount of laundry. I’ve found that doing whatever is dirty everyday (beside friday and saturday) makes it manageable and much easier. 🙂

    The hard part is that we are still in the rainy season here (live in Costa Rica) so there are days when the clothes take 2 days to dry even with the clothesline under the porch.

    Currently I use some handmade soap I bought at a homestead in the states before we moved.. not sure what the next soap will be. thinking about going back to soapnuts again. Those worked great for me before.

  16. Suseon says:

    We started washing clothes by hand this year and I don’t think I’ll go back. In the warm days I do it outside in a wash basin with a glass washboard and wringer to hang on the line. The wringer was well worth the money. It is great exercise and so enjoyable to watch the girls play in the yard while I wash. A great meditative act. In the winter we move the basin into the basement and I wash there with cold water. The basement is pretty damp so I have been using my dryer lately but if we get a woodstove I’ll hang a line up inside instead. I use a handmade laundry detergent (borax, washing soda, soap flakes) but when I used the gray water on my plants in the summer, it killed them. I’ve done a lot of research on this and apparently the washing soda is added to detergents because using just tap water and soap leaves a residue. Supposedly if you are using rainwater and soap (like Bronner’s) you wouldn’t need the washing soda or borax which would make it easier on your hands and wouldn’t kill the plants. I washed cloth diapers and all our clothing this way all summer and I can say that one of the main problems is that people have too many clothes nowadays! In the old days you had two or three outfits you wore daily and some nice clothes to wear on Sundays. Not twenty different outfits, five pairs of jeans, etc. that you wear once and toss in the laundry even if it isn’t dirty. The more I simplify our wardrobes, the less daunting the task becomes and I enjoy it a lot more. Washing your clothes by hand really makes you take a hard look at all other aspects of your life that are wasteful.

  17. Jeni says:

    I have been wanting to get into hand washing for some time now. I think it would be an amazing workout and like another reader said the money you save alone is enough encouragement for me:) I am curious as to what laundry soap you use or make to use?
    Thank you for all your continued encouragement!

  18. Margy Porter says:

    I hand-washed our clothes for a family of 4 (we are now 5) for about a year. I thought it was much easier than taking everything to the laundromat with two young children! Even washing cloth diapers (which, by the way, were the easiest loads of laundry to wash.) Of course, we lived in Texas and we could hang them outside to dry year-round. Now we live in Oregon and with the ubiquitous rain, it isn’t possible. I appreciate my water and energy-efficient washing machine and my clothes dryer. They definitely give me more time in my kitchen and garden!

  19. Nancy says:

    Interesting consideration,this switching to all hand wash all the time. The trick here is to work smarter not harder and a time study may be needed to really decide if it is a good idea financially and for family peace.

    Has one of you in the family volunteered to be the laundry engineer? What else does that individual do, some of those tasks may need to be handed off to someone else…can anyone else take on more? Pretend that laundry takes an hour a day (conservative number)what would the individual be doing instead of laundry if the machine was doing it instead. A human is a Swiss army knife of possible activities, whereas the machine is a one time expense that is a simple calculation of water, electricity and the floor space it stands on (that is valuable too). How much stress is added to your family by the addition of this task, hard to put a price on that, but you probably can. Add to that the hurt feelings of the laundry engineer when it is perceived that dirty hands have been wiped on clean jeans as if no real effort had been put into making things clean. Tears, I foresee tears.

    Gloves were fashionable in the good old days because woman’s hands showed the red, irritated, battered skin that results from laundry. It is not humane to ask someone to do laundry bare handed. However mild the soap is, water alone will chap skin. Add laundry gloves to the list of expenses, probably two pair per month minimum. How about adding some Dones pills for back ache too, oh, and a superior hand lotion, not the bargain stuff.

    As to working smarter, scrubbing should be considered the last coarse of action. Laundry is science and art all in one. Ask any French hand laundry, there are tricks to the trade. Start with deciding that what your old machine did is the standard of clean that is acceptable. Decide not to get all show-offie with your whites. Basic truths, Vinegar removes minerals. Lime-away removes rust ( but doesn’t care about fibers or color at all!). Hydrogen peroxide removes blood,old or new (let the bubbles do their work killing germs and removing the cells). Hydrogen peroxide bleaches. Bleach bleaches. Hot water opens pores, cold water closes them. Soap molecules have tails that they dig into dirt, give the tails time to dislodge soil etc. Detergent makes soil lose it’s grip and slide off. Just keep changing tactics, and only scrub when all else has failed.

    I will be watching to see what your math and your hearts tell you is the wisest decision about skipping your modern convenience of a washing machine:)

  20. Elmerdub says:

    I love some good enthusiasm about hand washing and hang drying. Pulling stiff clothes of a line reminds me of how amazing all those natural fibers are. Here is link to my blog, http://ruraltype.wordpress.com/, which has directions for building an innovative indoor clothesline that can save some space for all the folks living in cold climates. The material used for the project is old wire coathangers and rusted chain from an expired garage door or the neighborhood bike that may have found its way to the recycling facility.

  21. Laux says:

    We’ve been hand washing all our clothes, towels, blankets, etc for the past year or so. It’s just the two of us (so far) and it takes about an hour to get through the equivalent of two machine loads and hang it up to dry outside (or inside by the stove in winter). We live in a very dry part of Arizona.

    We alternate between a huge steel tub for washing and a couple five gallon buckets for rinsing, and all five gallon buckets, depending on whether we have jeans or towels to do or not. I’ve found Oasis’s all purpose soap to be the best. For laundry they recommend only 1 Tbs to a gallon of water so it’s also very economical. Other things I’ve found essential are a little glass wash board (from the Columbus Washboard Company, don’t bother with antiques as they will cost the same or more and not hold up nearly as well), a regular old plunger for agitating (that hasn’t ever been used in a toilet!!!), and a bar of handmade soap for those really stubborn stains. A wringer would be nice, but I can’t afford one at present and am kind of enjoying building the muscles in my arms and hands. 🙂

    In the summer it’s nice to do it outside, and use cool rainwater from our harvesting barrels. The used water is then fed to the plants, another plus of Oasis soap is that it’s not biodegradable, but bioCOMPATIBlE (or that’s what they call it anyway, it just means that the plants actually LIKE to eat it). Then the laundry is hung on the line for that nice clean sunshine and ozone smell.

    In the winter we are lucky enough to have the room to do the same in our kitchen (now that the machines are gone!). We use filtered tap water instead though, since spring and early summer rains are unpredictable we conserve rain water in winter. We also warm some water on the wood stove fist, so as to not freeze our fingers! The stove will usually be going anyway to heat the house by the time cold water becomes uncomfortable to work in. The used water is then put over any winter cover crops or greens and mulch outside (it’s especially helpful over the mulch to keep it from being blown away, or becoming a fire hazard). The clothes are hunger over or near the stove. They will dry almost as quickly as outside and double as a humidifier for the house.

    I find that since we only have to do laundry every 5-7 days and it only takes about an hour to do, it’s totally worth it. Of course we’ve pared down our wardrobe a lot and don’t wash stuff until it looks or smells dirty. I imagine this also helps with the life span of the clothes.

    I’ve noticed our clothes are much cleaner, our water and electric bills are smaller and there’s is a lot more room in the kitchen now.

    It’s really a nice mild work out for my upper body, and I often put on a movie on my laptop while I work so it goes by pretty quickly.

    The only real down side I’ve found is chapped hands. Of course, I work in a resaraunt part time, washing my hands and dishes all day in commercial detergents so it’s hard to say if I would have the same problem if that were not the case. At any rate a little Burt’s Bees hand cream, coconut oil, cocoa butter, or even olive oil really seems to help with the dryness (no problems with cracking yet).

    Happy sudsing!

  22. Jill says:

    I recently moved to an apartment and have been using a Wonder Wash and hanging my clothes to dry inside on a little wooden clothes rack. I miss hanging my clothes outside and watching them flap in the breeze. I even miss hanging them outside in the cold when by the time I got to the end, the first clothes I hung were stiff from being frozen. My little Wonder Wash is holding up nicely. I just have to wash my sheets one at a time because I don’t have enough room to dry everything at once.

  23. Alice says:

    How intresting. I have done lots of handwash over the years. We lived for 9 years without running water, phone or electric power. I often say I would go back in a minute, my children loved that place as well. Everything takes planning when you live that way. Less is more too.
    As others have said you don’t just throw things in the wash because you had it on. I did put clothes in the bathtub and have the kids jump on them sometimes. The plunger works well too. I did have a scrub board to use too. It depended on time and how dirty things were. Clothes could be put into the bathtub after someone was done with their bath. Why let the water go to waste? Allow them to soak for awhile then wash.
    Advantages of handwashing you can see things that need to be fixed while you are washing them. (buttons missing, Zippers broken, tears etc)
    There are times that only parts need to be washed instead of the whole garment. Like a cuff that got dunked into the gravy. Just wash that part and leave the rest.
    I was given a few T shirts by a friend of mine. The lady she got them from only handwashed them. They were like new when I got them 3rd hand.
    I also know of people that are camping or traveling that wash by putting water and clothes with soap in buckets with lids. They load them into the car they are driving and go down the road. At a stop for gas or what ever they take them out dump the water add new rinse water, drive some more and the wash is done.
    The trick is do the wash as needed not waiting for the hamper to fill up. I have washed many dry clean only things and used them for a life time by doing them by hand. It is much easier on the clothes than the machine.

    Does anyone know of a source for nonelectric things. Like a washboard and applicences?

    • Alice says:

      A word about the wringers. I learned to wash in a wringer washer. You can damage buttons and zippers and things when you use a wringer. If you fold the clothes so there is a layer or two of cloth over and under the buttons there will be less breakage. My dad wore pearl snapped western shirts.
      Want creases in your pants. Fold the legs matching the seams then put the pants though the wringer starting as the cuff. Keep them in that folded condition when you hang them. No need to iron in creases. You can so that with the sleeves of shirts as well.
      If over time the wringer has lost some of its pressure and the clothes are coming out wetter than you would like. Fold and refold the clothes and pass them though the wringer a couple times just folded another way.
      I don’t get things wrung out by hand where they don’t drip. So if drying inside I just hang so the drips go into the bathtub. I can always move them to somewhere else when they stop dripping.

      • Jeni says:

        @Alice, Lehmans.com has a variety of non-electric appliances. Along with washboards etc.

      • Jeni says:

        @Alice, Lehmans.com is a great place to look for a variety of non-electric items and washboards.

  24. Daniel says:

    I have been hand washing for some years. I had a machine but decided not to depend on eletricity for washing my clothes. Some math comes in handy. If you calculate how many hours you must work to get money to pay the eletricity and water bill and the price of the machine and the repairs from time to time, washing by machine IS NOT A TIME SAVER! The only reason I see someone should use a washing machine is if he think it’s more confortable than doing it by hand. I think it’s far more confortable to wash by hand than to work to get the money to wash by machine!

  25. Bridgette Spurlock says:

    Love this! I hand wash my dedicates!

  26. Abigail says:

    Lehman’s has a great hand washer- pretty inexpensive, less than $100- that spins with a hand crank. I have done laundry for a family of 3 with it – but when we went to a family of 4 that was too much! I did not have a drier but put the wet clothes right up on the line. We live in the high desert so that worked fine until winter. In snows and cold I put the clothes on dry racks placed in the bathtub until they stopped dripping- then next to the woodstove. In the city with it’s faster pace, I find it is easier to use the washer and have the water go to the plants. Plus reuse bath water to wash out small items. Easy rule: all water gets used twice, except for drinking.

  27. Rosie says:

    If you have to wash by hand, the fastest and most efficient way in my estimation is to soak all things overnight. Have some kind of coarse table, similar to a picnic table with out benches, spread out garments and rub some soap on the dirty spots, then use a brush and brush the whole thing. Each gets the attention it needs. Very dirty work pants get brushed more than something hardly dirty. . Mother always boiled whites, and without bleach our white things were great. We also wore our clothing longer. Mother had a small bed and breakfast, five kids and no washing machine. I was the oldest, soooo. I like using a brush a lot better than a washboard. My frontloader does not get our dirty work clothing clean enough and I prewash and am glad I do not have to rinse by hand. I never minded the washing, the rinsing is the hardest part. Especially wringing out by hand. I tell folks I have a solar clothes dryer. But clothes pins are getting flimsier. After washing by hand, we also had to iron a lot. I grew up before wash and wear and polyester.
    When we built our house and slept in a tent for the summer, I hated to go to the laundrymat. What really got our clothing super clean was washing it in the cement mixer. I am not kidding.

    • Rosie says:

      while we are on the subject of laundry. You know what I found to be the best clothesline? Baling twine. I kid you not. Not the jute, but the orange poly something or other. I had it strung between two trees and it lasted 14 years and would still be there if it had not been in the way after I got a ‘real’ clothesline with posts and three strands in a row.

  28. Malinda says:

    I have not tried hand washing, but am intrigued. Although I admit it may be a challenge as I do work full time. I definitely re-wear my clothes several days before washing (when appropriate). I work in an office and so don’t often have issues with excessive sweat or dirt. It’s not unusual for my jeans to go five wearings before a wash. As a result, my loads each week are pretty small. I’ll have to give this a try! Will need to invest in a washboard and wringer. Hanging my clothes to dry is also a very viable option for me (in winter, they are hung up all over my house). 🙂 I live in Utah, so it’s not really possible to hang up outside in the winter…

    Making these sustainable changes is a step by step process for me. As I incorporate something and it because easy, then I move on to the next item. This could be the next item for me!

  29. j jones says:

    My husband and I are currently living in our 32ft. Travel trailer since selling our home. I am not fond of going to the laundromat. It’s expensive, takes gas to drive there and a great deal of my time and energy. So I set out to find a solution. 5 gallon buckets. Works great. One solid bucket to wash with. A plastic (new) plunger with holes drilled to help water flow. Two more buckets, one with small holes drilled in the bottem for drainage (lots and lots of holes) and one with two or three holes (larger in size) right at the side/bottom of the bucket for drainage. That would be my wringer. Place bucket with multiple holes on bottom inside bucket with two holes on side/bottom. After washing dump clean clothes inside one with multiple holes, place wash bucket on top. Push down or as I do, set down, so water drains out of bottom. It doesn’t get all of the water but it still does a great job. The reason for my choice instead of others? Space. Everything stacks or fits in the buckets nicely. I also have a clothes rack made from pvc hanging on our rv ladder that works great too.

  30. BeautySalesQueen says:

    Every morning I wash a sink full of like colored items, let them soak. When I come home in the afternoon I rinse them and hang them over my shower door on my towels. Not only has it saved my clothing, it’s saving me money. No longer do I have to take any items for Dry Cleaning, I have them done quickly and know what is going on my clothing. It’s become just routine to do this. I wish I could do this with my jeans, but they end up so stiff!

    • Vickie says:

      @ BeautySalesQueen Try using vinegar in the last rinse to soften your jeans.

  31. Dody says:

    I hand wash. We hang dry too. I noticed in the winter it doesn’t dry as good and in the summer my dark clothes are sun bleached. Also in the winter washing by hand is frosty.

  32. Lyn says:

    Hi i recently started washing my clothes at home live in los angeles and needed to cut cost i would spend $12 to 17 everytime. I live alone and that adds up esp ehe. Gas is$ 5+. Now my question is does anyone have any tips for washing
    And what do you folks do to ensure the items are clean?
    How do you wash without a washboard?
    Thanks for your tips and helpful comments.
    -Newbie handwasher

  33. Keith says:

    I washed two loads by hand last night and hung them up to dry on a makeshift clothes line strung along our massive swingset. I took the laundry and lines down this morning. Not quite dry, but really close. I finished them off in the dryer real quick. Not bad at all. It was actually a lot faster than washing them in the machine. A little rough on the hands…. and I think I’ll pick up a wringer…

  34. Julie says:

    My husband and I have two toddlers. We have decided to downsize to a small second floor apartment (old house converted into two units). I have been looking into learning handwashing for a few reasons. We sold the washer and dryer because there is no space for them. Avoiding the coin laundry will save us money, and who wants to sit around waiting while our kids annoy other people in the facility. Plus, I like to learn skills that may be useful during hard times. So why not? Our apartment has posts for clothes lines in the backyard, and nobody is using it. We will probably have to put a drying rack somewhere near the electric heater this winter. Plus, I probably wont have to use an electric humidifier for the kiddos during cold season, since the apartment will stay humid with clothes drying every day. Anyways, I am looking for information on soap/detergent to use that will be mild/nontoxic for the little ones. I would also like to reuse the wash water if possible (maybe for cleaning or watering plants) so if anyone has any tips let me know!

  35. Sandy says:

    I have absolutely loved hand washing and line drying for two since 1994. No problem year round here in Michigan if one watches the weather closely. Most seem to make it more complicated than necessary.

    My “tools”–two three gallon deli buckets gleaned from my neighbor’s trash pile and placed in my kitchen double sink. Most of the time just 1/2 tsp. liquid deteregent gleaned from picking out “empty” detergent bottles from recycle bins along with Fels Naptha bar soap and a recycled toothbrush for spots. Drying racks were picked out of neighborhood trash piles and repaired for use in the house in the winter.Perfectly good clotheslines were picked from the trash also and hung on hex bolts screwed inconspiculously on the cedar privacy fencing along with hooks on the garden shed and house siding so that the lines are only visible when used and taken down immediately to preserve them for permanent use.

    I totally agree with those that say that the sun is the best stain remover for whites. Darks are hung in the shade inside out so that I get no fading whatsoever.

    I am 69 years old and get no pain from gently wringing items out and letting them drip dry. Using racks inside in the winter I just put the big rack in the bathtub and the narrow but tall rack in the shower stall until the drips stop with light wringly about every half to one hour until it is safe to place the racks in front of the heat register in other rooms. No big deal.

    My lifestyle motto is “think instead of spend”. Just think this stuff out. It ain’t rocket science to live well and below the poverty level off this wasteful culture.

  36. Jen says:

    I started hand-washing after I gave birth to my son; to wash his cotton diapers. Because the washing machine took way too long and did not get out the stains(minimal stains, even, he was breastfed for crying out loud) that hand-washing did. At first it was just hand-washing diapers, then that evolved into hand-washing all clothes. And now, even towels.

    My son, now 2 years old, LOVES to help mommy hand-wash. He will either stomp the water out, or I’ll give him an unused cat litter box, and he’ll fill it up with water from the hose outside, steal a cloth from the clothesline, and re-wash it. Even wrings it out.

    I think it’s proving to be time well-spent with mpmmy. 🙂

  37. Emma Neslon says:

    As my 20 year old washing machine finally broke down just as I was about to possibly lose my job (this was about a year ago) I decided to try hand washing. I did invest in an electric spin “dryer” centrifuge to get the majority of the water out of my clothes after hand washing. WOW! Did I notice a wonderful difference in my clothes!

    First, I half fill my bathtub with quite warm water and put everything but white/light colored clothes in for an overnight soak (no soap). Next morning, I agitate the clothes/towels by stomping them with my feet (clean feet) for about 10 minutes) after adding a very small amount of fabric softener and then drain the water.

    While I am putting the first “load” into multiple batches through the spin “dryer”, I then half fill my tub with hot water and added the rest of my clothes. After hanging up the majority of the first batch of washing (the spin “dryer” makes almost everything dry enough just to hang up except towels and jeans) I then again just agitate the second load in the tub, again with a small amount of fabric softener and proceeded to spin “dry.” and hang the rest of my laundry. I do use bamboo sheets on my bed, they almost dry completely in the spin “dryer” and need to be hung up to dry.

    My clothes are clean and fresh, and the only thing I have to dry in the dryer are the towels and jeans – and only for 15-30 minutes.

    Is is easy? No, but I have a good workout stomping the clothes. But, even though I am not out of a job, I continue to do my laundry this way, as it seem it is easier on my clothes, and much easier on my budget!

  38. mahala says:

    I use the plunger method mentioned above. For wringing out the excess water, an industrial mop bucket (second hand) with the levered squeeze thingie works great to squish the water out.

  39. Cynthia says:

    First of all I have been ” solar” drying my clothes for years. I have made my own soap as a novelty. Hand washing my clothes did something I hadn’t thought of. It made me think twice about my clothing purchases. How hard or easy is this going to be to hand wash ? I watched many videos of women in other countries who hand wash their clothes. I have searched high and low and can not find the wash tubs they show in the videos. I have two galvanized wash tubs but they have burrs and seams to snag my clothes so are useless. I did purchase a new Turkish ultra thin bath towel. It is easy to wash and dries quickly w/o being stiff. I also switched from wash cloths to bandanas. The blue jeans and king size sheets continue to be a chore.

  40. John says:

    I hand washing my shirt and pants soft then dry it in the bathroom. it would save space for homes.

  41. Brooke Keller says:

    Interesting suggestion, but it is not that simple like it sounds. First of all it takes a long time, which me as a mother and working woman don’t have. Second it needs a lot of effort, so at the end when you are done with it you will not have the power for any other chores at home. So far I just can’t afford to give up of my washing machine.

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