Monday, May 16, 2011

Homestead Laundry How-To

Laundry Day. Or days, as the case most likely is, for the families I know anyway.

Where to begin? 
Separating clothes, a little soaking and pre-washing of those really bad stains, making laudry soap...
We make our own laundry soap here, but you certainly don't have to in order to wash laundry by hand.  Need a recipe?  Crystal's recipe, at The Family Homestead, is a great place to start for a liquid version., though many recipes are basically the same with a few personal tweaks here and there. For a dry version, Instructables has a nice tutorial. Wet, dry, scent added or base soap scent only...Whatever your preference, you'll find a detergent that you like and that's all that counts.

What do you need?
Well, there are any number of specialty items out there for hand-washing on the homestead, everything from a James Washer (a design that could easily be recreated with a little ingenuity and skill) to a hand held Rapid Washer, and many variances in-between, like this neat bicycle-powered washer (here's a tutorial)
Your bar soap 'starter'...such as the traditional Fels Naptha, or something more modern, such as Zote, Ivory Soap, Kirks Castile, Octagon, etc.
You will need to get a box of 20 Mule Team Borax, (I can still get this at most local stores, so look around) and Arm & Hammer Washing Soda...not to be confused with baking soda! They are not the same product at all.
You can add scent with essential oil, or even a scented oil used for soap making (I get mine at Hobby Lobby usually)
an old, empty detergent bucket or jug to put your newly made laundry detergent into :)
Me...I have a few heavy duty watering troughs from the feed store as my washing tubs, a stick agitator (aka modified plunger) and a washboard for the scrubbing of extra dirty things.

So....let's begin. 
 I'll assume you already have separated clothes.  Darks, lights, colors, whites, etc. This is  
one of my heavy watering tubs, kept specifically for laundry.  I fill it with hot water to whatever height I need to soak my dirties in, in this case, it was the bubble bath for our whites.  I added a bit of our laundry detergent as well as a bit of Mrs Stewart's Bluing. (well, in this photo, it was bleach alternative...I was out of the bluing). We added extra water via garden hose...didn't have much plunging to do this way.
These will remain soaking as long as needed to help break up the dirt, and the scrub board used as necessary.
Depending on where you are setting  up your laundry area, you could soak overnight in the bathtub, in the sink if you don't have many items, or in a tub like mine most of the day.  During the summer, a morning hot water bath in a black tub like mine can remain pretty warm during the daytime hours if left in a sunny location.  The longer your dirtiest clothes can sit and soak, with a little agitation now and then, the easier the stains will soak out on their own without so much scrubbing on your part.

In another tub for washing, we begin the laundry day with the least of the dirties. By starting with the least stained items, you have the opportunity to get the most out of your hot water usage by washing multiple 'loads' before the water is too dirty or has cooled off too much. It's not absolutely necessary to wash in hot water, no, especially if you are utilizing a soaking or pre-wash tub for the dirtier items, but adding at least a bit of hot water to the cycle will help release stains and dirt and aid in dissolving your detergent. 
The washing tub has a couple buckets of hot water added, a bit of laundry soap, a dose of garden hose water, and we plunge for several minutes. It's neat how much sudsing you can create with some serious plunging, even for relatively non-sudsing detergent. 
Note: The first time or two that you handwash, you will notice alot more detergent than you will later on.  Washing machines, no matter how good, still leave a bit of soap residue in place.  Why? Detergents/soaps 'catch' dirt, and afterall, the quicker your clothing gets 'dirty' the sooner you'll wash again, and the sooner you will need  to purchase more laundry detergent. It's quite the racket.

Our cycle of plunging, or agitating, the laundry and then allowing a rest (or soaking) time goes on for probably 10-20 minutes, depending on the amount of dirt and staining we have to deal with. We have a scrub board to use for stains, and to work in any additional soap we might need.  I keep a bar of laundry soap (I prefer Octagon or Fels Naptha myself)  handy for spot stain scrubbing, collars, etc.  Soaking does a great deal, but sometimes working in a bit of soap and elbow grease is helpful.

 Our agitator...a modified bell-shaped plunger, bought at Lowe's for under $5.  Our modifications are easy to see...we used one of Dewey's hole saws to put quarter-sized holes around the plunger bell.  In this case, we placed 4 holes.  On this style plunger, there is an inner 'lining' to this bell portion, so we made similar holes in it as well, so as to facilitate the water flow, so it agitates better.  It's all very scientific, LOL.

My children actually enjoy hand-washing, and we're pretty quick at knocking out loads these days. My fancy washing machine indoors takes a full 54 minutes for a large load with fabric softener added.  If it's something really stained, or thick like bath towels, where I would add the extra rinse cycle to ensure soap removal, we're up to 68 minutes.  Heavy duty wash load plus all that stuff and it's 78 minutes.  That's per load.  Insane.  Not counting the long soaking items we hand-wash, we can usually knock out the equivalient of 5-7 loads in 2 hours, from separating to washing and rinsing to hanging on the clothesline.  A mornings' work and we have a fully loaded clothesline for the day, not to mention we have used alot less water, despite my fancy washing machine being one of those high efficiency mega beasts.

After the 'wash' cycle is finished in tub #1, the laundry gets wrung out and placed into the second tub (this one filled with garden hose water) and agitated again for several minutes for the first of two 'rinse' cycles. In this first rinse tub we have added a bit of distilled white vinegar to help as a fabric softener, usually no more than 1/4 cup for the whole tub. The rinse cycle is agitated several times, with resting in-between, then wrung out and placed in the next rinse bucket and repeated. It was surprising to me just how much detergent residue remained in the clothes, despite what I thought was some pretty intense washing and rinsing and wringing before we started using the plunger as an agitator!
Given the difficulty a handful of children and one momma with carpal tunnel can have with wringing out clothing thoroughly, I do the bigger and heavier things in to the washing machine still. Things like denim jeans, large bath towels, comforters and blankets, etc. The plan is to get a couple of good sized, sturdy wringers, but even then, I see the comforters being a washing machine item nonetheless.

So, there you have it. Homestead Laundry Washing Day.  Your preference of laundry soaps and additives, a few buckets, a plunger, some hot water and a couple hours of your time.  If you do laundry by hand, I'd love to hear about your laundry adventures, any tips and thoughts you have on making the day easier, laundry recipes, etc.


Stephanie said...

Thanks for sharing darlin!

Sisterbrenda said...

Nice I thought at first we were going to see a water Good job.. I like the plunger.

I am his help meet said...

Thanks for sharing. It was such a blessing seeing your cute children helping. I love the pictures. Have a great day.

Emily Fay said...

I just came across your lovely blog today! I am so excited about this post as this is something I have been wanting to do for a long time! Thank you for sharing your adventure! :)

Emily Fay


Jeremiah 6:16
Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.

Blog Archive