I Never Replaced Our Washing Machine, Part One
I began with one of these
The rinse water gurgled in, and then I heard. . .
We'd only been in the new house for a few weeks and the old washing machine we'd inherited from the former homeonwer had passed the house inspection. From June to November, we'd done our laundry with no problems.
Then I was down in the basement, in an area near the laundry space, and as I installed some new storage shelves, I had the radio on and the washing machine sloshed soapy water as percussion with the music. It went through the wash cycle as it should, then drained the tub and refilled, and then it didn't agitate. It took me a few minutes to realize that, instead of "slosh slosh slosh" keeping time to the music on the radio, I was only hearing a thin metallic hum.
I fished out the wet clothes, wrung them by hand and put them in the dryer. I then tried every trick known to humankind to make the washing machine work. I turned the dial to each setting. I changed the water level. I drained the 20-year-old Kenmore and refilled it. It sometimes wouldn't drain and I had to bail the water out with a quart container which had once held strawberry yogurt.
After another week of research online, I discovered that the problem was probably either the timer dial (hard to find and pricey at eighty bucks) or the lid latch (hard to find for an old machine like ours). Forum discussions led me to believe that the only way to know which problem it was involved buying parts and fixing Problem A, which would then tell you that it was actually Problem B.
We put off buying a new washer till after the holidays
This happened right after Thanksgiving, and of course we were thinking about gifts and plane tickets. And we wanted to get a deal during January sales season. So I suggested we wait to get a new washing machine.
I settled on a forty-dollar alternative: The Wonder Wash.
The Wonder Wash is a spinning plasti tub with a tightly-fitting lid. It's spun with a crank and the vacuum effect pushes water and soap through the clothes. I ordered it from an online retailer and got it a couple days later.
It was a five-minute assembly, and I was in business!
When I was really young, Mom used one of these
The big squeeze
The first house my parents lived in had an old round-tube wringer washer which "walked" across the cement floor as the agitator did its thing Our playroom was down there and we were under strict orders not to put our fingers into the electric wringer. I always had a cartoon image of myself being pulled through the rollers and flattened like a human-shaped strand of fettucine.
The kind of washing machine I've always used removes the water from clothes by spinning. When I swtiched to the Wonder Wash, I saw online that some people bought an electric clothes spinner. I wasn't sure I wanted to spend a hundred bucks for a temporary fix, as I was still thinking we would get a washer in a few weeks.
Other people said they used a mop wringer dedicated just for laundry. After wringing out my wet blue jeans by hand once, I went ahead and got a big yellow janitorial bucket with a sturdy lever to press out water in the top squeezer. I figured I could always use the mop bucket for home cleanup later.
A mop wringer does a good job on clothes
What it's like to use the Wonder Wash
The tub holds half the laundry the regular washing machine does, so when I had the Wonder Wash, I did two small loads instead of one big load. I could do king-size bed sheets as long as I did the bottom & top sheets separately. Same with large bath towels.
The tub gets half-filled with soapy water and then clothes go in and the lid's knob is screwed down. There's an inner panel on the lid which makes a tight seal on the tub. I spun the tub 30 turns one direction and 30 turns the other direction. If clothes were extra dirty or it was a large heavy item, I repated this.
I attached the drain pipe to the bottom of the Wonder Wash & let it empty itself in the utility sink, then removed the soapy clothes and squeezed them out in the wringer. I refilleed the Wonder Wash using the former cold water hose which had been hooked up to the washing machine. Then I put the clothes back into the tub, and did the same number of spins to rinse them. I used the wringer again, and the clothes were ready for the dryer. They didn't get quite as dry as when spun by the washing machine, but nearly so.
Wonder Wash review I wrote for Amazon
Was it worth it to go all sustainable & permaculture & simple living? Yes.
Changing over to a non-electric washing machine saved money immediately by reducing the water bill. Instead of sloshing the clothes around in a large tub of water, the Wonder Wash uses water in a more eficient way. The spinner has a lid which screws down to create a vacuum, and this sucks or pushes the water through the fabric. Less water does the same job.
Instead of buying a jug of liquid laundry soap every other month, I bought one every other YEAR. The clothes are just as clean with a tiny fraction of the soap we used to use. We aren't stevedores at my house. I do have gardening clothes, and we wash bath towels and bedsheets and other heavy items, but nothing we wear or use is grimy. Maybe if you work on a commercial fishing boat, you need to immerse your clothes in very soapy water and then rinse rinse rinse, but I found that our clothes came out as clean with a small splash of soap as they did when I used a capful of detergent in the old machine. In fact, the colors were brighter because the soap got rinsed out completely.
It doesn't take much more time to do laundry with the Wonder Wash than it does with the regular machine, especially if you factor in all the times I did a load of wash in the Kenmore, forgot about it till it got musty, and had to re-wash.
Then one day. . .
. . .the Wonder Wash broke. I'd used it daily for over a year, and I was pretty careful with it. But the glue which held the axle pin on the right side gave away and the tub fell off the supports.
I tried re-gluing the short stubby axle to the support, and I tried drilling a hole through the tub and inserting a strong metal rod through tub and support to keep the tub up on that side. No dice.
At $40 a year, a Wonder Wash was still more cost-efficient than replacing the old dead washer with a traditional model. But I didn't want to wait for the moment that a new Wonder Wash would do the same thing, so I changed to another low-tech alternative.
For more on that, see the Hub "i Never Replaced Our Washing Machine, Part Two."
Review on Mobile Washer laundry plunger
Thank you for reading this!
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