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Washing Clothes by Hand

Updated on October 17, 2008
RGraf profile image

Rebecca Graf is a seasoned writer with nearly a decade of experience and degrees in accounting, history, and creative writing.


You might think that someone is crazy that wants to go back to the medieval days of washing their laundry by hand. Well, then I'm a crazy person. I've discovered that I really enjoy it.

Ok, so I didn't start off doing it because I was in a desperate need to find a hobby or to occupy my time. I did it out of financial necessity. We had experienced a mild identity theft and were having problems paying bills. So the laundrymat expenses were all of a sudden becoming more than we could handle for a family of five. Got to thinking of how our grandparents had done things and life didn't stop for them. Why not just do what they did?

We began by just washing our clothes in the bathtub. It was so easy and the clothes got cleaner than they ever had. Yes, it was hard work. But why complain when I'm always saying how I don't have time for the gym because I'm so busy. Now I get my workout and safe money on laundry AND the gym.

We began by just filling the bathtub with hot water and our detergent. Placed our dirty clothes in there and let them set for about 30 minutes. Then we got in there and created our own agitation. I've researched and to be honest, all I find from "experts" is that your clothes get clean from the agitation and not the laundry soap itself. I'll admit that I'm not sure how much of that is true, but the agitation has to be important. There are "plungers" that you can use to help circulate the water and get the clothes clean. We just kept moving the clothes around and pushing down on them for a while. Then we began to rub them against the washboard that we bought at a local hardware store. We wrung them out by hand and placed them in an empty clothesbasket next to the tub, emptied the tub, rinsed it out, and then added fresh water. Placed the clothes back in the tub and created more agitation as we rinsed them. Repeated that just to be sure.

After about the third time doing this, the kids were amazed at how much work went into cleaning on those clothes. They wanted to try it. The experience quickly wore on them. Then an IDEA occurred to me. I was so tired of rewashing clean clothes that they had dropped on the floor and just thrown in the dirty clothes pile. I proclaimed a new rule in the house: You create the most clothes to wash, you wash them. Silence unsued. I've never washed so few clothes. I only hope that they are hiding the dirty ones.

Next Phase

We've advanced a little since we've started. We went to the hardware store and bought two large plasticbins and I've ordered a better washboard from Lehman's, an online store that has so much of the hard to find homesteading products. We also ordered Charlie's Soap which is supposed to be a very good laundry detergent and safe for the environment.

I'm looking at buying a wringer so I can get more of the water out and save my hands a little bit. I've also begun to use white vinegar in the rinse water. It makes the clothes a little softer, rinses better, and the smell of the vinegar disappears as the clothes dry. We will periodically go to the laundrymat if we have large blankets to wash.

Winter is coming upon us, so now every night I wash a few pieces to keep up with the laundry and dry them on a clothes rack in front of the fireplace. The next morning the children pull off any needed pieces and we put up the rest.

I guess one of the biggest advantages is the sense of satisfaction that I feel knowing that I did it and I'm not being a couch potato. It feels good to physically run the house.

Happy washing.


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    • Thelma Alberts profile image

      Thelma Alberts 5 years ago from Germany

      Everytime I´m in my home country, I wash my clothes with my own hands because it is normal in the Philippines to do the laundry by hands and not by a washing machine. Besides that washed clothes by the hands are cleaner than by the washing machine. Well, in the Philippines. Thanks for sharing.

    • profile image

      msullivan 6 years ago

      I just started doing my own laundry. I agree. It is so gratifying. I get a fabulous work out, save money, and I'm not caught up in the rat race of life.

    • givingfairy profile image

      givingfairy 6 years ago from some place in the Big Apple

      As a young girl growing up; I remember going down to the river to wash clothes by hand so I know where you coming from. It is a great work out really but it also does a number on the nails so unless I have too; I can't see myself making this past time activity a habitual chore. Great hub though!

    • Jayne Lancer profile image

      Jayne Lancer 7 years ago from West London, UK

      'Now I get my workout and safe money on laundry AND the gym.'

      What a positive way of looking at an otherwise negative situation. I admire you very much.

      And this is a great Hub!

    • profile image

      MrSelfReliance 8 years ago

      You mentioned getting a good hand clothes wringer and couldn't agree more. A clothes wringer will save you more time drying your clothes than any other washing accessory.

      The best hand clothes wringer I found is a model that looks like it came right out of the 1900's and it's built like it was made back then too.

    • Rochelle Frank profile image

      Rochelle Frank 9 years ago from California Gold Country

      Hmm, this is something we all may need to know in the next few years. Good hub, I'm almost tempted to try it myself . . . maybe.