Anyone here do laundry by hand, old-fashioned way? : LUSENET : Countryside : One Thread

I was reading the Lehmans' catalog today, and am intrigued by their old-time laundry gadgets. I'd consider it if I didn't have kids. Do any of you use the washtubs, boards, and wringers of yesteryear?

-- Shannon at Grateful Acres Animal Sanctuary (, January 08, 2002


Hello Shannon, MY wife (Melitza) prefers using a wringer washer instead of automatic. In the winter it is harder for here but, she just waits until we have a warm day.

Sincerely, Ernest

-- (, January 08, 2002.

When you say "the old fashioned way", does that include simply throwing it on the floor in a pile when you are done with it?

Somehow it magically appears back in the drawers a couple of days later, clean and folded.


-- chuck in md (, January 08, 2002.

Not on your life!! I have done it in the past. But wouldn't do it unless I really really really had to. I could use a wringer washer if had to. I like keeping things simple but the thought of spending all day washing clothes my hand is a bit too much for me at my age. Now you younger folks are welcome to it. It is just a long labourious job. I like to hang cloths out to dry though.


-- Irene Burt (, January 08, 2002.

Chuck, I'm going to let you in on a little secret--the magic laundry fairy is actually your wife! (Big Grin) I don't think that's dawned on my DH and DDs yet.

I have enough of a problem keeping up with my family's dirty clothes with an automatic washer and dryer! I do hang about half of our laundry on racks in front of the woodstove to dry tho- it's perfect for delicates and sweaters.

Stacy in NY

-- Stacy (, January 08, 2002.

My grandmother used to use an electric wringer; I think she got her arm caught in it a few times.

-- Kevin (, January 08, 2002.

Chuck she said the old fashioned way, not like it was done when we were kids!!

Our homestead has no electricity. The solar panels aren't even hooked up at this time. We are still in suburbia, and they would come and arrest our ducks if we got a couple (1 allowed per 3 acres?????), so ironically we have only used it here on the patio.

Anyway Ann bought our 3 wash tubs, glass wash board, wringer, during the East Coast drought of 2000. At first she used a plunger to agitate. Then she splurged on a Lehmans "our good handwasher" for 13 dollars. Using ecologically safe soap, she started the light-colored clothes first.

The procedure is to wash, wring, rinse, wring, final rinse and wring again. Next is dark clothes, using same procedure.

Always wash the "cleanest" things first in each color range. Scrub rags last. She used the soapy water to wash outdoor furniture and door mats. Any leftover was poured on the grass. Rinse water went on the garden. It's not as hard as it sounds, but I was only washing for two. Large family and baby diapers would present a different challenge. She was kind enough to let me help a couple of times. It was sure nice to have the shade of the patio and big maple tree to work under!

-- Rick (, January 08, 2002.

I second the motion on diapers. No way would I wash them by hand. If you have a washer and dryer there is no excuse for using disposables unless you are travelling, or are staying with very fussy relatives.

I have a washer and dryer, but in some ways I miss going to the laundromat--get 10 loads done in the same time as one, be able to wash the largest rugs and blankets, and be able to save a trip to the supermarket (the last one I went to was attended, so I could shop while the clothes were washing.... I would love to have a huge commercial washer (front loader), but even the used ones are fairly expensive. Oh well.

-- GT (, January 08, 2002.

Well now, I feel real ignorant on this subject, and am here to learn.

First off, I have a question for Ernest, who has always shown himself to be such a sweet, kind, and insightful man: may we know why your wife prefers using a wringer washer rather than an automatic?

Secondly, to Rick, also a nice fella, I got real confused by your post! Poor confused me, and please forgive me for probably missing previous explanations, but if you are in the burbs, how do you get away with not being on the grid? Next, I'm confused about your laundry situation. If I'm readin you right, you say Ann bought the equipment, then explain to us her laundry procedure, which all sounds real logical and skillful. But then you sneaks up on us, Rick, and says "I was only washing for two. " And then "she was kind enough to let me help a couple of times."

Now, bein a woman, I cant help but wonder, who exactly is doin the laundry? Maybe you're both doin it? Takin turns perhaps, which IMO would be refreshing......Or then I wonder, are we basically talkin about what some might consider a brutal and thankless chore being looked at with, um, rose-colored glasses, right down to the very poetic " It was sure nice to have the shade of the patio and big maple tree to work under!"

I think I understand and identify with all the energy-saving, money- saving, more natural life aspects pretty well, but I would love it if one of you guys would explain to me, from your hearts' perspective and knowing how you certainly cherish your wives and value your time, why on earth you would choose to use such a theoretically obsolete, inefficient and laborious procedure in this day and age for this very basic of needs?

Thank you so much for any enlightenment you can share.


-- Earthmama (, January 08, 2002.

I wouldn't wan to scrub all of my laundry by hand that is for sure, but I would choose an electric wringer over an automatic any day of the week. No way will I even let my husband or kids in on the fun. My kids beg to put the clothes through the wringer, but I won't let them!! Ha, Ha all that fun is for me. There is nothing better than washing load after load and having it all on the line drying in leass than one hour.

A wringer saves time, water, laundry detergent, energy, and is a super way to spend the early morning during the spring, summer, and fall months. I don't use mine in the winter, as I have no place inside, but I am working on getting my husband to enclose one corner of our porch for winter use. I also hang all my laundry year round. I hang it outside when able and inside on lines in my laundry room, or in front of my wood-burner.

-- Melissa (, January 08, 2002.

Maybe old-timey laundry is like natural childbirth: it sounds interesting, seems possible, and has it's up-side. Then, you do it once, and you're sooooo glad you have modern options!

-- Shannon at Grateful Acres Animal Sanctuary (, January 08, 2002. Hey Shannon, go to this address and ask Carla about doing her laundry the old fashioned way. She's also known as HRH (Her Royal Highness because she's the queen of laundry land over there). She has 3 little boys and did her laundry with a James Washer (I think) but the last I heard her husband insisted she use a modern washer. She's be glad to talk about it.

-- Anna in Iowa (, January 08, 2002.

My Grandmother "Nana" always said that the biggest 'set back' for a woman was an automatic washer. Whatever happened to wearing a pair of pants two, or three times? She would get mad as hell.

-- Kathy (, January 08, 2002.

Wow! did this bring back memoeires of when I first moved away from home. I was 18 with no washer and no money for the laundermat so I did what I had to do to get my clothes clean. I put them in the tub, filled with water added the soap and took off my shoes and socks. I figured if people could turn grapes into wine this way then I could get my clothes clean this way. It worked and no one ever said to me "Your clthes smell like dirty feet" LOL those were the good-ole- days.

-- george (, January 08, 2002.

Been there done that------can still remember------will use that auto- one /any day of the week--------I'll find "my joy" in other things--- thanks!!!!!!!!!!

-- Sonda (, January 08, 2002.

Ithink there should be a world Wringer Washer Day' Its the only way to go - for all the reasons melissa stated.

-- Elizabeth Quintana (, January 08, 2002.


Here goes

We still live in the burbs, our homestead is 7 hours away. If it weren't for our 19 and 22 year old children, we'd go off grid here. We have decent passive solar heat. I would have to screen the patio, and buy block ice in the nasty summers. I would also need to heat water and make it run for the inspectors, but I digress.

I wanted to give the procedure accurately, and yes you caught me, Ann took over the keyboard from the phrase "light-colored". I tried to make sure it was in the 1st person but you caught the blooper.

Since you ask who is doing the laundry, the answer is WE is. Ann will frequently run a load or 2 when I work 50 and 60 hour weeks, but my grime is my responsibility. I hang it out with all of the neighbor men watchin, en ain't none of em pulled a sack over my head and beat me up neither.

Are you really refreshed? I'll honestly tell you that Ann set all 3 of us doin our own laundry when she got a vacation from the house, and went to work part-time and the kids could reach the dials.

And I repeat :it was sure nice to have the shade of the patio and big maple tree to work under! And laboriously HOMEMADE, husband-made lemonade

As far as doing it a harder way, and still cherishing my wife, the only explanation I can give you, that might approach making you believe me, is that while we are prepared to do it at the homestead, we chose to, or should I say Ann chose to do it to try to help the environment. We had no outside watering allowed, and we put some water in our yard this way. We even clamped an innertube to the electric washer discharge hose, and managed to keep our shrubs alive legally by pumping discharge water up to water them.

I was amused when I first read you post, and still am more amused than insulted. But this quote of you has me really confused:

"why on earth you would choose to use such a theoretically obsolete, inefficient and laborious procedure in this day and age for this very basic of needs?"

I have always gotten the feeling that you are a homesteader Earthmama. Don't you get the mentality?? Why does easier have to be better? Are cars more efficient than horses (yes of course I own a car, but I would certainly rather not need one). Is running electricity for miles to our appliances efficient?

We did this as an experiment, and I didn't even mean to imply that we were doing it now full time, if that meaning came across.

Hopefully I have answered Shannon's question.

If I haven't answered all of yours, or I have created anymore, feel free to let me know. Peace to you


-- Rick (, January 08, 2002.

Greetings, Earthmama,

Ann here-by myself. Rick is much savvier with this puter business. That's why he was trying to answer the original question. I'm the one with all the washday experience.

If I considered hand-washing pure drudgery, I would not do it. I usually find most labor-saving devices to create almost as much work as they save. I will admit an automatic washing machine is one of the most dependable household appliances available, however. But they pay no attention to stains, grubby socks,etc. I have always sorted the clothes into the washer, with bar of Fels Naptha in hand, pre-treating everything that needed it. You cannot beat a washboard for removing what happens to socks when the family forgets that they own shoes.

When we pumped the used washing machine water outside to the shrubs, we found our loads of laundry were using 60 gallons of water. My hand system uses 40 gallons to do twice as many clothes! Also, it's a lot easier to re-use the water when it's already outside. I think a lot of country folks on wells might benefit from this conservation, but I'm not trying to tell anyone how to run their homes.

Seriously, have you ever tried to do your clothes this way? I think any able-bodied person can do it. (o.k., I'll admit blue jeans and blankets are hard work).

Now, if you want to talk brutal and thankless chores- food shopping and trying to please three other people with the meals one prepares!

-- Ann K (, January 08, 2002.

Hey George

When we were 18 our 1st home was furnished with 2 bean bag chairs (ours) and a refrigerator (the rental company's).

Fortunately, our 1968 Plymouth Fury 11 came with a used washboard in the trunk.

There was a tackle box too, and I think the previous owner was a fisherman, and used the board to scale his fish.

-- Rick (, January 08, 2002.

When in Russia for 3 months I did most of our laundry by hand (me, two kids, and one of them who was in diapers). Diapers by hand is DISGUSTING. I just had a bathtub and scrub board. I had to wring everything by twisting it with my hands, and had to hang them in my hall to dry. I remember coming home after a long day working in the hospital to dirty dishes, screaming kids, and WASHING DIAPERS and clothes. I used to cry when I did it.

Then, we moved here in the country 2 1/2 years ago. The whole first year I did all our laundry (husband's too....luckily he wasn't in Russia...washing his socks by hand might have been worse than the diapers!) by hand for the first year, but had a WRINGER AND TUB as well as a scrub board. It was better than sitting in the laudromat.

We have an electric wringer now (our well is very old and septic doesn't work, which is why the "modern" washer isn't hooked up), but someone pointed out to me a while ago that our laundromat is in a small town. I can dump my laundry and run errands. Which I do now often....1/2 hour to wash, and I do my first errand. Then about another 1/2 hour to 45 minutes to dry. Period. It is done. I can even fold there with a big open surface like doesn't exist in my home, and there are no cats to jump on everything. So, when I am in a hurry and in the winter, this is what I do. When I have time/its warm, I use the wringer washer and do it outside looking out across our gorgeous view!

-- marcee (, January 08, 2002.

I guess different people like different things here !! Automatic washers are great and easier in a way but I do love to use my wringer washer. I find it does save on the water/pump/well and the septic too. Use the clean wash water to do another load etc and I think they get the clothes cleaner too !! I do use the laundramat for the heavy winter blankets. Too thick to get through the wringer I think. No...don't get my hands caught either...the rolls will pop open now a days if you do. Mine was bought back in 1974..just recently had it repaired becuase the grease in it got dirty ?? But was back in business within a few days and only paid the old gentleman $45 for his time and the cost of new grease !! Guess the washer has paid for itself since I paid $20 with two wash tubs with it back in 1980. I believe it gives you time to slow life down and think on things a little as you do the laundry. Not slave labor..doesn't put women back in the dark ages...just a choice !!! To Each His or Her Own !!

-- Helena (, January 09, 2002.

Now, if you want to talk brutal and thankless chores- food shopping and trying to please three other people with the meals one prepares!

-- Ann K

I feel your pain, Ann. I'll even ask them what they want and they say, I don't know. I've got to the point of saying, if you don't like it, don't eat it but you're not getting anything else. I am not a short order cook.

I'm guess I'm lucky, my dh will do laundry--if I let him. He's not good at it, and has a tendency to ruin clothes. Problem is that he thinks he's good at it and doesn't listen to instructions. So, it's just easier for me to do it myself, he usually folds it and puts it away tho.

My dd's have set chores that they do everyday, most of the time they're done without a problem. If the girls don't do their chores a privledge is taken away.

Stacy in NY

-- Stacy (, January 09, 2002.

Thanks so much for your wonderful responses, Rick and Ann! I surely do understand the environmental/homesteading values around laundry, I was just curious if your wife felt the same way about it! As other people mentioned, its different strokes for different folks as far as deciding what is too laborious so as to become drudgery. See for me it would be unthinkable to spend that much time/energy on laundry, but if its enjoyable, that's all that needs to be said, far as I'm concerned. I'm very happy to hear that you do some of the laundry too, and are brave enough to hang it outside.......a real man!

To emphasize how different we all are, I really love cooking from scratch, and spend hours most days in the kitchen, but to lots of people that would be drudgery.

Thanks again, and peace to you.

-- Earthmama (, January 09, 2002.

eee,gads! I remember living in an apartment in CT, very poor at the time, washing clothes in the tub and hanging them on rope strung about the apartment. One kid in cloth diapers at the time. I know of another family with two kids who did the clothes in a tub and if they weren't dry by school time, put the outfit on an open oven door with the oven on to dry. At one point, even the dishes were done in a kiddie pool outside when there was no running water! Where there's a will, there's a way!

-- Epona (, January 09, 2002.

Regarding Stacy's answer, I saw a book advertised once a while back (along the lines of how to get your wife to do everything), and it suggested deliberately ruining the laundry, burning dinner, etc. and eventually, according to the book the wife would "give up" and stop trying to teach the husband. Don't think it would work today.

-- GT (, January 09, 2002.

After recieving (2000) december's electric bill of $110.00, I managed to sell the dryer out from under my wifes feet... She was mad but I showed her how easy it is to hang clothes under the sycamore tree- in summer and winter we have done this. We BOTH do that part, but she wont let me do the washing part because the clothes always turn up soapy. Its pretty enjoyable to hang clothes outside, on most occasions. Along with some other conserative measures, the electric bill hit a low of 14 bucks in Febuary of last year, making her a believer. I have been told that if I sell the modern washer or even convert it to run off bicyle power, Ill be doing my laundry ALONE. I did buy a scrub board washer before the "incident" (YphooeyK) but never had to use it. If it was just me and nobody else, I would GLADLY do my laundry by hand on a washboard in a tub outside or by the woodstove- in winter.

-- Kevin in NC (, January 09, 2002.

I think back when folks used washboards and tubs they were not chaing thier clothes 3 times a day, along with jumping in the shower a couple of time a day. Washing beats the devil out of clothing, wears them out. Do you suppose people were for ever sending their clothing to the CLEANERS, I doubt it. I use to winter up in my cabin, carrried all my water and took a bath once a week in a wash tub, that's when I changed my long johns, wool shirts got cleaned once a year, heavy flannel twice, bib overalls were changed when they were real dirty or had too much blood on them from trapping, dressing out game and such. I had enough sox to last 3 weeks, wearing then 2-3 days.

Of course now days, I'm married and my wife washes every day, it does not get cold enough for long underware, Wool shirts are still cleaned once a year, as well as sweaters, I still have a pair of Bibs that I seldom wear, they have gotten a little tight on me. I'd have to go out in the garden and roll around in the dirt on a rainy day to get my clothes as dirty as I did 30 years ago.

-- hendo (, January 10, 2002.

It's so funny that I happened to see these posts today, of all days. I have just gone through a long consideration with my husband about our water situation. To make a long story short, our well water is heavily mineralized, high in sodium and iron. You can't wash clothes or your hair in it. No way could you drink it. I designed a rainwater catchment system that would catch rainwater on the roof of a multi- purpose building that we intend to build no matter what. We could store enough water to last us through the dry summer months in an underground cistern of ferro cement. My husband felt that my plan was too expensive and complicated - until he hired a consultant to come in and describe a system of purifying the well water for household use - which would cost much, much more than a catchment system. Also, the purification system would require upkeep and replacement of parts, as well as buying chemicals to put down the well. We want a system that is relatively maintenance-free, with as little input from outside sources (like buying chemicals) as possible. Suddenly rain water catchment looked so simple and affordable!

Anyway, I was writing to friends that, until we decide what to do, we could either go to the laundromat in town, or I could catch rainwater in my washtub and wash clothes by hand with my washboard (cost $12.50) and wringer (cost about $75) and hang them to dry on my solar and wind powered clothes dryer (cost $20). I could also heat up rain water in the sun with our solar shower, or heat it up on the stove when the sun isn't shining, to wash my hair. The first thought that came to my mind was, I hate laundromats, and I would enjoy washing outside at home, listening to the birds and not having to deal with the very odd people I see in laundromats. It's so funny that I was just talking about that today, and of all days, I run across this debate on laundry!

Thanks to everyone for the comments. I'll let you know how it goes after I try it a few times.

-- Christine Baillie (, January 11, 2002.

I can remember doing laundry by hand in the sink of our little 8'x28' trailer where my husband, 3 yr. old son and myself lived for over 2 yrs. Sometimes I even washed laundry out back in the stream!! I did everything to avoid traveling the 15 mi. into town to go the laundromat and seeing (gasp!) other people :-)! Now I do have a washer and dryer, but with just hubby and I here, I do occasionally wash small stuff by hand. I also remember the days when I was first married and playing the roll of the "laundry fairy"...picking up hubby's dirty clothes and putting them in the hamper. Got tired of it (really tired!!) and let them pile up til he ran out of underwear. He asked me where all his underwear was. I told him I don't know...I wasn't the last one to wear it!! Since then, he puts laundry in the hamper where it belongs.

-- Marcia (, January 11, 2002.

Christine, I have never seen "very odd" people in laundromats. Maybe it depends on the area and whether or not the laundromat is attended or not. It is the cheapest place to go if you have oversize (large blankets, for example) laundry. A happy medium would be to wash there, and bring the clothes home wet and hang them out to dry. Just a thought.

-- GT (, January 11, 2002.

the first two years we built our house, we didn't have running water and purchased a "Mystery" brand handwasher - similar to the James handwasher in Lehmans, only about $300 cheaper! now, we have running water, but still use our handwasher and clothesline - we love it! except when it's really cold, and then i just go to the laundromat and do them all up. it's hard to find the time to wash with the handwasher while the days are short, what with our jobs, but we just do the best we can! it's AMAZING how dirty the water gets from clothes that seemed to be "lightly soiled".

-- leslie in mo (, January 12, 2002.

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