Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Nifty McThrifty

Case in point, I got all excited when I found this: DIY washing machine and homemade laundry soap. It is better for my family, both because whoever does the laundry is being physically active and because homemade soap may well be better chemical exposure-wise; it certainly is better for the environment by using less water and less electricity; and finally it is so cheap it verges on free. I told Aaron we should make one. Leave it to Aaron to already know about this way of washing clothes. But, although he is enthusiastic about the idea, he thinks we should get a plunger made specifically for hand-washing since it is designed to move water around, whereas a toilet plunger is designed to create a suction. An excellent point, but I'm pretty sure if we are going to succeed in this endeavor, we have to start changing our attitude about what it means to spend $17 dollars.

Full disclosure, we have no intention of relying solely on hand-plunging our clothes clean. I came across the bucket option as I was researching energy efficient washing machines, the kind that plug in and cost oh-so-much-more than $17.


  1. I spent an entire summer hand washing clothes. To say it is a chore is a vast understatement. I would definitely recommend getting a plunger designed for the task (it will move water through the clothes). The other must-have item is a hand-cranked wringer (designed for hand washing clothes). It squeezes the wash water out of the cloth. I think this might be the key to why hand washing is more effective than machine washing. The wringer expunges much more of the wash water than the spin cycle, thus carrying away more dirt and debris (just a theory, but I got into the habit of wringing my clothes two or three times). A metal washboard is somewhat helpful for heavily soiled clothes but it's hard on cloth and knuckles (I didn't use it all that much). You’ll also need a dedicated wash area, ideally with two large wash sinks (one for soap and one for rinse - a five gallon bucket just doesn‘t have enough capacity to do large loads) and good drainage (hand washing tends to get water everywhere). Hand washing for a family of four would be a monumental task. I don't remember completing the task in much under two hours (a week) for a single person. The upside is you can get clothes just as clean or even cleaner than machine washing!

  2. Lehman's seems to have good tubs, metal plungers and wringers

  3. Thanks! This is such helpful information. Much appreciated.