Low Energy Basics: Laundry

I'm doing the laundry! - The Tick

A new reader, Karen, (yay, new readers!) writes:

I really want to use less energy because my husband is out of work and I care about the planet - can you write about how you do it? We try and conserve, but our utility bills tell me we're not doing that great a job. I guess I care most about the everyday stuff - how you do the laundry, get to places, cook dinner, etc...

Thank you, Karen, for the push, since I'm supposed to be writing a book on precisely this subject right now, and instead have mostly, well, not been. So I thought I'd do a series of pieces about how to cut your resource use in various areas of daily life. You mentioned laundry, so I'll start there.

First, I should say that I do a lot of laundry - as do most people with kids. My eldest is disabled and not fully toilet trained. At least one of my kids still wets the bed (this is the sort of thing your kids can legitimately sue you for if you discuss on the internet in specific terms, so we'll leave it). My youngest is only recently out of diapers.

Furthermore, we live on a farm. If there is something gross you can get on your clothes, we've got it. Simon was carrying eggs in his shirt and forgot they were there? Got that one. Goat gave birth on my lap? Got it. Mud? Muck? Manure? You name it. We also use cloth, rather than disposable products for almost everything (we use some disposable pull ups with my eldest, since they can't use cloth at school) - so we make a lot of laundry.

Even furthermore, we live in a climate where there is a distinct season known as "mud season," where your laundry freezes on the line half the year, and we have every mineral known to man in our water - it is so hard you have to hit it with a hammer.

I say this not to be competetive about who has the most laundry, but to point out to people who say "but I have kids...but we have diapers...but it gets cold/humid/rainy here...but I have hard water..." that you can deal with all of those things and still use energy efficiently while washing. Seriously, it is totally doable. It just takes a shift in perspective, and a little practice.

Maybe you'll think I'm insane when I tell you that I love hanging laundry out, but I really do. I go outside and watch the world - I love the quiet, the birds, waving to my neighbors as they go by. I find hanging laundry a meditation, a pleasure - it stopped being a chore. I will not say the same about washing or folding or putting laundry away - but I do think it is worth mentioning that the part of this that probably sounds hardest to most people is the part that feels easiest to me.

But first, the washing. Until I had a child in my late 20s, I never owned a washing machine. For more than a decade of my adult life, laundry was brought to the laundromat for washing - usually either in one of those little carts or by carrying it. In the interim, underwear, socks and some larger items were washed by hand in the bathroom sink. Were my husband and I childless, I would probably still choose this method, rather than purchasing a private washer - it just doesn't seem necessary. If I lived in an area where private washers were the norm and laundromats distant, I'd probably try and barter with a neighbor to share a washer once or twice a week. While households with kids may need their washer nearly every day, households made up primarily of adults simply don't, and it doesn't make a lot of sense to have one in every house.

Or I might make do with a combination of sink washing and one of these I've used one, and it is simple to use, inexpensive and gets the clothes quite clean. It isn't made for families with lots of laundry, but it would work great for a single adult or a couple that doesn't get dirty that often.

The best way to reduce your energy use in laundry is simply to do less laundry. This is one of those obvious things that we sometimes don't think about. So the first strategy we use is to try and minimize the number of items getting washed and loads per week. That means we:

1. Take a careful look at our clothes to see if they can be worn again (this is my job, since my kids and husband tend to think that everything can be worn again, no matter how revolting).

2. Change into playclothes when using dress clothing. Put on smocks or aprons or previously dirtied clothes when doing especially vile jobs.

3. Lower standards. Now I'm sort of a slob, so I probably shouldn't lower my standards any further ;-), but in some households this would be viable - change sheets and towels less often, for example.

But even though we do all that, I do have kids, and we do get dirty so we do have a washing machine. When the washing machine that came with the house died last year, we considered shifting to a James Handwasher, and doing all laundry by hand - for about 30 seconds. Then I purchased the most energy efficient front loader in our price range (not that high). I wish in retrospect that I'd purchased the front loader sooner - the difference in electrical usage, water usage and detergent usage is dramatic. For me, the single most important appliance at my home is the washer - it is the one which gives me the most freed up time and ease, for the lowest price.

We do virtually everything on "quick wash" with cold water, with the exception of one pile I keep for "exceptionally filthy" things which I do a load of once every week or two on regular with cold and a little vinegar added to the rinse. As you can probably imagine, given the kind of things I wash, it has to be pretty disgusting to make it to this pile. But even with hard water, we find we are able to get clothes clean with a quick wash in cold water.

We use a couple of brands of eco-friendly detergent. I used to make my own laundry soap, but I haven't since getting the front loader, since I called the manufacturer and they told me that they don't recommend any homemade soap, because of the problem of over-sudsing. I've since read accounts of mixtures that can be used in front loaders, but haven't yet tried them.

We use a little less detergent than is recommended - if you had softer water, you could presumably use less still. We don't use fabric softener. Once in a great while I do use a capful of bleach on some particularly recalcitrant stains - usually I soak them beforehand, rather than adding bleach to the wash water. Remember, the less you put in your laundry, the less often you have to shop, the lower the cost, the lower the resource use...

As deeply as I love my washer, I think that there's really little point to a dryer for most people. I think generally, using coal fired electricity to do something the air will do for you for free is overpriced and wasteful. Gas dryers are better, but these are still fossil fuels we are using - and the sun and the wind or your winter heat source will do this without using fossil fuels.

There are a few exceptions to the rule that using a dryer is wasteful - for people who have no vehicle and are reliant on laundromats, I think it is unreasonably onerous to ask people to carry wet laundry back to their apartments to dry. And every once in a great while you can't get something to dry without a dryer - we had that happen this June, when it rained 26 days out of 30. My husband took several loads of our laundry to the llaundromat one day, simply because I couldn't keep up with the quantity, given the time required to get it dry. But that's only happened once (and we get nearly 60 inches of rain a year) in 7 years. I have also used a dryer while travelling, when we wouldn't have been able to wait for clothes to dry. Otherwise, we have one leftover from the days when Eric's grandparents were alive, but we don't use it.

How do we dry our clothes all year round? Well, first of all, I've got two clotheslines. The first is one of those spinning circular ones, the second, a regular clotheline that goes around the margins of our front porch. The advantage of having it on the porch is that it provides some cover, so that I don't have to go racing outside every time a sprinkle of rain hits - it won't protect them from a downpour, but it does reduce the number of times I have to worry about it.

It takes me about 7 minutes to hang a load of laundry - less if it is big things like sheets and towels, more if it is little things like socks and underwear. I try and mix things up when I can, so that I never have to pin too many little things. I hang small stuff like socks and undies together.

For people with disabilities, who have trouble standing or raising their arms up long enough to hang laundry, you can hang the wet laundry while seated on hangers (thanks to Pat Meadows for this tip!), using clothespins to attach it to the hangers, and then just hang the hangers on the clotheline. This also works indoors on a shower curtain bar.

I hang laundry out about 9 months of the year consistently, plus during warm spells in the winter. The reason I hang laundry out in the winter, when it may take several days to dry, is because winter laundry smells better than anything in the world. You can buy detergents to give you fake-springtime smell, but honestly, the best smelling laundry is the stuff that comes cold off the line. I don't know why this is, but it is a wonderful scent. I use it especially for sheets and towels.

When it is extremely cold, rainy or humid, I move clothes indoors. I have a free standing clothes dryer - not one of the cheap ones that your grandmother put in her tub (or my grandmother did, anyhow), but a heavy-duty laundry rack that can dry more than a load of laundry at a time. It won't collapse under the weight of wet laundry, but folds down and fits in a space in a corner. The one I have is similar to the largest of these: http://www.amishhomeplace.com/dryingracks.html and is a wonderful thing. I had just about given up on drying racks, since they often collapsed, but this is terrific. I've also heard great things about this model: http://www.bestdryingrack.com/

We heat with wood, so we often set up our dryer near the stove - if you had radiators, near a radiator is good or over a floor vent. You can also use the shower curtain as a laundry rack, either hanging it directly or using the hanger method mentioned above. If I can keep up with my laundry through a New York Winter with no dryer, odds are most of you can do so as well.

What about the "crunchy" texture of the laundry? Honestly, while we noticed it at first, we don't notice or mind anymore at all. One possible answer if you just can't bear it, is to run things through the dryer for five minutes with a damp towel to soften them - that's still better than running an entire load. But honestly, just accepting that it takes a little time to adapt is probably better. No one in my household even notices it any more. Shaking the clothes out, adding vinegar to the rinse and wearing them will add a little natural softness.

What about the time involved in hanging laundry? Well, you do need enough clothes for a load of laundry to take a day or day and half to dry. You should plan on keeping up with it. But hanging a load of laundry really isn't that time consuming. Remember, if you use the dryer, you have to pay for the dryer, the dryer sheets, the repairs and the electricity that you use, and calculate that into the time equation as well.

What about dry cleaning? We dry clean once a year - my husband and I are fortunate enough to be able to wear serious dress clothes infrequently - his suits are worn for funerals and the high holidays, mine are worn for the occasional professional event. Otherwise, we try to avoid dry-clean only clothing, air out of dry-clean stuff if it needs it, spot clean and try not to get it dirty. For those who have to dress up more often, we find that most natural fiber clothing can be washed safely by hand. If you do dry clean, find a low-toxicity dry cleaner, since the chemicals used are really nasty and bad for you. Even at our low-toxicity cleaner, we hang the clothes outside to air for 24 hours after we have them dry cleaned.

How about ironing? I admit, Simon, my 8 year old once took a developmental test - he was about four. After the test the person giving it came out to talk to me, saying that he had done extremely well on the picture-word id segment of the test - in fact, he'd missed only one word, "ironing board." I blushed and admitted that there was a good chance he'd actually never seen one. We're not much for ironing here. I do have an iron and ironing board, and use it occasionally for sewing projects and when absolutely necessary, but generally I find that choosing clothes that don't wrinkle much and hanging things out on a windy day will make my wardrobe look fairly crisp without it.

As with dry cleaning, for those with serious professional jobs, more ironing may be necessary, and the best you can do is only do what you need to - if you are ironing your underwear, you are probably not making the best possible use of your energy ;-). We all do what we can.

How does all of this actually stack up from a profit and loss standpoint? If you use it a lot, replacing an old top loader washer with a front loader will save you 70 or 80 kwh per month and 7-15 dollars, depending on your electric budget. Not buying any washer at all, and sharing with a neighbor, or using the laundromat will save you still more. Reducing detergent could save as little as $1 a month if you do laundry infrequently anyway, or as much as $8 month. Giving up the dryer could save you $20 a month or more, and a much larger number of kwh. Even reducing their use will make a difference.

Using a front loader is no more time consuming, if you use the quick wash cycle, than running a top loader, so the time is the same. Hanging laundry takes 2-5 more minutes per load than using a dryer - maybe less if you salary is low and your per hour wages to support your dryer aren't high. Using less detergent, no fabric softener and no dryer sheets saves you time and money - less shopping. Less drycleaning saves you pick up and drop off, not to mention chemical exposure. Less ironing saves you time and electricity.

Best of all, you cut out energy use fairly painlessly - and leave something for the future.

Ok, next week I'll do keeping warm!


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By Alexandra (not verified) on 16 Dec 2009 #permalink

I often wonder if the "wash on Monday, iron on Tuesday" part of the standard recitation is because the clothes were often not fully dry after hanging out, and the ironing happened not so much for wrinkles as to heat the last of the moisture out of the clothes from the previous day's incomplete drying. At this time of year I find that my clothes are just not dry by the end of the day, despite using the power-spin feature on my machine and doing my best to get them in off the line the minute the sun is gone from their location. They're not still wet - but a touch damp. I tried not worrying about it and putting them away as-is, but we noticed a faint mildewing smell after a couple of days and I washed them again quickly! Do you leave clothes out multiple days in the winter to achieve complete dryness? Do you finish the drying process indoors by the heat?

I have a very silly goal of having an organized garage so I can string laundry lines in there for rainy day drying...

By Christina (not verified) on 16 Dec 2009 #permalink

We don't have conventional running water on our homestead, so conventional washing machines are out. Instead, we use a wringer washer, and I have to admit that I feel the same way about it that you feel about hanging clothes out on the line. It's so nice to turn what for so many of us is a blah indoors chore into something that can be done in the fresh air and sun! (No quite so much fun in the winter, though....)

I think your point about wearing clothes more before washing them and being more careful to keep your going to town clothes clean is the best. It feels a lot like the difference between putting in a lot of compact fluorescent light bulbs or just leaving your lights off when you're out of the house --- cutting back your use of energy should always be the first step!

We MUST run the dehumidifier in our basement all summer (2 blocks away from a MAJOR river, storage in basement for goods that MUST be dry), and I actually dump the humidifier water straight into the washer. I get water for the wash cycle for a load a week.

By nancy New (not verified) on 16 Dec 2009 #permalink

One thing left out - serious allergies. There are times of the year that I absolutely must use my dryer.

I think also owning LESS clothing makes a difference. You don't have as many options if it gets dirty and you might be more inclined to wash out a potential stain/dirty spot only and dry it over night. We also have multiple hanging hook racks in our bedrooms to hang pj's play clothes and whatnot so that we can keep track of worn clothing better. It also naturally airs it out!

Two more things: ironing helps get rd of the crunchies. I do this with items I can't bear to wear like that & I also use a bit of eco-friendly softener for certain items as well, um like undies:) Marion is right though down south the pollen is practically pollutive and during those 3-4 weeks I dry inside or use the dryer.

A good article! I'll add a few things from my own experience.

1. If you hang laundry on hangers, use plastic hangers. If you use metal hangers to hold wet shirts and blouses, you *will* get rust stains on the shoulders. Ask me how I know this ... and rust stains are very hard to remove.

2. The wooden clothes racks I have - probably the same ones you linked, but I didn't follow the link - are my preferred drying solution. I don't use clothespins, just drape the clothes over the bars. Put the longest clothes, like jeans, on the top bars, the shortest ones on the bottom, so none of them touch the ground and the maximum amount of air flows around them. You can move the rack around the yard to wherever the sun is, or inside if it should start to rain, in 30 seconds or less: grab it, fold it in half, and haul it. All the laundry remains in place on the rack. Then unfold it when you get to the new spot, or inside.

3. Don't dry clothes in a wet basement, especially if you have mold problems. Ask me how I know this, too. Even pinning the clothes to a metal line in a basement will leave you with rust stains on the clothes.

4. Front loading washers get more water out on the spin cycle than do top loaders, so it takes less time to dry clothes, whether in the dryer or on a line, another point in favor of the front loader. I use a front loader and like it very much.

5. In the winter, in a 65F house, most clothes other than jeans and sweaters dry in less than a day when dried on a rack. It might take another day to dry the jeans and sweaters, turning them over once (because they are draped over the rack, the side facing out dries faster than the side facing in). I haven't given it a good test yet at 55F, where we now keep the house most of the day, but I'm sure it will take longer.

My drying method is to pop the clean wet clothes in the dryer for about 5-7 minutes; take them out hot and steamy and then hang on clothes hangers. The clothing dries quickly and relatively wrinkle-free, prevents the crunchies and is already hung up for the closet. I also found some heavy duty drapery hangers and hang sheets, cloth napkins folded length-wise to dry. Almost as good as ironing, they're also ready to quickly put away with a single quick fold The quick tumble with a bit of heat hardly uses much energy at all. This method is a is a good substitute for not being able to use a clothesline. I hang the clothes on a folding clothing rack with wheels, easy to set up and easy to stash under the bed.

I compare how much laundry I do with my friends and they are amazed at how few loads I do. Because we don't live on a farm, we really don't get that dirty...with the sole exception of my 5 year old who could get dirty in a sterile hospital ward. Anyway, wearing stuff until it is really dirty (I wear one pair of jeans for the entire week normally), lowering your standards...washing towels every other week and sheets every 3-4 weeks, combining loads to wash full ones, etc has greatly reduced my laundry and therefore my energy/water use.

By Laura in So Cal (not verified) on 16 Dec 2009 #permalink

We have lots of minerals in the water here as well. I have a front-loading washing machine, and do 1-3 loads per week. Clotheslines are banned in some neighborhoods, including mine, but many items can air-dry on a hanger or indoor rack. I do a lot of knitting, and I wash all of my hand-knit items (sweaters, scarves, mitts, socks, shawls, hats) in the sink, and dry them on towels or on an indoor rack.

For five months out of the year, I teach gross anatomy four days each week, and that requires an extra laundry-load for scrubs each week, with a warm wash and cold rinse, plus the dryer. I wouldn't wear them a second day without washing in-between, let me tell you. Ewww. For years, I used the scrubs from the university hospital linen service, but then developed an allergy to the harsh soap or whatever chemicals they use in the laundry. I had to buy my own scrubs, and launder them with eco-friendly soap, which is probably better anyway (or may just balance out).

In winter I like wearing a heavy t-shirt under my cotton duck shirt or sweatshirt - with a white t-shirt under that. The layers work well, in especially cold weather I use a heavy long-sleeve t-shirt.

Unless I get sweaty, only the under, light t-shirt needs cleaned as often. Wearing a hooded sweatshirt, with jacket or coat when outside, I have layers to take off to remain warm enough but comfortable.

I wear cotton socks, the crew type. They last a couple of days - even at night (I read that wearing non-tight socks keeps the feet warmer, improves blood circulation in the legs, and reduces heart attack risk). With the house set at 58 degrees, rugs and slippers help keep wear down on the socks.

I go mostly by significant dirt or smell to decide, "Enough! wash it!"

One house I rented in Minnesota had a laundry line out front near the car parking area. I hung laundry out all winter.

The below-zero days were amusing - do not bring an entire basket of wet laundry outside with you!

Every day I'd walk past the laundry and knock on it. If it was solid, it was still wet. If it was flexible, all the water had sublimated leaving it dry. Freeze-dried laundry!

These days I use an indoor rack that holds one load, which is about 3 outfits. Depending on what I've been doing, that might be a weeks worth of clothes, wearing each outfit a couple days. I don't have very many clothes in part so that I never have a giant Mount Washmore to battle.

By curiousalexa (not verified) on 16 Dec 2009 #permalink

Nobody has mentioned airing cupboards. This is the cupboard where the water heating tank is, with open slatted shelves. It is full of warm air from the tank. I put clothes in there once they come off the line or rack. I don't put them straight in the wardrobe or drawers - they should be bone dry before they go away to avoid mildew.
Christine Stone (England)

By Christine Stone (not verified) on 17 Dec 2009 #permalink

Interesting discussion. I'm a Brit living in the US and I thought I was the only person to dry washing outside (waste all that lovely fresh air and California sunshine?!). Christine: I haven't (yet) come across airing cupboards over here, sadly. Maybe they just didn't reach the West coast... I cloth diaper my son and apart from in the wet/cold season here (maybe 3-4 months) I dry them outside. The added bonus is the sterilizing effect of sunlight. They are particularly thick and slow to dry so I tend to use the dryer during the winter, I confess.

Buying a front loading washing machine made a huge difference to our energy usage. Plus I believe they are less destructive on clothes and clean better. We got a rebate for buying ours, too, since it is energy efficient.

I work in an office every day, so my advice is from the point of view of someone whose clothes get soiled on the inside, not the outside.

Yes, I wear formal, dry-clean-only office wear. I have five suits, one for every day of the week. I dry clean each suit... maybe once or twice a year?

To Sharonâs point about spot-cleaning and airing: yes, absolutely.

To Brad Kâs point about layering: thatâs my secret!

Tights, long-sleeved t-shirts and scarves keep the suit away from my skin. (In the old days, gloves served the purpose that my long-sleeved t-shirts do today.) These next-to-skin items are sniffed in the evening and then either aired for rewearing or put into the laundry.

I keep my hair away from my clothes. That used to mean cropped very short, but these days I pile it on top of my head in a bun.

I wear skirts, not pants to the office. As a woman, pants crotches are a prime target for inside soiling. It doesnât take many wearings for a pants crotch to start getting smelly, but a skirt may never get smelly at all.

To reduce pants laundry, you can wear a pants slip (for wide-legged, office-wear pants) and a washable panty liner.

For household laundry, Iâve done an analysis of laundering bedlinens.

RE diapers: Yes, thick diapers can take a very long time to dry. Thatâs why I was so disappointed when Gerber discontinued their gauze Snugabye diapers. They were *very* soft and *very* absorbent. You could fold and pin them or fold them and put them into a fitted diaper cover. And they unfolded into large squares that washed and dried beautifully. Fitted diapers, and especially all-in-one diapers, are much more finicky with respect to drying.

Yay, the Tick! Loved that cartoon, it went off the air too fast! I have a few videos that I picked up at used book stores, and am always on the lookout for more.

We have a Fisher and Paykel washer which is a top loader but uses the least amount of water and power of any of the top loaders. It works on a magnet system, it changes the polarity of the magnets to agitate the clothes and spins at 1000 rpm to get the water out. My clothes are nearly dry when they come out of the washer, and take about 4 hours in winter to dry on the line; in summer about 10 minutes.

My biggest problem is wrinkles in the clothes as we wear mostly cotton. My solution is to make use of the permanent press cycle for anything that might end up needing to be ironed; that way they come out of the washer damp enough to relax the wrinkles out during the extra drying time required.

We also make use of layering. I won't wear scrubs more than once for the obvious yuck factor but everything else except undies gets worn at least twice, and like Sharon we do the sniff test and examine for soil before placing in the dirty clothes hamper. For socks, I've found that wool socks are the best both in winter and in summer -- they allow one's feet to breathe, wick moisture better, and stay 'fresh' for more than one day (unlike cotton).

And aprons have become my new around the house necessity! I have one vintage apron that gets the most use, and a new one I purchased so that I could have two (I also have a pattern for more) but the new ones don't have coverage like the old ones do, it seems they're more of a fashion accessory than a working item of clothing.

Re: dry cleaning

Eco-dry cleaners are hard to find!

And I still don't know what to do about wool coats. How do you clean them without dry cleaning? Ours get a little funky under the arms after a while!

Alison, that's a really good point about skirts!

The best diapers I've found were the hemp ones I had with my kids - they dried fastest, became very soft over time and were ecologically nice. They didn't have bamboo back then. The best covers were indubitably the wool ones - because you only had to wash them when they got poop on them - hang them up to air and dry and there was no pee smell.


anon. 21,

I don't know what to do about funky wool coats; I take mine to the dry cleaner. I just don't do it very often.

To avoid transmitting underarm funkiness to clothes in the first place, there's antiperspirant; some people find vinegar works just as well, but I don't have first-hand experience with it.

The other trick is dress shields. Similar to the principle of a washable panty liner to protect pants, dress shields are pieces of fabric temporarily hand-stitched into the armpits of your clothes. They are essential when you are wearing a white silk dress because sweat will permanently stain the garment, but those of us with more prosaic clothing requirements can still use dress shields to reduce laundry and dry cleaning. Just cut out the dress shields and wash them, or throw them out and make new ones.

If the coat isn't lined, simple airing should do it most of the time - wool doesn't hold bacteria very well and often airing will freshen things really nicely. But if lined, I'd go with Alison's suggestions.


I am curious how you can put an entire load of laundry on one dryer rack. I had a nice big one, but could only fit a half a load on it. And when I hang them up on the clothesline, it takes me 20-30 minutes. I'm wondering if my loads are much bigger than everyone else's. I consider a full load in my washer to be a heaping laundry basket, the big rectangular Rubbermaid kind, not the little round wicker ones. Ironically, I also had to purchase a few more socks and underwear for everyone so I could reduce my laundry. I didn't have enough whites to wait for a full load before everyone ran out of socks and undies, so buying an extra package for everyone gave us enough to last an entire week (yes, we were down to about 3 pairs of socks each), by which time I have a full load for the washer. I have 5 kids, the youngest of which is always dirty within minutes of getting cleaned up all the time. Then instead of taking off his dirty shirt, he just puts a clean one on over it. He's only three, so he should outgrow this.

For winter drying (I live in NH), I just bought a retractable indoor/outdoor clothesline with 5 lines. It cost me about $55 ($45 since I got it at 20% off on Ladies'
Night) at the local hardware store. I put it up in my kitchen and I hang my clothes up at night so they can dry without being in the way all day. I start the washer after dinner, then after I put the kids to bed at 7, I pull out the line and hang them up. By morning, most stuff is dry, and what isn't, I move down to the end of the line closest the heater vent and it is usually dry by lunch. My dryer costs me about $20/month minimum (I usually do a load every day), so I expect the clothesline to pay for itself in less than 90 days.

Before I got my dryer a couple of years ago, I hung my clothes on hangers in a big empty closet and put a box fan in there to help move the air. That worked great. My only problem was keeping the small things like toddler undies and washcloths from falling off the hanger.

I do have a single washtub and wringer, but I haven't put the time in to learn to really use it yet. I tried it once in my tiny cramped apartment bathroom last year (there wasn't enough room for both it and me in the bathroom), but now that I am in a house with a yard, I hope to put it to better use.

Judy, I think we have the same definition of "a full load" - and we don't do anything but full loads, ever here - too much freakin' laundry with this many kids. All I can say is that I have a large drying rack, and it comfortably holds a whole load - I throw the objects over it flat, and it doesn't take more than five minutes. I'm not sure what I'm doing differently than you, though. I stick toddler socks and little stuff on the edges of the frame, if that helps.


By Sharon Astyk (not verified) on 18 Dec 2009 #permalink

I checked out the pressure washer you linked to, and it sounded like a great idea. I had never heard of it before, and I'm considering buying one. I'm a bit of a skeptic, so I looked at some reviews and it all sounds too good to be true... and my momma always said, "If it sounds too good to be true, it ain't." So this skeptic needs assurance:

Will this thing replace my washing machine? I'm single and don't have a ton of laundry, so that's not an issue. I'm concerned with cleanliness.


We have a clothes line in our large (uninsulated) attic for when it is too cold or wet to use the one outdoors. Clothes dry really quickly even when the weather is cold. Also, I second the recommendation for spin-dryers. A spin-dryer is a godsend for anyone who has to hand-wash their clothes - it gets the clothes nearly dry, yet uses hardly any electricity.

Homemade laundry soap recipe:

1 medium-size bar soap (about the size of a bath bar), grated fine. I make my own castile and veggie oil soaps, but really any kind is fine.
1 cup borax
1 cup sodium carbonate (washing soda is available in many hardware & grocery stores, or the pool chemical kind also works)

Mix thoroughly. Add perfume oil of choice as you like, or don't. Best made on a dry day and stored relatively airtight, as it will clump a bit otherwise. Use about 2 tablespoons/large load for wash done in the sink, tub or top-loading washer, about half that for a front-loading washer. Costs about half as much per load as store-bought detergent, depending on how badly you dirty up your clothes. I raise poultry, and after coop-cleaning shit-shoveling days, this stuff gets my nasty jeans clean in about 20 minutes of soaking. Also soaks out serious bloodstains in a similar amount of time when thoroughly dissolved in warm water, which in my experience even the spendiest commercial detergents do not.

Oh yeah, use a cheap grater for this. You don't want to, for example, wreck your $100 KitchenAid attachment the day before you had a big batch of coleslaw to make for a cookout...

Because drought is becoming reality for more and more of us, we can also connect the task of washing our panties and BVDs with the right sudsy substance, resulting in greywater that can be welcomed in our well-mulched landscape. Giving our hardworking planet's water a chance to remain non-toxic and perform double-duty that keeps on giving is crucial, and saves money.

Finding the right soap and detergent feels like the twisted plot of a syrupy soap-opera, however, and you can read about it right here and sparkle with useful knowledge!:

It's not necessarily easy, but it's absolutely possible.

Danielle Charbonneau
Tucson Community Advocate

By Grey Matter (not verified) on 19 Dec 2009 #permalink