Motivated more by penury than environmentalism, I recently decided to start washing all my clothes by hand. Towels, sheets, and blankets still go to the laundromat, since they’re too unwieldy to rinse and dry in the confined space of my little NYC apartment. Otherwise, I’ve kicked the washer and dryer habit, which is good, since both machines eat electricity like candy.
Feel like giving handwashing a try?
You will need:
- a large plastic or — better yet — metal bucket
- a bathtub
- laundry detergent (I like Seventh Generation)
- a laundry line, either in the bathtub itself, or anywhere else that’s convenient for you
1) Fill the bucket about halfway with your dirty clothes, packed loosely. Dump in the appropriate amount of detergent, fill the bucket with warm water. Allow the clothes to soak for at least ten minutes.
2) Take a shower. Wash, scrub, exfoliate, condition — do whatever you normally do in the shower. While you’re doing all this, stomp on your laundry to agitate it and force the soap through the fabric. You can also use a washboard during this stage, though I don’t think it’s really necessary.
3) When you’ve finished your shower, empty the laundry bucket and wring out the clothes. Fill the bucket about halfway with cold water, and then pound the hell out your clothes so as to remove as much soap as possible. Rinse, refill, repeat. Unless you’ve used way too much detergent, the rinsing process shouldn’t take more than a bucket or two of cold water.
4) Wring out your laundry, hang it up to dry. My laundry line suction-cups itself to the tiles of my bathroom wall, so that I can let my clothes drip-dry right over the tub.
Addendum: To shrink denim back to its proper size, soak it for five to ten minutes in very hot water. No tumble-drying necessary!