Sunday, August 25, 2013

Hand Washing Laundry

Yesterday was a long day.  Not a bad day, just a long day.  It started with this crazy idea that we'd go blue crabbing.  We bought a trap, got our "from shore" saltwater licenses, and went as a family to catch what we were sure would be tons and tons of blue crab.  Turns out we had the wrong bait and caught nada.  We spent the whole morning doing that, came home, did research on what bait we actually wanted, made lunch, and took care of a few things.  In the evening, we headed back out, but this time we also bought fresh water fishing licenses so we could fish while we waited on the crab traps.  Now we ran into our second problem: not enough bait in the crab traps.  Everyone got filthy, Inventor Boy spent his time playing with and feeding the wrong type of crab which he cheerfully named Jeremy (or is it Germy?), a rock I was standing on suddenly tipped me into the river (just wet feet), and Husband caught nothing.  Monkey Boy, though, caught two catfish.  We discussed rubbing his head for good luck on future fishing trips since he apparently had the knack.

We finally arrived home way past the kids' bedtime, sweaty and exhausted.  The kids took showers, Husband went to clean the one catfish (the other had escaped), and I put in a much needed load of laundry and went to get a shower.

So there I was, clean and not smelling in the least little bit, wearing clean clothes and feeling awesome. I heard Husband call from the kitchen, saying he needed "a towel."  I figured he had spilled something, grabbed a bath towel from the closet, and headed to the kitchen.  When I got there, I slipped, one of my feet flew forward (I'm not even sure why it went forward.  Seems like it should go backward, amiright?), kicking dirty water all over my nice clean self and clothes.  I looked down.  About a quarter of an inch of water covered the laundry room and kitchen floor.

"I tried to warn you," Husband said.  He was standing in water next to the washing machine, not looking too amused.  "The washing machine is leaking.  It just dumped all this water out the bottom."  One thing was for sure: "a towel" was not going to fix this.

We quickly learned that our wet/dry vac is not good at wet (like, at all), our mop is not even a little absorbent, and our kitchen and laundry room floor can hold several gallons of water.  Husband and I spent an hour cleaning it all up.

So, there we were.  Late Saturday night with soaking wet but not-even-kind-of-clean laundry.  Fortunately, our washer was still under warranty and the company keeps late hours, but the actual repair people wouldn't be able to even make an appointment until Monday.  Also, how were we going to wash those towels we used to clean up the water?  Exactly.  

Now, in Florida, you can't leave items wet.  You can't.  They will mold before you can blink.  That left me two options for the morning: hand wash the very large load of clothes in it's entirety, or go to the laundromat.  I know laundromat seems the obvious choice, but I didn't take it.  The simple reason is I didn't want to go to the laundromat, but the longer answer is that I've been there, done that.  Once upon a time, we lived in an apartment that had no laundry facilities.  Laundromat was a standard chore, but during the year or so I used it, the clothes always came out stinking like poop, money was stolen from my purse, clothes went missing, and once a whole load of laundry came out covered in black wax.  You might be thinking that this must have been some old, grungy, broken-down laundromat, but it wasn't.  It was clean with newish machines and situated in the shopping center in a nice part of town.  In short, I was not going to go to the laundromat.  I was going to hand wash that load if it took me all day.  And it did.  Really.  I didn't realize just how much our washer fits.

I tried to remember that people hand washed clothes for centuries upon centuries, and many people still do by choice.  If they can do it, so could I.  Washing machines aren't that old of an invention.  However, I have to admit it was little comfort when I was on the third set of clothes from the same load, my back was aching, and my skin was cracking and blistering from the washing motion.  Still, it got done.  It's really not that hard, and I would never, ever consider hand washing that much laundry at once if the clothes weren't already wet and needed to be taken care of, like, now.  

And now, a brief tutorial on what to do if your washer breaks and you find yourself in the same situation.  I wanted to give you the emergency version, since I myself had trouble finding one.  Oh, there are lots of tutorials on how to properly hand wash laundry, but they are generally for people that only need to wash their frillies from time to time or people that have made (or been forced to make) the choice to hand wash all their laundry, and this latter group recommends some great equipment if you are going to be without a washing machine for a long stretch of time.  Me?  I intend on getting it fixed ASAP (hopefully), and so am not about to drop $200 on a big wash tub, scrub brush/wash board, and fancy hand-crank clothes wringer.  I needed to know what to do, right now.  After much research and a whole lot of hand washing, I present to you...

How to Hand Wash Laundry (an emergency tutorial)
-large-ish plastic tub (can use a bucket or large plastic bowl if only washing a few things at a time)
-laundry soap
-clean, dry towels (you'll need this if you are washing jeans, delicates, or any item that is difficult to wring out or that wringing would damage)
-rubber gloves (optional but highly suggested)

1. Put a small amount of laundry soap into your washing container and fill with water before you put in laundry.  Make sure soap is dispersed, then add laundry.  Don't overfill your container with too much laundry or nothing will get clean.

2. Walk away from it for a half hour or so while the water and soap penetrates and the dirt dissolves and loosens.  Use this time to think about how you are not at the laundromat.

3. Don your gloves and start swishing.  You can knead the clothes like you would bread or imitate the agitating motion of a washing machine.  You want to do this for several minutes.

4. Wring your clothes as tight as you can (for jeans and delicates this can be difficult.  Wring or squish the best you can, and don't stress about it for the moment.  We'll take care of giving them a good wring with the aid of towels at the end).

5. Rinse the soap out of your tub, fill with clean water, and agitate clothes in the clean water.  Wring out again, refill tub with clean water.  Repeat for a total of 4 rinses, or until most of the soap is gone.

6. Wring out all the clothes as best you can, removing as much water as possible.  You don't want to damage your dryer by placing sopping wet clothes in there!  For jeans and delicates, lay a dry towel down.  Place jeans or delicate items on top of the towel, and put another towel on top.  Roll the towels with the clothes in between, starting at one of the short edges.  Place your knees on the towel roll as you go, using your weight to help squeeze water from the clothes into the towels.

7. Hang to dry or place in dryer (provided you got enough water out of the clothes.  Don't be lazy with the wringing step).

8. Moisturize your hands.  Seriously.  Even if you were wearing gloves.  Do it.
I cleaned ALL the laundry!

I hope you never have to use these steps unless, ya know, you want to.  It's really not that hard, but remember to do it in small loads.  Don't try to do a king sized load like I did.  I only did that much at once because they were already soaking wet.  I had no choice but to do that much.  And, since I didn't have a huge vessel on hand, I had to wash it in small amounts, which made it last all day.  It's 7pm where I am right now, and I just finished the last bit of it.  I started around 9am.  Granted, a lot of that time is it sitting and soaking for an hour or so before I wash, but it made the day feel very, very exhausting.  But, Husband brought home makings for chocolate martinis after all this.  That's something, right?

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