Washboard Laundry Day

Well, y’all knew I’d have to eventually google washboards right? I just saw this cute little video where 10-year old or so Alicia demonstrates washing a shirt or something on a washboard and it reminded me that we’ll need a little bit more than a washboard to keep our clothes clean out in camp or at home if we don’t have electricity. Have a look: http://www.pioneerliving.net/washboard.htm

In addition to the washboard, which I have yet to find…gonna try Canadian tire or a second-hand store or, of course, I could buy it online…we have to have other tools:

The soap to wash with! An article I read says to rub bar soap on the washboard and then onto an article of clothing placed onto the washboard, and then scrub. Repeat with each piece of clothing. I would get several bars of Linda laundry bar soap, but have no idea how many because I don’t know how long a bar would last in those conditions. I would get Linda simply because it’s available at Food Basics, which in turn means it’s probably the cheapest I would be able to find. In this video, though, that’s not stated and sudsy wash water was prepared beforehand. I would simply add the homemade laundry soap I wrote about last week and agitate that until it’s all dissolved before dumping in the first load of laundry. Perhaps even dissolve it in boiling water and then mix it into the wash water. I’m guessing I would need less than the 1 tablespoon scoop I currently use for my automatic washing machine, so I’ll probably say 1 teaspoon? That brings me to…

Long gloves to wear while scrubbing.  Since my homemade laundry soap is made with superwashing soda and borax as well as Linda bar soap I’m thinking I’ll need to protect my hands and sleeves! Don’t want to damage my fingernails any more than necessary and certainly don’t want kids laughing at grandma skin (aka wrinkles) on my fingers!

It would be wise to have hand lotion on hand to help my hands and face recover from the constant work, sun and wind!

An apron with pockets to protect my clothes from splashes and to hold my clothes pins. I mean, one’s mouth can only hold so many pins… There are many different kinds of aprons, ranging from the simple panel that covers your front from waist to knees to those that give full coverage like a dress. I would opt for the one-size-fits-all BBQ style that covers your sides and front from neck to knees, and I would refrain from making it cute so that the men won’t be afraid to use it. In fact, I would go so far as to suggest each campsite should have at least two–one heavy-duty apron (in denim or oilcloth) for protecting clothing while chopping/carrying wood, etc. and one lighter easy-to-wash apron for protection around the camp stove and laundry tub. Come to think of it, an oilcloth one would be perfect for laundry day!

A clothesline! I understand there are many, many uses for paracord and this is one of them. I would say you should have a dedicated length of paracord that is used only for laundry. Once you’ve done all the hard work of scrubbing your clothes, you don’t want to be placing them onto a line that’s dirty from holding down all the stuff on your bug out trailer or dragging dead carcasses out of the forest. And when you are measuring out your laundry paracord, don’t forget to allow a few feet for tying it to trees!

But, I have digressed again. I have a habit of doing that….

Before you can get around to hanging up your laundry, you need to get your dirty clothes clean! You need more than one tub/bucket/tote and at least one of them needs to be big enough to accommodate your washboard. That means you need to acquire your washboard before you go shopping for laundry tubs/buckets/totes. In this video, you’ll see they’ve used a galvanized tub to wash the clothes in. That’s because that tub can be placed over a fire to get the water hot. If you want to boil your water in pots you already have instead (you’d better have big ones and get started early) you can get away without the galvanized tub. However, galvanized tubs are great for bathing in (oh, now I’m feeling old).

That leads me to another digression: if you are going to do laundry in the same tub you bathe in, you’ll need to have a good way of scrubbing soap scum off it between uses. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to wash my clothes in water contaminated from someone’s last bath. I don’t even want to bathe in a tub contaminated from my own last bath! (Ditto for a basin used for washing your hair and your dishes.) Also you’ll want your tubs/buckets/totes to do double duty as storage containers for when you are moving between camps. You get the picture. So make sure you have enough rags and cleanser for scrubbing your containers!

Note: We’ve been told that our containers should have locking lids, especially for when we’re moving about, to help keep everything dry and in place. My friend suggests Rubbermaid containers as they are the only ones that can stand up to drilling holes in them for securing lids to the container with quick ties, or whatever they’re called. He recommends drilling holes in one lid and container first and then using the lid as a template for the rest of the lids and containers. That way, all of the lids are interchangeable!

Okay, back to the laundry. Didn’t know this would be such a complex issue did you?

You’ll need tubs/buckets/totes also for a first rinse and a second rinse. Those can be plastic and they can be smaller. The second rinse is in cold water, used particularly for cooling boiled clothes so you can handle them. I’ll explain what that’s about in a minute, but first I want to suggest that if you’d rather have dedicated laundry tubs/buckets/totes you should find three that fit inside of each other perfectly (with or without lids, but lids make them more multi-purpose) and then use the innermost one to store your other laundry supplies. When acquiring your three tubs/buckets/totes you might want to start with whatever container(s) holds your 3.5 year supply of laundry soap to make sure it will fit inside, then allow room for the gloves, clothesline, clothespins, long wooden spoon and/or tongs, etc. Maybe even your washboard.

In the article we were told to boil the clothes for an hour before washing them (makes it easier, apparently, but ewwww) and in this video we were told to boil the washed clothes for about 5 minutes to sterilize them, and cooking pots were used for that. Of course, they could be the pots you boiled water in previously for your wash tub. And naturally, that means you’ll have to have a fire going beforehand with enough wood nearby to keep you going through the whole process. If I have to do all this, I don’t think I’ll be doing laundry any more often than necessary! (Or maybe doing smaller loads more frequently would make it easier…) Anyhow, I understand that the sun does an excellent job of bleaching and sterilizing clothes, so I’d try to wait for sunny days before doing laundry. But there will be those days when we cannot do all/any of this outside…think the middle of a Canadian winter…when you’ll have to boil water on your camp stove and hang the laundry inside your tent so the heat from the stove can dry them out. (Amusing story alert: When I was a kid we hung clothes outside even in winter and at least once I snapped legs off frozen pants! I’ve been wanting to try that again so if you’re in my camp and have a pair of pants you want to turn into shorts, please let me have a crack at it!) Anyway, you might be concerned about perfectly clean and pretty clothes when you start out, but I’m sure that will be the least of your worries toward the end! I guess boiling clothes would be a great idea, though, if we stumble into areas where we are contaminated by egg-laying-bugs…

The girl in the video used tongs to remove clothes from the boiling pot. I think a long wooden spoon would serve as well. If you use a wooden spoon you’ll probably want that dedicated, too, so you are not serving up laundry detergent-flavoured deer stew at the end of a long day! Tongs are great for dealing with pasta and are easier to get perfectly clean, but if your family suffers from ick-that’s-gross syndrome you might want dedicated tongs, also.

In an article but not the video the point was made to start with the cleanest laundry first (obviously so you don’t have to get new water for each load). For me that means wash the tea towels first and underwear and pads last. Or maybe the jeans… Your decision.

Got a backache just imagining doing all this? That’s nothing compared to what will happen if you don’t set up your laundry site properly. You need to get your laundry tubs/buckets/totes set up at a level that’s comfortable so you don’t have to bend over any further than necessary. I don’t know about you, but I can’t visualize myself either kneeling on or bending down to the ground to deal with laundry! I get a backache just standing at the kitchen counter chopping vegetables! So utilize blocks, logs, rocks or whatever is at hand to raise your tubs/buckets/totes off the ground. If necessary, you could overturn a couple of your other storage containers to serve as temporary worktables. I would set everything up before I got started, beginning with the fire so water can be heating up while you work, after deciding where the clothesline will be.

Speaking of which, the article suggests having a laundry basket. If you work close by your clothesline it shouldn’t be a huge issue if you don’t have one when hanging up wet clothes one by one as they come out of the rinse water. But it is really nice to have one when removing dry clothes from the line. Of course, you can always use one of your scrubbed out laundry tubs/buckets/totes–assuming that all of your clothes have already been washed and hung up and they’re no longer needed for that purpose.  So don’t take your much-needed rest after laundering your clothes until you’ve also scrubbed out your containers! Procrastination has a way of coming back to bite you, like when it starts to rain while you are resting with a cup of tea and you have no choice but to grab clothes off the line and drop them into a dirty tub!

Well, I’ve written enough to make you decide to hire a camp laundry maid so I’ll sign off for now. I’d be interested to hear how you have decided to manage your laundry.

Connie, laundry maid-to-be

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Homemade Laundry Detergent

Posted on 18th November 2012 in Environment, Health & Fitness, Money & Finances, Prepping, Survival

I’ve been researching the subject of making my own laundry detergent for several months and am pleased to report I have discovered an awesome and simple recipe. I’m not a fan of cooking up so-called simple goopy liquid products, so this is a dry powdered mixture that is easy-peasy to assemble. It will travel easily, so I’m thinking it will be perfect for the trib.

Because I like things to do double-duty, I experimented with using this for handwashing dishes but it doesn’t suds up so I was disappointed with that. Dear son says it doesn’t have the chemical ability to lift food off hard surfaces (he thinks suds are needed for that). So I suppose I’m looking for an ingredient with that property that is powdered (or can be powdered at home) to add to this recipe. Or maybe I need a totally different set of dry ingredients, who knows. If you have been making and using a great powdered soap recipe for hand washing dishes, please share! 

Anyway, back on topic. We love how soft our clothes are when we wash them in this homemade laundry detergent! Dear daughter especially likes the fact that she doesn’t have to deal with scents and tells me there is no more itchiness, either! I like the fact that we use just the tiniest bit (about a tablespoon) of the homemade detergent per load (and can use more or less as needed), so it goes a long way. If you use a level tablespoon per load, you can wash 96 loads with one batch. When I costed this out earlier this year, that meant that I could wash one load for $.034! I haven’t done any stats on the number of loads per bucket I got out of any of the commercial detergents I’ve purchased in the past, but here’s a quick calculation on the most recent one using the numbers printed on the product which I purchased at Costco. I paid something like $18 plus taxes for a bucket that would do 200 loads, so the cost per load was $.102. Wow–I can wash three times as many clothes with my homemade laundry detergent! 

I’ve seen variations of this on the internet (of course; where else would I find this stuff?) and some of them are very helpful videos, so by all means look for them if you don’t believe me. 🙂 However, if you are ready to try this recipe here goes:

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups superwashing soda
  • 2 cups borax
  • 1 x 9.5 oz bar Linda laundry soap
  • (optional) 1 cup of baking soda if you have hard water

Instructions:

Put the bar of Linda laundry soap into the freezer overnight or until you are ready to assemble the ingredients. (I’ve had mine in there for weeks; just pop it in the freezer when you bring it home from the store and leave it there until you are ready to make the recipe.) Remove it from the freezer and use a big knife to break it up into chunks. (I cannot speak to whether or not the soap needs to be thawed because I have never chopped it up right away. You might want to leave it for awhile.)  There is something about freezing the bar that makes it much easier to break up into chunks, so be kind to yourself and do it. If you simply must have the detergent right away, though, go ahead and chop the bar when you take it out of the grocery bag. Place the chopped soap into a food processor and run it about a minute or until the soap has been broken up until tiny grains. Pour the grated bar soap into an 8 cup or larger container and let it dry out for a couple of days. Mix in the superwashing soda and borax, plus baking soda if using. Store in laundry room with a small scoop that holds about 1 level tablespoon and use 1 scoop per load. Experiment–if you can get away with 1 teaspoon per load, go for it!

Note: if you would rather not use your food processor to transform the bar soap into tiny pellets, you can (I’m told) simply grate the bar using one of those graters you use for cheese. They say it’s not so easy to get the soap and/or the taste off the grater so you’ll want to have one on hand just for grating the bar soap. I can’t speak to that, either, but I’ve had no problem cleaning or using the food processor after making detergent.

Speaking of cheese, please be sure to keep the Linda bar soap away from cheese-loving children because it looks exactly like cheddar cheese!

By the way, several different kinds of laundry bar soap (such as Fels Naptha) are listed as ingredients in the recipes I’ve seen online, but I live in Canada and prefer to buy off the shelf rather than order ingredients online. I also prefer to shop at the cheaper groceries stores, like Food Basics. That’s where I found the Linda laundry bar soap and the borax, and of course the baking soda (which I don’t need to use). I did have to go to Home Hardware or Canadian Tire to get the superwashing soda. I bought the borax in a 2 kg box and the superwashing soda in a 3 kg box. Which brings me to a…

BIG BATCH IDEA: If you buy 6 bars of Linda laundry bar soap, you can use up all of the washing soda and borax in one fell swoop. In other words, get a big bucket or tote that can hold more than 36 cups (with stirring room) and dump in a 3 kg box of superwashing soda, a 2 kg box of borax, the baking soda if using, and the 6 bars of Linda soap after it’s been powdered, then stir it all together. That’s enough laundry detergent for 576 loads–about 3 years’ worth if you only do 3 or 4 loads per week. Hmm. That’ll get me through the trib, don’t you think?

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