Hand washing clothes: I learned something new this morning.

I haven’t had a washing machine for almost two weeks, and having a household with a Small Boy in and a limited wardrobe, this morning was what I might call Crisis Point. A quick Internet search of local launderettes showed that my nearest is a 20 minute walk away – not ideal for carrying bags of washing and walking with a Small Boy would make it more like 40 minutes…

…So I decided to do a hand wash. I know, obvious right? And I’ve just finished, 20 minutes later (and 15 minutes of that was ‘soaking’ time!) and hung everything up to dry on an airer in the hallway, and I thought I’d blog about it. Because this hand wash just cost me the price of boiling a kettle, and a heaped teaspoon of detergent, instead of the £3 or so at the launderette.

I found this link on WikiHow (How to wash clothes by hand) and followed it – albeit loosely. I didn’t have a bucket, so I used my washing up bowl, and a wooden spoon.

I started with a ‘colours’ wash, as by some happy accident all of SBs tshirts, socks and smalls are brightly coloured. I filled the washing up bowl to the top with his slightly grubby boy-clothes, sprinkled the detergent over, and poured a kettle full of boiling water over the top. I then ran hot water over the lot, to keep it hot. (If you aren’t familiar with Small Boys, their clothes tend to be covered in rather stubborn stains that I figured would be best tackled with very hot water!)

I left it all to soak for 15 minutes, giving it an occasional stir with my wooden spoon to dislodge any dirt, (and pretend to be Charlie Buckets mum in the original Willy Wonka film) – then lifted the bowl out of the sink and popped it on the side.

I ran the cold tap, and lifted the items out one at a time and rinsed them under the tap to remove any detergent and stains – which were surprisingly absent after the hot soak. Then I squeezed the water out gently, without wringing, popping them into a tea towel for a ‘final squeeze’. I restored everything to its usual shape, and hung it on the airer to dry.

I kept the bowl of water to do a second wash of black, navy and denim, figuring that after only 15 minutes use it would be okay to use again, even if it had cooled down slightly.

The upside to hand washing is that it’s quick, cheap and relatively simple. The down side will be how long my jeans will take to dry…! And towels, I’m not looking forward to towels… Maybe I’ll take an occasional trip to the launderette for those… Maybe.

The link above gives instructions in how to take care of delicate items, and wool – I only hand washed ordinary cotton and denim clothes like tshirts, socks, underwear etc this morning, and all of my clothes are fairly simple and unfussy.

Of course, washing in a washing up bowl means that I can only do a little at a time, but I figure that that’s okay – if I keep on top of it, it should be fine! I only have single bedding though – I’m not sure i’d like to tackle anything bigger!

In short, although it’s not a solution that will work for everyone, I’m proud of myself for having taught myself something new today – that isn’t really ‘new’ at all, as people have been hand washing clothes for years! But I don’t think I will be buying a washing machine at any point in the near future. Silly modern gadget thing. 🙂

Jack Monroe. Twitter: @MsJackMonroe

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