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

Categories: Blog


  1. I used to have to hand wash and still do when we go away I find a good potato massher works wonders rather than the spoon methord the masher really bashes the dirt out of the clothes. As for jeans and towels if u can get them hung out even in this cold weather they drip really well if not over a bath is best

      • I learned to handwash 30yrs ago when I was travelling all over the world. I still do all the smalls, light dresses, t- shirts etc. in the shower! Can do it every time u shower! It only takes a few extra minutes! Leaving you with jeans to do in a machine!

  2. I spent a few years hand washing as my nearest launderette was 10 miles away and I didn’t have room for a washer.. Somehow, I do miss those days, it was actually quite therapeutic!

  3. I did hand washing since Jan this year through to July, as needed a specific attachment to hook up the second hand washing machine I bought. I didn’t mind it but did leave it to dry over a rack in the bath, thus leaving a nasty damp smell upstairs. The joy of shoving it all in the washing machine now! I’d almost forgotten! Jack- look on Gumtree- I got mine for £50 and the nice man delivered it, AND lifted it up two flights of stairs! Think I lucked out there 🙂

  4. I grew up in a home where my mom hand washed almost all of her clothes. I learned to do the same, especially while in college and wearing mainly nursing student “whites”.

    Hand washing is far easier on clothes, especially things like panties, bras, undershirts, etc. There is a return on investment.

    However, I found washing & drying towels, let alone sheets a horrible experience. The towels come out very rough but double as a loofas. 🙂 Plus, hand washing is labor intensive and the thought of approaching muddy children’s clothes sans a machine, well. . .

    But kudos to going back to a simpler method which will fare well for most things and support a budget in an efficient manner.

    • I figured if any of SBs clothes are really gross, I’ll soak them overnight and rinse thoroughly before attempting to hand wash them… In a bizarre way I really like rough towels! I can’t get on with soft ones, they don’t seem to dry me properly. Oh possibly too much information, but never mind!

      • If you are using fabric softener on towels they will just repel (not take up) the water on your body. Fabric softener should be restricted to man-made fibre to reduce static. I have a clothes dryer which I try very hard not to use for reasons of economy and global warming but if you have dry scratchy towels (and a dryer) just put a wet face cloth in with the dry towels and put the dryer on for about 10 minutes – towels will then be soft. Another tip I’ve read (not personally tried) is that you can use a mix of bicarb of soda and vinegar in place of fabric softener for towels and sheets (either in the washing machine or hand wash). I’ve found that if you NEVER put new towels in the drier and dry them naturally then they are not scratchy but that might be difficult in the middle of winter in the UK!

  5. Many years ago, when I lived alone, I had a spin drier but no washing machine and I washed everything by hand. I solved the towels problem by putting them in the bath and walking up and down on them to give them a good pummelling. Dunking them in and out of the kitchen sink was always a messy business, but at least it had the benefit of washing the kitchen floor at the same time, even if it was by accident!

  6. Nothing wrong with hand washing stuff. I wash stuff this way particularly if there isn’t much in the laundry basket or I have clothing that have to be hand washed, not allowed in the washing machine. Keep up the good work!

  7. In my experience, it’s not the washing but the drying that’s the problem. It’s OK with small items but jeans are a pain. The waistbands take ages to dry, and if they stay damp too long they start to whiff – at which point you have to start again. I still hand wash fine tops etc, though. They last a lot longer if you don’t subject them to the rough and tumble of the washing machine. And to be quite honest, I’ve never really liked the idea of them having to share space with OH’s pants. 🙁

    • If you are only doing a dishpan of laundry a day, keep an eye out for a salad spinner at thrift shop, it will do a lot with lightweight clothes, and might make a tiny difference in SB’s jeans!

    • Yes, spin dryers are great. I’ve had mine for 30 years. In my first few years of marriage I had to hand wash everything including terry nappies! I kept the spin dryer, after buying a washing machine, but started using it again recently. I spin clothes after they’ve been in my washing machine – you’d be amazed how much extra water comes out!

  8. Well I spent the first six years of my eldest sons life and then two more years with his little brother as well, washing EVERYTHING by hand (or foot), no money for a washer, but luckily I always had a washing line to dry outside when the weather would allow.

    Smaller things like you did I washed in the sink, all the washing first and then all the rinsing. Bigger things went in the bath overnight to soak (in the boys bath water after they had finished) and then were swooshed around the next day or trampled by foot and then rinsed and hung out to dry.

    Terry nappies were soaked in a bucket in the solution and then rinsed, washed and rinsed again before hanging on the line to dry.

    In Winter when there was no chance of drying outside I rigged up washing lines over the bath so everything could drip for a while (because no matter how hard you wring some things do drip) and then once the dripping had stopped they were moved to an airer to finish drying.

    Washing was done daily to keep up with things and the routine seemed fine.

    Now I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE my automatic washer, although the boys are long since grown and flown, to be able to put loads of washing in and fish things out all lovely and clean and NOT dripping is bliss.

    I never take it for granted.

    • That’s what I used to do, trample on the clothes in the bath. I would pretend to be a French person crushing grapes.

      • I do the same whenever I travel – I wash my clothes with feet under shower. very effective, saves time and almost no effort

  9. If you take 5mins every night and wash both yours and wee boys pants and socks in the wash basin with a bar of soap, it saves time and fuss when you need to do a big wash. xx

  10. towels: I have gradually over time, and as they wear out and by asking for them as présents, phased out the old type of towels and now use the microfibre ones….hand washing a doddle…

  11. I too used to trample on my bedding and then denims in the bath and then hung them up on one of those bathroom indoor lines to drip and then on an airer or radiators and finally the airing cupboard. Much too time consuming and it was a joyous day when I finally got a machine.
    During that time I also had nappies to wash ( it was 1978 and I didn’t get the machine for another 18 months after my son was born) I used to boil them up in an old massive fish kettle picked up at a jumble sale and went across 2 rings of the stove.

  12. i find a spoon of vanish or anything like it, in addition to the detergent, is great for getting stubborn stains to “move on”. also putting stuff on hangers straight after the wash retains their shape.

    could you do towels in the bath?

  13. I had to use a laundrette when my machine broke down. To wash a weeks worth of nappies cost me twice as much as a weeks worth of disposables so switched to disposables and hand washed my clothes. It was a big relief to get the machine back so we could go back to washables.

  14. You need a big bucket and a posser! Look it up! When I holidayed in the Highlands as a small boy there was no washing machine for a fortnight and we used the posser to wash everything. I don’t recall having to wear dirty clothes!

    • In the 60s my mum used a posser and the bath for washing – though she did have a very noisy spin dryer. A posser is a wondrous thing!

  15. Large things do best in the bath – and horribly stained things too. If it’s blood soak in cold water overnight, then wash in warm not hot water (cooks the blood into the clothes). Don’t waste your money on Vanish, rub a dab of washing up liquid on stains before you wash them. Get in barefoot and stomp up and down on the clothes, sheets, towels etc (kids enjoy “helping” with this which also gets the bathroom washed). Empty the bath, refill with cold water and stomp up and down again. Do it twice until the water is clear. Separate the towels, run warm water into the bath and put a teaspoon of baby oil in and swish round. Then stomp the towels again – hey presto, conditioner, though too much will make the towels waterproof. Empty the bath, stomp up and down on the clothes and towels until they’re as dry as possible, wring out as much as you can. Really you need a washing line if you’re going to handwash things, so if you’re in a flat, hang them from a string out the window, one window to another (traditional Italian look). If you keep on top of it, it’s almost fun!

  16. A cheap salad spinner is great for small items, like socks and undies. Bras should always be handwashed, as they last longer. A little soda crystal or white vinegar in the soak will get rid of any stale smells, also good to add when hand washing towels. I’ve never done it, but I’ve read people on money saving chats, who wash clothes whilst showering to save water.

  17. I’m old enough to remember helping my grandmother to wash in her old wash house! Admittedly she also had to light the copper but hand washing (or hand powered washing-machine washing) was very hard work. In the winter the washing (and ironing) was rarely finished before Tuesday evening. In the meantime we never got a look at the fire and the windows were running with condensation. I’m glad I have a washing machine.

    Having said that, I’m entirely with you about the merits of hand washing over trailing down to the very expensive launderette. I also hand wash some of my clothes and consider the electricity used to spin them to be money well spent but admit that I am in the position of having that money.

  18. Many years ago as a student, my mum packed me off to halls of residence with a salad spinner for the specific task of spinning small items of clothing. Still have it and still use it 🙂

  19. I spent all my student years handwashing everything – stamping on big things in the bath, waiting for a REALLY blowy day for towels and jeans (or they risk mildew, especially in a relatively unheated home).

    A salad spinner (often very cheap in the big supermarkets at the end of the summer) is very, very useful for getting the maximum amount of water out of the maximum number of small things as quickly as possible, and latterly I managed to pick up a camping drier (basically a handcranked spindrier that sat in the bath) at a carboot for a fiver which was the best money I think I’ve ever spent. No more mildew for me (I gave it away to a friend in serious straits with a small child and cloth nappies, I still kind of miss it)

  20. For big items – towels, bedding etc use the bath and fill with hot water and some detergent. Walk up and down the bath for 10 minutes to agigtate the detergent and remove the dirt. RInse in a bath of cold water, squeeze and hang out. Easy.

  21. A second hand upright spinner might be a valuable addition to your household if you wish to make hand washing a regular thing.
    I’ve lived without a working machine for periods and it’s time consuming. Clothes will take a long time to dry – furthermore, they will encourage damp and therefore moulds in your house – which once established are a nightmare to get rid of and can be very bad for your health. I believe a study has shown that drying clothes indoors has been linked to ill-health – but I’ll need to go and google the source of that – it was something I heard on Radio Scotland a few months back.

    A wee spinner will make all the world of difference.

  22. I would advise being careful with woollen items. They can easily be hand washed (even if they say dry clean only as some do nowadays) but the important thing is not to plunge them from hot to cold water. That is what makes them shrink. Keep the water at hand hot for both wash and rinsing, and squeeze gently rather than rub or mash!

    A good way to get excess water out of tough items is to place them on a bath towel, flat on the floor and roll up lengthwise. Then trample all over the “sausage”. You can also twist the sausage as tightly as possible until it curls in on itself like a skein of wool. This does get rid of almost all the water, but you are left with a damp towel too!

    • I would advise NEVER pouring boiling water onto your clothes. Certain fabrics will shrink while others the colours will run. Hand hot is adequate for all fabrics.
      Very good tip about rolling in a towel to remove excess water. A spin dryer a better investment than a washing machine any day!!!

  23. I did something similar at university but managed to get hold of an upright old fashioned spin dryer from Freecycle which solved the prob of the mega long drying time and prevented the house getting too damp

  24. When we go camping abroad I do this. It is amazing how biological soap powder seems to eat the dirt. For stubborn stains I use a bar of hand-wash soap (had the same one for years). At least on holiday you can drip water everywhere and the wet clothes dry quickly in the sun.

  25. Hand washing is fine in summer, especially if you have an outside washing line, and clothes last longer too. In Winter it is pants, especially if you don’t have sufficient heating and don’t have an outside washing line: as long as it’s not raining and there is a bit of a breeze, you can still “dry” heavy things outside to a point ,where they’re just damp or not dripping. Towels – not tea towels – are best for absorbing water after washing, but make sure you avoid using large bath towels for obvious reasons. You can buy cheap small towels in the pound shop.

    Years ago when staying in south India where the water was only turned on for up to an hour a day we used to fill up 2 buckets each, one for “showering” washing top down – the other we used (half) to “soak wash” our clothes, and the other half to wash our dishes. Every so often, we’d go to a posh tourist hotel, buy a drink then slip off one by one into the swimming pool area to use their showers (bliss) as the authorities never rationed their water, only the homes of local people.

  26. I had to wash by hand in the 70s although it’s cheaper and cleaner it’s a nightmare in the Autumn and Winter when the day’s we’re few when you could hang outside. Allowing things to drip in the bathroom and trying to dry indoors caused awful condensation problem’s . And bedding and towels were a nightmare plus i was dealing with Terry Towel nappies . my poor next door neighbour used to get soaked if she was out in her garden and the washing cracked in the wind lol.

  27. I actually think that as long as the humidity is not too high, hanging clothes outside is just fine… obviously it will take longer when it’s cold and no sun or no wind. Although I’ve also heard you can dryfreeze clothes.

  28. I hand washed a lot during the year when I was living in student accommodation and it was expensive and impractical to use the washing machine.

    I had a tiny sink but would rotate the use of detergent, bicarb of soda, soap and a scrubbing brush. Depending on stains or levels of sweatiness sometimes I NEEDED the machine (I sweat a LOT) but I honestly love the satisfaction of hand washing my own stuff. It’s worth the time and effort with more delicate fabrics.

  29. If you have a plug for your sink, that will give you a little more room. I find that the more air circulating round the washing when it’s drying, the quicker it dries, even on cold days. So near a window works quite well, especially if it’s sunny too.

  30. I’ll echo what others have said, I had a spin dryer for years much better than a spin in the washing machine, managed to wash double size duvet and bedding in the bath, leave to drain the worst of the water out of it, shove in a bin bag and downstairs to dry off, my mother still hand washes her smalls and jumpers and they do keep their look and last longer this way. Yes keep a look out on facebook groups freecycle and gumtree for bargains 🙂 x

  31. I hand washed at university and was always proud of my clothes being sparkling clean. Did it later too when our machine broke, and by far the toughest thing I ever had to do was wash a double duvet cover in the bath. I used the same technique, then got in the bath and scampered up and down it wash the duvet. It came out clean! My only issue with hand washing is if I have to do any rubbing – within 2 minutes my skin is pouring blood…

  32. My Mum, who didn’t own a washing machine until she was 80 , hand washed all our woollies. To dry them , first she put layers of newspapers on the floor, then a towel, then woollie, towel and more newspaper. To top it off the hearth rug went on top! Dried and pressed jumpers

  33. As a child, we used to stay in a house with no machine – my mother would wash for the 6 of us in a twin tub affair divided by a mangle (do a google search for pictures), through which one fed the clothes while cranking the handle. Left the clothes far dryer than the spin cycle of a modern washing machine. But work. Hard work. It did not give her joy.

    When the kids were little, I would often put a washing out in the garden, even in the snow. It did dry eventually!

  34. I’ve handwashed for a time while I was ‘between washing machines’ – I am glad to have one now. I washed stuff in the sink – even double sheets – covering the sink with the chopping board while they soaked so that the water didn’t cool as quickly. A covered bucket is good for smaller items, to keep the water warm or soak overnight. I wouldn’t pour boiling water straight onto fabric, but otherwise did the same as you.

    20 minutes isn’t so far if you have a shopping trolley to take the washing in: I did this before I got my first machine. But it was easy to justify the cost of a machine at home when you’re spending £5 a week at the launderette.
    I agree a spin-drier would be a big help.

  35. You can sometimes get those low energy hanger / dryers from charity shops and ‘better quality’ (haha) jumble sales. My Nan actually had a mangle that was sat on the wood block next to her big old kitchen sink. Sounds like something from ye olden days, but this was only the 80’s – grandad was a mean old miser and wouldn’t let her have a modern washing machine, or a fitted kitchen for years!

  36. I didn’t have access to a washing machine at college, so used to add my “smalls” to soak in a bucket under the sink, cold water with a teaspoon of washing powder, and wash at the weekend. Jeans, sweaters and shirts got washed in the sink, as many as I could fit in at one time. Jeans and towels took a while to dry but, if you have someone to help you wring out those items, you can get them a lot of the water out. Just take one end of the jeans/towel each and twist in opposite directions.

    Later on, when married, we managed without a washing machine but luckily had a spin dryer which made life much easier. I wouldn’t be without my washing machine now but use the shortest and coolest wash possible, and frequently use the spin cycle twice to cut down on drying time.

  37. There’s this thing called Kernseife in German (which Google calls “curd soap” in English): you smear any stains with it and let it do its job for some time and then you wash the clothes by hand – it works miracles, that’s my impression so far.
    My granny used to “cook” the more sturdy things, like kitchen towels, undies and so on in a pot on her stove (with a bit of detergent) before rinsing them thoroughly – they were always spotless.

  38. I do hope you’re not going to use the washing up bowl you just washed underware etc in for crockery you eat off, that’s why you need a bucket.

  39. when hubby and I got married 22 years ago we couldn’t afford a washing machine so I did all the washing by hand in the bath and as hubby was a gardener his clothes were of course muddy and sometimes needed a couple of goes. However as newly weds we invested some of our wedding gift money on a single spin dryer (like half of one of the old fashioned twin tubs). Even now I don’t use a tumble dryer but use the fast spin facility on the washing machine. The best place to hang washing in a house is on the upstairs landing (which is usually where you find the cat)

  40. I have a washer brand new as my other packed up but I have always hand washed all my good clothes & underwear. This I learned off my gran who always looked very classy. My clothes are in really good condition & I have sold a few on e bay & get loads of feedback saying how good the condition is. I do mainly spin them except under wired bras which shouldn’t go any wear near a washing machine. Your clothes look nicer & are in much better condition, it can be a bit time consuming but I think it’s worth the effort & saves money but I originally started doing this to keep my clothes looking better especially if I have invested a fair bit of money in them. The only things I always wash in machine are towels, bed clothes & usually jeans although I save a few pairs up. Try & get a little spinner as it will be far easier to dry clothes. Vanish soap in a bar is excellent for stains & lasts a lot longer than any of the sprays or the £6 tubs of stain remover which area a complete con. If soaking soda crystals or bi carb of soda are excellent & at least a tenth of the price.

  41. Also I do use my washing up bowl to wash in & I do rinse & clean it out, soap & hot water cleans the same 99.9% of germs that all the new highly advertised products on the market. My underwear looks like it did when I bought it & I have only ever had food poisoning once & I never have any of these tummy bugs that go round. My house is very clean & at 51 I’ll stick to using my bowl which if you are on a water meter[ I’m not ] will save you a lot of water. I must admit I have been in some houses & noticed their washing up bowls are so grotty I wouldn’t wash anything in them.

  42. Funny, after reading all these comments, and having to hand wash during college days, and even now with heavy motor/ oil/ grease. You would think some one would have created a solution that is simple, well designed and very practical. I see a foot or hand rotated crank attached to a multi-speed transmission that is connected to some type of agitator in a tub unit or a self contained wash tub.

    Taking this further, i would probably today create an assembly line approach to this. With presoaking tubs constantly in use. Very hard to start, but once workflow is figured out, easier to maintain.

    I am going to think about thise a bit more. Back later…..

    Be well


    • You can get a camping ‘washing machine’ which is like a barrel on a stand and you turn the handle to wash, it looks a bit like a childs cement mixer with a lid. When we toured Europe for 3 months over 30 years ago we used a bucket with a lid, filled with warm water and the motion of the campervan going along washed the clothes each day and we just had to rinse and hang at the campground each night so I haven’t used them to say how good they are, but I know you can buy them, at least in Australia. Also I either use a dsp of carb soda in the wash or make my own washing powder with a cake of yellow soap grated on the spiky side of the grater, plus 1 cup washing soda and 1/2 cup borax, mix and use 1 dsp per machine load (got the recipe from cheapskate.com.au) and I use 1/2 cup of homebrand white vinegar in the rinse – no chemicals or bleaches and the clothes look ok, cheaper too!

  43. I have to say I don`t share any of the handwashing nostalgia present in many of the comments here. I am in a position to have access to a washing machine so it`s easy for me to talk, obviously, but if I had to handwash I would seriously hate it. I would resent the drudgery, I would resent having my house covered in drying clothes, having that whiffy smell of half-dried clothes. Kudos to everyone who does handwash but in my house, the washing machine would be amongst the last things that goes.

  44. There used to be something called “The Wonder Washer” table top washing machine, was always in the news papers and magazines, a hand cranked device but can only find it on e-bay now. Only other thing is links on you-tube “pedal powered washing machine” etc. Good post though Jack, brings back picture of Mum and Gran doing hand wash and using a scrubbing board!

  45. How about using a tumbling garden composter to “spin-dry” the wet clothes? or convert one using some sort of barrel to hand crank your washing?

  46. Hi Jack used to wash by hand often in my younger days but the towels and bedding are so heavy when wet and as other posts have said a spinner is a must if you really want to keep up handwashing.

  47. I must have handwashed for close to ten years after leaving home as I simply couldn’t afford a washing machine! I have loads of tips for you which I hope might help – especially if you consider the machine-less predicament to be long term…

    First, use the cheapest, gnarliest washing powder you can find. Wilko do a “basics” handwash powder for about 60p which is ideal. Most detergents are created for use in washing machines and create less suds.

    Try and get hold of “household soap” if you can find it. Our local hardware store sells it for 15p a bar. This is perfect for rubbing onto stains or soiled parts. It could possibly be the same as the “curd soap” mentioned by another commenter. For soaking, grate a little of the household soap (I used to use a cheese grater) and dissolve in the water. It doesn’t smell pretty but sure gets everything clean.

    Lemons are good for grease removal or (slightly) whiter clothes. Halve and add to the hot wate.

    Take you smalls in the shower with you – saves time and you can use a smidge of your body wash/soap. Hang on the shower rail to dry.

    Lastly, if you need a machine try Freecycle/Freegle, which is how I got my most recent machine. It’s old and probably uses more electricity than new spangly ones, but has already lasted me a year longer than the new-bought one it replaced!

  48. When I can’t hang my washing out I hang it in the garage on a night,
    then the following day I bring it in the house and put it on the airer.It doesn’t seem to take as long.

  49. Look out for a second hand Creda spin dryer, they make the whole process easier and half the drying time.

  50. I had to hand wash for 3 years when I lived in Westcliff and that was for 2 small children and 2 adults both wearing uniforms, I didn’t have an outdoor area to hang stuff, I used a spin dryer and then the clothes horse xx

  51. Ournewlifeinthecountry has said everything I was going to say. Including the terry nappies. Only difference, I had a daughter second.

    I still have all the terry nappies. They are so absorbent for mopping up spills, I always hide a few around the place if we have any kind of gathering. The sooner you trample one all over a spill the more comes up and the less stain removal needs doing from the carpet. They are also great for cleaning up after a pet accident. Most of them are still white as snow, except for a very few which have made their way to outdoor duties like wiping oily hands in the garage.

    By the way you reminded me I wanted to do a small amount of hand washing, I have nabbed the masher tip, thankyou whoever mentioned that.

  52. Soaking every time miraculously removes really stubborn stains. Biological powders are vicious beasts – I use the absolute cheapest I can find as I don’t have sensitive skin. The filthiest white SB (I had 3 of them) sports socks ….clean again with a good soak and some SmartPrice powder.

  53. If you have a car but no washing machine (possible) put dirty clothes in rubbish bin or other lidded container with water and soap powder and take it for a drive. Even extra strong doible plastic garbags will do. Then only need to rinse it when you get home and dry. Used to do this when camping and travelling. Also iron things by folding them and sitting on them or putting between / under mattress at night. Bit off topic, but what is the UK thing about using a plastic bowl inside the kitchen sink for washing up, have asked UK friends when staying as it is not done in Australia and no real answer…just my Mum always did it..justbthe way I was brought up?

    • There are two reasons for using a washing up bowl – firstly to protect your china and glass from chipping on the hard surface of the sink, and secondly it makes it much easier to rinse everything as the rinse water drains away instead of filling up your washing water and diluting the soap.

      Before plastic they were made of varnished papier maché.

  54. for smallish stubborn stains – ie blood/red wine – use toothpaste – wet the stain and smear on (any brand) and leave on overnight – totally vanishes by the next morning !

  55. To get more water out of small items meaning they dry quicker I have a salad spinner as I don’t have a spin dryer.

  56. When I was backpacking overseas I used to take my washing into the shower with me and wash it under- foot, also done it in my student days and when I don’t have a machine all we need now is a mangle.

  57. Just one thing – do be careful about allowing washing powder on to your skin. Especially bio powder. It eats you, literally, and is not easy to wash off. So SB MUST wear (clean) wellies if stamping on stuff in the bath, and so must you!

  58. I well remember Mondays were wash days when I was growing up. out would come in the twin tub into the middle of the kitchen, water would be piped in, it heated up then the wash began. Towels and tea towels into the hottest water and then they would come out and go into the spin dryer and spun and then cold water added to the spin dryer and spun again, for several spin cycles. Then more clothes were added to the hot tub, finishing with most delicate clothes into the now much cooler water. the machine was always going wrong and spent a lot of time upside down ‘being looked at – and mended’ by my father.
    It was a task that took all Monday morning as even when the washing was finished, it took forever to siphon out the water from the washer.

    We always then had rissoles made from the previous day’s Sunday joint for Monday lunch. She minced the left over meat up herself. My Mum died nearly 40 years ago and I have never eaten a rissole since!

    well it is over 50 years ago that this happened, but I have fond memories.

    I admire people who are finding creative solutions to very difficult and challenging issues.

    I am fortunate to be able to use a washing machine and think I would have gone totally loopy if I had been without one when my 3 children were small.

    But I would certainly invest in microfibre towels where possible if I had to dry towels in winter without spinning them first.

    I think they dry bodies better too!

  59. An even easier wash. Find a container of about 2-5 L, with a wide mouth, screw or clamp on lid, with walls thick enough to withstand some internal pressure, and heat. Recycled Pickle jars, or coffee jars etc. Put each garment in, with a cup or two of water (use as little as possible) pinch of detergent. Replace lid and shake vigorously for a bit. Rinse in cold. The steam pressure removes most of the dirt, rather than the liquid.

  60. jack I have been reading your blog for sometime now and generally I enjoy it.Often though I wanted to write :so what! What is so difficult about this or that. This washing post I think I realized, it is about life survival skills. I grew up not in the wealthy West but in the Majority World so I just took them for granted, like ‘it is obvious how you hand wash, cook cheaply, mend and so on’. But looking at my own teenage daughter I can see that living in the West these things do not come naturally. And that is a great job you are doing, showing and teaching people those skills whilst learning yourself. Because when the next crisis comes perhaps we will be better prepared. Hopefully this one taught us that there is no one else to rescue us but ourselves.

  61. I had to hand wash clothes for quite a few months as I never had a washing machine when I moved into my current place. I did them in the bath. My mum’s done them that way in the past as well, she used to stand in the bath and walk around mixing them up. Now got a twin tub, it’s great!

  62. I remember My parents hand washing all of our laundry. Bedding included. We had a deep white ceramic sink in the kitchen and attached to the side of it was a wringer. The heavier soiled things were scrubbed on the washing board. I remember my Grandma washing the collars of my Granddads shirts with a huge bar of green fairy soap. Everything smelt great. I loved washing day. Kareen.

  63. My local town community centre offers no-interest loans for white goods eg fridges, washing machines etc, for low income people. and a lengthy time to pay back. The no-interest part is fantastic.
    Also Freecycle is good and I have given away lots of things there and received stuff too.
    I recently tried to give away my mother’s twin tub washing machine, but no-one wanted it, so it went to the tip, as I had
    nowhere to keep it. Nothing was the matter with it, just not needed after mum died last year and I had to clear the house.
    Shame I could not have got it to you Jack ! you would have been welcome to it !!
    I currently have Mum’s fridge in the garage unused. Gave away most of the furniture as no room to keep it. I did keep the dining room table and chairs and another chair.
    Check your local papers or Freecycle

  64. I have been doing my hand washing-tights, panties, bras, kids underwear etc in the shower; while I shower. Adds an extra 3 mins but gets it done regularly and without a special laundry day!

  65. My granny never had a washing machine and did it all by hand. She had a spinner to get out the excess water. I have it now as one of my washers had a rubbish spin cycle. It is a fab, really fast.

  66. When I first left home I didn’t have a washing machine and found the best way to get water out of towels and other larger items was to wrap them round the upright part of the tap and twist them tighter and tighter. Got lots of excess water out.

  67. Sometimes we wash, when it is only a bit smelly and not dirty. When I was younger and after partying in smoke filled places, as soon as I got home I hang the bigger clothes (that is coat, jacket or jeans) in a line outside. If the weather was freezing, it worked very well. After a good sleep, I checked smells and stains, and send only dirty things to the laundry bin. My brother in law, who has been all his live working with soft furnishing, says that in his field and in general, washing inflicts more damage than using and wearing, for example, in curtains.
    Sorry for my broken English

  68. I’m a student so often have to hand wash & then dry things in my bedroom — if stuff takes ages to dry and drips everywhere, you can sort of roll it up in a towel and squeeze it before hanging it up to get the worst of the water out. Obvs you then have to dry the towel, but at least they dry quicker than wool or denim.

  69. Hand washing is more interesting which many think as a boring and a time consuming task. Clothes are more secure with a hand wash rather than a spin in the washers. Moreover it does make an exercise session for people who run out of time for their regular fitness practices.

  70. One vital point – you MUST use rubber gloves if you are using bio powder. Even if the only time you touch the washing is to wring it out. Bio powder is full of things that will eat YOU if you use your bare skin. Seriously, you can do yourself real damage if enyzmes start eating into your flesh.

  71. ıf your goıng to tread any washıng ın the bath DO NOT use any bıologıcal powder as ıt could result ın you gettıng dermatıtıs on your legs and maybe your whole body,Also really rınse all hand washıng well leavıng no trace of any chemıcals ın the clothes.Manys the tıme we soaked bıgger ıtems ın the bath overnıght but we loved our old twıntub and used ıt for donkeys years!

  72. Have you thought about getting a spin dryer as this would get the excess water out and make the drying time quicker. When we go to our caravan I hand wash quite a bit, but am going to invest in a portable twin tub washing machine, mainly for the spinner.

    • I’m a lot older than you and can remember my mother and grandmother doing all this stuff. A washing machine was, literally a lifesaver. Get one or go to the laundrette. Us the time you save to do something worthwhile xx

  73. my machine died. no money at all here so hand washing for us too. i had an interview and a bird pooed on my jacket just as i was going in…………… don’t think ill be getting that job somehow!! but now however i do have my only smart item of clothing covered in bird poo and no machine!!! hey ho……………. treading jackets in the bath i go!!! this blog’s been really helpful thanks xx

  74. I have had the joy of living without a washing machine too, I found a hand toilet plunger thing great in a bucket or bowl for agitating the clothes and getting out the dirt!

  75. Do you have a bathtub that you use? If so, then have your usual bath but don’t pull out the plug until you have thrown in all the really soiled clothes for a soak. Washing soda does wonders.
    I have a fully fangled washer dryer now, but spent some time without one. I still love hard towels……they are great for exfoliating…..

  76. I love hand washing when the days are warmer then everything can drip dry on the line in the garden.Never thought about the cost side of things just like doing it and clearing the laundry pile.

  77. Buy a Kentucky mop bucket, preferably one with a strong mop head wringer and a cheap plunger. A well cleaned out emulsion paint pot filled with ‘smalls’ and shaken (agitated) for 5 minute bursts will burn off calories and tighten under arm muscles, make sure the lids on firm (somehow doing a wash/workout to disco music gets clothes cleaner!). Try washing clothes in a bucket then wringing as best you can before putting into your washing machine (if you have use of one) on a quick rinse and spin, mines takes 23 minutes as oppossed to well over 2 hours on a normal wash, which wastes less water,saves on the electric usage and puts less strain on your washer which in turn means it will last longer. Doing dishes in a basin means you use less water than filling the sink and you can lift the basin to use the taps without having to pull the plug,also washing in the basin allows for dishes to be rinsed in sink. USE RUBBER GLOVES REGARDLESS OF THE MEADOW FIELDS AND BUTTERFLIES ON THE PACKAGING!

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