Turn Your Hands Into Washing Machines

Maybe your washer is broken and the repairman can’t come for a week. Maybe you don’t have the time to waste at a laundromat this week. Maybe the label says “hand-wash only.” Whatever the case, all you need to wash your clothes is a basin, some soap and a pair of hands.

Life Unplugged suggests hand-washing as a means to cut down on water and power use, and offers tips about how to do it right.

Here’s what we learned from the post:

* You can use a bunch of types of soap. Store-bought detergent, grated bar soap, liquid dish soap and shampoo are all OK. But avoid stuff with moisturizing agents, which are tough to rinse out.

* You can use a toilet plunger. You’ll need to churn the soapy water to get things clean, and one effective method is to cut diamond-shaped holes into a clean toilet plunger and use the device to help. The holes will allow water to get through, and you can get some exercise while jabbing your plunger into the basin to get the job done.

* Rinsing and wringing are important. You really don’t want any soap stuck in your clothes once they’ve dried, so rinse them, wring them out and then rinse again until there’s no longer any evidence of soap.

Washing Clothes by Hand [Life Unplugged]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Warren - aka The Piddler on the Roof says:

    Even better: if you have kids…

  2. TheMansfieldMauler says:

    All you really need is a river and a large flat rock.

  3. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    Why diamond-shaped holes?

  4. who? says:

    Who needs a washing machine?

    Step 1) Move to India.
    Step 2) Hire the landlord’s wife to do laundry for you.
    Step 3) Wake up the next morning to the sound of SLAP!….scrub scrub scrub….SLAP!….scrub scrub scrub, as she scrubs your clothes on the concrete outside your window.

  5. Tim says:

    I think if you don’t have time to go to the laundromat, you probably don’t have time to hand-wash …

  6. ElleAnn says:

    I lived in a fieldhouse in the rain forest for 6 months right out of college- which is my only experience washing clothes by hand. Our utility sink was made of concrete and had a scrub board moulded into it. I used bar soap that was sold in every shop in that country for hand-washing clothes. Hand-washing is not worth it as a money-saving endevour in my opinion, but it’s something I think everyone should try once. I saw a Ted talk about the washing machine- and I could relate to the gratitude people all over the world feel when they become affluent enough to afford to use a machine to wash their clothes.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      We need a dry cloth folding machine, and we’d be set.

    • missy070203 says:

      my washer died once…. took 3 days for new one to be delivered and I was forced to hand wash 2 loads of laundry in the bath tub- totally sucked took for ever and could not ring them out anywhere near as well as the spin cycle- took forever to dry on the clothes line because of this- and my hands were raw and irritated- next time I have a washer disaster I’m spending the money at the laundry mat-

      • 67alecto says:

        Two loads of laundry in 3 days? I consider it excessive to do laundry more than once every 10 days. Where do you live, in a prison?

        • The Porkchop Express says:

          you won’t know your washer is dead until you try to use it. I only use mine when the hamper is full, the hamper holds 2 loads. 2.5 if I want to wait another couple of days, but then the hamper is hard to find.

        • missy070203 says:

          I wish 3 squares, cable, and a free education!!! lol I have an 8 year old and a man who acts like he is 8- this means constant laundry – because they change clothes like 3 times a day-

  7. Fubish says: I don't know anything about it, but it seems to me... says:

    Protip: Rinse off your toilet plunger before using in your laundry.

  8. GreatWhiteNorth says:

    If you plan to follow their instructions and use a plunger then please take mine and use a clean NOT BLACK plunger. The black with end up on your clothes.

  9. lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

    When my daughter was a newborn, we were really poor. I’m talking I made $3.85/hour which was just above minimum wage, and my job paid 1/2 take home pay for disability benefits during maternity leave. My husband had become unemployed about the same time.

    I washed clothes by hand in the bathtub in our apartment because we couldn’t afford to go to the laundramat. Not an optimal thing to do, but we were clean, and that’s what mattered.

    • HogwartsProfessor says:

      I’ve done it too, when I worked at Golden Corral in college, long before they were a buffet. I had a stupid little checked shirt and skirt and kerchief uniform but I could only afford to go to the laundry once every two weeks. So I washed that little shirt and skirt in the sink every damn night with a little Woolite and hung it in the shower to dry.

      • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

        can you contact me about your roku- i just caught your reply to mine from open thread

    • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

      i washed clothes by hand to avoid the laundromat many times when i lived in a duplex in a semi sketchy part of town. not only did it save money but i worked two jobs, day and night and the only time i had to do laundry was between around 1 and 8 am. it was too crowded in the mornings and i couldn’t usually get a machine. it was an outdoor semi covered laundromat, next to a major road known for being a good place to pick up prostitutes. i decided washing clothes in the tub was better than sitting by the side of the road trying to not attract attention.
      i actually owned a dryer so i was hauling wet clothes home to dry anyway. might as well only take them 20 feet instead of half a mile

  10. falnfenix says:

    better option than a plunger: use your feet. stomp on your clothes ’till they’re sudsy.

  11. suez says:

    Is this a joke? Modern laundry facilities are one of the most liberating (certainly for women) effeciencies ever. Doing laundry by hand is extremely labor-intensive and takes forever. Has this nation sunk THAT low that you’re recommending we go back to pounding clothing on a rock by the river?

    • lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

      Well, when you only have enough money for food and rent, and you don’t have a washer in your apartment, yes, you either wash clothes by hand or wear dirty clothes. It’s that simple. In my case (see post above), we tried to get some assistance with food costs, but we were told that we had to sell our car because we had too many assets (our used beater car was our only asset). I asked how I was supposed to get to work once my maternity leave ended, and basically it was so sad, too bad…no help for you.

      • Snowblind says:

        You don’t know how to get around this one?

        “Sell” your car to your parents or other family member, or a friend you really really trust.

        Mom did that in the 70’s to qualify for assistance, my sister did it recently so she qualified for Medical after she lost her job.

        • Fubish says: I don't know anything about it, but it seems to me... says:

          Lucky you. Sometimes it’s not an option.

  12. CubeRat says:

    If you have a shower sprayer that’s detachable, use that for a rinse cycle. Wash, do a quick rinse, then hang up in the shower and spray off the clothes. I works really well if you’ve had to wash several things and the clothes can drip for a few minutes in the shower.

    Doesn’t work for sweaters, which will stretch.

    I wash my nice blouses and sweaters (silk), because we have a laundry room and stuff always seems to get on the NICE clothes. And dry cleaning is too expensive. I hang most of my clothes to dry, because I live in SoCal and it keeps the clothes looking nice longer.

  13. Frankz says:

    No, you do NOT want to use just any type of soap.
    Many different types of soaps have deodorants, fragrances, oils, and colorings in them that are most definitely not made for clothes, and many of those things can react with some different types of clothing and cause staining or fading. And once you find out the hard way, it’s too late.

    • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

      i like ZOTE. it’s made for laundry. and my hand wash only sweaters aren’t at all faded even after a few years of being washed with ZOTE. plus, unlike woolite, a bar of ZOTE used to wash a few things in the sink lasts an incredibly long time. just make sure to leave it somewhere that it can dry completely and not in a puddle of water to get mushy

  14. teamplur says:

    My grandmother has a lump on the back of her hand just below the knuckle of her index finger. It’s just a fluid filled sac. She got it from hand washing a pair of my jeans. I was probably 5 or so at the time. As she shook the pants out, a button hit her on the hand. She gives me a guilt trip about it every once in a while to this day. that was like 25 years ago. >_>

  15. Portlandia says:

    Next on Consumerist: Turn your feet into a car by….gasp! walking someplace!

  16. Oranges w/ Cheese says:

    Or you can own an energy efficient front loading washing machine and not spend hours slaving over your clothes.

    • sponica says:

      apartment dwellers don’t always have that option….i have washed a few sweaters in my bathroom sink

      the only thing I disagree with is “rinsing and wringing are important”….rinsing is important, however check to make sure that the instructions do not say “DO NOT WRING”

      I also learned that unless the tag says dry clean only, you can throw it in a washer on the hand wash/gentle cycle with some woolite and it will turn out fine

      • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

        from the actual article: “Avoid wringing by hand if possible — it’s not very effective and will wear you out quickly.”

  17. kataisa says:

    Buy a small hand washboard. They’re travel-size, cheap, extremely useful when you have to hand-wash clothes in the sink, and saves wear and tear on both your hands and clothes. I got one of these as a gift. I thought it was for decoration until the electricity went out for days after a snow storm and I ran out of underclothes. What a lifesaver that little board was.

  18. Cat says:

    When I’m overseas and hire someone to do my laundry by hand they always come back cleaner than they’ve ever been. Awesomely clean. Although, I did lose a shirt once that was stained pretty badly. In my mind I picture some woman still beating it against a rock trying to get that stain out…

    And seriously guys, am I really the first on to make a “First World Problems” comment?

  19. Conformist138 says:

    And all the women here say, “DUH!”

    I dunno about you, but all my bras are hand-wash only. I don’t go the lazy route and toss them in with the rest of my clothes because the larger the cup size, the easier it is to break an underwire in the machine.

    I mean, have we gotten so stupid as a culture that if our washing machines break we just wear filthy rags and run around like cavemen or hobos?

    Another newsflash: if the power goes out in your area, you can use both candles AND flashlights! Amazing!

  20. cameronl says:

    I shower with my clothes on. Boom. Done.

    • theblackdog says:

      Admit the truth, you did it after you used a computer to create the perfect woman

    • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

      i used to date a guy that i found out had done that for a while before we met. he was homeless at the time though so he was trying to wash his clothes and his body in sketchy places, with limited time and resources so it actually made sense

  21. kobresia says:

    It’s amazing how many basic life skills folks have apparently lost in modern society, and are unable to regain just by thinking about them because they’re so incompetent at life.

    I’ve been washing my clothes by hand ever since my last washing machine broke nearly 2 years ago. It’s not so much because I’m cheap, I just don’t care much for the quality and durability of new appliances. I have to hand-wash a lot of my clothes anyway, in that they’re cheap silk shirts– I bought them mostly because they’re durable, but an added benefit is also that they’re really easy to clean because the fabric just doesn’t absorb odors and dirt as easily.

    I also put my dryer in storage about that time, because it works pretty well to line-dry the clothes in the house after they’ve dripped the excess water in the bathtub. I don’t wring most clothes because that just causes them to wrinkle excessively.

    Pro tip: Small buckets, such as some cat litter or horse treats come in make nice single-garment wash basins. The toilet plunger as a churn idea intrigues me, but I don’t think I can see much of any effort-saving from that, it probably just keeps your hands from getting soaked as much & doesn’t do quite as good a job as agitating by hand.

    • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

      the toilet/sink plunger idea is the cheap version of the official laundry plunger you can get from places like Lehman’s

      i used to take all the pantyhose i had to wear to work and shove them in an old laundry detergent bottle with the spout removed, add water, a little detergent, cap it and shake. rinse, repeat with clean water. if i tried washing them in the sink, i always snagged them with my fingernails, no matter how smooth i thought my nails were.
      it was a lot less messy and more efficient. i can see where a bucket would be better than a bathtub if you have more than the sink holds but not a whole tub full

      • kobresia says:

        I like the detergent bottle idea, I could envision a laundry-facilitating product like a largemouth jug with handles on it…Shake ‘n Sparkle! Also a great upper-body workout! As seen on TV!

        Or something like that, even though clothes that don’t have gaudy applique on them generally don’t “sparkle”.

      • kobresia says:

        Oh, and I just use the buckets because my tub will fill a small bucket about 20x faster than the sink will. Buckets are also really easy to dump the water from, into the biggest drain in the house, which happens to live right next to the tub (i.e., the cat’s Magic, Swirling Drinking Bowl).

  22. Cacao says:

    My mom had (and used) a washboard on clothes in our bathtub growing up. We always had use of a washing machine. Now I wonder if anyone uses them for anything but playing Zydeco music? (or if you can even find them)