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Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Victorious Return of Bathtub Laundry

I wrote the following as an entry in my old blog (completely unrelated to crafting) over a year ago.  I revisited the idea last night and got my bathtub laundry on.  I can't believe it's only been a year since I wrote this post.  It feels like decades since I moved to STL to live with one of my best friends in the world.  I have a washer and dryer now, and live in Oregon... but after becoming overwhelmed that my comforter wouldn't fit in the washer, I had to figure something out... that's when it hit me:  I love bathtub laundry!  So please enjoy this little blast from my past (just like I did last night).  I'll meet you at the bottom with some more insight from the present.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011
I watch documentaries every day. I am constantly searching to increase my knowledge and expand my world views. I have recently become attached to environmental documentaries because, realistically, we don't have much time left until everyone has to get real about the environment.

I have just moved to a new city and I don't have a washer and dryer in my apartment like I have for the last 6 years that I've lived on my own. While I have used laundromats before, I'm sorry if sitting in a St. Louis laundromat alone all day does not sound like the safest or most entertaining way to spend my day. Naturally laundry has piled up and I just don't have $3.50 a load to spend washing it all.

I was watching one documentary the other day called No Impact Man: The Documentary. I highly recommend it. One tiny little moment in the movie involves them doing laundry in the bathtub. I watched it two weeks ago, and it has remained on my mind since then. I finally decided to do some research and make it happen. There are about a bagillion different ways to do this posted online, and I feel like I've read them all. I have tried a handful of the techniques and cast some out without trying them at all. What follows is what I have devised as the best method to achieve the following goals that I had for doing bathtub laundry:
1. Can be done with only things I have in my apartment.
2. Takes no more time to wash than a washing machine would.
3. Is not a completely miserable experience.
4. Make a significantly lower environmental impact than standard washing machines... just because I can.

Now, I want to establish that the temperature of water I use is based on the materials I'm washing. I use the coolest temperature that can be used but still achieve my cleaning goals. The amount of water I use is based on the size of the load.

Dirty Laundry
Laundry Detergent
*Plastic Storage Tub (I use an 18 Gal.)
Bathroom CD player and album "The Sign" by Ace of Base

Step One: Wash
Place the plastic tub in the bathtub. Put a bit of water (no less than 1/4 of the way full, no more than 1/2) and then add detergent. Use much less than you think you'll need. Some places I read said to use half what you would use in the washer, but I found even that was too much. You're wasting far less water and detergent. You will really be surprised at how little it takes to have fresh smelling (and feeling) clothes. Judge based on the amount of clothing and the dirtiness.

Once detergent has been added, stir it in a bit with your hand, just so it's not in a glob. Add clothing. Add the remainder of your water, ensuring that the clothes are good and covered. Some websites recommend filling to the top, but I would only do that with a full laundry basket worth of clothes. just make sure they can be covered by at least 2".

At this point, I like to push everything down and make sure the detergent water has saturated all items. Soak all items for 15-25 minutes. Never soak for longer than 30 minutes because the detergent will begin to break down and damage the fabric and color. When to add bleach? I only do so in my warm whites, which soak for 25 minutes (the longest I soak). I add the bleach 10 minutes before agitation.

This is my favorite part. I kick on my Ace of Base CD and step into the tub. Using a mix of Lucille Ball's moves in the grape-stomping episode of I Love Lucy and Usher's 2010 VMA performance (just sayin'... you should probably youtube it to see the appropriate cleaning methods). The agitation should last 10-15 minutes (or the first 3-4 songs on your chosen CD). You could use your hands to agitate, and I even read of using a NEVER BEFORE USED plunger, but I like the free workout and my back would not appreciate being bent over that long.

At this point, empty the tub of dirty water. I like to squeeze all the water out of the clothes and dump that too. On to step two!

Step Two: The Rinse
With the clothes in the bottom of the tub, fill with just enough water to cover clothing, as cool as you can stand it. Get moving! Agitate again for 3-5 minutes (or one song) and pour out dirty water. Repeat 2 more times. When the water in the tub is no longer getting dingy, you're clean. If your water is still dirty, consider doing small portions of the clothes in the rise tubs. You used too much detergent. It's okay, just keep rinsing (even use running water if necessary) because while your environmental impact is going up, you have to get that detergent out or it can deteriorate and damage your clothing.

Step Three: Dry
Squeeze out as much water as possible, then hang the items to dry. Using plastic hangers (wire hangers will rust and cause me to scream "no wire hangers! EVER!") or a dry rack, hang the wet clothing. I use hangers hung on my shower curtain rod.

When they're dry, you've succeeded. Congratulations.

Here are some helpful tips I discovered and read about along the way:
-I use the storage tub to reduce the amount of water I use, but for bulky items such as jeans, towels, and sheets, using the entire bathtub is more reasonable. 
--Do towels last so that you can use your dirty towels to cover the "splash zone" in case you get too much Lucy action and not enough Usher. I like to leave them under the clothing that's hanging to prevent water from dripping on the floor then as well.
---I have read of using a fan in the bathroom to hasten dry time. I'm patient, and just let them hang overnight. (although, for folded over pants or jeans, I do flip them right before bed.)
----To knock out the stiff hanger feel, I go over clothes with a blow dryer for just moments to warm them and make them more malleable.
-----I read that to shrink denim back to it's correct shape, you should soak in VERY HOT water for 5 minutes after your rinse is complete, before hanging. I didn't find this until after I had done my jeans though, so I'll try it out next time.

Best of luck if you choose to try this out yourselves. I would love to hear your questions, comments, or experiences.

Back to the present:  Now since I do have a washer and dryer in my current home, I decided to just toss the comforter in the dryer.  I did not feel like dealing with hanging a sopping wet comforter over some furniture, so that's just that.  This was one of my favorite posts that I wrote on the old blog.  What do you think?  I may have to get back into doing the occasional load this way.  I am constantly running across recipes to make your own detergent on blogs, which would be another great way to minimize chemical pollution and waste.  So there it is, the return of bathtub laundry.

<3 Clean Stephanie

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