Sunday, January 25, 2009

Green Living Laundry Tips & Ideas

I am excited. I had been trying to find the good old fashioned metal wash tubs and was getting discouraged by the high prices. To buy the galvanised metal tubs from a farming supply costs over $65 for the size tub needed for washing laundry. Well, yesterday I made a discovery. At Lowe's Home Improvement Center, they have large round galvanised metal washtubs in their paint supply area for under $15 each. What a find! I had just bought an old washtub just like these at a flea market for $2 which needed some sylicone put into the small holes in the bottom of the washtub. Right there in the same isle of the store were the same size wash tubs. I now know where I am going to buy my washtubs from now on. I am still happy to have found the one I bought at the flea market. If the sylicone I got doesn't fill in the holes, it will make a great container for my garden. I will eventually get 2 wash tubs, one for washing the other for rinsing. Then, we will be able to remove the washer & dryer from the house and set up a low table or bench for me to set the wash tubs on when doing the laundry. I am quite happy about the changes. At first, doing laundry by hand for a family seemed a daunting task. Especially with 2 little ones, one in cloth diapers and the other in cloth training pants. I am finding however that the task is much easier than I originally thought. If I presoak the laundry in hot soapy water to soften the soil, the laundry is washed faster than in a machine. I have posted in an earlier post the steps that I take in doing laundry by hand.

One of the challenges of drying laundry without a dryer is finding creative ways to dry the laundry. Issues such as space, cost for setting up, and weather can be a challenge. There is a small investment in setting up a line drying system. The simpliest and cheapest is to string a clothesline rope between 2 trees or posts that are already in place. Many who plan on line drying exclusively prefer a more permanent setup such as the metal T-posts set in the ground with concrete footers or an umbrella clothesline that can be set up when needed and removed when not in use. There are countless options for indoor clotheslines also. You can find dryer racks of various sizes and materials readily available at most stores or online.

An option that we are implementing for now is using a portable clothes rack. We have an area in our family room near the wood stove that we are able to set the clothes rack. Under the rack, I will have the large washable fabric pads like you see for using on beds. These will catch any drips and prevent the water from making a mess on the floor. I found 6 of these at a thrift store and was able to buy them in new condition for under $4.00 for all 6 of them. I will be using some recycled fabric to add onto the quilted side to give it a stronger fabric & prevent the rack from tearing them. By hanging the laundry on hangers, I can dry more items in a smaller space. The laundry, once dried, will be ready to hang up to put them away.

A simple and effective clothesline that you can run across your room from one wall to another is a dog chain. These chains are designed to be used outdoors where they will be exposed to rain and not rust. As long as the links are large enough to allow a hanger to be hung onto a link, with the hanger's hook going through the link, you can use the dog chain. You can attach the chain to the wall using a metal hook. Be certain to use a hook that is heavy enough and is well attached to the wall stud. Add another hook on the opposite wall and slip the ends of the chain onto the hooks when the line is in use. When not in use, you can remove the chain from one hook and slip it onto the opposite hook so the chain hangs down the wall out of the way. Another advantage of using a chain for your clothesline is that if you are using it outdoors on a windy day, your laundry on hangers will not be easily blown off the line. For heavy items such as a blanket or quilt, you can still use the chain, just drape the blanket over the chain. It should not cause any stains or rust on the fabric if the chain is the metal that is rust-proof.

You can find clothes dryer racks that are made from dowels in many online stores and find similar racks in department stores. If you are creative and have a drill, you can make your own using the simple directions on the Handyman Wire website. The instructions given are for a large rack. If you have access to an old baby crib that has seen better days, you can make your own rack that is suspended from the ceiling using the crib side rails for the drying rack.

On Korey Atterberry's blog, she posted a tutorial for making a drying rack for cloth diapers using 1/2 inch PVC pipe. This is a very easy project that nearly anyone can accomplish. This rack is a nice size for things like dish towels, socks, and other small items. I am thinking that it would be a great project to try and make from wooden dowels instead of the PVC so that I can set the rack directly on top of the wood stove we heat with. Our wood stove has the entire top vented to allow the heat to rise. By placing a rack built to fit the wood stove, I would be able to dry cloth diapers and other small items very quickly. To make a fast project, you can use the wooden stretcher bar frames like those used for embroidery or needlepoint. These frames are 4-sided and fit together easily. No tools needed to assemble them. When put together, they look similar to a picture frame. You can use wood glue to hold the corners together at the joint. Drill your dowel holes (same diameter as your dowels for a tight fit) along one frame edge. It may be helpful to tape the 2 frames together and drill through both at once to make sure the holes on both frames line up correctly. This edge will be at the top of your rack. For added stability, you can add a couple of dowel holes in the bottom edge near the corners to add a stabilizing dowel at these corners. Place a dowel in each hole of one of the frames. Then, line up the other frame and slip the dowels into the holes. Push the dowels through until the ends are even with the outside edge of the frames. This will make a very sturdy rack that will give you a lot of use. QUICK NOTE: You can make this same wooden rack using 1/4 or 3/8 inch dowels on a smaller frame to make a drying rack for homemade pasta or for using on your counter to hang dish cloths & towel between uses.

I have been quite surprized to learn that in many neighborhoods across the nation, home owners associations or cities themselves are banning the use of outdoor clotheslines. A common reason being that they feel that it lowers property values. For some reason they feel that line drying our laundry is only done by those in poverty situations. Good grief! The Boston Globe has a wonderful article that explains the situation. In a time when people are concerned with global warming, energy conservation, and the rising cost of energy, you would think that a person would be free to make the choice for themselves on how to do their laundry. It makes no sense to me that any group or city government can dictate whether or not a person can line dry their laundry. There are some legislators trying to change this, but it would seem that other legislators are not wanting to upset the home owners associations. Check to see if your area has such a ban. If you are wanting to exercise your option to use clotheslines and are unable to, write to your legislators and let them know how you feel about it.

Do you have a creative way of drying your laundry by line drying? Feel free to share your ideas. If you live in a neighborhood that does not allow the use of outdoor clotheslines and still dry your clothing without a machine, please share your stories. There may be others in such a neighborhood that is needing ideas on how to line dry without the outdoor clotheslines.


Anonymous said...

I have been pricing the large wash tubs, but hadn't found any I thought I could afford. I will have to check out Lowe's. I am not near where you are in washing everything by hand, but I want to start this spring to wash most everything and hang them up. I hang up things right now on the dowel clothes dryers, but I need a few more in order to be able to hang everything up. I sure love all your ideas. You are a wealth of information. Thank you for sharing.

craftycherry said...

Wow! I just discovered your blog and I love it. Ive had a quick browse but will be returning often to read and catch up on past posts. I am slowly beginning to live aa more simpler life something that will be greatly extended when we find some land in the country to buy.
Thanks for the inspiration

Mrs. Dewey Smith said...

Great thoughts. We had been pricing tubs as well, and finally just went with some large and deep feed bins at the grain and feed store. They are $26, so I only bought one...but it is just a bit taller than my kitchen garbage pail, heavy black rubber/plastic, and have a tight lid.
So far, it works as I had hoped -- the black helps keep the water remain hot/warm for a longer time, with the lid I can easily soak the clothing overnight without worries of someone or something getting into it, and it's ample enough for all the boys pants. I'm hoping Dewey will put a small drain into the bottom side for a hose to attach for easier draining.
I probably wouldn't buy another at that price as I am finding the buckets and rubbermaid tubs work well enough for now. I am always on the hunt for those wonderful galvanized tubs and a wringer, but until then, this is doing the job :o)

You always share such useful thoughts and spark me along with great inspiration!

Anonymous said...

I live in a community where clotheslines are not permitted. However, I live on the corner and my next door neighbor uses one. So I installed a line running down the side of the house from the front fence to the back. I mostly hang laundry between our two houses. I also make sure I take it down promptly. Most people around that might see work all day anyway. No one has complained. I just can't bear to use the dryer when it is over 100 degrees for most of the 5 month long summer here in northern CA.

I truly appreciate your tips, advice and thoughts on simple living. We are slowly transforming our life.


Star said...

What a timely post! I was just discussing with my husband about hanging up our laundry again. THANK YOU for sharing such wonderful tips. I'm really enjoying your site.

May God continue to bless you and your family in all your homesteading endeavors :-)