More on Laundry

After you’ve done something for a while, you forget all the little shortcuts and nuances because you just do them. So here’s a little upgrade on laundry.

Wringers are expensive, but very useful if you are not a strong person or if you’ve had wrist and hand injuries. Used ones are often all dried out and the rollers hard to replace. New ones are available at some general stores, like Lehman’s. They are between $140 and $190 US, and attach to the washtub. A complete hand washer is about $600, which seems to be out of range for many of us, but if a couple of families bought it together, it would be worth it.

Lehman’s, which supplies a lot of Old Order families, also has scrub boards at a good price. They don’t pay me to say this, but I’ve had good experiences with Lehman’s. They have an online catalog.

I forgot to tell you that some white vinegar in the rinse tub (about 1/2 cup or so) will cut the soap scum so that it doesn’t settle back on the clothes if the water gets saturated. The vinegar smell dissipates in drying. For the delicate things, add some essential oil (lavender is nice), just a few drops in a small tub for the rinse. Your lingerie drawer will smell great.

Drying racks can get quite pricey. They should be made of very smooth hardwood dowels or plastic coated metal. Cheap ones don’t last long, and either splinter or bend if they are wire. But it might be all you can find. See if a craftsman will make a good one for you if you have to do a lot of indoor drying. Put the rack a few feet from the wood stove or in a sunny window in the winter, and the clothes will dry quickly while humidifying the house.

I am looking for an old-fashioned sad iron (metal bases with detachable handle) that doesn’t cost too much. Antique ones are available, usually without the handle, and they are often rusted. The metal bases heat on the stove. You clamp on the handle, iron away, and switch to another hot base when the one you are using cools. There are propane-fired irons, but these are a bit scary and really don’t solve the fuel problem.  Steam is generated for the sad iron by sprinkling the clothes or ironing them while still damp from the wash. I remember the older women sprinkling the clothes with a little cap that fit over a glass bottle, then folding them, wrapping them in a towel, and refrigerating before ironing. The little sprinkling caps are still sold by general stores.

This makes wash day sound like a huge chore, but it is really one of the breaks in routine that can be fun. I like the pace of handwashing and ironing, and it is the day you can say, “Sorry, I’m really busy,” and have some time for your own thoughts while your hands work. It is just instant gratification to rub out the stains in dirty clothes and make them look new again. In families with many helping hands, it used to be a time to talk and chat and tell stories.

We need more of that.


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