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Garden Laundry - where I take the wringer washing machine out into the garden

 
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I've been learning how to use a vintage wringer washing machine.



The goals:
1. reduce water use when doing laundry
2. reduce electrical use when doing laundry
3. water the garden (at this early stage of water rationing, I can only afford to use reclaimed or greywater on the garden)
4. make clothes clean

To be honest, I didn't think I would be able to do it.  We have a pretty fancy, front-loading washing machine inside, chosen for its hyper-efficiency in water and electrical conservation.  

I think I've managed to achieve 1, 3, and 4 on my list (for more details, I made a blog post )

I possibly achieved #2 as the wringer machine has a very simple moter and no fancy electronics.  It only has to run for a few minutes per load, as most of the cleaning time is done with soaking stages.  I hooked it up to a Powerbar so it has an on/off switch to make sure it's not using power when inactive.  I'm using cold water instead of warm.  And I'm reusing the water several times (other than cooking, laundry, and computers, the well is a big user of electricity in the house).

The downside, more human interaction and monitoring.  
The upside, I get to be in my garden while monitoring and interacting with laundry at the different steps gives me a better understanding of how clothes get clean.

I'm going to keep on experimenting and researching old household manuals for tips and tricks.  So far, I'm working off of family lore and what makes sense from my understanding of how things get clean.

My garden is very happy with my experiments.  
 
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Nice! My granny had one of those in her basement. As a kid I always thought it was pretty cool.
 
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This is very cool!  I was just looking into how to wash clothes by hand and I'd never seen this contraption.  
 
r ranson
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It is pretty cool.

Only I'm in the sun while using it today so I got pretty hot.
I'm going to put one of those 10x10 tents over it so I can work in the shade and not have to put the machine away each evening.  It's a beast to transport across the yard to the shed.

A couple of things I want to do is to find out the aprox age of the machine.  Looking at the construction and the quality of the chrome, I'm tempted to say early 1950s.  There were chrome shortages after the war and in 1948, so some of the years around then had issues as the chrome aged.  I haven't investigated the moter or anything except to find out if it is safe to use and if it works.  So there's something to look forward to.

Once I figure out the age, I'm going to hunt for a manual and if possible, a repair guide.  There are a few things I want to tune-up, but don't want to start taking it apart until I've done some reading.  
 
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Just how badly will it date me if I admit I used one of those in University - it's what my landlord had and rent was freaky cheap.

I dimly recall that I'd wash the cleanest clothes first, then stick in dirtier clothes, ending with the dirtiest things last. Then I filled the tub for the rinse cycle and stick the clothes back in in the same order, again a few at a time.

Warning - Thick fancy buttons and the "wringer" part do NOT play nice together!

Actually, Hubby has 2 old machines for "parts" and I really wish he wasn't too busy to make one good one out of the parts, that could live up-hill of the veggie garden. The first plants there are a ginormous trio of Kiwi Vines who would suck up dirty water and turn it into nice fruit.

We are also on a well and we try to mix the wash-water 50-50 well and rain as the well is hard water and the rain is softer.
 
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I grew up with one in the house.  My wife and I still consider getting one.
 
r ranson
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I've been very interested in the wringer.  There seems to be different settings for different thicknesses.  

The platans on this one are a bit squishy, so I am imagining if the shirt was turned inside out and folded so the buttons are between the cloth layers, it might be kind.  But I wouldn't want to use something fragile like shell buttons.  I see why old household manuals suggest butting the shirt and turning it inside out for laundry.  

There's no safety on the mangle to stop the fingers going in there.  This makes me terribly nervous!

What I'm really interested in is how kind is it to different fabric and seams.  The saying in the family is "these new machines are so much kinder to clothing".  But is there a difference?  And what about different seam finishes?  From what I remember of history, these machines would be used during a time when garments either had an enclosed seam, were finished by hand sewing, or had a pinking sheer edge.  But also the fabrics were different.  Synthetics were just starting, there were fewer knit fabrics, and the woven cloth would have been tightly woven and well finished - so they would be unlikely to shrink when agitated in the wash.


 
Jay Angler
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r ranson wrote:

There's no safety on the mangle to stop the fingers going in there.  This makes me terribly nervous!

Most adults will be safe if they watch what they're doing, but I have a cousin with a scar on her arm from sticking her hand in when she was a toddler. I recall that some of the "newer" models had some sort of auto-release if the pressure was greater than the release was set for, but we're talking *really* old info here. I do believe there may still be one in my in-law's basement in Ontario, as Hubby's not cleared out the place, instead renting it to a friend. I can imagine good uses for the mangle if it wasn't 4 provinces away!
 
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We had a family friend, who had one, when I was a kid. I've always thought they were super cool! (And I've been looking for a used, non-electric one, for years!)
 
Jay Angler
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r ranson wrote:

What I'm really interested in is how kind is it to different fabric and seams.  The saying in the family is "these new machines are so much kinder to clothing".  But is there a difference?  

Personally, what's kinder to clothes is *not* washing them until they're dirty (I know people who will wash their pants and bath towels after every use - underwear, yes, but pants get warn several days to a week, and bath towels are being used on me when I'm clean!) Also, avoiding a dryer at all costs in favor of a rack or clothesline will make clothing last much longer. I'm personally suspicious that many of these "attitudes" about "whiter than white" is about selling more detergent and more clothing. The clothing industry does not want clothing to last a long time. We're going to fix that!
 
Carla Burke
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A washing machine repairman once told me to only use 1/3 - 1/2 the amount of laundry soap recommended, too. He said more than that is not only unnecessary, but speeds deterioration of the washer and your clothes, by about the same difference. So, if you are using 1C, when you should only be using 1/2C, then your clothes and machine are likely to deteriorate twice as fast as they normally would. I can vouch for my clothes lasting a lot longer, since I decided to test his advice, though it might be hard to determine what would constitute 'twice as fast', precisely. But, he did also mention that using lower temps in the dryer help, too. I've lived in a few places where hanging to dry was not an option, but I still tried to dry on the lowest heat setting.
 
r ranson
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great advise.
With our water, using more than 1/4 the recommended dose is asking for trouble.

Like any soap or detergent, the more you use, the more effort it takes to rinse it off.
 
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I definitely like the idea of doing laundry in the garden!

We added an outdoor laundry facility when we fixed and expanded our carport. I confess I haven't used it yet, but my husband has done some laundry in it several times.



Dan put some hose bibs in the tubs to be able to use a hose to make good use of the greywater.



Like so many other things, my laundry routine is out of habit, which means using my washing machine. I need to start changing that. Raven, thank you for sharing this. It's a nudge in the right direction for me!



 
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The outstanding memory of ours is that my mother was told that it could shell peas.  She blanched the pea pods and then passed them to me and I ran them through the wringer. The peas popped out of the pods and rolled  back into a tub and the pods into a tub on the other side.
 
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Hans Quistorff wrote:The outstanding memory of ours is that my mother was told that it could shell peas.  She blanched the pea pods and then passed them to me and I ran them through the wringer. The peas popped out of the pods and rolled  back into a tub and the pods into a tub on the other side.

Wow, stacking functions. I wonder if that would work with Broad Beans.
 
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Carla Burke wrote:A washing machine repairman once told me to only use 1/3 - 1/2 the amount of laundry soap recommended, too. He said more than that is not only unnecessary, but speeds deterioration of the washer and your clothes, by about the same difference.



That's because most people never bother checking to see what the recommended amount of detergent is in the first place.  Whatever "measuring cap" comes with it gets filled, and often then some, for each wash.
Usually that's triple the recommended amount.  When I was in college back in the 80's, my lab instructor for organic chemistry was a former chemist for Proctor and Gamble.  Nice guy and we were often chit-chatting. This was one of his pet peeves. He assured us that using extra detergent not only didn't get clothes cleaner but made them dirtier from residue.  His professional advice was that it's better to use less detergent and more time.  Time spent soaking is the far more efficient way to get clothes clean.  According to him, they actually worked out optimal amounts to use but "made their money on the people who thought that more equalled cleaner."
 
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Leigh Tate wrote:
We added an outdoor laundry facility when we fixed and expanded our carport.



Wow, that's a beautiful set up.  Where's the washer from?  Looks like you mounted a bought wringer on a galvanized tub and built the set-up.  Have you posted about it?
 
Carla Burke
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Dianne Justeen wrote:

Carla Burke wrote:A washing machine repairman once told me to only use 1/3 - 1/2 the amount of laundry soap recommended, too. He said more than that is not only unnecessary, but speeds deterioration of the washer and your clothes, by about the same difference.



That's because most people never bother checking to see what the recommended amount of detergent is in the first place.  Whatever "measuring cap" comes with it gets filled, and often then some, for each wash.
Usually that's triple the recommended amount.  When I was in college back in the 80's, my lab instructor for organic chemistry was a former chemist for Proctor and Gamble.  Nice guy and we were often chit-chatting. This was one of his pet peeves. He assured us that using extra detergent not only didn't get clothes cleaner but made them dirtier from residue.  His professional advice was that it's better to use less detergent and more time.  Time spent soaking is the far more efficient way to get clothes clean.  According to him, they actually worked out optimal amounts to use but "made their money on the people who thought that more equalled cleaner."



Actually, no. He very specifically said 'the recommended amount', and I clarified that, with him. I'll not say what he said about people who didn't bother to even check on how much the recommended amount was, because it falls into the 'very not nice' category.
 
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Carla Burke wrote:I'll not say what he said about people who didn't bother to even check on how much the recommended amount was, because it falls into the 'very not nice' category.



Thanks for the clarification.  I've always said that although I'm not the sharpest tool in the shed, my superpower is that I read and follow directions.  So I've never understood the aversion to doing so.
 
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I saw the video before I saw this thread (I am a subscriber to your channel). And I happened to see such an old washing machine with wringer today in a second-hand store. It looked very much like yours. A beautiful old, well kept, machine. I don't know if it still works, but those old things were made much better than they make stuff nowadays. No, I didn't buy it.
 
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Personally, what's kinder to clothes is *not* washing them until they're dirty (I know people who will wash their pants and bath towels after every use - underwear, yes, but pants get warn several days to a week, and bath towels are being used on me when I'm clean!) Also, avoiding a dryer at all costs in favor of a rack or clothesline will make clothing last much longer. I'm personally suspicious that many of these "attitudes" about "whiter than white" is about selling more detergent and more clothing. The clothing industry does not want clothing to last a long time. We're going to fix that!

There were 7 of us kids at home in the  50's & 60's time frame and my mother did a LOT of washing on one of these machines. I remember her being so proud of a new one she purchased and used it the day it was set in the house.

YEP, you don't wash regular clothes until the do get dirty, or have manure on them, or they smell strong from sweating. Undies and school clothes were different, although even school pants were normally worn throughout the week, but shirts and undies changed daily. That was just LIFE down on the farm.

Clothes went through washing, then rinsing, then being hung on the line throughout the entire year except when it was raining. We had clothes lines strung out in the house as well though as the clothes in the winter were frozen stiff and were brought inside to finish off the drying.

I'm surprised that my modern Kenmore, top load, washing machine has lasted as long as it has. I've had one belt replacement done on it in the 30 years I've had that. Bought that new around 89 or 90 and use it every 2 or 3 weeks to do my piled up laundry. Living alone it just doesn't pay to do a very small couple of loads - it uses too much water and electricity.  I've just bought clothes and bedding to last through at leas 4 weeks before it becomes MANDATORY to do my washing. And I still wear dress pants a couple of times and work pants until they can almost stand up by themselves. Work clothes get cleaned with the small rugs/carpets. C'est la vie!!
 
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Raven's wringer washer looks like the one we used on our family farm in the 50's, 60's, and early 70's (in the Texas blackland prairie). Washing clothes for 5 kids and 2 parents. All the water used was then used to water trees around the house. The garden was a bit too far to haul the water to, and there was concern about whether the soap would affect the garden soil.
In the 70's my mom started working in town to supplement our farm income, and she took clothes to the laundromat since she was already in town. But she still brought the clothes back home to hang on the line to dry.
We also only washed clothes when they were visibly dirty or smelly. Plus we did lots of handwashing.  I still follow these low energy/low water techniques.
 
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My mom used one of those when we lived near Johannesburg in the late 60s. Prior to that, we were in Uganda for a couple of years and for a skit at the local ex-pat club, one woman took long, large balloons and put them through the wringer, without popping them! Very impressive to the 5-year old me!
 
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Dianne Justeen wrote:

Leigh Tate wrote:
We added an outdoor laundry facility when we fixed and expanded our carport.



Wow, that's a beautiful set up.  Where's the washer from?  Looks like you mounted a bought wringer on a galvanized tub and built the set-up.  Have you posted about it?


Dianne, my apologies for taking so long to get back to you. Life has been a flurry for the past month!

The square wash tubs came from Tractor Supply Co.
The hose bibs came from Home Depot
We weren't satisfied with the wringer in the photo, so I replaced it with one from Wiseman Trading & Supply. I would recommend that one.
My plunger is pre-Y2K, but still available from The Breathing Mobile Washer website.
The stand is apparently no longer available because it's no longer listed on the website I bought it from (Best Drying Rack).

So, yes, we bought all the parts and put it together. To the left of the washstand, but not in the photo, is a rain collection tank for laundry water.
 
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Jesse glessner wrote "
I'm surprised that my modern Kenmore, top load, washing machine has lasted as long as it has. "

I either read or had a washing machine guy tell me that the more people that use a washer the quicker it will die because they load it differently and that wears out the washer somehow.

I'm washerless at the moment with a plunger and a medium sized trash can. Public laundromats are unsanitary. If I have to go I run a bleach cycle on the washer before I use it. I wear most outfits for a week and longer for pants. Work clothes get worn until I can't stand them.
 
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I’ve used a variety of washing machine types over the years and one of my favourites is still a twin tub. Washing on one side and a powerful spinner on the other. Water from either side is able to be diverted as you wish, eg when rinsing in the spinner, if it was a lightly soiled load, I’d divert the rinse water back into the washing side to reuse/top up). The advantage of these machines over wringers is, 1) much, much easier on the clothes 2) much, much drier laundry to hang out. Drier laundry is a big advantage in cold or high humidity. Higher spin also drags out the rinse water more effectively so you don’t have to rinse as scrupulously because any remaining water borne residues are reduced, not left to dry in the fabric.
 
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Polly Oz wrote:

I’ve used a variety of washing machine types over the years and one of my favourites is still a twin tub.

I used one of those decades ago when I was overseas and although you have to pay more attention to the timing and transfer clothes from one to the other, I agree that from the water conservation perspective they are a great machine to use. When #2 son's girlfriend was moving to a basement apartment with no laundry access, that's exactly what they were looking at to buy. The one I used was smaller and lighter than a regular machine, so it would be easier to move outside for "garden laundry".
 
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Polly Oz and Jay Angler, can you post a link to this double tub you're talking about please?
 
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@ Denise Ra
I'm referring to a machine such as is pictured on this review page: https://www.putproductreviews.com/best-portable-washing-machines/

Amazon.ca has several images and versions here: https://www.amazon.ca/Portable-Compact-Capacity-Lightweight-Apartments/dp/B07BD2G4TY

But do *not* take that as a recommendation, just as "this is the concept" as I used a machine similar in design 40 years ago and have *no* idea of the brand or longevity of a modern version that would be worth buying.
 
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denise ra wrote:Polly Oz and Jay Angler, can you post a link to this double tub you're talking about please?



I’ve only used ones OS, and like Jay Angler, many moons ago. I was surprised to see how many were available on Amazon US and how many useful user reviews they had https://www.amazon.com/s?k=twin+tub+washer&ref=nb_sb_noss

There are also dedicated electric spinners available. Last I looked they were most popular in parts of South America.

I like being able to decide how dry I want something spun; let shirts and delicates remain damper to allow minimal-wrinkle ‘drip drying’ and protect finer fabrics, and spin the heck out of jeans, garden clothes, socks and etc so they dry quickly in cold or humid weather
 
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With our current water shortage, when my cisterns are dry the only water I can use in my garden comes from my washing machine or from washing dishes. For clothes, we recycle the rinse water from one wash cycle to be the wash water for the next cycle, so the only "free" water is the soapy water.

I don't live in a place where I can just order something on Amazon, and I don't have too many options, and as a result I'm having a hard time determining what I can use. We have one brand of laundry detergent that promotes itself as eco-friendly, but the ingredients are the same as the normal laundry detergent, aside from coloring and $$$price$$$$ (I suspect greenwashing, which is just getting started here). Is homemade lye soap considered biodegradable and less terrible for my garden? I could, if I have to, grate that up and melt it down, but I'm not sure if that is even a good option. Are there any specific ingredients I should be avoiding? the online resources seem to be more "use this brand" rather than "avoid this ingredient for this reason".  
(I did definitely get the message to use less of whatever I choose, for which I am very grateful)
 
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Tereza Okava wrote:With our current water shortage, when my cisterns are dry the only water I can use in my garden comes from my washing machine or from washing dishes. For clothes, we recycle the rinse water from one wash cycle to be the wash water for the next cycle, so the only "free" water is the soapy water.

I don't live in a place where I can just order something on Amazon, and I don't have too many options, and as a result I'm having a hard time determining what I can use. We have one brand of laundry detergent that promotes itself as eco-friendly, but the ingredients are the same as the normal laundry detergent, aside from coloring and $$$price$$$$ (I suspect greenwashing, which is just getting started here). Is homemade lye soap considered biodegradable and less terrible for my garden? I could, if I have to, grate that up and melt it down, but I'm not sure if that is even a good option. Are there any specific ingredients I should be avoiding? the online resources seem to be more "use this brand" rather than "avoid this ingredient for this reason".  
(I did definitely get the message to use less of whatever I choose, for which I am very grateful)



I'd say yes to the homemade lye soap, because the process of the lye saponifying the fats also changes the lye. I'd use a 0% superfat, and let it cure (even with hot process) until there is no bite, when you touch your tongue to it. That's how you know there's no lye left, and all the fats have been saponified. With hot process, you could probably use it within 24hrs, if not right away. With a cold process, you're looking at somewhere between 4 and 6 weeks, possibly a little longer.
 
Tereza Okava
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I actually have a few liters I made (cold process) and socked away a few years ago! Not quite sure why I did that but it will last a good long while. Definitely quite well aged!
 
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I make laundry soap by boiling Soap Nuts also called Soap Berries. I make it because I'm sensitive to chemicals. It doesn't work on ground in dirt, though I haven't tried scrubbing stains with it. When I washed others stinky work clothes it didn't entirely get the smell out either but maybe I could have used more, I didn't try. it works fine for my work clothes. I just boil a cup of berries in 6 cups of water, then simmer with the lid on for 30 minutes. I add 1/2 c. vinegar to help preserve it or keep it in the fridge. I use 1-2 tablespoons per large wash. I don't know if it's less bad for the soil and plants but I don't have greywater yet.

The soap nuts come from a soap berry tree in the himalayas. But, most local cultures used a local plant for soap. I just found a soapberry tree in Western Oklahoma where I live and will look into using that when I run out of the ones I have.

Lye soap-making is a process. My grandmother used to use it. It can still be purchased.
 
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Location: Southwest Oklahoma, southern Greer County, Zone 7a
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