One thing that most of America really has on New York is this concept of in-home washers and dryers. Schlepping a bag of dirty clothes down the street just to pay to throw them in grimy industrial machines that destroy your clothes and always leave them feeling and smelling like you used blue detergent and fabric softener and bounce even though you'd never let those cancer-causing, earth destroying daemons within ten feet of your front door is close to my idea of hell. Plus, it eats up your entire Saturday morning. I avoided going so much that I wound up having to wash my underwear in the sink. Then... eureka! If I can wash my underwear in the sink, why can't I just wash all my clothes in the sink??
Here be my tools:
1: A sink. Pretty self-explanatory. [Pardon the cruddy lighting, my bathroom is rocking a bare fluorescent and no natural light. Also that copper pipe is leftover from the copper bench project, and ideas on what I can make with it?]
2: Detergent and vinegar. This is by far my favorite part of the new system: I get to chose what comes into my home. I used this same detergent at the laundromat, but there was always so much residue in the machines from other people's gross detergents and fabric softeners that I could literally feel and smell it when I brought the clothes home. Read more about why you should chose a more natural detergent here. (Mrs. Meyer's is actually still pretty harmful, I have discovered, so I would recommend BioClean. I think they were our last time I went to the store or something, and this stuff lasts forever so I can't get rid of it! Plus it doesn't make me itch, which most conventional detergents do, so I consider that a good sign. All this to say: research which products you chose to bring into your home. Don't just buy something because it looks "eco-y." Research products before you buy here.)
The vinegar is for sheets and towels; it cuts and musty smells and helps keep them bright. I also throw some in with white t-shirts.
For delicates I either use Dr. Bronner's castile soap, or Eucalan rinse for silks, wools, etc.
3: A drying rack. Think I got this at a tag sale. I like that it's metal; I've found that the wood ones snag or get a bit musty themselves from having damp things on them. I'll wash a sink-full of clothes at night, set this up at the foot of my bed, and they're dry by morning. Over the winter it also worked like a low-tech humidifier as the water evaporated. A big bummer of hand-washing is the lack of a spin cycle, which means things come out a lot drippier, even with a lot of wringing, but it's just water and the hardwoods dry quickly.
I've been working with this system for a while now, and for the most part I love it. Although I would love almost anything that kept me out of the laundromat. Now that I'm committed, I feel ready to actually spend some money to make it a more pleasant experience.
First off, I want to get this puppy. Actually washing in the sink wastes water and is very messy, and incredibly inefficient when it comes to sheets and towels. It can handle more volume than my sink, and washes it faster and more thoroughly.
Even if I got the WunderWash however, I can only manage small loads because of my dinky drying rack. In my next apartment, I hope to be able to install either this retractable clothesline, or, my personal favorite, a Shiela Maid. See one featured in a beautiful laundry room here.
All in all, I am saving sooooo much money and stress like this. Plus, by air-drying and hand-agitating, I'm saving buckets of electricity. It's actually fairly therapeutic to scrub a sink-full of clothes. Like doing dishes, but minus all the gross old food. I can't fully explain it, but this process just feels better, and infinitely more responsible on so many levels. And as a single person who doesn't get especially dirty, that makes it the best option for me.