Monday, September 1, 2008

How (not) to wash clothes

Neighbor Johanne (above) came by the other day to say hello to the dogs and the kitten. (If you live like this, anybody within ten miles is a neighbor.) She ran her dogs here, and left with a bin liner full of my dirty clothes. Two days later she came back, again while running her dogs, and delivered the clothes, now fragrantly clean, virtually on my door step. Well, where the path meets the logging road. This makes her an officially designated Very Cool Person.
It also makes me look like a sort of helpless twerp.
So let me hasten to add that mostly I do not force my laundry on others, and actually use a washing machine, mostly at my brothers' or at my parents', only four or five times a year. Which I think probably qualifies me for some kind of record, at least in developing world terms.
I am not motivated by some nutty, neo-amish disgust of electricity, it's just that laundromats are inconveniantly situated in town, and I am loathe to bring dirty clothes while visiting friends. This is how I keep my washing loads at a minimum:
By not washing. Obviously the most effective measure. I do this by distinguishing religiously between outdoor clothes, city clothes (aka "civilian clothes") and loungewear. The clothes I wear while sitting at the office a couple of hours simply don't get very dirty. The threads I use while dicking around indoors at home likewise. And the outdoors clothes, well, who cares what they look like.
By using wool. As I wear woolen underwear most of the year, the outer clothes don't get dirty from the inside. As long as you let wool dry, it won't smell much either. And wool is ok to wash by hand.
By being very clever. Suits go the dry cleaner's, who are everywhere and give your clothes to you dry and crisp. Very efficient, no waiting for the drier to finish etc. Non-iron shirts always look incredibly sharp, even if transported at the bottom of a backpack through a winter storm. Checked shirts camouflage the grime that easily accumulates on your collar.
By washing by hand. It has to be done. I use a plunger (left) and some mason's buckets. And bio-degradable soap, of course. The washing itself isn't much of a hassle, it's the wringing and rinsing that's going to get to you. Washing by hand is also horribly inconvenient indoors, you have to schlepp the buckets in and out of the house, it all gets very messy and cumbersome. Doing it outdoors can be mildly fun, in a sick kind of old-school way. Thankfully, in winter when all of this is much more of a hassle, even outdoor clothes don't get very dirty.
I do have a big dry sack full of dirty laundry at work though. Waiting for me to finally get my ass to some laundromat.

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