Ken's picture

When I was a boy (oh, many long years ago...) my mother and my grandmother would do laundry out in the yard during the summertime with their Maytag wringer washing machines and hang the clothes on the line to dry. I'm pretty sure that Mom's Maytag was electric but Grandma's had a little Briggs & Stratton engine that Grandpa had set up to run the washer. I was terrified of getting my fingers in the wringer and was too little to be much help anyway, but the whole thing left a lasting impression on me. As did the clothesline when I threw a snowball at Dad and during my escape running on top of the snow crust, I managed to 'clothesline' myself!

Mom did the laundry on Saturdays in town at the laundromat the rest of the year. Our weekly trip to the grocery store and to do the laundry was a big contrast to the rest of my week running wild on the ranch or at school. If I was good (or at least hadn't gotten caught lately) I would get a cedar arrow on Saturday and could enjoy archery practice until I lost the arrow. Sometimes I'd make it until Wednesday before losing yet another arrow. I actually kind of enjoyed the laundromat; it was warm and steamy inside and there were those big wheeled baskets to push around if the ladies weren't using them all. But I'm getting side-tracked here - the reason for this post is to ask: How will we do our laundry when the electricity is out or insufficient for running a modern washing machine? Or, even sooner, when there are no parts to repair it with (not that modern washers are made to be repaired; the electronics are particularly fragile and essentially unrepairable)?

I've looked at Lehman's hand powered washers and the price is just absurd, especially considering the many poor reviews:

Hand washing in the sink works for underclothes, but what about a filthy pair of jeans after butchering a hog or changing the oil on the tractor? I'm wondering about those old Maytag washers...

Obviously clotheslines are a cheap and easy way to dry clothes during suitable weather, but I live in the Pacific NorthWet; there's about 4 months of the year that an outdoor clothesline will sort-of function here. So... how's this going to work? Wash our clothes in the Spring, whether they need it or not?

In the wintertime we generally have the wood stove going, so a stand-up rack in the living room would work for drying modest amounts of clothing and I suppose I could install lines somehow to handle sheets. But that still doesn't deal with the washing side.

I'm wondering if anyone has restored or found a source for those old Maytag wringer washers that my Mom and Grandma used to use? I also wonder if anyone has tried drying clothes on a line in a greenhouse? My greenhouse plans include a barrel stove and barrels of water for a heat sink, and an earthbermed north wall (I'm at 48 degrees north latitude), so maybe it's possible to include a provision for clotheslines in the greenhouse? Maybe an old wringer washer could live in there too? But how do I run it if there's no electricity? Grandpa figured it out, but as I recall, it wasn't very pleasant to work around a little gas engine. Maybe I just run it electrically until there isn't any more grid power and then use the generator when it's laundry day? Until there's no propane to run the generator... At that point I think we are going to be using a washboard and a tub or we're going to be a pretty smelly bunch of islanders! Funny to think that, one day, wearing clean clothes will once again be a sign of affluence. I suppose it is already a sign now, but only down around the homeless level of poverty.

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ClareBroommaker's picture

For 10 years I've used the plunger and bucket method. Bought my plunger at Lehmans, but they don't sell exactly the same one anymore. I see laundry plungers for sale in quite a few internet stores these days. I can manage jeans, coats, sheets, towels, some blankets in a five gallon bucket, indoors in bathtub or outdoors. I tend to wash a little each day. But I can't say I've ever had to launder clothes with butchering mess or machine oil.

Do you think getting your clothes dry is the biggest problem? I think of your area as so humid. Mine go outside on a line in good weather, dry inside in cold or rainy weather. But it is not as horribly humid here, especially when the forced air furnace runs.

My worst drying problem was solved when the printing shop nearby stopped running diesel engines (their own dryers or mixers?), stinking up my laundry on the clothesline. Yeah, that was nasty.

That's a clean looking machine in your photo. Is it at a pawn shop?

Sweet Tatorman's picture

These show up on Ebay. Not surprisingly though for local pickup only. Link below for a very nice looking one:

I've got an entire chapter devoted to laundry in my book.

Here's one that didn't make it in that I learned elsewhere: have multiple sets of clothes. Yes, wear them two or three days in a row before washing. It's the undergarments that need changing the most (unless you're scrubbing out bilges). The point of having multiple clothing (from the thrift shop) is that you then have enough clothing to wear while the washed set is freezing dry on the clothesline for three days. Depending on your climate, your laundry will freeze dry but it will take days rather than hours. That said, I use drying racks.

It depends on how you hang your laundry. Mine is freezing dry right now. It's spaced out as much as possible, faced INTO the prevailing wind, the garments are opened up fully, and I shook everything wrinkle-free BEFORE I went outside. Some of it, depending on the fiber, will dry outside. Full sun and stiff breeze means temperature doesn't matter as much. Some of it (the 100% cotton stuff) will finish on the racks inside.

How you hang winter laundry matters. Is your clothesline perpendicular to the prevailing wind? That's the best arrangement.

As for washing it; we'll all be wearing our clothes more, using aprons, having dedicated work clothing and Sunday best, and so on.

Ken's picture

Great point about aprons, dedicated 'work' clothes and Sunday best.

My own standard wear of jeans and a flannel shirt go through phases of niceness. When new, they are going out to dinner or meeting clients, after a while and some wear they become everyday wear and when they are getting full of holes, tears, stains, etc. they become dedicated farm work wear. Basically all my outer wear goes through this process. The Sunday best wear lasts much longer. Tweed jacket, good dress shirt, etc. last indefinitely because of being mostly "marrying and burying" garb.

When I was a boy, most of the older men used work aprons or overalls to keep their clothes clean at work. Remember when your mom made you change out of school clothes into 'play' clothes before you went out after school? Some of those old habits are clearly going to be needed again.

David Trammel's picture

Good points about the return of aprons and over alls. That name says it all doesn't it, "Over All (the other clothes)".

I've used aprons at work all the time in dusty work conditions or when I'm doing messy work. And every worn shirt can become an apron with a little sewing. The back of the shirt will be a lot less worn, of a good size and shape. Cut the worn front off and add a couple of long ties and you've got a new apron.

As for laundry, my habits have differently change this past year since my washer and dryer broke, as well as being down to part time working with retirement and the pandemic. I found that first, I re-wore a lot of clothing. I had go out and shop clothes that I'd wear, then come home and change out into lounge wear, mostly flannel pjs or sweats. The outside stuff got hung back up and re-worn several times before I threw it into the wash. I could go to my sisters and do laundry there if I wanted. About the only thing I wore once and then tossed into the hamper was under wear. Socks even got wore for several days unless my feet got wet or sweaty.

As for what they will do in the future, a sci-fi book I read a long time ago and can't remember the name of, had a societal collapse in it. One of the main characters ended up in charge of his town and one of the first things he did was have built a bath house and laundry. The purpose was for hygiene and morale. He mobilized the townspeople into building several community projects that had them at the end of the day, tired and dirty. Being able to come back to the town and take a bath and soak in a tub was important to keeping everyone to the task. It also kept disease and illness down.

And is highly economical too. Instead of trying to provide hot water to all the homes, he could have one central large scale facility. I suspect that laundry mats will see a return when energy and resources get less available.

Long term I expect to see something like the open air laundries seen currently in Third World countries. Here's a picture of one in Mumbai, India. I believe the small spaces between the stalls are water troughs. So you'd stand in the larger space, beat and scrub your clothing in the trough which is filled via a gravity fed pipe, then when done the waste water would drain via another pipe. The operator could meter the water amount or make hot water optional. Looks like they have on site clothes lines too.

Smart city leaders are going to see the need for these places and get them built. The rest will look to the nearby stream or pond.

ADDED: Thinking about it, it would take a little work and a running stream nearby but I could see building a bath house / laundry on the stream. Use the stream to power a water wheel which scooped water up and deposited it in a tank with some height, then let gravity provide the water. Have a dock that went out over the stream or along it with stalls/troughs like this. Provide baths as well and sell the access to the laundry for firewood, then use the firewood to heat bath water and collect money/trade good for that. That setup might make a good addition to an After Oil story. I could see all sorts of situations that could happen at such a place, especially if it also was a bar or inn too.

mountainmoma's picture

I think the book you are thinking of was Kunstlers world made by hand series with teh laundry and baths for teh community. The religious leader organized it

David Trammel's picture

The one I'm thinking of was a sci-fi world set far in the future where the society had just about so much free energy, and had put robots to work, that everyone lived a life of leisure. Due to a political plot twist the society collapsed. There was a sizable renfair / larping community though, which brought some of the survivors together. The local blacksmith ended up leading the town, and he set up the laundry / bath house as a priority because he knew enough about how older societies worked to plan for major projects to better the town, and that tired workers liked a hot bath at the end of the day.

I suspect the idea of a communal bath house has made it into the minds of quite a few writers.

I use communal bath houses on Mars.
You have to be rich to have a private bathroom with bathing facilities.

In fact, it's forgotten today but even GRAND hotels of the past had shared bathing and toilet facilities!
It was a big deal when a hotel in the 1890's got each hotel room its own private toilet and bathtub.

There are many possible options for laundering in a non-electrical or minimal electrical world.

One is a daily dip in the cold river wearing your buckskins that have been preshrunk by long days of pounding and chewing to soften the leather enough to make it wearable. But that option is more likely to come further down the (clothes)line.

There is a surprisingly easy way to get our standard types of woven-fiber clothes clean by putting them into a barrel about three-quarters full of really hot water together with strong soap or detergent. Seal this up with a screw-tight top and agitate the barrel (with or without baffles inside) with a foot pump lever or bicycle-gear-driven mechanism with a worm cam. The hot water plus air pressure inside a sealed container drives the soap into the fibers enough to loosen dirt just as in electrical units. Drain soap and dirty water into the gray-water impoundment area, perhaps planted up with duckweed or other phosphate-loving plant useful as green manure.

In this scenario, the rinse cycle needs another barrel or better, a stone pool to swish the clothes around in with a long laundry paddle. Or to stomp on the clothes with bare feet. Get the kids involved, it is a tiring process. Rinse water can flow out the weirgate into the fringes of the orchard, perhaps or the poplar plantation or the coppice rather than the veggies & herb garden—but YSMV (your sewage may vary).

Less dependent on cooperage is the traditional washhouse with its brick-built ‘oven’ and chimney. The brick heating element, shaped so as to hold a large, heavy-duty copper basin for boiling the towels, linens, and white dress shirts (with or without bluing), followed by a round using the same water plus soap to presoak the filthy-dirty, heavy-duty work clothes; followed by a second basin-full of water to finish the task. Keeping the fire stoked and the basin topped up / refilled is also a job for the kids and teens. Guard your giant copper basin with your life or at least a vicious pack of defensive dogs.

Once the washes are done, maintaining the fire in the washhouse, allowing the heated air to flow through a vent into the drying room. strung with multiple clotheslines and or stocked with pegs and clothes trees, is an option in cold or wet weather. If the humid airs of the drying room can be stirred by solar fans (on cold sunny days) or by bicycle-driven rotary crews (Drafted teens? Sedentary grannies? Trained greyhounds on a dog-sized hamster wheel?) and forced to evacuate into the greenhouse, so much the better.

The 19th Century posh families’ method of hiring an Irishwoman with brawny arms to do the wash for several families in a cast iron kettle in the backyard is possible; the San Francisco method of vast networks of Chinese families using bamboo-pole clothes-whacking and steam to launder and flat irons to press and dry is another urban option.

A village cooperative that serves the needs of many farm families could be the site for a weekly working bee and confab for the women of the area. If a brick and tile or stone wash house is huilt like the women’s baths in Arabian countries, and heated like Roman baths from below, the weekly clothes wash could also become an occasion for women to do beauty mud packs or oil massages or deep soak for sore muscles. It could become a welcome break from farm routine and a social center for gossip which might counteract the isolation of farm life, allow swapping of medical / gynecological information, and perhaps act as a checkpoint, lessening the severity of wife-and-child abuse by irate or drunken husbands.

Might not a men’s steam bath or mixed bath house also do laundry? Why not, say I: hot water from the baths used as a presoak; for the labor, local prisoners or transients or junior military grunts or idealistic BoyScout volunteers could be employed just as well as the women of the area.
Would the bankers and lawyers and farmhands be doing the wash themselves? I doubt it, but who knows? Miracles and cultural change do happen. More likely the local sex workers’ Houses would pay handsomely for ex-members of the Houses to hand wash any delicate fabrics and hire brawn for the basic hard labor of daily washes of sheets and towels as a disease-prevention measure. Spin-off laundries, if you’ll pardon the pun, could arise around the fringes of the red-light district.

For a more exotic option, check out my story in one of the upcoming issues of New Maps titled “Coming Clean” which is now under the eagle eye of the editor. (

mountainmoma's picture

I dont think having people reduced to selling themselves to live is a lighthearted proposition or one that should be expected, human trafficking is a horrible scourge in teh world

Ken's picture

Prostitution has been called the "oldest profession" for a reason - I am mostly positive in outlook about the future; less stuff and more work doesn't mean it won't be good! On the other hand, I don't think it is realistic to suppose that there are not going to be a lot of "horrible scourges" that rise back up out of the shadows where they have been lurking for the last century or two; prostitution and various forms of slavery among them.

There is some pretty solid evidence to suggest that sacred prostitution via holy temples, were part of many cultures. Herodotus goes on at some length about the practices at the Temple of Aphrodite in Babylon. I suspect that this is the source of the well known "Whore of Babylon" phrase that is still heard today. Perhaps that kind of thing will make a come-back in some places? JMG includes something quite similar in his Ruinman book.

mountainmoma's picture

The point is how it was spoken of in a light hearted way. We should not be taking such things lightly, nor slavery. Neither are something we should assume as a matter of course. What we imagine as proper has impact on the world

As far as the words oldest profession thing. That was supposed to be a joke and was not based on actual prostitution but on the idea that ALL sexual interactions are at base transactional in nature. The idea that you are "paying" in one way or another, so you give her a home and food or pay each time cash. This is a very limited and incorrect outlook ! It is very mysoginistic

Just because a phenomenon is unpleasant to think about does not prevent it from happening. Nor does refusing to notice it happening bode well for understanding how human societies operate in fact rather than in ideal terms. In certain theocratic societies existing right now, if a woman is raped, she is thrown in jail or even killed as being an adulteress. If she does not wind up raped again by the police and killed by the State, she is barred from all ‘decent’ or theocratically ‘respectable’ work and must become a sex worker or die of sheer want.

Likewise, women in parts of Africa who are infected with STDs by their husbands, then abandoned or widowed as the men wander off or die from AIDS are barred from society and blamed for their misfortunes. They sometimes take up sex work for want of any other kind. They are not trafficked—they are outcast by their own cultures and punished by their own governments for being victims of modern mores.

Life on a farm is hard and not especially exciting to many human temperaments. I see no reason to doubt that pleasure industries will still rack up a lot of cash and its practitioners will still be viewed as VIPs /celebrities on whose money less glam industries batten. The pleasure biz is not an easy life, but it beats picking cotton. Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard agree on that. Plenty of people will go for pleasure work instead of hard labor.

In probably every Hollywood film you ever saw, the ‘casting couch’ provided a whole lot of free pleasure to the directors and producers obtained by far from subtle pressure placed on ALL who auditioned for the female roles. Many women actors will openly say so and shrug off the fact as a necessary consequence of belonging to the industry.

Why do you suppose there are no Hollywood films that have an ugly or old woman in a lead role? It is not because good movies, even wonderful movies, money-making movies can’t be made with old or ugly women in a starring role. It is because Hollywood has long been ruled by old and ugly men who would much rather put young and pretty women on their casting couches. There is a recent story about Alfred Hitchcock screaming “I’ll ruin your career!” as he was chasing around the room a well-known woman actor who refused to service his sexual demands. Perhaps people prefer to think the Weinstein character was alone in his category of sexual predator? He was not.

Women in all classes of life – especially the upper reaches – have long used sexual availability as a means to obtain power, influence, and money in politics and corporate life, as well. How this differs from sex work per se, is a fuzzy line in my opinion. As I see it, legal/theocratic prohibition against sex work is merely another form of wage oppression like ‘right-to-work’ laws that prohibit workers from engaging in strikes and forming unions. It harms the poorest and does not inhibit the richest when all classes engage in the same behavior.

Male sex workers have their own set of issues, too. Sex work is not confined to women by any means. The pleasure trade is a part of every society I know or ever heard of. Maybe there do exist enclaves and small groups of people who have no experience or contact with trade in sex, drugs, tobacco, stage work, dirty work, or menial work supporting other people’s pleasures; but they must be very isolated from the rest of our mercantile-mad and money-governed world.

And, seeing as how a major sector of present day economies is all about pleasure, I expect this to continue in the future. Beer, liquor, gambling, sex work, cosmetics, fashion, entertainment, feasting, travel, and much more are not going to go away because some of us disapprove of some of them. So I think it is perfectly plausible that pleasure industries like hotels and sex work could create employment in laundries, bakeries, and dairies –even to the point of being the principal source of money for people who prefer to use their bodies in non-sexual ways to make a living. Why is sex work more 'serious' than coal mining? Coal miners were treated very badly. Does that mean they cannot be the subject of songs for entertainment, or viewed as a subject for jokes?

In the musical 1776, there is a song about the Triangle Trade of molasses to rum to slaves. It was not only the southern colonies who made money off the slaves. The northen and midlands also profitted from transporting and trading in unfree human cargo. Without that profit, the land holders who drew up the Declaration of Independence would not have had the temerity, troops, guns, ammo, and supplies to challenge England’s system of milking the colonies for wealth. Morality bowed to money, as it so often does. The United States of American is a nation rooted in the evil of slavery. Prohibition of alcohol led directly to the creation of organized crime syndicates that still flourish all over the world today. So did the dissolution of the USSR hand over large chunks of wealth and direct power to the Russian mafia. These are active features of our world today. The power of organized crime to supply slaves and drugs is not lessened in any way by disapproval. It takes power and money to fight power and money. In this world anyway. for those who are in the world and not of it, they do not judge either the crime or the act.

I do not see why you assume I am light hearted, I am simply being aware of the facts.

David Trammel's picture

I worked in Hollywood for a decade from mid 90s to 2004. Like many I'd heard rumors of actresses (and a few actors) who got their jobs because of "favors" but that was the extent of what I saw myself, rumors. I'm sure it was going on though. I did as a special effects artist on set to do a job, get to know a few of the women who were trying to break into the business and working as extras or doing bit parts. When you are there for hours waiting for them to get to your scene its natural everyone chats. Sometimes you hooked up beyond the set.

A few of those, had decent careers in the soft core stuff that was making it onto late night Cinemax and HBO at the time. They often supplemented their income with erotic dancing at clubs. They may have done a bit of prostitution as well, though we never discussed it. As one woman told me, she could work a 9-5 for 40 hours a week trying to pursue her acting career or do two nights (a 4 hour shifts) at a strip club making just as much if not more and pursue it. The trade off made sense to me.

As mentioned, women (and a few men I assume) have long traded their looks and company for money to further their long term plans or to just survive. I got to know one woman who was working on her doctorate, who danced at one such club. She was way smart and had her life in order. Her plan was to dance while going to school, pay for her degree with no loans and then move on. I knew several others who had similar plans of using their time on the striper pole to fund their future.

That's not to say I didn't meet quite a few of the other dancers whose lives were a mess of alcoholism, drugs and abusive relationships. This isn't to justify the life style, but to recognize like much of the dark underbelly of human society, it exists now and will certainly exist in the Long Descent.

Quite right, it is. However, there are many places in the world where people volunteer to trade their physical person for money and safety wihout being forced. I think if people expect to live under warlords and in violent times, that is one way women have survived and protected their children. There are many other ways for people to trade their bodies for money. Mine work, field labor, mill work--these also use up the body and leave it broken. Some sex workers prefer the easier life. And many entertainers are expected to perform sex for patronage, such as the Russian ballet dancers. It is not a way to aspire to if you have other options, but what if you don't?

Ken's picture

What name do you write/publish under? I subscribe to New Maps but I haven't submitted any work because I'm in the middle of a novel that is hopefully the first of a series, so no fresh short work. I briefly considered asking Nathanael about serializing 'The Book of Kai' but I can't see how the logistics would work until the book is already published. At which point I would be willing to offer chapter(s) for "free" in hopes of hooking some readers that would then want to purchase the book. Kind of like how e-readers offer 'free' sample chapters. Any thoughts on that?

Yes, I am also considering an E-book offered as a serial under the going market price for my big long novel. Let me compose an answer at length and let you know what my notions are. Lots to do this evening!

I can’t speak for New Maps, but my guess is that including serial fiction as New Maps continues is only one of many options. Adding more non-fiction, more reviews, some artwork are also things to juggle. I know NB is always hoping to hear from more new voices and seeks a variety of visions. I guess it will depend on how big the pool of choices gets to be over time.

Just as a suggestion, if you could put aside the forward thrust of your longer work just for a month, allow yourself to wander down a side road to a town or village where the lineaments of your world hold true but none of the main characters live, go there and look around. Be a visitor there. See if you can observe a short, sharpish story arc for a stong-voiced character that illustrates or enriches the differences between our world and theirs. Write up your report and send it to New Maps.

On serializing a novel to build a readership, there are now more platforms coming out to achieve that. If you wish to write in short bursts that always end in a cliffhanger to ‘hook’ the readers to buy the next installment, then Wattpad and maybe Kindle Vella are possible venues for you to develop your novel ‘in the public eye’ and earn money at the same time.

I am not pleased with the ‘New York vice’ of trying to turn every form of art into a species of drug addiction. Besides, my novel is already written, proofed, typeset, illustrated, and ready to release in PDF format. To meet the requirements of typical mass-market ‘smart-phone’ delivery of E-books, all the work I put in to make the book print-ready has to be laboriously stripped out!

Besides, I write in long, complex sentences and do a lot of long, slow world building. So my work is not commercial in the ordinary sense. I think that a serial release could intrigue a certain kind of niche readership, but I need a firm with international connections to reach out to them.

Teresa writes perfectly galloping good novels with a fast-paced plot and brisk, easy-to-gulp-down prose—perfect for many readers—but because she is not PURE romance or PURE science fiction but a blend of the two –why the rigidly fixed-genre commercial publishers give her the go-by. Why the so-called Woke are wanting fluidity and flexibility in GENDERS but steel and concrete categories of GENRES, I cannot say. Anyway, she self-publishes.

I find this WAY too much work. So I am: 1) sending out queries and samples of my work to small independent publishing firms; 2) considering doing a trial release via a Print on Demand press (several of those about); 3) researching other subscription platforms such as SubscribeStar and SubStack, while also, 4) trying to understand the various traps and minefields built into the obfuscating language of publishing contracts in this day and age. It is a jungle out there!

Thanks for the kind words!
I'm slaving away on the edits for Vanished Pearls of Orlov and Escape to HighTower even as we speak.
They'll both be much better books for the editing.

As for self-publishing, yes, it's work. *Looks at piles of work waiting for my attention and shrugs.*

Since you're going with small publishers, read your contract very carefully.
Kristine Kathryn Rusch has a wonderful series on contracts and intellectual property. Ignore her politics. She's really good on the business aspects of writing.

Go to and look for her business musings sections. She's got hundreds of posts about every aspect of the writing business. She's well worth your time. Just ignore the parts when she rants.

David Trammel's picture

Don't forget we have a sizable writer's forum here at Green Wizards. Its not been that active lately but as 2022 gets going I expect it will pick up. I started back at writing myself in December with some short fiction. One of them I hope to submit to New Maps this Spring.

Feel free to post excerpts here if you want advice on a difficult story, or just opinions on the work. Or just bits of wisdom you've come across as a writer that you think other writers would benefit from.

If you want exposure and practice in serializing a novel, there are sites for this.
I published my first draft (as Odessa Moon) of three novels in both Archive of Our Own and Wattpad.

My son follows several writers on Royal Road, smaller than Wattpad but easier to read on.

There are others.

You get exposure but NO MONEY. But if you can reach an audience, they MAY follow you to paid work.

Archive of Our Own (AO3) is primarily fan-fiction but as I proved, they do accept original fiction. They're the fussiest BY FAR about giving it away for free to maintain our purity. This is probably for legal reasons because they ARE fan-fiction which is, by definition, copyright infringement.

Take a look at Wattpad or Royal Road or search for other sites. Read the terms of service agreement carefully.

If nothing else, it's good practice delivering on time to an audience who've never heard of you before.

By the way, I didn't do the uploading. My kids did it for me as I found the procedure completely baffling.

I've decided I want to move towards writing original fiction and nonfiction this year, but there's a fanfic novel I want to finish first. It's nearly done, and it'll be the longest thing I've ever finished, and it's complex enough that tying everything off is a significant challenge. It should hopefully be done and completely posted before the middle of the year.

mountainmoma's picture


mountainmoma's picture

I have also seen a matag wringer washer run quite well off of stationary bicycle power. There is not pump on these or timers, you can take off the engine and power by pedal power.

Although, like I said, it also is a good candidate to run the engine off a solar panel.

There are 2 possibilities for this. First, if it is a unversal motor, and I dont know as I dont have one, but likely it is, all univeral motors can be run straight off of a solar panel ( but then you cannot use the built in power switch). See living energy farms for more about running straight DC from a solar panel to all kinds of appliances with no inverters or batteries ( they call it "daylight drive") Or, you can run the AC motor on that basic matag wringer washer with the pulsed DC power that Mots M. advocates, and his little circuit boards to pulse the DC power are a useful item, again then no inverter or batteries, run it in the daytime, he has an interesting book, Take Back the Power and a website.

mountainmoma's picture

The way I have washed laundry by hand is to do it in the house in the bathtub or outside in the garden in a metal laundry tub I have. I cleaned them in the bathtub by stepping on them to push thru the laundry detergent and water. I did very grungy garden all week overalls that way in the bath tub. I do not do the kind of work that gets greasy, so my experience is with extreme ground in dirt. All the clothes got very clean, that was not the issue. My issue was how hard it was in the house to try and wring out the overalls and towels. I have strength issues, that is why I wash them with my feet. But, the experience of doing this showed me that it was doable. So, I do recommend trying doing laundry without your washer. I dont own a clothes dryer, but I usually just put them on a wooden laundry rack in the house, as it is warm and dry in the house.

I was talking to a neighbor about this once, how to make do if we had extended power outages and laundry, as to me that is the hardest thing. She grew up during a war and then was a refugee when she was a child, she came to America at 13years old I believe. She lived for a years in a refugee camp after Vietnam fell. She said, oh, it is no problem realy to get out the excess water. She says the first easy thing to do is to put the piece of clothing between 2 boards, or on a flat clean surface, then a board on top and step on the board. So use weight like that instead of wringing, so that would take care of the overalls. I asked about larger items like sheets, and she says you do these things in pairs, you help each other each take an end and twist or even better to have the 2 people wrap it around a tree as twisting, so again that pressure of the fabric against a hard surface.

This last summer, I took my galvanized round tub and put in the garden in the sun, and I set a random piece of glass I have ( used to be on a small desk) on top and let the sun heat up some water in it each day. Then, at the end of the day, I went out and washed me and washed my clothes in it after, and since it was outside did not worry about wringing large items, but in summer, it is so hot here, the clothing is light and not much of it so actually can be wrung out by hand, and set the clothes and the towel I used to bath out and dumped the water and set the tub upside down overnight. Set it up again next morning. This is very low tech. The problem with stepping on some items in that galvanized tub is that it is too harsh for thin cottons, would wear it out, so in that tub best to use hands and not grind the thin cotton T shirt against the bottom of the tub by stomping on it. Live and learn. The bathtub in the house is nice and smooth and not hard on the clothes. We are all very spoiled. My grandmother told me that when she was a young professional office worker in Washington DC, she would do laundry in the bathtub in her apartment, it was a normal thing to do in the late 20's, early 30's. No dryer either.

I would LOVE to buy a used matag wringer washer ! They do not come up around here. Without electronics or a water pump, it would be very easy to run it off of a solar panel without an inverter. To me, having a clothes washer is an important technology to keep in some form, and that wringer washer level of tech should be doable. Historically, laundry has been quite hard on women, the huge amount of time to do by hand, and before detergents and bought soaps to use boiled water and aged urine(ammonia) to clean or hard physical work bashing with rocks or against boards, hard on our bodies.

David Trammel's picture

Old printing presses had a screw type press that used a long arm for leverage (see left picture). I wonder if you couldn't set up something similar to wring out wet clothes. The two rollers and a hand crank set up on the old Maytags was that small and that hard to turn because it was sized to fit the washer. Not maximize the utility.

When I went looking for a picture to illustrate the old presses, I came across this modern update (right side pic). If you replaced the bottom plate with a screen, you could feed wet clothing thru it and the press out excess water before you hung it to dry. Just increase the length of the upper arm to make it easier to use.

According to all the histories I've read about women's work was that as soon as there was any spare money, the woman paid someone else to do the laundry.

It was that tiring, hot, wearing on the body.

I expect laundry services to make a comeback. If you're strong and organized, it's respectable paid work.
There was someone in every neighborhood who did the washing for hire.

Heck, in Beatrice Potter stories, Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle took in washing!

Sweet Tatorman's picture

Similarly as rural areas became electrified in the past century after replacing dangerous flame based lighting I understand that the next thing on the agenda was often a washing machine.

might be easier to maintain than everyone having their own washer, too. If we end up in a situation where fewer people can afford and have space for their own washer, but parts and so on can maintain some in running order, I bet you'll see more laundromats again.

When I was a kid we had a copper that was used to heat water for laundry and my mother also had a glass washboard that was used to remove stains. Without washing machines I think we would wear our clothes a lot more between washes, often having labor saving devices just means we keep more stuff cleaner rather than doing less work.

David Trammel's picture

I came across this tutorial on the old plunger in the bucket idea

"How to Make a $5 Bucket Washing Machine"

I thought it interesting they use two buckets, one with multiple holes that allow the water to drain back into the bucket. They also suggest using the wringer on a mop bucket to wring out clothing, but I wonder how that would work for even medium sized pieces of clothing.

David Trammel's picture

I'm reminded that in the days when washing was a chore, many pieces of clothing, like shirts and blouses, had removable sections where the most wear was. The collar buttons on men's dress shirts weren't there just for show, they served the purpose of attaching the collar. There was often another button at the back of the neck. Or collars and cuffs were sewed on at a few strategic spots, so they could be cut off and washed or replaced.

I wonder if that might not make a comeback in the Future. Buy a high quality shirt and a few less quality removable collars, that once too soiled you just throw away.

For women, having several different styles of collars and cuffs would allow you to have a fuller wardrobe for a less cost. Paired with a suitable neutral blouse and you could change them out day to day. Or if you were in a situation where you worked at a shop, store or business that allowed aprons, a collar bib that went down the front and tucked under the apron would do something similar.

Much easier to wash a few collars and cuffs in the sink than do the entire blouse.

But that wouldn't do anything to clean the armpit area of the garment, which I find is often the fastest to get nasty.

Pin-in dress shields take care of underarm sweat. They're shaped cotton flat pillows with absorbent cotton inside. Pin them to the underarm section of your garment or wear a sort of bra contraption to hold them in place. Dress shields kept perspiration stains in check and could be laundered separately.

Sewing pattern companies used to sell patterns so you could make your own.

As for gentlemen, it was traditional to wear an undershirt (round neck or v-neck) UNDER your dress shirt. It served much the same function. The undershirt got sweaty and the dress shirt stayed clean.

Notice that both of these items are more for office workers and less for coal miners and laundresses.

That's an interesting idea. Thanks. I didn't know that. I can see that being useful.

Sweet Tatorman's picture

I suspect that a Portable Concrete Mixer could be a good starting point for an improvised laundry machine. Probably best as an outdoor item.

add photo: 

Your picture of a portable concrete mixer reminded me of those rotating composters on a stand.
One of those (never used for compost and fresh from the box) might be usable for laundry too.

I'm on Vancouver Island, and I use a lot less energy than regular people when I do laundry.

1) I use cold water. A lot of the energy is used to heat the water, so this reduces energy use substantially. It also reduces the risk of colors running, and wear and tear on the clothes. I've discovered that I can dump all colors together with no problem, meaning I only need to do one load of laundry a week. I've been doing this for about a decade almost all of the time.

2) I hang things to dry. Because Vancouver Island is cool and wet most of the year, I use an indoor drying rack set up near the furnace (It's in the middle of my hallway, I might as well get the extra use out of it). I hang sheets over doors. Things dry in 1-2 days. They are slowest when the heat is not on but it is not summer either. There's sometime an outdoor line, which I use for bedsheets and things in the summer, and things like jackets that tend to drip a lot. Or I hang those of the showerhead. Most of the year, the door works fine. There is actually a dryer that I have access to, but I don't think either my landlady or I have used it in years. Because we don't need to.

There's a few things I handwash, then hang to dry in the shower.

Obviously there are other ways to LESS, and this one requires a working washing machine. But it works well for me, and uses a lot less energy than our society's standard.

And yes, you can do without a dryer in cool damp areas.

David Trammel's picture