Wash Clothes by Hand with a Washboard

Make a shift for towards a more environmentally sustainable life style, while saving a bit of money, by handwashing your clothes.

  • Washboard
     Clean your laundry inside or outdoors with a washboard, also called a scrubbing board.

  • Washboard

There it is . . . the place you've dreamed about for so long. So what if the roof leaks and the running water doesn't run? You've worked hard for your homestead and now you have the time to make things work for you.

In the meantime, though, there's that pile of grubby clothes . . . especially those dirty diapers that can't wait until the well is dug or the pump is fixed. Do you drive, walk or ride to the nearest coin-eating laundromat, or dump on relatives or neighbors? Why should you? If you hand wash your clothes, you can get the wash clean faster, more efficiently and more conveniently right where you are, electricity or not!

An investment of $27 at Sears will buy you a double washtub with bottom drain hoses (a very convenient feature . . . they hook over the side when the tub is filled, and let the water out when lowered). Or you can try secondhand or country hardware stores for the makings of a more portable setup with two single tubs. (You may be tempted to get by with only one, but this wastes time and - even worse - water.) If you don't mind dumping their contents over the edge, you can forget the fancy tubs with drain hoses. Any large porcelain or galvanized basins will do. Material that rusts, however, will stain your clothes.

The other necessary piece of equipment you'll need for your do-it-yourself laundry by hand project - the washboard or scrubbing board- isn't as easy to come by as it used to be. Years ago I foolishly gave away my trusty laundry aid and was later faced with the task of finding a replacement. I thought that would be a snap in northern Canada's general stores, which still handled kerosene lamps. No way! I finally found what I wanted in Fairbanks, Alaska, in one of the most incredibly complete hardware emporiums I've ever encountered.

You may face similar problems, but if you can find one the investment it worth it. Unless you're washing only small amounts of delicate clothing, you'll need a large size. The aluminum models are lightweight and move around too much under washing action. You'll be better served by a glass board, which is heavier and provides a rougher surface (yet one that doesn't snag). Diagonal corrugations on the scrubbing area do a superior job of cleaning. Your board will require no painting or varnishing . . . the natural wood functions perfectly if allowed to dry between washdays.

Preparing for Doing Laundry by Hand

The next consideration is your water supply. Lake, stream, spring or pipe, any source will do as long as it's fresh-flowing and clear. Since the whole point of washing is to remove bacteria, there's no point in introducing still more through stagnant water.

5/8/2020 9:59:09 AM

Here we are, 46 years after this article was written, in the middle of a pandemic, and washboards have turned their 215-year-old technology into a way to fight COVID-19. https://www.thepeterboroughexaminer.com/news-story/9972716-washboard-sales-triple-during-covid-19-pandemic/is article

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