My grandmother lived in a small village in Vermont at a time when there was only one washing machine in the village. The lady who owned it made her living taking in other people’s wash.
My grandmother mostly did her own, in the big farmhouse kitchen sink. I remember the corrugated washing board and seeing her scrubbing clothes on it.
During TEOTWAWKI we will be in a similar situation, but there is a much easier method of washing clothes, which I have adapted from traditional methods of pressing grapes to make wine.
It involves a bathtub, soap, water heated on a stove, and hopefully, some active and energetic children. If no children are available, any size adult will do.
Especially dirty spots in the clothes should be moistened, soaped, and left to sit for a few hours. Then, place the dirty clothes in the bathtub, which should be full of fairly hot (not painfully so), soapy water. Add children, who have first had their feet and legs scrubbed. Begin singing, preferably a marching song, or something with plenty of rhythm to it.
Have children (or adults) stomp, march, stomp, and dance on the laundry. Installing a grab bar all around the tub will help avoid mishaps. This will get the dirt out, and works best on heavy work clothes, which are the hardest to wash by hand. (Do not use this method for delicate silks and laces; however, they are easy to hand wash.)
Continue stomping for five or ten minutes, and then drain water out of tub. Bathtubs are perfect for this, as they are designed to hold soapy water, have slightly sloped bottoms, and have a drain at the lowest point. Buckets do not, and have to be carried and dumped, which makes a mess.
If you have a wringer, wring out laundry. If not, you can wring the wet laundry out by hand, which is probably a teen or adult job. You can also use the roll and squeeze method. For this, tightly roll up the item of clothing, put it back into the empty tub, and stomp slowly back and forth on it, squeezing most of the water out with your feet.
Then refill the tub with fresh hot water, rinse, and repeat. Also, the children will now be clean, and they’ll be tired. Hmm. Maybe this would be a good pre-bedtime task.
The legs have the largest muscles in the body, while the arms and hands are much weaker, especially for most women. The old saying “She’s built like a washerwoman” was no compliment. This method uses your largest muscles, plus the whole weight of the body, to wash clothes with minimal effort.
In TEOTWOWKI, conserving energy, whether human or otherwise, will be a prime necessity. The scrub in the tub method of doing heavy laundry is not only far easier and more efficient, but with a certain amount of singing and stomping can even be fun. – J.W.