It’s a hand-wringing choice for the eco-minded. Washing machines have been a cornerstone of modern life since they arrived more than a century ago. No more tired fingers shriveled by soapy water. No more piles of sopping wet clothes waiting to be scrubbed. But convenience comes at a cost — and the amount of water and energy washing machines consume is far from eco-friendly. High-end machines are more efficient — if you can afford them — but for many consumers, the environmental concerns have meant reducing their machine use altogether. Instead, they have turned to washing at least some of their clothes by hand.
Aside from using less water and electricity, hand washing is also kinder to your clothes, sparing them from the damage of a wash cycle. Interested in taking the plunge — at least from the wrist down? Here are some tips for washing laundry the old-fashioned way:
Pick your location
Before getting your hands wet, choose: sink or bathtub? The answer depends on the size of your load. To clean clothes effectively, you must submerge them completely. So, if you’re planning to wash only a few socks and a shirt, the sink should offer more than enough room. Make sure it’s well-cleaned since soap and toothpaste residue can stick to fabrics, especially light ones. And for those larger loads? Draw a bath.
Choose a sustainable detergent
If you spend time and energy washing your clothes by hand, why would you use a detergent that’s harmful to the environment? In North America alone, more than 700 million plastic liquid detergent jugs end up in landfills yearly. And many of these detergents contain chemicals that ultimately swirl down drains and, consequently, into our waterways. SaltyLama has the solution for you. Choosing our eco-friendly detergent strips means choosing your health and that of the planet. Because our detergent strips are plant-based, they contain no phosphates, surfactants, dyes, formaldehyde, or brighteners. And the packaging is plastic-free, biodegradable, and compostable.
How to hand wash, step by step
Begin by reading every label. Most fabrics can be hand-washed, but there are some exceptions, so check every item you plan to wash. If you’re still in doubt, do a test on a small, barely visible portion of the fabric. If it discolors, shrinks, or becomes deformed, you should stop. In the case of stains, use a natural stain remover to pre-treat them. It will make the work ahead easier.
- Fill the sink with cold water. This will not only consume much less energy but will also better preserve the colors of your clothes. However, they may lose color if you have naturally dyed clothes or clothes on their first wash cycle. It’s better to wash them separately.
- Add our detergent strips and immerse the clothes in water. After our strips have dissolved in the water, shake and gently scrub your clothes to loosen stains and remove bacteria and impurities. Then leave the garments to soak. The time required varies depending on how dirty they are: 10 minutes may be sufficient for lightly soiled clothes. For others, it may take an hour. For delicates, it may be appropriate to soak them overnight.
- Rinse each article of clothing individually. Resist the temptation to squeeze hard. Do it just enough to eliminate excess water, but do not overdo it — you could stretch and damage the fabrics.
Consider a washboard
If you want more scrubbing power:
- Try using a washboard.
- Soak the clothes in a tub or large basin, let the SaltyLama detergent strips dissolve in the water, then rub each article separately on the board.
- Repeat this step four times to ensure the garment is clean.
- Start with underwear first, then sweaters and shirts, trousers, and socks.
- Once all the items have been scrubbed, discard the dirty water, and replace it with soap-free water.
- Repeat the whole cycle to rinse the clothes until no soap is left.
But again, be careful when wringing them out.
Dry your laundry
Now that you’ve washed your clothes, what’s the best eco-friendly way to dry them? The most obvious solution is to hang them outdoors, taking advantage of a nice sunny day. This way, they will dry quickly and ecologically. But, unfortunately, not everyone has a garden or terrace to hang their clothes out on — nor does everyone enjoy suitable weather throughout the year.
One space-saving alternative is to purchase a clothesline for your bathroom. There are rope models that descend from the ceiling so that you can hang your wet clothes up and leave space to wash and change or retractable models for the shower.
However, some knitwear needs to be dried flat. Consider one of the many kits specially designed to dry wool and knitted garments to save your sweaters. This should safeguard against warping.
But what can you do if you are short of space and your house tends to get damp? If you need to use a washing machine, add dryer balls to the load. These reusable wool balls keep clothes separate in the tumble dryer, reducing the drying cycle by up to 40 percent, and saving considerable energy and money. Think of them as eco-friendly fabric softeners.