More Tips for the Ultra-Waterwise Household

Some more thoughts to add to yesterday’s post …

Washing clothes by hand in a bucket works great for me because I’ve got an outdoor clothesline and lots of sun. So much sun that laundry dries quickly even when it’s only wrung by hand, or (in the case of bedsheets) not wrung at all, but just hung on the line dripping wet. (I call that “free ironing” along with the drying!)

If I had to depend on an indoor clothesline/drying rack, my laundry setup would include a commercial-grade salad spinner to get as much water as possible out of the clothes. Commercial-grade salad spinners are readily available online. I’d go for the 5-gallon size.

And, if I had to do a lot of laundry (for example, if I had kids), I would add a “Rapid Washer” to my setup. Even with the low volume of laundry I do, I might still go ahead and get a Rapid Washer because they are very handy.

A Rapid Washer looks like a plunger, and the flared part can be made of metal or plastic. The handle is usually wooden. You use it to push soapy water through your clothes in a bucket or tub. Rapid Washers are available from antique dealers, from Lehmann’s, and from online marketplaces such as ebay and Amazon. People swear by them in terms of ability to get clothes clean.

Here’s a YouTube video by someone who uses a Rapid Washer and salad spinner to do his laundry.

That said, if you’re just not able/willing to wash by hand, and can’t afford a laundry service, washing machines these days are getting very water-efficient.

According to HomeWaterWorks, old-school washing machines use 40 to 45 gallons per load, whereas the new water-saving models use only 14 to 25 gallons per load, and get the clothes cleaner. The website offers tips on choosing a washer and using it efficiently. One new fact I picked up was that it’s always more water-efficient to do a full load, even if your washer has an adjustable load setting.

Other facts I learned from the HomeWaterWorks website: For the average household of four people in the USA, laundry accounts for 15% to 40% of total water usage. Also, the average USAmerican household does a staggering 400 loads of laundry a year! This fact seems to support a theory of mine, that people who have washers and dryers in their homes end up doing more laundry.

The typical four-person household with an old-school washing machine will use 12,000 gallons of water a year to do laundry, says HomeWaterWorks. That’s an awful lot of fresh potable water just to wash clothes.

Meanwhile, in Riot for Austerity land, a four-person household that has achieved 90% reduction in the water category will use about 14,400 gallons of water a year — TOTAL, for all uses.

Pretty remarkable huh.

Another laundry-related website, The Spruce, offers all sorts of useful information, including how to calculate laundry capacity and load size of a washer. I learned that a load of laundry weighs about 12 pounds. There’s a chart showing the weights of various laundry items. If you want to economize on laundry, one thing you can do is not have many pairs of denim jeans to wash, or bath towels. Each of those items weighs 1.6 pounds.

I quit using bath towels 25 years ago, while I was living in Tokyo. I noticed that the people at the public baths all seemed to get by with these tiny towels barely larger than a washcloth. I soon learned that they did the job fine, while offering the obvious attraction of being far easier to dry than a large bath towel. In Japan’s humid climate, it was a no-brainer. And I liked the small towels so much that I have stuck with them and never gone back to those giant thick bath towels.

Saves a lot of space in my wash-bucket. And on my clothesline!

Do you like the idea of not having to deal with the hassles of giant thick bath towels (which can be just as troublesome to dry in a dryer as they are on a clothesline), but don’t want to give up the convenience of being able to wrap yourself in a simple rectangular piece of fabric when you step out of the shower, instead of having to put on clothes right away? Get yourself a sarong! These giant body wraps can be as big as, or even bigger than, a large bath towel (both of the ones I own are over 3 feet wide and almost 6 feet long), but are made of nice thin quick-dry fabric so you get the best of both worlds.

And as a bonus (at least for those of us living in tropical and semi-tropical climates), you can wear the sarong as a skirt or dress and let it air-dry while you wear it. Ah, convenient bliss!

Got any tales of laundry success, failure, interesting experiments to share? Drop me a line!