Washing Machine Woes? Nope!

Someone in one of my permaculture groups posted about a leaky washing machine. (Another problem I’ve been hearing about from many people lately.) All the comments in response were along the lines of testing the leak, calling repair people, etc. Since no one spoke up for the primitive, simple approach, I contributed this comment:

I prefer washing by hand for this reason (I’m not good w machines or plumbing, and don’t like spending money/time on repairing them).
In the past I have used a hand-cranked washer or even a giant (farm-size) salad spinner. Now I just use a small tub and wring out stuff by hand before hanging it on the line. (Might sound laborious but I like keeping fit, and it’s free, unlike the gym.) I always do laundry outdoors so leakage/spillage is a non-issue. And the water (typically just a gallon or two) gets dumped on whatever tree or other plant needs it.

People used to machine-washing clothes might say, “But I’ve got too many clothes to wash by hand.” Actually I have a sneaking suspicion, based on observations of my own patterns (I had a washer and dryer under my own roof throughout my childhood and for a few years of my adult life) as well as other households I’ve observed, that having a washing machine actually prompts people to have more clothes and do more laundry.

Hand-washing is easy-peasy, drama-free! BTW if and when my solar dryer breaks, I will just go get a new length of rope. 😉

On an eco note, washing machines can be fairly eco-friendly, especially if you wash in cold water and forgo machine-drying. Some washing machines these days use only 10-15 gallons of water per load.

Seeking out numbers, I found this article by Herb Kirchhoff at homeguides.sfgate.com which says that according to the U.S. Department of Energy, the average 2.1-cubic-foot energy-efficient small washer uses only about 8.35 gallons per load. Even a large (4-cubic-foot) energy-efficient washer uses just 11.75 gallons. Not bad, right? But then I went on to read that the average household does 392 loads of laundry a year. (Whether using a small or a regular-sized washer.) That’s more than a load every single day! OK, that’s just nuts. So households end up using 3-4,000 gallons of water a year, or more, just to wash clothes.

I’m thinking that for people who don’t have a washer under their own roof and have to schlep their clothes to a laundromat, the average number of loads per year might be quite a bit lower.

My point being, sometimes automation (especially if it’s right there under one’s own roof) doesn’t end up accomplishing its goal of reducing work, but instead just ratchets us up to “do more” and consume more resources.

While it may not be for everyone, I’ll stick with my enjoyable outdoor clothes-washing by hand, which uses maybe 8 gallons a week in a heavy week.