Wringer Washers

by Pat Veretto

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I learned to do laundry in an era when everyone hung their clothes outside to dry. Dingy and stained laundry, whether it was white socks, kitchen towels or dad's coveralls, was a sign of a lazy and uncaring housewife. Everything we washed came out sparkling clean, and even though colored clothes faded over time from an abundance of bleach, they were clean.

We didn't wash our clothes every time we put them on for a few minutes, either. We wore a pair of jeans or a shirt two or three days and sometimes more. (With a family of eight kids, two pairs of jeans each in a week's time was enough, anyway.) Dirty laundry meant dirty, not "not fresh." Mom had a wringer washer by the time I started helping with the laundry, so stains and real dirt were no real problem.

There's something magic in the rhythmic slosh and gurgle of laundry and hot water. That agitator was styled for serious business, not like today's wimpy agitators, with gentle curves rocking back and forth. Oh, no. This was a vigorous and slender tower, with blades stretched taut against top and bottom, slapping and swooshing and forcing water and detergent through sodden fibers until they turned loose of every bit of grime.

As the clothes twisted and writhed in the hot tub, we could lift the lid without disturbing the process and determine if they were clean yet. Nothing shut off; nothing second guessed what we wanted to do. It was plain and simple. Turn it on, put the water and detergent and clothes in, turn it off when we were ready.

Ten to fifteen minutes was enough for most things, but for the really grungy jeans and coveralls, we "let them run" to 30 minutes or more.

And I don't believe the baloney that after ten minutes your clothes are as clean as the detergent will get them. I know better. Unless you're washing in filthy water to begin with (or your detergent is worthless), your clothes will get cleaner and cleaner with each passing minute. (Why else do they have "heavy" (long) and "light" (short) washes on modern machines?)

There are tricks to buying and using a wringer washer, but first let me give you the reasons you should consider one:

  • They use less detergent. One measure of detergent will do three or more loads of laundry.
  • They use less water. You use the same water for succeeding loads. You do whites, then light coloreds, and then dark coloreds. You can do three full wash loads for the price of one.
  • But there's more. The rinse water can be used several times, too. That's a savings of at least 160 gallons of water. How? A 40 gallon tub fills to wash. It refills to rinse. That's 80 gallons of water down the drain. Three full loads of laundry will use up 240 gallons of water. If you use 40 gallons in a wringer washer and another 40 gallons to rinse, you use a total of 80 gallons of water to do three or more loads of laundry.
  • Wringer washers get clothes cleaner. All the time I used a wringer washer, I never once used stain remover. On the rare occasion that clothes didn't come out clean, I simply rewashed them.
  • Since it runs few hours, it will cost less in electricity to operate. (For those of you "off the grid," gas models are available, too.)
  • It's faster by a long shot. You can do your laundry in one morning and not have to think about it again the rest of the week. That includes sheets, towels and rugs besides clothing. If you hang clothes outside rather than waiting for a dryer, you can do the week's wash in the morning and go to a meeting (or a picnic or an opera or a baseball game) in the afternoon.

Pat Veretto is a work at home grandmother who has homesteaded, homeschooled and happily lived frugally most of her life. She currently freelances.

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