|NANA (R.I.P.), MY PATERNAL GRANDMOTHER,|
BEHIND HER HOUSE IN RYE, NEW HAMPSHIRE.
NOTE THE WORK GLOVES AND HOE (RAKE?)
DON'T MESS WITH NANA
NANA PROBABLY SCRUBBED THAT SHEET BY HAND
WITH FELS NAPTHA AND ELBOW GREASE
Donald and Dave had never met before but it turns out they live in the same L.A. neighborhood., have both spent considerable time in Mexico, and know all the same cheap Eagle Rock and Highland Park markets. ("The Super! [pronounced Su-PAIR] Do you go to the one up on York or"..."No, the produces is all wilted there by Sunday night. I like the one on Division better"...
Like me, most of my friends...let's just say enjoy a good bargain. So at some point I thought, as a kind of joke, to mention an item a reader had brought to my attention a few weeks before: the Zeer pot, a "five-dollar refrigerator" made by nesting two terra cotta pots, pouring sand in between, wetting the sand (and I gather spending a good part of the day keeping the sand wet), and covering the whole with a jute rag.
"So who needs a fridge!" I wound up, thinking they'd get a kick out of the thought of employing sub-Sahara food-cooling methods in the middle of Los Angeles. Not in the least. I looked from one to the other. Both were leaning forward, rapt, their eyes agleam with interest...
"I guess I can tell you guys..." Donald was then moved to offer. "Well...lately I've become obsessed with how to do laundry without a washing machine"...
Dave and I fell upon this (perhaps at first glance arcane) notion without hesitation. "The laundromat's so expensive." "I miss hanging my clothes out on the line." "Is it me or do the clothes not even get clean any more?"
Dave and Donald went deep into conversation over their respective experiences with washboards in Mexico, and Donald explained that his (rather extensive) research had revealed that the operative dynamic in effective clothes-washing is not, as is commonly believed, scrubbing, but rather agitation. The idea is to loosen the dirt, gently agitate, then let the dirt float away...To that end, there are actually people, for instance, who put their dirty duds in a barrel of water, hoist it onto the bed of a pickup, and take a drive around some bumpy desert roads.
For Los Angelenos this would require about forty bucks in gas (plus the purchase of a pickup) so I filed that idea away while Dave delivered a paean to Dr. Bronner's soap, which for years he has used to wash his clothes, his dishes and himself. Donald gave an exegesis on the wonders of borax (great for clothes AND makes your dishes sparkle--cheap, too; they sell it at the Super). I gave a short homage to my mother who refused to use a dryer (electricity bill) even in New Hampshire winters, and insisted on hanging the laundry out in wind chill factors of twenty below, lending our clothes (and especially towels) an interesting papier mâché effect...
THE POINT BEING we all need to have lots and lots of dinner parties! In this way, we can broaden our horizons, meet new friends, get closer to our neighbors, our food, our clothing, and our world.
Here's a portion of the correspondence that ensued.
On Tuesday, November 1, 2011 (three days post-party):
Hi Dave and Heather,
I have now become an official devotee of Dr. Bronner. What a deal- such a little goes a long way, cuts the grease and smells good too. Doesn't get much better. Here is the web site I found with all the alternative washing info- there is a whole sub-culture of machineless washers out there. Who knew?
She mentions Mrs. Stewarts bluing which I remember my grandma using- she had a funny story about dying her hair blue with it - and that was way before punk... . I tried some in my whites but I didn't notice a bit of difference. I think it is better left to science projects and hair dye.
DIY washing machine and homemade laundry soap
by TREASUREGIFT on APRIL 22, 2010 - 98 Comments in OFF-GRID 101, SELF-SUFFICIENCY, WATER, WRETHA
What do you get when you combine a 5 gallon bucket and a toilet plunger? An off grid washing machine. Well, maybe not a machine in the traditional sense, unless you consider my hands the motor. This is something I have been wanting to make for quite some time now. The other day while I was in town, I saw a toilet plunger on the shelf and put it in my cart. I also picked up 3 bottles of Mrs Stewart’s bluing, I’ll explain more about that in a bit.
This primitive prototype washing machine started out as a 5 gallon bucket and the plunger. I handed the plunger to PB and asked him to cut some holes in the plunger, that makes it easier to plunge the clothes without making tons of bubbles and a big mess. I left it up to PB to decide how to cut the holes and in what shape. He took it downstairs for a few minutes, then brought it back to me, he handed me the plunger with 3, perfectly round, quarter sized holes. he handed me the rubber plugs that came from those centers.
I had a few socks and a couple of thermal shirts, all white, that needed to be washed. I put them in the bucket, filled it with enough water to cover the clothes by a few inches, added some homemade laundry soap (recipe to follow) and began to plunge. It worked like a charm. But of course, PB is never happy with prototypes, he wants to improve things, so he decided that a lid was in order, the lid would keep the water from splashing about as I plunged the clothes. We didn’t have a lid for the bucket, at least not one we wanted to cut a hole in. PB found another 5 gallon bucket, it had a bad place in the bottom, but it had a screw on lid. PB cut the bottom off that bucket and slid it into the first bucket, it fit like a charm.
Next, PB cut a hole in the screw on lid, he created a gasket using a prescription pill bottle, that keeps the plunger handle straight and keeps any water from splashing out of the hole in the top. Since the bucket is several inches taller now, the handle for the plunger wasn’t long enough, so PB removed the original handle and replaced it with a longer handle. Now I can put the whole thing on the floor and plunge from a standing position, I get more power to my stroke now. It works great!...
There's more on rinsing, wringing, hanging out to dry, and making your own soap you can read here....
On Tuesday, November 1, 2011:
Oh wow, this is super exciting [though it did later cross my mind that the prescription pill bottle from which PB fashioned a gasket had perhaps held Thorazine]... Now for the question: what is washing soda (and where do you get it) as opposed to baking soda?
On Tuesday, November 1 2011:
Heather and Donald, Thanks Donald for the link, I read many of the posts on the site and its so funny how many people are in correspondence about laundry! The good Dr. Bronner also makes the best bar soap, good for spot cleaning, general duty and maybe for laundry powder... it also rinses better than any bar soap I have ever used. Someone also told me once about freshening clothes between washes using some combination of Vodka and water, a costumers trick. The solution may have a funny name, but I couldn't find it online. [Author's note: sure enough, a google search for "vodka costumers" yielded this article entitled "Removing Odors from Smelly Belly Dance Costumes"]. I wont be using that particular solution, but a bit of laundry avoidance lore. I also like Fels- Naptha bar soap which is available at Vons, or was a couple of years ago. It is a harsher soap by far, I used it for cleaning brushes when I painted with oils. Great for heavy washing. Good Evening! Dave
On Wednesday, November 2, 2011:
What I'm thinking as well, and an avenue we haven't yet explored, is--bark clothing! Or maybe animal skins. Then we wouldn't have to launder at all...
On Wednesday, November 2, 2011:
From Harper's Magazine, July 2010: "By the time of Nero, the saving of urine had become an institution in the Roman Empire. In the vast apartment blocks where much of the capital's population lived, people urinated into small pots that, when full, wer emptied into much larger vessels beneath the building's stairs. When away from home, a Roman could pay to use a public latrine and relieve himself among the figures of gods, or for no charge at all, he could pause at a street corner and use the vessels there, provided by the guild of fullers. From these vessels, as well as from the latrines, the fullers of the empire- urine conservationists perhaps unrivaled in the history of the world- gathered together Rome's urine into large basins, and in these basins men and boys used their feet to trample clean the city's woolen garments. As evidence of the degree to which this system of saving urine had become an integral part of Roman life, we know that after Nero's flight from Rome, after he is said to have recited Homer and cut his own throat, Vespassian took his place and levied his infamous vectigal urinae, the urine tax." -Cutter Wood
Thursday, November 3, 2011:
Now THAT'S recycling! Between the vodka-freshened shirts and the laundered-in-urine sweaters....wait....that's how I used to smell when I drank!....
OR MAYBE JUST COOL COLUMNS (?)
ROMAN SETTLEMENT OF BARCINO:
EXCAVATED RUINS BENEATH THE CITY OF BARCELONA
photo, info re Museum of History of the City of Barcelona,
and Roman urine-collecting corroboration:
|CIVIC LAUNDRY, ROMAN SETTLEMENT OF BARCINO:|
photo: Earprint Productions
Years ago I read about this Roman habit of collecting urine. I had heard that urine was used to manufacture a kind of bleach that the fullers used.I didn't know that they used it directly for washing woolens- I can only imagine that all that collecting, storing and washing in the stuff must have leant an interesting odor to the city- and the washer men probably never suffered from athlete's foot.
I'm going to stop at that very handy segue into what I hope to be my next installment of Depression era tips: HOME HEALTH REMEDIES.
For now: Happy agitating!
|MUSEUM OF HISTORY OF THE CITY OF BARCELONA|
photo: Earprint Productions