Monday, September 22, 2014

Tub Wars

Old school black water generator courtesy Flickr

Deft’s archive documents a long journey in search of the perfect laundry system. Last month I lost patience with wearing clothing scented with other peoples’ dryer sheets. I sent away for a one pound capacity automatic German portable washing machine. I had given up automatic washing because the portable machine I’d been using was clumsy, wasteful, and too quick to fail.

The new machine has transformed several housekeeping systems, starting with the obvious one of getting clothes clean. Its small capacity is ideal for the two of us. Turn around time is now hours rather than the eight day minimum a laundromat run used to demand. A short turn around time means that inventory can be smaller, saving capital and precious storage space. Washing frequent loads (in unscented products) keeps the house smelling sweet. 

I rediscovered the convenience and efficiency of using many small wipers while cooking and cleaning. I use washcloths from The Great Big Northern European Home Furnishings Chain. The things have hanging loops sewn into them, and I just post them here and there on hooks around the kitchen like little clusters of white bats. Working with palm-sized wipers is fast. I can keep the kitchen (and bath) clean rather than getting them clean.

I had been experimenting with cheap disposable wipers from the Buck Store but grew discouraged with the scents of the cleaning solutions with which they are saturated. It will be time to sally forth in search of a neutral pH no-rinse cleaning solution at a janitorial supply. That in hand, I’ll be right back where I started in 1981, when a friend handed me a copy of Don Aslett’s Is There Life After Housework?

The new machine is designed to be quiet, so it is easy to integrate with other activities in the same room. It’s small enough to handle by myself and came home from the shipping concierge on a hand truck. I could have tilted it into the back of a cab.

A German laundry centrifuge, aka bathing suit spinner, remains from a previous experiment with hand laundry. The spinner gets two cups of water out of a finished load from the new machine. Things air dry in hours. I set the spinner on magical nylon sliding castors so I could tuck it into a corner and was pleasantly surprised to find that when it’s running, the spinner stays in place.

The new system is greener than any of the previous ones. When I was surfing for a new machine, I ran across a similar small automatic designed to wash baby clothes. It has a cycle that boosts the temperature of the wash water. In retrospect, that machine may be the better value. I’ll wait and see. Costing out a machine in terms of the number of laundromat runs it equals makes it easy to rationalize a purchase.

NB: The photo illustrates an effective old technique. Sailors used to, and for all I know still may, clean clothing by tying it to a rope and towing it behind the vessel for several hours. The practice produced  immaculate white canvas uniforms.

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