Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Wonderful Wash

Last night I spent roughly an hour doing something I wouldn't have expected to do in a sixth-floor apartment with no balcony: I was hanging laundry.

Of course, when we use the laundry room in the basement of our building I'd sometimes pull out the delicates and hang them to dry, but I was hanging up everything.

As of several weeks ago, we have clothes lines running the length of our small hallway, and another line running through our bedroom. And as of about 9:50pm yesterday, all the lines, and our drying rack, were full of damp clothes. Strategically placed fans helped dry the laundry all night.

Why am I suddenly not using the dryers in the basement?

Because we're not using the washers in the basement.

So how are the clothes getting washed?

With this:

Photo from here, and certainly not from our abode.

While I was hanging the laundry, my husband was in the kitchen, cranking away at our new washer - the Wonder Wash.

We now use less water, less detergent, hardly any electricity (save for the fans, but it's summer and we don't have air conditioning so those bad boys would be working full time, anyway) and considerably less time doing laundry than we used to.

I should probably back up, because I'm aware enough to realize that this - thing - looks bizarre.

Since spring of 2007, we've lived in an apartment building which sports a fairly nice, generally quite clean laundry room in the basement. The laundry room has 9 washers and 8 dryers. The apartment building has approximately 90 units, most of which house 2 or more people - and many of which house 2 or more adults plus several children.

This means our laundry room is in demand.

To make matters worse, when the hubs and I were both taking (or in his case, teaching) courses in the evenings, the only time we'd really be able to do laundry would be on weekends. When roughly 40 other people needed to do laundry. And we'd have at least 5 loads to do.

Laundry time in our basement was a breathless relay that involved running in to the room, claiming as many open washers as possible, cramming laundry in as fast as one can go, spending two dollars a load to wash and dry, setting a timer, heading back up to the apartment (because the alternative is to sit on a plastic chair in a windowless room while people come in and glare at you for doing laundry), leaping up when the timer goes off, running back down to the basement, usually having to move the dry stuff that someone just left in the dryer for three hours - often having the worst timing possible, whereby the person whose socks you just carried across the room walks in and looks pissed - shoving everything in the dryers, spending more money, setting another timer, etc.

The moment when the laundry was dry was even more stressful, because that's when folks decide it's OK for some reason to PAW THROUGH YOUR UNDERWEAR when you're folding.

Don't worry, that only happened once (seriously! This woman walked in, saw me standing at the folding table with my clothes piled before me, and just started... picking up my underpants. Uh... hello? I'm right here. Yes, those are mine. I agree that they're cute. Thank you for putting them down. Yiiiicccchhh).

After that incident, the routine would be to cram all the clean and dry laundry back into baskets (thus wrinkling everything) and haul it all upstairs, where we would then fold our two weeks' worth of clothes while watching some reruns or something.

And then about two weeks later we'd do it all over again.

There was an alternative, but that was getting tiring, too: our families all felt sorry for us, and so even a Sunday afternoon visit with my grandparents-in-law would be initiated with a "bring your laundry!" My parents, his parents, and my brother all have their own washers, as well. So we'd visit family and do our laundry.

But that starts to feel like you're visiting the washing machine and just giving family a cursory "hello" after a while. Because, you see, the laundry situation in our building was unpleasant enough that we just... avoided it. We both went the college route of simply buying more underwear. And we would go two full weeks... and then three full weeks... and then longer, without doing laundry. We'd do an "emergency load" on a weeknight to hold us over until the next time we saw family. And then when we saw family, I would start the first load of wash immediately and basically spend three full days monopolizing the local washer and dryer and nagging the hubs to fold when a load was done, because there are only so many baskets in the house and I'll need another one soon.

We'd looked in to small washers that could fit into small kitchens before, but they were clunky and small and seemed like they'd use a lot of electricity.

And yes, we used to use Laundromats, but that's just taking our same routine and loading it into a car and going somewhere where we don't even have family with whom to visit.

But then, a few weeks ago, the hubs discovered the Wonder Wash. It cost less than $50, and there was a YouTube video explaining how it worked. We watched it, and spent a weekend thinking about it, and then (with my blessing) he ordered it.

It showed up, not-entirely assembled, within three days. Hubs had it put together in a matter of minutes. And then we tried it.

A "load" of laundry in this contraption is about half the size of a regular washer's load, but it's so fast you can do a lot of laundry in not much time. Washing takes two minutes. Rinses (we rinse twice) take 30 seconds each. Throw in a few minutes for draining between those cycles and the average load takes about... 7 or 8 minutes? And the stuff seriously gets clean. We use the most unscented detergent we can use, so if the clothes were stanky, we'd be aware. But they're not.

So now, the hubs cranks through a load of wash, and then I look like this:

Image from here

Or something like that.

Laundry has now been shifted from a stressor in our lives to both a pleasant task and a shared project. Since we started using this washer a few weeks ago, we've been discussing tweaks to improve our system. The hubs has been amazing: he figured out how to hang up all the lines and where best to position the fans for drying.

And perhaps most weirdly, we look forward to doing the laundry. We get dishes (another household annoyance) finished more quickly so we can have the counter clear for the washing machine.

Obviously we'll still need the occasional washer and dryer for bulky things that don't fit in our washer, but that will be something along the lines of one load a month, which sounds fantastic to me - and probably to all of our relatives, too.


  1. Hey! Brandon just had me read this post and I'm amazed. This little contraption sounds awesome. We went to the website and it really sounds too goo to be true. I have one question that the site itself didn't answer and I can certainly contact them, but thought I'd ask you too. Do you happen to you use softener on your clothes and if so, do you just add it during the rinsing process like a typical washing machine? I'm a big fan of clothes softener as I feel it maintains the quality of the clothes longer, so I'd hate to give that up. Thanks for sharing this great product with everyone!

  2. Hey Mel! Thanks for visiting and commenting.

    Yes, you can use fabric softener - you'd just add it when you start the first rinse. We've been using white vinegar instead, and I'm not sure if it's because things are air-drying or because of the vinegar, but our clothes are a bit stiffer than they were when we used dryer sheets - but it's that nice kind of stiff, not, like, crunchy or anything. :-)

    If you use softener I'd recommend doing a second rinse to make sure it rinses out.

  3. I needed this post. Like really needed it. Because it gives me hope that if we don't get an apartment in Chicago with washer/dryer options that I can figure out something that doesn't involve a baby in a laundromat.

    Looks okay, but I gotta admit, I'd still rather have my washer/dryer in my apartment if I can swing it. :)

  4. Jenna, I will admit, I read your tweet about looking for apartments with washers and dryers when I was considering writing this post... glad you found it and found it potentially useful!


Be nice, now.