Doing Laundry the Old-Fashioned Way

guest post by Francine

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I live in an apartment building and don't have a washer or dryer. And my apartment is a fifth-floor walkup. The fact of the matter is that I haven't spent a dime on laundry in months. Washing clothes the old fashioned way is actually not only cheaper but also easier.

I save the plastic buckets that my scoopable cat litter comes in. I usually have four or five around, and fortunately, they are stackable, so they don't take up much room in my one-room apartment. When I go to one of the outer boroughs, I stock up on Fels-Naptha bar soap, which isn't sold in too many places in New York City. I also looked for and found a clothes wringer for under $20 on Ebay.

Every day, I put the clothes (sorted with regard to colors, whites, etc.), water of the appropriate temperature, and a piece of the Fels Naptha into buckets. I let the mixture sit for about 15 minutes, then take a large dowel (like a broom handle) and stir it around about 50 times. I let it sit for another 15 minutes, and then I put the clothes into a perforated plastic laundry basket, which I got at the dollar store. I pour the water out and let the clothes drain into the bucket. I then put the clothes back into the bucket with more water. This "rinse cycle" is repeated once more, and then I put the clothes through the wringer. If there are buttons or zippers, this part can't go through, but the rest can be wrung out quite well. I hang the clothes up to dry, which takes only a very short time. So what do I accomplish by doing clothes this way?

  • Doing laundry costs me about 10 cents a month or less.
  • The clothing lasts longer than if it were washed/dried by machine.
  • I don't have to hurt my back hauling clothes up and down five flights to the basement.
  • I feel really great having "beat the system."
  • I don't have to leave the apartment, so I can accomplish other things.

If anyone thinks doing laundry this way is strenuous or excessively time-consuming, it isn't. I work full-time and I am an evening student. Typically, I "put in a wash" before I leave for work in the morning (you can let it soak) or in the evening when I am taking a break from studying. I do almost all of my laundry this way; most things that are supposedly dry clean only are not. I guess I probably spend about $20 a year on dry-cleaning bills, and I am pretty proud of myself for figuring out two years ago that the "old way" of doing laundry is really much easier and cheaper.

"My Story" is a regular feature of The Dollar Stretcher. If you have a story that could help save time or money, please send it to

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