When we first moved into our "shouse", one of my greatest challenges was laundry. We had no running water, drains or electricity. Before we moved, I had the luxury of putting a load of laundry into the washing machine and then getting on with the rest of my day. It was a luxury I took for granted. Once we had moved, laundry became an almost insurmountable task. Rather than tossing a load in the washing machine and going about my business, I now had to get to know my laundry on a very personal level.
After hauling water into the house, I would put my 15 gallon galvanized wash tub on the wood cookstove and fill it with cold water. Starting with the darks and a bar of Fels Naptha soap, I would start washing. I soaped the clothes up well, scrubbed them against each other and then against the corrugations on the side of the wash tub. I rubbed and scrubbed and lathered, rubbed, scrubbed and lathered. Once I thought they were well cleaned, I plopped the sudsy mess in a laundry basket and went on to the next article of clothing. I progressed quickly from the dark clothes to the colored and then to the whites. I had to work fast because the water heated up as I washed. It is remarkable how quickly a 15 gallon tub of water heats up when placed over the firebox on a wood cookstove!
Once all of the clothes had been scrubbed, I hauled water (cold, once again) into our bathroom and filled the bathtub. I dumped the laundry basket full of clean but soapy clothes into the tub and agitated them with my hands. I wrung all of the soap out (by hand) put them back into the basket, rinsed the soap out of the tub and started over again. I found that if I didn't rinse the clothes at least twice, they became dingy and fowl smelling. Not having a wringer, I wrung all of the clothes by hand, which I found to be a poor substitute for the spin cycle.
Having a bucket full of clean clothes, I hung them on a clothes stand in front of the wood cookstove. Due to the fact that I had rung the clothes myself, there was always a standing pool of water under the clothes rack.
Eventually, we graduated to a generator-powered, cold water only washing machine. It was heaven! Gone were the soggy clothes that took 3 days to dry (meaning that I always had wet clothes in front of the stove) and blistered knuckles from the constant rubbing in boiling water.
Since then, I have gone through about 3 washing machines. They were all Craigslist finds, not even close to new, and most of them did a fine job, but when they would break, I would be back to doing laundry by hand. That is, until we invested in a James Washer. Realizing the incredible amount of work that was required to do laundry by hand, especially when you weren't set up for it, we knew that we needed to invest in some real, honest-to-goodness back to basics laundry equipment.
We bought a James Washer from some folks (who later became very good friends), along with double galvanized wash tubs. Because our philosophy for preparedness is ruled by "use it, use it, use it", we took advantage of our first washing machine malfunction to put the James Washer to the test.
(The kids, of course, were a lot younger!)
|Princess Dragon Snack, helping|
We found that we were able to cut down on the washing time by pre-soaking our clothes. We filled our washtubs with water, put laundry in them and went in to have a glass of iced tea. Leaving the clothes outside in the washtubs allowed them to soak in increasingly warm water, making it much easier to wash the dirt out when the time came.
The James Washer itself is a lovely invention. It is not as large as you might think, by looking at the pictures - only big enough for a pair of jeans, a bath towel, a few t-shirts and some undergarments. It would struggle with bedding or large items like insulated cover-alls. The dasher works very well - easy enough for children to use, and the plumbing makes draining a breeze. The James Washer is very handsome. It is polished stainless steel with wood accents and would look wonderful plumbed into a bathroom or gracing the front porch. It, however, is very thin.
After using our washer for about 3 weeks, the metal at the handle began to rip. Sir Knight says, tongue in cheek, that the stainless steel is roughly 3 times thicker than a pop can. And he is right. The good thing is, that once you know were the weak points are, they are easily repairable (if you know how to weld). We did find that less stress would be placed on the handle if we added more water to the washer.
|The tear in the metal|
The James Washer does have a lid that sits on the top. I found that I never used the lid, unless I was leaving water in the washer to heat in the sun. Other than that, I slid the lid under the washer to keep it from being trampled upon. If you are storing your washer, the lid is nice to keep dirt from accumulating inside. The lid sits on the top rather than being fitted, so if it is in storage, you must be careful not to bump it and send it flying to the floor.
All in all, the James Washer is the best option on the market. It requires less work and is more effective than most other options. The washer does not come with a wringer - that must be purchased separately, but is essential if you want your clothes to be dried in under three days.
We love our James Washer, but.........
Here is a question. Sir Knight has been thinking about washing machines for quite some time (it couldn't have anything to do with my frame of mind when I was washing clothes on the cookstove?!). He believes that he and Master Hand Grenade could build something sturdier (by far) for less money (the James Washer is expensive, about $500.00). He would make it in three sizes, small, medium and large, with the largest being about the size of a 55 gallon drum with handles on both ends (specifically for a very large family, small village or to be utilized as a community washer). What do you think? Would any of you be interested? Is there a need for another washer? I would love to hear from you.
If you can afford the investment, the James Washer is a wonderful piece of equipment (provided that you are prepared to repair it). Knowing ahead of the need, how you will do laundry, will be essential for your mental well being! I can guarantee there will be many other challenges facing you. Not having to spend unnecessary time and energy on the daily task of laundry will be a tremendous relief!
We give the James Washer ** stars.