It was 1965, there was no dryer, only a rope line for clothes to dry near the buildings coal fired furnace. My parents were big smokers anyway, what's a little coal dust on your school uniform? When the washer was on the fritz she sent my dad to the fancy laundromat on upper Ashland Ave. where he shoved two loads worth of a clothes into one washer. That way he could use the change to buy candy and maybe, if we were lucky, a cold pop from the vending machines. Or, in tougher times, candy for us and a pack of cigs for him.
We loved the laundromat with its heat spewing dryers and Jewish mama's who felt sorry for dad having to do his share of the housework, gifting him with advice, attention and looks of pity, while our mother frittered away at home caring for three babies under the age of 4.
For years my idea of success was the ability to purchase as many laundry products as I could squeeze into my over sized grocery cart; pre-soak solutions, stain remover sticks, bleach, detergent in a variety of synthetic scents indigenous to Illinois like "Hawaiian Tropic Breeze", plus matching fabric softeners, and finally, spray starch for ironing. In our big farmhouse I had even worked myself upto TWO SETS of washer/dryers. One for our chore clothes which was housed in our basement, and one upstairs for our "good clothes" as opposed to our evil clothes I suppose. My obsession for laundry products grew as my salary did, and at its peak, my supply closet looked something like this:
Now, my laundry arsenal consists of one washing machine centered in our kitchen, an old coffee can full of homemade laundry detergent, a gallon of white vinegar and these high tech items:
I scored this lovely group of hefty clothespins, old fashioned wooden ones, some with heavy springs, at our local thrift shop Someone Else's Treasure for a mere $7 including the cloth hanging bag. These babies are super strong, able to grip towels and rugs alike. There were nearly 100 of them in all. They make me abundantly happy.
I can be simple that way. Well, now I am.
|Clothespin sculpture by Claes Oldenburg|
Central Square, Philadelphia
The clothespins are a real find as we abandoned our dryer(s) when we sold the old place, and now rely entirely on the good nature of Mother. I plan my day around laundry hangout feasibility times, it's all very complex. When it's warm and sunny, clothes go out. If not, they stay in. Even in winter if it's above freezing, clothes go outside. Otherwise we dry them on a small metal rack that fits just behind our rocket mass stove.
Here is my laundry soap recipe if you're interested.
1 Bar of homemade bar soap (or you can use Fels Naptha soap available in most grocery stores)
1 cup Borax
1 cup Washing Soda
1 cup Baking soda
Grate the bar soap into small shreds, mix it in a large bowl with all the other ingredients. Use one small handful per load. You can add a few drops of essential oils for scent if you want. Orange and lavender is nice.
For fabric softener, just adding 1/2 cup of white vinegar in your rinse water, will do the trick. Your clothes will be soft coming off the line and will not smell like pickles, they will just smell clean. Depending on what you pay for the ingredients above, each load runs just pennies and the no suds, no phosphates, proves a good thing for your septic system.
Got a homemade laundry soap recipe to share? Go ahead, spill it.