DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS

DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS
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11 December 2013

Going low-tech, soaking clothes and dishes

I'm often on the lookout for ways to do my day-to-day chores without using any, or very few, cleaning products.  There are two clear ways of doing this - for clothes and for dishes.  I remember way back in the day when my mum used to soak clothes before washing them. Sometimes she used to put them into a big copper boiler and boil them while moving them around with a wooden stick. The washing took hours to do and often she did it on a Friday night after she finished her outside job. I soak cotton, linen and poly-blend clothes too although I don't do it the way my mum did. If I have something that is badly stained, I fill a large container up with very hot water from the tap, add Disan, an oxy-bleach, dissolve the Disan with my laundry stick and drop the clothes in. BTW, my laundry stick is a spurtle - a scottish stick for stirring porridge. Don't ask why. Almost any fairly new stain can be removed using this method. You can also whiten your greying whites this way as well.

I have two containers I use for soaking. This pink one is about large bucket size - 10 litres/quarts and it easily holds a blouse and a white nightie.

Another way to remove a stain is to wet the fabric and then rub laundry bar soap or laundry liquid on the stain, roll it up and leave it for an hour or so. You roll it up so it doesn't dry out. Then pop it in with the normal wash and the stain will probably go. If you have a top loading washing machine, fill it for your normal wash, apply soap or laundry liquid to any stains you notice, put the stained clothing in the filled washing machine and let it soak, overnight if possible. The following morning, do your normal wash. Generally all stains will be removed by the soaking.

This is my larger 15 litre bucket for towels, sheets and hanno's shirts.

I also soak dishes. We gave away our dishwasher years ago. Quite often I don't wash up our breakfast dishes until after we have lunch. If we've had eggs or baked beans for breakfast, it's the devil's job to remove the egg or tomato sauce from those dishes. Now I'm in the habit of half filling the sink with hot water, with a squirt of dish liquid and letting the dishes soak while I make the lunch. When I empty a pot or frying pan, I pour water in it straight away and let it soak that way. Eventually, when I get to the dishes after lunch, all they need is a quick wipe over and they're clean. A sharp contrast to standing their scrubbing with a brush if I don't pre-soak.

Soaking is one of those gentle, old-fashioned methods you very rarely hear about now because it doesn't use a product that someone is trying to push. This type of clothes care is particularly good for perspiration stains under arms, collar grime, whitening whites and general stains. Soaking works really well and often, if you have a very fresh stain, you can soak without adding any soap or oxy-bleach and it works! 

45 comments:

  1. I agree Rhonda, soaking is magic:)

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  2. I've been using this method of yours since I had my daughter almost 6 years ago. I brought a nappy bucket and first started using napisan/oxy bleach, what a revelation!! We have white sheets (god help me with a garden loving husband!!) but I fill the washing machine like I'm going to wash them, add a lid of oxybleach and once filled with water, pause or turn off the washing machine overnight and wash the next day. Works a treat!

    I'm pleased to also say I'm making all my own lemon vinegar and using it for a room mist spray, as antibacterial spray, with bicarb to clean the shower and my floors!! Thanks again for helping change my modern thoughtless ways.

    Warm regards
    Jan

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  3. Oh! Soaking is my best friend. My husband works on a potato farm so grease and dirt are normal here. Scrubbing with a laundry bar and soaking a couple of hours are the only way to get them even half clean.
    Carol

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  4. Rhonda when I use the griller (broiler for our North American friends) I pour cold water into the hot tray and leave it to soak while we eat, it's half the job too clean. I do the same with the pan from making a roast.

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  5. Ah, coppers. I remember Mum using ours to soak and wash clothes. I cannot recall what her stick was, though. Perhaps a broom handle!

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  6. in a similar vein, a friend showed me that by pouring a bit of water onto spills on the stove top and leaving them whilst you eat or wash up, they are easily removed without scrubbing or products.

    It is great to see such simple, old-fashioned wisdom being shared so it's not lost altogether. It hadn't occurred to me that these skills weren't talked about because they don't use products - wouldn't it be a shame if we all became useless and couldn't manage without spending lots of money!

    Have a wonderful day, Madeleine.X

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  7. I never thought of not soaking! Since there are only two of us, and we are often not home at lunchtime, I always leave the breakfast things to soak, especially anything egg, coffee or tea. then everything is washed up at suppertime. I haven't had a dishwasher for years and don't miss it a bit, even when there are 15 to 25 of us celebrating, it's all hands to the kitchen and the clean-up is done!
    And I learned very young if you spilled or stained you popped the article into water post haste. We hadn't many clothes back then and no money for replacements!

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  8. Soaking is the best! Especially for dishes.

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  9. I often soak dishes and find they don't normally need a long soak to make a huge difference. I fill the sink with hot soapy water when it is time to do the dishes and select one that needs a soak - pour a bit of water from the sink into it using a cup and then carry on washing glasses, cutlery etc. When I am ready to wash the dish that is soaking, I pour the soaking water in to the next dish that needs it. I never use fresh water for soaking - just keep pouring the same bit of water from one dish to the next as I work my way through the pile. Occasionally there is something that needs a longer soak, so I fill it with the end of the dishwater and it gets washed up with the next load of dishes.

    I don't soak clothes often enough - need to start doing that more!

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  10. A great tip that I have learned on my journey is that ash from the woodstove can be used to scrub the stubborn pots and pans! Seriously. When we bought the woodstove, the dealer told us to clean the window in the front we should rub some ash on it...sure enough it works brilliantly. Then after I stopped buying steel wool, I would soak pans overnight, until I was thinking one day~ how about the ash? Since then, I keep a small tin of ash(cool) by the sink~In the summer, and in the winter, I use it from the stove (cool of course).

    Less is often best, the simplest of ideas often work, and minimizing work does make the life of a homemaker better~

    Jennifer

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    1. Thanks for sharing that ash tip, Jennifer. Oh how I wish I had a wood stove. :- )

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    2. Jennifer, after reading your comment, I couldn't wait to try your tip on the glass doors on my fireplace. I dabbed a damp cloth into some wood ash and cleaned not only the glass inside and out, but the soft ash did a nice job on the brass surround too - clean with no abrasion. I used to have to use strong ammonia to cut the smoke/oils from those surfaces before. Not any more! Thanks! :-D

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  11. My mother used an old axe handle (blade removed) to stir clothes in the copper. I fill smaller sink and put a half lemon skin in any dishes used go in until I am ready to wash them. Keeps the sink clean and the dishes easy to wash.

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  12. I'm not a big fan of dishes soaking in water. I don't mine something like 10 minutes or so. But I finding putting my hands in dishes that been soaking for any length of time. Is just plain gross.

    Coffee is on

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  13. I soak clothes as well and find many of my friends don't know how to. It is amazing that some 20-something year olds have no idea what to do to prolong their stuff - including their clothes!

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  14. for smaller soaks I use a small plastic tub like yours and I have an old wooden spoon I stir it through with... so was happy to see that you use something pretty similar!
    for bigger soaks I put all the items into the machine and add the napisan/oxy product and soak overnight and then just run the machine through the cycle and everything comes out beautifully!

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  15. I remember a big Copper in the outside laundry and Mum soaking the clothes using a Blue tablet. Showing my age, i also remember helping her use the wringer. Clothes were hung on a wire that stretched between two trees. Sheets were always white as white and never any stains. So the old methods really do work. I also use the Disan and after your post the other day, ill be using it on my oven shelves as well, giving them a good SOAK.

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  16. Rhonda, This week at market beef neck bones are on sale for a great price. I looked on internet for some recipes, but most were for making stock. Is there another way to use them? I haven't seen them so I don't know how much meat is on them. I have never used neck bones, but I figured you might have an idea. Thanks, jackie

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    1. Hi Jackie. I've used lamb neck a lot but beef neck is good eating too. I doubt there'll be a lot of meat but that's okay, it will have a lot of marrow and will taste delicious. I'd do up either a slowly braised beef and vegetable stew, possibly with herb dumplings or slow cook the neck bones in a tomato/onion/garlic sauce, pick the meat off the bones when it's finished and serve the sauce over pasta. If there isn't enough meat for your family, make up some little beef meat balls to add to it. You'd only need about quarter pound of ground beef. Make sure you caramelise the bones before you start cooking to increase the flavour and remember that these bone-based meals are very nutritious. I hope that helps.

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    2. thank you Rhonda, knew you would know what to do. I am experimenting with more and more bone in meat because of the extra nutrition. I just now finished up the first batch of bone turkey broth from Thanksgiving. Got the second go round started to cook over night. I am a singleton so will try both the tomato/onion/garlic sauce with out extra meat this time around. I will also try the beef veggie stew. They both sound great. I have learned so much from your blog and am so grateful to rediscover the ways of cooking my grandma taught me (and I in my infinite youthful wisdom thought was so old fashioned - sure wish she was still here with us) PS...soaking is a great way for singletons doing dishes with out dishwashers...sometimes doing a couple of dishes at each meal seems less efficient that doing them all up at the end of the day. jackie

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    3. Jackie, I'm not sure if you're familiar with beef "pho" (a traditional Vietnamese noodle soup), but neck bones (and oxtail, too) are great for it! The bones make a very flavorful broth and the meat can be picked off and served in the soup.
      -Jaime

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  17. I used a copper and scrubbing board for seven years. All my childrens' nappies were boiled. I've just managed to find a copper insert in good condition and I'll be bricking up a fire box to sit it in. I loved my copper, load it with linen, let soak then light the fire and boil. Beautiful clean sweet smelling sheets and tea towels. I still boil tea towels in a large pot after they have been soaked, along with milk straining clothes :)

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  18. I soak our utensils in a pitcher of water and a squirt of dish soap, until wash time.
    It really helps because my son never gets his back to the kitchen until they are dried and crusty.
    Soaking doesn't seem to help my white clothes, I think it is the soft water here. Because of allergies, i can't use bleach to lighten up the gray color, and color safe bleach only goes so far removing it.

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  19. I always soak :)
    For a few years we had a front loader, and although it did save on water I did never like that I couldn't soak my clothes in it, I was never happy with the results and couldn't use strong chemicals because of my eldest sons allergy.
    We now have a top loader and I can use soap nuts for my everyday wash mainly because of the soaking that loosens the soiling :)
    I'm glad you posted on this, it is definitely a basic and simple housekeeping tip.
    Blessings

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  20. I always soak too. It's just something I grew up with. Clothes or pans always go on to soak. I am of an age when the family washing involved a copper in the corner of the kitchen which had the gas lit at breakfast time on a Monday, and sheets were done first (boiled) and woollies last, when the water was nearing tepid by then. How times have changed in that respect.

    Soaking is so useful. Like washing delicates by hand, wringing out the worst of the water, and then rolling them up in a towel to blot as much wetness as possible so they can be dried flat. Something I do without even thinking where this idea came from!

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  21. Totally agree with you. I soak as well and one little hint for those who live in frost prone area. Leave your white on the line overnight and the frost will whiten them beautifully. I believe in days gone by they would spread their whites on the grass to whiten them as well. I have tried this with linen serviettes that came out of the washer with spaghetti sauce stain still slightly on them and it worked a treat.
    Blessings Gail

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  22. I think that time is one of the things that my generation has very little understanding of. We always talk about not having enough time or having too many things to do in a certain time. People in their twenties seem to think that their time is much more important than money and pay people do take care of items rather than do it themselves and while that is not necessarily always a bad thing it does create a distance in understanding. I know that once I embarked on a more simple lifestyle I was astonished by how much time some things would take. It is a nice reminder to slow down as faster is not always better and sometimes the act of investing time is much more fulfilling when examining a finished product or task.

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  23. I love this idea, just like my Mama used to do and her mama before her, the oldies are always the goodies?
    bestest daisy j x

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  24. Some stains are "set" by hot water. I soak clothes in cold first and only use hot if the cold hasn't work. Hot water and nappisan work a trees on teatowls that need a freshen up.

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  25. Hi Rhonda my mum always soaked underpants shirts all her whites and our clothes never had stains no matter how dirty we got
    Linda

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  26. My dear grandmother would boil all of our under pants. It used to upset me because my panties were always 100% cotton and would shrink like crazy. She always said she had to do it to make sure they were clean. She would take me out and buy me new panties 2 sizes bigger. I did not live with Grandma and Grandpa but I spent as much time with them as I could. I loved to help her do laundry. We would hang the laundry on the line in her yard and then gather eggs from her chickens. My best memories are of time spent there.

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  27. Dear Rhonda. I have been reading your blog for quite a few years now. I love your straightforward approach to living simply. So much of what you share is just good old fashioned common sense. It never ceases to amaze me that you have so many followers when in reality you are sharing what is just normal, uncomplicated life. You are an inspiration to so many people all over the world. Thank you for your continued steadfastness and gentle, yet no nonsense approach. It is always a pleasure to visit your blog and see what has been happening in your home, and maybe pick up a new recipe and tip or two.
    I remember my mum boiling up our face cloths and steaming up the kitchen. My daughter likes to use my white sheets as mock dresses for photo shoots in muddy streams and damp forests. Soaking works every time to get rid of the grass and mud stains.
    Gratitude from South Africa,
    Cath

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  28. It's so funny reading this today, as I (accidentally) soaked my dishes last night! (fell asleep nursing the baby and never got back to my sink full of soapy water). This morning I was amazed that I didn't need to scrub them at all - just a quick wipe and rinse! So great, and now I just might be doing this every night on purpose ;)
    -Jaime

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  29. Love that you call your stick a Spurrtle, have given a few as gifts when travelling, a lot of children in Scotland would not know the proper name for this. I also remember my grandmother having wooden tongs for transferring clothes from the boiler to the sink for rinsing.

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  30. Re boiling clothes, does anyone know exactly how that was done, I have vague memories of watching my grandmother and perhaps mother doing it when i was a baby/toddler. did they use any soap at all and if so what stage is that added, and then rinsed I suppose? I would soak my nappies in lux flakes then wash, still love that smell and sparks the memories and my youngest is only 12! What do modern mums do with all that time they have now they aren't processing cloth nappies??

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    1. Jennifer, you'll find the process described here. This is exactly how we did it at our place when I was growing up.
      http://www2.walsall.gov.uk/History_Projects/Women/The_Home/washingClothes.asp

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  31. I always keep a small amount of some liquid cleaner (almost any kind, laundry, dish, general purpose, homemade or otherwise) in the laundry. I'll treat a spot with it when I take off the garment, or make sure I treat one on hubby or daughter's clothing when they take it off, having previously told them to give it to me - sometimes they remember, sometimes not. I then roll it up and leave it in the laundry basket until I'm doing the appropriate load. Usually this is all it takes. For more generalized muck - definitely soaking.

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  32. I just enjoy totally all the great comments. Yes I find treating stain straight away with liquid laundry soap or similar does the trick nearly every time

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  33. Rhonda, I have been following your blogs for quite a long time now. I just thought I should tell you how positively you influence my life and I am sure many others. I am still working and find your comments and ideas helpful in dealing with all sorts of issues

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  34. Hi to everybody, here everyone is sharing such knowledge, so it’s fastidious to see this site, and I used to visit this blog daily. get youtube views

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  35. Oh so often the "old-fashioned" ways are the most sensible. That is a good idea about rolling up the garment after rubbing some soap into a fresh stain. I'd not thought of that.

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  36. I didn't realise people DON'T soak, I thought it was 'common sense'.

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