Living Simply for Catholics: How to Handwash when your Washer breaks


Living Simply – How to Handwash when your Washer breaks


by Rita Davidson



This past Christmas, turned out to be interesting. Just a few days before Christmas, right after Gramma came for a visit, our washer broke. Covered with a warranty, we had to wait for a repair. We had just finished waiting for a repair on our dishwasher that took 2 months, (yes, same warranty company).

So when our washer had a simple plastic latch that broke, I had a feeling it was going to be a long wait.


After I got over my amazement at our bad luck. Or, rather, my amazement what lesson God was trying to teach us, I realized that it wasn’t so bad. After all, we did wash our clothes by hand for 5 years, back when we couldn’t afford a washer. (Back then, all the ones we were given; broke, so we decided it was easier to wash by hand and avoid the headaches of broken washers.)


I knew we weren’t the only ones that end up with a broken washer. It happens to every family from time to time. Doesn’t it? As Christmas was so tight for us this year, going to a laundry-mat was out of the question. (I was partly smouldering at this warranty company too and didn’t want to spent a dime on it). If you ever have to consider a laundromat, think again, and save your family some money, better spent on… ? A washer repair? Or a summer vacation?


So, out came our tools that got us through laundry for 5 years.


Basic Tools:


  • Dirty Clothes

  • Laundry Soap (natural preferred)

  • Bucket (large enough, but not too large)

  • Tub (if doing a large load)

  • Water

  • Toilet plunger (yes really) 🙂


The idea here is to get clothes cleaned. It’s not as hard as it seems.

If you have a long haul ahead of you, you could add:

Hand Ringer to your Tool collection. This makes your wringing a whole lot easier.


1. Dirty clothes: If you end up without a washer for a long time, I would suggest to try limit clothing to a smaller set. Large loads will not be easy washing by hand. You will come to appreciate the hard work your washer does, when your hands are cracking from the wringing you will do!


2. Laundry Soap: When washing by hand, you will find your hands will quickly get dried out and even red and itchy or sore. Your regular store detergent has chemicals and more in it that can irritate your skin. So, even if you don’t normally use natural soaps, now is a good time to try get one that is gentler.


3. Bucket: We used a garbage bucket, it just happened to be brand new. (oh some things we can be thankful for!) In the past, for large loads we used the bathtub. A bathtub can hold a normal large load size.






4. Toilet plunger: this is our special secret. Well, not ‘our’ secret, but we learned this from those more ‘wise’ and it made the job a little easier. (I would suggest buying a new plunger for this task. Just for the sake of being clean!)







5. Start with your first load, separating colors as before. Wash one light colored load first.


6. Add your detergent to the water, before the clothes and stir to dissolve well. Once half your expected water is in with the soap, add your clothes.









7. Take your plunger, and start plunging your clothing, up and down. There really is no trick other than to plunge the clothes back and forth (if your using a tub) or around your tub, if using a tub. Get your kids in to help. Will sure save you some energy and give them something to do other than nothing! Joseph loved helping with this!






8. The plunger is your agitator. The up and down motion moves the water and soap through the clothes. Much like a washing machine does. You might even find your clothes come out cleaner this way.


Plunge for at least 5 minutes all through the clothes. This is to be sure they are well cleaned. (think of how long your washer agitates when it’s working).


Because this was your first light colored load. You can now remove these clothes, to wait for a rinse. If your using your bucket to wash, just sit them in the tub. If your using the tub, then have the bucket nearby to set them in.


9. Add your second load of laundry to your wash water. Plunge this new set as before for 5 full minutes. Specially hand scrub any trouble spots.


10. Then with this second load washed, drain your wash water.
(I don’t normally wash more than two loads in the same water)






11. Squeeze your clothes out a bit against the tub, or the bucket.


Fill your tub/bucket with rinse water. Place your first light load in the rinse water. Plunge your clothes to rinse them again. Just enough to be sure that all areas are plunged and rinsed.


I usually use a clean rinse water, but if you want to use the rinse water for the second rinse, you can too.


12. Then it’s time to ring them out.














There is no easy way to do this, but it’s important to stretch your clothes out long, like this, before wringing. Otherwise, you won’t squeeze them tight enough and they will just drip like crazy.


As you twist, the twist will shorten the clothes and allow you to squeeze it tighter that normally.















If you try to just squeeze with your hands, you’ll find you are left with dripping clothes. It’s only this heavy twisting that really gets them dry. Keep in mind this is great for most clothes, but delicate, or wools, or things like that can be damaged by this heavy ringing. Nice and tight wringing will get out all that water!














And Voila! Your Laundry is done! (Now laugh at the money you’ve saved! )












For years we used a donated hand ringer. It works like a charm and really saves the hands if your going to be doing this for longer than a few weeks. (Keep it mind that a hand wringer can break buttons and buckles on clothes so be prepared to have some mending to do after.)



Our washer got fixed just a week ago. That was about 5 weeks without a washer. But we survived Christmas with visitors so it can be done. Years ago we hand washed cloth diapers. There can’t be anything harder than that!



Think of all those images of St Therese and St. Bernadette doing laundry. The hand scrubbing they must have done. Think of Our Lady who washed Our Lord’s clothes with such care with no washer. Surely if all time before us survived without a washer, we can. A friend returning from a trip to Europe shared how most houses there did not have dryers but hung their hand washes outside! So, we are truly spoiled here in the West aren’t we?



I hope this helps your family if your in a pinch, or just looking for a new way of showing your children how to appreciate their washer and show them how families ‘used’ to wash clothes.


Enjoy! :)

Comment here if you have tried this, What worked for you? !


©Copyright 2013 Rita Davidson All Rights Reserved.


Rita is a Catholic wife and mother of seven children. Mark is her ever patient husband. She reverted back to the faith when her oldest was making her First Communion. By then, she had completed degrees in Hairdressing and Make up artistry. She went on to receive a degree in Natural Health and another degree in Art. At age 26, Rita suffered a minor stroke. With no lasting effects, this dramatically changed her outlook on life. In 1996, Rita began ‘Little Flowers Family Apostolates’ to reach out to other families with her new found faith, by creating unique Catholic books and resources.. In 1999, she wrote the bestselling, ‘Immodesty; Satan’s Virtue’. She was editor of ‘The Catholic Health Letter’ for 7 years. She has been a homeschooling mom for 20+ years, and has written for various magazines. She is honored that families have trusted her with their questions, needs and concerns over the years. She continues to write and reach out to Catholic families with her husband, Mark and their 4 boys through


7 responses to “Living Simply for Catholics: How to Handwash when your Washer breaks”

  1. Melanie Hock Avatar
    Melanie Hock

    Thank you for posting this.  I’ve toyed with the idea of hand washing our clothes, but I’m not quite ready to go there yet.  But if our washer breaks down, I’ll know what to do.  You made it look so easy!

    1. Rita Davidson Avatar

       Thank you Melanie for your comments! I”m so glad you’ll now feel ’empowered’ to try this if you find your washer not working one day! 🙂  God bless you! Rita/LFFA

  2. Spookybuscus Avatar

    Thanks for posting this. I live in an apartment and the washer/dryer here is $1.25 each. Great resource for when I’m out of quarters.

    1. Rita Davidson Avatar

       Glad this is of help to you! Nothing like saving a quarter! 🙂 God bless, Rita/LFFA

  3. lisa Avatar

    It makes a wet towel but one thing to do if you are too tired to wring something out really good is to roll it in a towel. Just a tip if you are ever at the point of can’t do any more and tempted to leave those last pair of jeans “to soak a little longer!” 😉

  4. Deborah Avatar

    I really enjoyed your article. My grandmother used to hand wash all the time. She even had to wash adult diapers for my great grandmother. One piece of equipment she used was like your toilet plunger, but it was a bit flatter and had holes in it so that it could be pushed down through the water with more force and without the water resistance. I wonder if you can use a small drill to make holes in the plunger?

    1. Rita Davidson Avatar

      Great idea Deborah! I’m not sure if it would work, but I know Lehmans does sell an original hand washer plunger like the one you describe. My option was just what was easy and handy. 🙂 Thank you for sharing and glad you enjoyed it!
      Rita/LFFA 🙂

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