After writing yesterday's post about my current laundry dilemma, I remembered that I never got around to telling you how I used to do laundry when I first arrived in Mexico. I swear, it almost killed me!
Look, if you will, at the picture at the top of this post. See that big, round contraption that the woman is filling with water? That's an old-fashioned washing machine. Only they're not that old-fashioned. This type of washing machine is still very popular throughout Mexico. It is available in a variety of colors for less than 2000 pesos. (A little more than $150 U.S. dollars!)
My mother-in-law has one. And as many of you know, we lived with my in-law's for our first three years in Mexico. A part of me was somewhat excited at the prospect of doing laundry the old-fashioned way. After all, I had seen a washing machine just like this on "I Love Lucy". How bad can it be?
Well, let me tell you!
The first thing you have to know is that there are steps/guidelines that need to be followed. It's a much more complicated process than you might think.
1. Fill the washing machine with water.
Sounds like an easy enough task. The woman pictured above is using a water hose to fill her washing machine. Unfortunately, I wasn't as lucky. The faucets in my suegra's home aren't fitted with any type of thingamajig that makes attaching a hose possible. Hubby went to every ferreteria (hardware store) in town looking for any kind of attachment, but none of them worked. My suegra and I tried filling it with the hose anyway, with me trying to keep one end of the hose attached to the faucet, while my suegra would hold the other end of the hose in place in the washing machine. It didn't work! It was much easier to fill the washing machine with buckets of water. Lots and lots of buckets. But at least we got a good arm workout.
2. Add the dirty clothes.
Let me let you in on a little secret. You really don't want to go through all the hassle of having to refill the washing machine with water after every load. Most people use the same water to do 2 to 3 loads of laundry. Start by washing the clothes that are the least dirty, which in most cases is the whites and light colors. Followed by the dark colors. And at the very end, add anything denim and the men's work clothes. Just be sure to add more soap for each load.
3. Add the soap.
Thanks to powdered detergent, this is the easiest step in the entire process. My mother-in-law told me that she used to have to melt a large bar of soap (either Lirio or Zote) in a pot of water. She would then add the soap water mixture to the washing machine.
4. Turn the washing machine on and let it do it's thing!
Another very easy task that requires no explanation.
5. Remove the laundered clothes from the washing machine.
It's important that you know that this type of washing machine doesn't have a spin or rinse cycle. So you have to wring out the clothes, place them in a bucket and transfer them to the lavadero (wash sink). Most models of this type of washer come with a wringer, as did my mother-in-law's. But her's never worked. So we had to wring out the clothes by hand. A very easy task with the whites and baby clothes. Not so easy with jeans, towels and bedding.
6. Give the clothes a good scrubbing in the lavadero.
The clothes got a very good cleansing in the washer. But you're always supposed to give them another scrubbing in the lavadero, using the jabon (soap) Zote or Lirio that I mentioned earlier.
(A lavadero much like my suegra's.)
7. Rinse the clothes in the lavadero.
After you've given the clothes a good scrubbing, it is time to rinse. This you do with the help of a cup or small tupperware-type dish at the lavadero. Make sure you rinse well and give the clothes another good wringing.
8. Add the fabric softener.
Now that your clothes have been thoroughly cleansed and rinsed. It's time to add some fabric softener to make them smell even nicer. If your load of laundry isn't too big, you can fill the right side of the lavadero with water, add a splash or two of your favorite fabric softener and let your clothes soak in the water for 5 to 10 minutes.
9. Rinse again.
With the new "No Rinse" fabric softeners available, this rinsing isn't necessary. But when I lived with my in-laws, we didn't have those fancy fabric softeners. So we had to wring out the clothes again. Empty the lavadero. And rinse the clothes as described in step 7.
10. Wring the clothes and hang them up to dry.
We are almost finished with our first load of laundry! All that we have to do is give the clothes another good wringing, then hang them on the clothesline to dry. For heavier items such as jeans and bedspreads, we would wring them as best we could, and place them on a plastic chair to let them "drain". And an hour later, we would hang them on the clothesline.
11. Repeat steps 1 through 10 for every load of laundry!
You mean there's more? I'm exhausted from just explaining the entire process!
12. Empty the washer and rinse it out.
After you've finished all of your laundry, lower the hose located in the back of the washer to remove the dirty laundry water. You can empty the water directly into the drain in the patio, or fill buckets and empty them into the nearby bathroom. Don't forget to add a couple of buckets of clean water to rinse away all of the residue from the dirty laundry water.
13. Sweep and mop the patio.
This last and final step might seem like an odd one. But my mother-in-law's patio (where the laundry is done) is in the middle of the house. We all walk through there multiple times per day. The patio has cement tiles, that are extremely slippery when wet. So one must sweep the water that will inevitably "drain" from the clothes that are hanging on the clothesline, into the drain that is located in the center of the patio.
So doing laundry the old-fashioned way isn't so easy after all! It's a lot of hard work. It is a very time-consuming process. And I can't believe I lived this way for 3 years. But I will say this, the clothes do come out much cleaner than in the "modern" washing machines.
Now go hug your washing machine!