Thru the wringer!

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!


    1. Every time we are north, I stop at Goodwill stores and get shirts and pants for 2 or 3 bucks.
      You wear them until you need to wash, then throw them away......
      Just kidding. My wife does the laundry most of the time and I do the cooking.....

    2. wow, what we take for granted! I will never complain about laundry again. thanks for are really cool post. I love hearing about this kind of stuff.

    3. Wow. I'm in awe that you did this for three years. I washed my clothes by hand in India for two weeks, but it was just my own clothes -- I can't imagine washing clothes by hand like this for an entire family.

      This post came at the perfect time... I was just cursing my washing machine for being too small! (I can only fit one bath towel at a time.)

    4. I used to wash our clothes by hand (mine and my son's) for a long time in the bathtub. You use a clean (reserved for laundry use only) plunger to agitate it. I did a lot of soaking because it will help get stuff clean.
      Oh, to help with the drying these rainy days, run your washing machine on exprime (drain?) an extra time to really get any moisture out.
      I love having a washing machine.

    5. I remember those kind of washing machines. My grandmother had one. She also had two other tubs to use for rinsing.

    6. Jorge's aunt has one of those!!

      Jorge's mom has a normal washing machine, but I think the habit of washing 2 or 3 loads with the same water has stuck with her. The family always turns off the machine and takes out the clothes before the rinse cycle begins. They'll rinse them in a bucket with fabric softener, then rinse them in a bucket with just water, then wring them out and hang them to dry.

      They'll put the new load into the used water, and start the machine again.

      Too much extra work, in my opinion!

    7. My suegra also did laundry this way until they bought a modern machine last year. She still insists that it does not do a good enough job and ends up washing most of the clothes by hand anyways. The less labor-intensive machine is fine for me...kinda glad I don't know any different ;-)

    8. ugh! i remember having to do that when we would go to visit my husband's family in mexico. sometimes other family members would offer to do my laundry for a little extra money. needless to say i took them up on it.
      i once went with a cousin to go do her family's laundry (just went to watch, i must have been about 12 or so) she walked way out of town till we got to this big tanque (large pond of water they call tanque). She found the shadiest spot with the largest rock (this would be her lavadero)by the edge of the water. Memories.....

    9. ooh, i almost talked senor into buying one of those and then we stopped and thought about it and realized we would be crazy, so we walked away and i am so happy with my Ley washing machine even if it does have only 1 cycle and this week it won't spin...............

    10. Our west-Texas deer lease was off-grid in years gone by, and we had a gasoline fired Maytag wringer washer It had a jump-start that fired up the motor. The "ama de llaves" was the only one who knew how to use it, and she often cursed the thing in Spanish.

      It looked something like this beast on YouTube.


    11. Did you ever get anything caught in a wringer?
      Clothes can wrap around the wringer and be torn.

    12. Still a big improvement over a flat rock in the river. I still see that method in my back country travels in Latin America.

    13. I used this type of washer when I vacationed in Mexico with my parents like 20 yrs. ago!LOL! It was a pain!

    14. My neighbor in my last apartment had a washer like this one and I always wondered how it all went. One thing I did know is that even on chili mornings she would be dripping with sweat by the time she was hanging the cloths up.

    15. TANCHO: That isn't a bad idea! :)

      KERRY & LESLEY: Don't you love your washing machine even more now? :)

      THERESA: Thank you! I did the extra spin cycle today and noticed that the clothes did dry quicker.

      GRINGATION: OMG! I love my automatic washing machine and am more than happy to let it do all the work! :)

      LINDA LOU: I'm so glad you didn't buy one of the old-fashioned machines! Trust's too much of a hassle! :)

      TERRY: I don't think I would've lasted 3 years with that beast! :) Thank God for modern conveniences!

      ANONYMOUS: My mother-in-law ran on old rad through the wringer to prove that it didn't work. It was a horrible, tangled mess!

    16. Clothes can wrap around the wringer and be torn