Everyone develops their own method of doing laundry in Peace Corps. I know volunteers who boil, bleach, scrub, rinse and repeat, and volunteers who…don’t really do anything. I personally think my laundry system is (of course) the most energy efficient method that still manages to keep clothes from smelling or getting moldy. I have a few different methods, though, depending on the content and size of the load and how dirty is actually is.
No Energy Laundry
As stated in my previous blog, no energy laundry literally means putting in no effort to make my clothes clean. I only do this with Samoan fabrics because they seem to be designed for heavy use and little upkeep (at least that is my experience with it). This covers most of my school clothes. At the end of the school day, I come home, turn on my water, and since my shower leaks constantly, I just pile my school outfit underneath the drip and let it sit for a few hours until thoroughly soaked and rinsed. Then I hang it up on my laundry line and call it good.
Low Energy Laundry
This is one step above no energy laundry because it uses laundry soap. I pour some soap into a bucket, add water, throw clothes in, and let it sit for an hour or two. Then I put it under the continuous drip that is my shower, let it sit for another hour or so, then hang it up on my laundry line. This is generally the treatment all my palagi clothes get.
Some Effort Required Laundry
There are a few different types of laundry that fit this category.
First, dirty clothes. Dirty clothes get soap, soak, and scrub. Anything that requires added physical effort to improve its cleanliness is a slightly above average laundry effort.
Whites. When I really want to make my whites clean, I’ll add bleach to the water and boil a teapot or two of water to add to the bucket.
Sheets and towels. Sheets and towels usually get the same treatment as whites – a little bit of bleach and boiled water. Towels are particularly hard to keep clean because it’s so easy for them to get mildew and moldy since their purpose is to remove wetness from other things.
Running clothes. My running clothes don’t always get the royal treatment (bleach, boiled water, and scrub), but at the bare minimum they get a quick scrub and some bleach. My running clothes are disgusting and if you don’t give ridiculously sweaty clothes a good washing, it only takes about a week or two for them to get moldy. And sometimes even the royal treatment can’t keep clothes alive. I go through a pair of socks every month or two. They literally get so dirty they can stand up on their own.
High Intensity Laundry
In general, high intensity laundry is laundry that uses the bar detergent (powdered detergent comes in a box or a bag, but you can also buy laundry soap in the form of a bar of soap) because it requires physical effort to produce suds, scrubbing to make sure the whole article is cleaning, then repeating for every article in the load. It’s a good workout.
Super High Intensity Laundry
Same as above, but taking all your laundry and cleaning accessories with you to the waterfall, then waiting up to an hour before you can actually wash your clothes.
The other really important aspect to remember when trying to successfully wash clothes by hand is the laundry line. Wet clothes that do not have the opportunity to properly dry out very quickly become smelly, mildew-y, and unusable. My rule is it has to have sun to dry properly. I say this because of my towels. I always hung my towels up in my room after my shower, but when one of them started to get mildew-y, I changed my policy. It required a couple rounds of boiling and bleaching to get the mildew out, then I left it on the line for 2 days to make sure it was fully dry. Now my towels go on the line after every shower. The laundry line must be in the sun at some point for clothes to dry properly. Sometimes it’s nice to have an unsheltered laundry line so that you can skip rinsing clothes and let the rain do it for you. But I have a covered laundry line (it’s tucked under the roof of my porch), so the rain doesn’t always interfere with my laundry habits. Depending on the purpose of the item (towel, school outfit, pajamas, etc), you can remove clothes from the laundry line when they are 90% dry so that they don’t get stiff in the sun. But you can never put away wet or damp clothes because that will certainly cause mildew and that is the last thing you want – no, it’s the last thing you don’t want. Life in Samoa is a continuous battle against mold, and you will lose even with constant vigilance. Mold does not need any help from you.
As with pretty much every aspect of my life, I put in a ton of effort at the beginning, but now I always look for the easiest way to get things done. I’m all about the no and low energy laundry.