Summer is finally here. And that doesn’t just mean we get to hand-wash white pants—it means family vacations.
Now, I’ve met people who claim to be part of the Slow Landry movement, but who don’t hand-wash when they’re on vacation. Frankly, this suggests that they somehow want to take a “vacation” from doing laundry!
Slow Laundry is perfectly consistent with family vacations – you just need to plan ahead and carve out plenty of time and money. And just as with traveling itself, when it comes to hand-washing laundry the reward is not in the destination, but in the journey.
So how to do it? It all depends on your vacation. For every trip, there is a strategy for making sure that the magic of hand-washing laundry is part of the fun.
This one is a no-brainer.
Stop at a truck stop and fill your washtub in the shower (this is also a great way to meet fellow travelers, by the way). Boil it by sitting the tub on your hood and revving the engine for an hour or so. Then put your laundry in the tub, get back on the highway and start scrubbing. And here’s a tip – try driving over potholes, rumble strips and stray retread to help agitate the laundry.
When it’s time to dry the clothes, just hang them out the window and drive fast. (This also works when you’re not on vacation – sometimes I stick our wet laundry to the car with refrigerator magnets and drive up and down Rock Creek Parkway, enjoying the weather.)
Just 59 more minutes to go!
The good news is that in a hotel room you’ll have a bathtub that will fit the whole family’s laundry. And if you use a propane heater to heat your washwater, most hotel fire alarms won’t pick it up.
The bad news is that we’ve had problems with hoteliers complaining when we hang laundry out the hotel windows to dry. But keep in mind that in most jurisdictions, it takes a few hours to evict you from a hotel room: more than enough time to dry the clothes a little before you have to move on.
Remember that when you check in, your room has probably been stocked with machine-washed sheets and towels. I like to call ahead and request hand-washed linens. And you’d be surprised: most of the time, I get a “Hah! Yeah sure, no problem! We’ll get right on that! Hah!” It’s always encouraging to find a fellow Slow Laundry supporter.
Camping is the heart and soul of Slow Laundry. This is when we can most closely approximate the natural and traditional way that our ancestors washed clothes: in the open air, hunched over a creek, swatting at mosquitoes. I wish we could move to the woods full-time, but Cate has told me to stop bringing it up.
Still, there are a few things to keep in mind:
- A lot of park rangers have let the power go to their head, and they’re liable to give you a hard time – “you can’t rinse soapy clothes in the stream,” “you can’t drape wet clothes over other people’s tents” and so forth. So you may need to do your laundry by moonlight.
- When building a fire to heat your washwater, it’s important to remember that in the hot summer months, wood will go up like kindling. So be sure to build your fire close to a lot of underbrush, so you have quick access to a lot of good, dry wood.
We ran out of space so hung laundry by the tent next door. It was exciting for them when they woke up and saw it!
Are you ready to join the “Mile High Club” of Slow Launderers who’ve washed their clothes while 30,000 feet above the ground? It’s easier than it sounds, and there are two good options.
Option one is to do laundry at your seat. Just bring a plastic bag to use as a washtub, and ask the flight attendant for a dozen cups of hot water. (And don’t take any guff on this – you bought that seat and you’re entitled to as much hot water as you want.) Once the water, the clothes and the soap are in the bag, tie the end off and bang the bag against the window for a few minutes. You’ll find this is a great conversation-starter!
Option two is to use the aircraft’s lavatory. Keep in mind that because you’ll be in there for a while, someone might knock on the door and ask if you’re ok. Just yell, “I’m trying to join the Mile High Club!”
The first time this happened to me, when I finally finished and left the lavatory, the flight attendant raised her eyebrow and asked me “you were alone in there?” I think it must have blown her mind that I could tackle a load of laundry all by myself!