How I do Laundry by Hand in an Apartment

The apartment we lived in did not have a washer or dryer, though it did have its own laundry mat. It cost about $2.00 to wash and $2.00 to dry. So over the course of the 9 months we will be living here, at about $4.00 per load of laundry and doing 1-2 loads a week, it would cost us $144-$288 minimum if we only did 1-2 loads per week. Since my classes have me out in the woods most weeks on top of my required physical training, it could easily be 2+ loads of laundry a week.

Washers and dryers are convenient but spending around $250ish over the course of 9 months is kind of a lot with only one of us working. $250 covers half our rent or 5 weeks of our food budget. So, I decided that I would do my laundry by hand or take it up to my parents’ when we go to visit.

How i do laundry by hand in an apartment


Pros and Cons of doing laundry by hand


  • Save money instead of paying for laundry mat
  • Don’t have to walk/drive to a laundry mat
  • Uses less water
  • Uses less electricity (takes electricity to heat water)


  • Can take a long time
  • Takes a long time for clothes to dry
  • Can be tiring
  • May have to wash things twice

The Pros for me outweighed the Cons. Saving some money as well as reducing our use of water and electricity made me take the steps of leaving the washer and dryer behind. Plus, the other people in the apartment complex say the washers don’t always fully wash the clothes and dryers don’t always dry the clothes. Since we don’t have to pay for water, switching to washing by hand was beneficial but also using our complex’s laundry mat would have probably cost us more than $250 over the course of 9 months.

After a lot of research and going over product reviews I decided that I was going to get the Wonderwash washer. Check out my review of it here. I also got the Behrens Washboard. Together these cost me about $68 which means I potentially did save $200 but also means that I will continue to save when we move to our next apartment. 

Living in a small apartment and doing laundry by hand can be a little difficult. Mainly the lack of space has been my issue. So here is how I do my laundry.

1. Use washboard on needed clothing

I use my washboard and the largest pot I own to clean jeans, towels, and other clothing that has gunk on it. I typically do this in my bathtub. Using the washboard does take a bit of time especially when you are working on jeans in a small space. It can also be tiresome.

2. Soak Clothes

Soaking the clothes is pretty important. Just take the clothes and put them in the Wonderwasher along with soap nuts (the shell of a berry that naturally produces soap). I will also add a dash of vinegar to clothes I know I won’t be able to get out into the sunlight to dry. The key is using hot-warm water to get the lid to fully close. The hot water allows the lid to be sucked down and create a seal. I will usually soak clothes from anywhere between 10 minutes to 1+ hours. Sometimes I forget I have something soaking in the bathroom.

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3. Wash ’em!

After soaking the clothes for awhile it’s time to actually wash them. Washing isn’t hard but can be tiresome. The directions say to turn the handle on the side for two minutes to wash. I typically just count the turns. I will do 30 turns with my right arm going counter clockwise, then I will do 30 turns with my left arm going clockwise and repeat once. It can be quite the workout. After the washing is done the water is drained. The Wonderwash comes with this tube thing that you attach to the side to drain the water but it doesn’t work. I usually use it to keep the clothes in as the water drains.

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Using the tube thing to keep the clothes from falling out while draining the water.

4. Rinse time!

For me, all I have to do is pull out the bag of soap nuts, drain the water, and do a quick rinse. I’ll refill it with water and wash for 60 turns. Soap nuts are very mild and they don’t suds up a whole lot so I don’t need to change the water more than once. If using other soaps you may need to change the water more than once to get all the soap out.

5. Dry

This little washer does not spin dry the clothes in any way. You have to wring them out by hand or with a hand-cranked wringer. I really don’t like wringing my clothes out by hand but I don’t have it in the budget yet to get a hand cranked wringer. So once most of the water is wrung out it can be put up to dry. I have two metal clotheslines that I use to dry my clothes. There isn’t anywhere to hang up clothes lines so I am stuck with these metal ones.

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It is finally warm enough out to dry my clothes outside. During the winter and on rainy days I’ll dry my clothes inside. I add a little bit of vinegar to the washing water on days I dry inside to kelp kill off any nasties. The only thing I don’t put out to dry right now is undergarments. Not really any privacy in the apartment complex so I dry those inside.

The first day I put my clothes out this year it was nice and windy. Ended up knocking down my taller drying line a couple of times. The second time it actually got knocked off the porch and down onto the ground.

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Nothing more fun than having to go rewash your pants after they fall and get dirt all over them. One of the bars also broke off so be careful where you put things to dry.

Washing clothes by hand aren’t all that hard but can be time-consuming. Having limited space to dry clothes can limit how much I can wash in a day. The space in the Wonderwash also limits how much I can do per load. I can usually fit 2 pairs of pants per load so washing pants take the longest to wash. Took me about 4-5 hours to completely wash 6 pairs of jeans, 4 dress shirts, and 3-4 loads of various shirts and pants. If you don’t stay up on laundry it can come to bite you in the butt.

So, have you have done your own laundry by hand before?

Photos © Morgan Pencek, all rights reserved