Thursday, September 25, 2014

This is the way we wash our clothes.

Santiago is experiencing a severe drought. It hasn't rained enough in months, and now we are feeling the effects of it here in the city. There is a lot to say about poor service management at the reservoir and wasteful habits of citizens, but it is too late really to fix those problems - we're in crisis mode now and the only thing that can really help is to get enough rain to start refilling the reservoir (in collaboration, of course, with water conservation education and a better water-distribution plan).

We started to feel the effects of the drought in May when the water supply for school was altered and we began to receive water two days a week instead of four. We felt it at the house in July when our 2,500 gallon cistern, a cistern that had only been less than half full when we moved in and when it was being cleaned, started to slowly empty. With as many people in and out of the house as we had this summer, it was drastic. We had to take measures to conserve the little bit of water we had left - we turned off the pump, took bucket showers and let the beautiful, lush green grass die a sad and thirsty death.

When the kids and I arrived home from vacation in the States, the cistern was still empty and there wasn't much hope that it would be full anytime soon. There was enough water every morning to refill what we had used the day before, but washing clothes in my wonderful automatic washing machine was just too much. We had to start washing Dominican-style.
(disclaimer: I was still washing sheets and towels in the automatic washer until it shorted out on me a few weeks ago, they're a pain to wash basically by hand. The automatic washer is not fixed, but still on limited use) 
The Dominican washer is a double barrel - one for washing, and one for spin-drying. The washing side gets filled with water, a little detergent and is set to "agitate" for 0-15 minutes. Theoretically after this step, you would wring (yes, hand-wring) the clothes and throw them in the spinner.

Our spinner is broken.
Of course it is.

So, we hand-wring a little harder and throw the clothes into a bucket of fabric softener water, hand wring again and then throw them into the clean water bucket for a last "rinse". After the clean water "rinse," the clothes get wrung out as best we can, and then hung on the line. On a good, sunny day, the clothes take an hour or two to dry - IF they went through the spinner. Hand-wringing is not nearly as effective and it feels like clothes are on the line for day. 
To be very honest, I hate (detest, abhor) washing clothes this way. It is a lot of work, especially when I have a *real* washing machine sitting silently next to me while I wring out underwear. But, I've come to the decision that it is important to teach the kids by example the importance of saving water - and hard work. Samil and Amely have always helped with the laundry process (in age-appropriate ways), but now that they are more involved, I see they (read: Amely) have really cut down on the costume-changes through out the day. 
Adiel started using cloth diapers this week, and washing diapers is a hassle even with an automatic washer. Knowing our water and washing situation, I researched and found a "hand-wash" tutorial for cloth that includes stomping the (pre-rinsed, not poopy) diapers in a washing bin. It seems kind of silly, but it's some exercise I've been able to add into my day and (for now) is kind of a fun way to break up the monotony of staying at home.

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