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Bucket Laundry: How to Wash Clothes in a Bucket and on a Budget in India
Bucket Laundry: For a considerable amount of money at high-end hotels and resorts, you can send out soiled laundry with the maid. For a lot less money you can walk your dirty rags to the corner laundry wall where your clothes will be beaten within a stitches life and dried to a golden crisp under the sun. Or, you can get your clothes clean as the Indians do: bucket laundry. Not only will you save 99% of the cost but you’ll get a good workout in the process. One of the many reasons I love to travel in India is the opportunity to try new ways of accomplishing a task performed completely opposite at home. Take laundry for instance. Most westerners think nothing more than gathering up their clothes, shoving them into a washing machine, and setting the button to start. Bing, bang, boom, the laundry is completed. It doesn’t work quite that easily as a tourist in India.
Nearly every hotel, hostel, guest house, or other accommodation in India keeps a plastic bucket and smaller mug in the bathroom. This bucket can be used for a variety of things, most commonly for bathing or washing.
A young Indian girl washes family laundry in Manali
- Fill the bucket with either cold or hot water depending on the type of clothing being washed. In some circumstances, you may not be able to draw hot water I.E. No hot water geyser or the electricity is off. Filling only halfway will give you ample room to add clothing.
- Add laundry detergent. My favorite Indian brand is Rin, which can be found at nearly any corner stall for a small fee around Rs.2 per packet. For a small wash only use half of the packet. For heavily soiled clothing or if you like suds as I do, empty the entire packet. Use your hand to agitate the water and detergent until the two are well mixed.
- Add items to be washed pushing them to the bottom until they are completely water-soaked. Let sit for 10-30 minutes to absorb detergent.
- Wash the clothes one of three ways. Which way you choose is a personal preference.
- Massage the clothes against the bottom of the bucket in a movement similar to the agitator of a traditional washing machine. Continue until the dirt is loosened or clothing appears clean. -OR-
- Pull one item of clothing out of the bucket at a time. Lay flat on the floor or shower stall, spread out the fabric, and use a bar of soap to scrub the item aggressively ensuring soap soaks into the fabric and that any dirt is loosened. Set aside when completed and repeat until all items are finished. Once all items are scrubbed, take one item, roll it into a dough-like ball and begin to knead it on the floor. Rock back and forth, pick it up, slap it back down onto the floor, rub side to side as vigorously as needed until the dirt is loosened. Wring each item out thoroughly and proceed to Step 6. -OR-
- Step into the water and clothing filled bucket. Stomp in a circular motion, agitating the clothing underneath.
- Remove the clothes wringing as much water and soap from each item as possible. Set aside and pour out the soapy water.
- Rinse out the bucket and fill with cold water.
- Put all clothing back into the bucket swirling them around the bottom to rinse out any remaining soap. Repeat as necessary with fresh water until soapy residue is gone.
- Remove clothes, wringing out as much excess water as possible.
This is the part that can be tricky. Provided you are staying put in one place for more than one-night bucket laundry works wonderfully. But if your travels leave you in a tight time pinch you’ll want dry clothes quickly.
- Hang each item to dry by hangers. -OR-
- Lay each item over a shower rod, bed stand, armchair or piece of furniture. Remember to turn over after several hours to ensure a full dry on both sides. -OR-
- Lay each item flat on top of a towel. This will help absorb moisture.
- Hang a couple of items on hangers placing them on the blades of an overhead fan if available. Turn to medium speed until clothing is dry.
- Lay clothing on top of towels directly underneath an overhead fan if available. Turn the fan to highest speed and let dry for several hours.
- Ask to lay clothing out on the rooftop of your overnight accommodation being mindful of monkeys or other animals that may take an interest in your clothing.
- Lay clothing on empty seats of the vehicle if traveling by car & driver. Roll all windows down, allowing the wind to dry clothing. This is not a good option for white or light-colored fabrics. Air pollution will discolor clothing quickly.