Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Simply Living Tool of the Week: The Speed Queen Wringer Washer

I have, at various times, tried to put an end to my relationship with washing machines. Usually when my other alternative is a laundromat because I cannot go to a laundromat without being horrified at the number of quarters it takes to make the machines run. When I have a machine at home it's easier not to remember that my use of it directly impacts the water and electric bills.

But it is a family goal to be off-grid in ten years, and that means finding a new way to deal with the never-ending avalanche of dirty clothes and linnens falling out of the closets. Hand-washing can actually be rather pleasant, especially with the right tools, but the limit of trouble I'm willing to put myself through runs out at the point where the hand-washed clothes need wrung out. Wringing a few pairs of heavy denim overalls can give one blisters.

So here is the Speed Queen Wringer Washer. It came with the house, that is to say, free, and it still runs, and it's kind of cute. We'll give it a try.

Now the first load is hanging on the line under the apple tree, and I'm not sure about this at all. For one thing, it is almost as much work as hand-washing when compared to a modern machine. It does not fill or drain itself, or turn off at the appropriate time, and add to that the clothes must be fed through the wringer where a modern machine would simply run a spin cycle. Secondly, since it is not a hand-cranked wringer, I'm not at all sure that it uses less electricity than a modern machine, and it certainly doesn't use less water.

Still, it was free, and that is enough to put up with it for now if it does it's job properly. However, this load came out linty and gritty, and if that does not change with the next load, than it's off to the laudromat for me and my dirties. It could be that the old bathroom mats I threw in weren't meant to be machine washed, and it was the Speed Queen's first run in at least three years, so I will give it another chance. The bath mats are not so lucky. On top of being ugly, they have now made my angry, so I have thrown them away.

Midterm grade: 2 out of 5

Shoot, it's raining.


I've been using my Google-fu, and it seems I am mistaken about the Speed Queen's water and electricity usage. I have not found any hard numbers, but several sources claim that its resource use is "a fraction" of modern machines. I'm trying to find a comparison to the new-fangled energy-star rated thingamabobbers that you see on TV, but appearently it's not a very interesting topic to most people.

Here is an interesting read on the subject: http://www.irememberjfk.com/mt/2008/01/grandmas_wringer_washer.php


  1. How much does it hold, because it looks pretty small?

  2. Hey, I thought of something else. You could think of the laundromat as machine sharing. You know, instead of resources going to every household has it's own everything, we cooperate, and several families share the same resources. (I've always thought it was kind of silly in neighborhoods that every house has a garage full of tools that get pulled out one or twice a month if that, and the rest of the time they just sit there.) Your quarters are your portion of the cost of maintenance. We like laundromat at The Plains btw. Always clean. They try really hard to keep the machines repaired. And it's staffed.

  3. Your machine wraps the rolls in there and tears there?

  4. Jullie,

    I'm sorry, but I don't understand the question.


    Yes, it is a bit small, but I don't think it's smaller than Nan's front loader. But hers you can stuff pretty tightly.

    I've liked sharing facilities in our past apartments for those very reasons. But the machines there cost at least half what a laundromat does. I feel differently about laudromats than restaurants because you do just as much work in a laundromat as you would at home, whereas in a restaurant someone else is doing the cooking, serving, and cleaning up. It seems like a better value, although it may be that the difference between a home-cooked meal and a restaurant meal is much greater than between a laundromat load and a home load.

    On that count, Sara and I did the math on my favorite waffle recipe, which comes out to $1.50/batch, and a batch feeds 3-4 people vrey nicely. You can add all kinds of "expensive" toppings and keep it under five dollars. Nifty, huh?

  5. Ho! what a beautiful antiques I do remember how wringer washer was a thank you you are good.
    The clothes are sometimes mixed in the rolls?
    excuse my translation ... Jullie

  6. Oh, I see. Yes, the clothes do sometimes get caught in the rollers. Luckily, there is a safety release that stops the rollers before anything is damaged.

  7. Hopefully, other folks have told you this by now, or you've figured it out yourself, but, used properly, a wringer can use LOTS less water. Here's one way: Do the lights FIRST. Wash your load. Rinse the first load, but do not drain the rinse water. Wash the next load in the rinse water from the first, and so on. That halves the amount of water used. Others start out with their cleanest clothes, wash all the loads in the same water, and then rinse them all in the same rinse water, but I could never bring myself to go that way, and I would TOTALLY make sure diapers are washed and rinsed in separate water.
    Wringers are the bomb for REALLY dirty stuff just because they don't do things on any preset schedule. If it's truly nasty, let it agitate for a few hours & then rinse & see what you have. Even when I have a regular washing machine, I still like to keep a wringer around for super-dirty stuff, dyeing fabric, and a few other oddball uses. I have a Speed Queen somewhat older than yours.

  8. Y'know, the wringer you have isn't even an antique. It looks to be one of the modern ones Lehman's sells. Someone shelled out a nice chunk of change for that--I've been drooling over those for years! They're supposed to have been built to the same specs as the old Speed Queens, which, well half a century isn't too uncommon an age.