Ranch Laundry

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The man loves to play in the dirt (and the mud and the oil and the grease…)

I’ve never had a conversation with a ranch wife in which the issue of laundry did not eventually come up. That’s because ranch wives and farm wives are constantly dealing with all the tough stuff: ground-in dirt, mud, grass stains, blood, pig slop, milk, grease, gasoline, diesel, paint, oil and the every-present manure from various sorts of animals and fowl. Nor are you dealing with these in isolation, as substances such as mud, blood and manure are frequently found on the same piece of clothing and on top of each other. Of course, you’re also dealing with the usual ballpoint pen ink, sharpies, nail polish, food stains, wine and such common to many people’s laundry, especially if they have kids. I addressed the laundry issue in a previous post, but one thing I didn’t talk about then was the washing machine.
In the rush to be energy-conscious and conserve water, manufacturers have been tinkering with washing machines, developing a new style that doesn’t have an agitator – it has a plate in the bottom that moves the clothes up and down through the water. In addition, there are front-loading machines that use water friction to clean the clothes, and top-loading machines with agitators. They all seem to have a variety of electronic bells and whistles that perform tasks like sensing how big the load is and adjusting the water level for the load size, or figuring out if the clothes need a longer spin to get the water out. Many do not allow the user to override, adjust settings or leave the lid open while the washer fills, etc. In other words, “Honey, don’t bother your pretty little head – we know what you need to do the laundry.”
Got some news for you, pal – I know exactly what I need to do the laundry and it isn’t what you’re handing me.
First, I need a top-loading washer. Ranch clothes often need a long period of soaking to get out the really nasty stains before the clothes are actually washed. Front-loading washers often don’t have that option and you may or may not be able to manage it with a little creativity, depending on the brand and model. Some top-loaders without agitators will allow you to soak, but many limit the amount of water.
Second, I need a washer that uses plenty of water or that at least offers me the option to use lots of water on certain loads – like the coveralls hubby wears for mechanic work. Most of the low-energy washers base the amount of water on the size of the load, the theory being that if you get the clothes thoroughly wet, less water is adequate for getting them clean. Let me tell you, it ain’t happening with ranch laundry. The dirty stuff doesn’t look much different when you take it out, just wetter. Manufacturers go on and on about how much water and energy you’re saving when you buy their product. In the same breath, they tell you that for really dirty clothes, you will need more water. Their idea of more water is considerably different than mine. And, as I discovered when I tried to add more water with the hose, if the washer sensor discovers you’re cheating, it will just drain out the water you’ve added and start over.
Third, I need the ability to tinker with temperatures, water level and cycle length. If I have a bulky load that’s not too dirty (like sheets) they don’t need the longer agitation preset in the programming for a dirty load, but the way many of the newer machines are set up, the only way I can get enough water for the load is to go for the longer pre-selected agitation time. When I have a big and really dirty load, I need to be able to start a cycle, open the lid (or pause the washer) let things soak for a while and then finish the cycle. In some cases, I need to soak overnight, not for the period the manufacturer has decided is adequate.
In short, all you washing machine manufacturers out there, listen up: The ranch wife wants a lot fewer bells and whistles, more control over the process and MORE WATER. You’re missing out on an important market…

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2 Responses to Ranch Laundry

  1. Bee says:

    That’s what happened to me – my old reliable finally gave up the ghost. A neighbor had an extra, which is how I became acquainted with the non-agitator version. I’m currently on a search for a washer that will do what I need it to…

  2. littleleftie says:

    What great comments! In fact, I think that you should forward this blog entry on to ALL manufacturers of washing machines because you are SO right—and it isn’t just ranch laundry—it’s anyone with kids, anyone who works outside, anyone who plays a “dirty” sport…etc etc etc. In other words—it’s ALL of us!

    Luckily for me, my old washer, with all of the features you mention you want, is still working fine and I will do everything in my power to keep it going.

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