Sunday, September 11, 2016

Low-carbon laundry

When I posted the picture below on Instagram, several people asked for more info about this Nina Soft centrifuge/extractor.
Yesterday, the Nina Soft spun over a liter of water+residue out of three loads of laundry.
My condo doesn't have an in-unit washer or dryer.  I have to walk all the way to the other side of the building to use the washer ($1) or the dryer ($0.75 for 50 min).  Moreover, the washer doesn't have a second rinse option, which I need because my skin is so sensitive to detergent.

When sharing a washer with others, I have no control over what kind of products they use.  They might put in perfumed detergents or fabric softeners.  That leaves residue in the washers and dryers.

In Los Angeles, I use a clothesline.  I hang most of my laundry on the line, but put small items like socks and sturdier underwear in the tumble dryer along with shirts.  By the time I am done hanging up the clothes on the line, I can hang up the slightly damp shirts to finish air-drying.  The undies and socks take just a few more minutes to complete.  I probably run the dryer for about 15-20 minutes per load of wash.

At the condo, the dryer won't start until you put at least $0.75 cents.  It doesn't matter if I want to run it for 1 minute or 50 minutes, it costs $0.75.  Each additional quarter provides an additional 20 minutes.  The clock runs even when the dryer isn't.  That means you pay for time when the machine is idle and the next person can't use your unused time.  The contractor that has the monopoly on our building is not interested in changing his pricing scheme.

My home laundry equipment.
Over the last year, I developed a system that works for me.

The Nina Soft is a home version of the extractor that you find in laundromats.  It's essentially a big centrifuge for your clothes.  The Nina Soft spins out water, detergent, chemicals and hard mineral deposits that would otherwise bake into your clothes.  It also reduces dryer time by ~50%.

I originally bought it for tie-dyeing.  Spin the excess dye out before rinsing, and you save tons of time and water.

I hand wash small amounts of laundry in the green baskets in my bathtub with the Breathing Washer.  It's a plunger-like thing used by campers, dyers and felters.  Unlike plungers, the Breathing Washer doesn't splash.  It does make a wheezing sound that gives it it's name.  It's a good 10-minute upper body workout.

When I wash things in my tub, I can rinse twice.  Then I spin it in the Nina Soft and air-dry it.  This also helps humidify my condo in arid Colorado.

When I have a lot of laundry, I use the shared machines in parallel.  At 7 AM, the earliest we are allowed to start laundry, I can usually find three open washers on consecutive floors.  (Dark, Light and Medium colors.)

When I take the laundry out of the washer, I spin all of it in the Nina Soft.  Then I either tumble dry them or hang them up.  I found this large maple folding drying rack at McGuckin Hardware.  It's made in the US and much sturdier than any other racks I've seen at any price (including the one from LL Bean).  It's not expensive, either.

In this way, I limit my exposure to detergents and reduce dryer use to about an hour for all 3 loads of laundry.

I got my Nina Soft from Dharma Trading, my preferred supplier of all dyeing/fiber art goodies.  I have no affiliation with them other than ordering from them for 20+ years and wanting to make sure they remain in business.

I bought the Breathing Washer and a plastic washboard from Japan from Amazon.  They also sell the Nina Soft.

The green baskets and laundry octopus come from IKEA.


  1. Anonymous03:24

    You always have the best information – thanks for all these links.
    Vancouver Barbara

  2. You are a match for me in my obsession to have laundry be one place where I minimize my carbon footprint. I do have a washer and a dryer, but I rarely use the dryer for anything but sheets and towels. I dry clothing on outdoor clothes lines in good weather and on racks in bad weather.

    I have two racks, one a wooden one like yours. The rack I really love is from Ikea. May I recommend the Frost?

    It holds a stunning amount of laundry, is very lightweight, folds very flat, and is remarkably strong and stable due to all those triangles in its engineering.

    Bonus points: I have a high efficiency washer plus a solar electrical system. My dryer uses propane gas, another reason to use it as little as possible.

    I love your solution to the problem in Colorado, and reading about someone who shares a similar obsession. Do you also really enjoy doing laundry like I do? I love clothes and textiles, and being able to handle them, and laundry is one chore I do willingly. It's always a happy day for me when I can hang clothes outside and listen to the sounds of the world.

    1. @scifiknitter I eyed the Frost, as it would be helpful to have additional flat surfaces for when I wash my sweaters.

      It occurred to me that, if I were living in a house with a garden, I could use the rinse water to water the landscaping. But, my water goes down the drain and (after treatment), becomes the water supply for the next city downriver.

  3. I love my Laundry Alternative spinner. It is also perfect for spinning out handwashed woolens.

    1. Yes, I use it when hand-washing sweaters, too.


Comments are open for recent posts, but require moderation for posts older than 14 days.