The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space


soapy washing machineI used launderettes for years. Started at university. And it was a bit of a learning curve, particularly assessing how much powder to use. The machines seemed enormous the clothes were dirty. What was the yardstick?

Sometimes an innocent would add a whole pack of powder to a wash. The machine would bubble and froth and eventually the foam would escape in a trail that moved across the floor with the slickness of a skier in a supermarket. The lady would bob out from her cubby hole. With a sponge lashed to the end of a stick and corral the suds.
“Don’t open the washing machine door! Or we’ll all drown.”

When there was no response, she’d examine us all carefully.
“Whose machine is this?”
“He must be in the pub.”
“Let’s hope he doesn’t return on my shift.”

His wash would be bunged into a basket covered with remnants of froth so as to release the machine for the queue.

Eventually he’d return, examine the machine where he’d left his washing and discover that a kind fairy had already unloaded his wash. We’d all watch in covert fascination as he plonked his wash into a giant drying machine. If it rained next week would his clothes froth?

Tonight I glanced at the window of our washing machine and realised that I’d joined the ranks of those novice washers. The froth didn’t escape to clean our floor but remained pressed to the window for the complete 122 minute cycle. Including rinse and spin.

I’m going to the Hampton Court Flower Show on Saturday. I examined my rain jacket this morning and was about to toss it in the washing machine when I discovered that it needs to be washed in soap flakes. I trawled the barn – font of all things necessary to life in an unusual lane and discovered a dusty gap where the soapflakes had stood. This meant a quick lunchtime foray into Newmarket.

The instructions on the pack sounded so simple. Stir the flakes into hot water, dissolve and add to the washing machine. The flakes formed a globular mass. After 15 minutes of muscle building effort I gave up and removed the globules with a slotted spoon, added some boiling water and tossed in some more flakes. Stretched for time I poured the jug of semi dissolved flakes over the jacket and pressed start.

It’s on the fifth rinse now. Finally the water is clear. If jacket’s not clean after this, it’s going in the bin.

  Leave a reply


  1. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Lindsay

    My mother managed to change the colour of my stepfather’s underwear from white to pink, the colour never came out!

    Hi Magic Cochin

    I used to be the same until I started to take dolls sized clothes out of the machine!

    I’ve seen the Ecover tanks at daily bread, I must give them a go.

    It didn’t rain at Hampton Court!

    Hi Pat

    I wouldn’t dare wash a wool afghan in the machine, you’re a brave woman Pat.

    Hi Jane

    Thanks for the tip re Sainsbury’s tablets. Frothing can be a bit alarming!

    Hi Emma


    I forgot to wash the conditioner out of my hair once. It looked very unusual by the end of the day but when I washed it out my hair was so silky.

    We had a great day out at Hampton Court, thanks.

    Hi Pamela

    Good food for thought. The soap flakes certainly feel much softer. I think that I’ll have to give this a go. Thanks for the tips.

    Hi Sally

    Brilliant story! Thanks.

    Hi Natasha

    Yes, we had fun at Hampton Court! Wonderful that it didn’t rain. Flower show days are so special and I’ve always got so much pleasure from the plants that I’ve bought.

    Just looked Phillipa up on the net. It looks like a marvellous rose, and heavily scented too!

  2. Natasha

    Hi Fiona – did you have a good day at hampton court? I was there too! Didn’t need my mac but glad I wore wellies….and I’m now the proud owner of a rose bush named Phillipa!

    All the best,


  3. That’s too funny, Fiona. I think magic cochin’s right – after all that you certainly won’t need it.

    Back in student days a friend put all her washing in the machine and sat back to wait. Then realised she’d put the soap powder and coins in the one next to it. One machine full of dirty washing doing nothing and the other empty but whirring round with suds.

    Have a great day.

  4. Pamela

    Been there, done that. I mostly use soap flakes these days but you do at some point have to measure the quantity and then keep an appropriate sized measure next to the machine. I also gave up using fabric softner altogether a while ago and discovered I don’t miss it and I can wash all fabrics together instead of doing a separate load for fleece and anything with lycra (I’m talkng stretch jeans here not leotards). It all amounts to quite a saving on both the number of washes and the cost of the soap powder.

  5. I did a similar thing, only with fabric softener, the first time I used the student union laundry room at college. The load came out feeling slimy and weird. I hope you don’t need your coat, but if you do, the soap emergency will have been well worth the effort!

  6. Jane Weston

    I’ve had a few frothy experiences myself…for some reason Sainsbury tablets are big frothers and I’ve learnt that if I’m doing towels I need half as much. Hope you do have a great day on Saturday!

  7. Ohhhhh Fiona, I can definately relate to this post. LOL Have you ever tried to wash a wool afghan in the machine???? I did have a very clean floor afterwards!!! I have resigned that if it is to be washed again it goes in with no soap at all!!!

  8. magic cochin

    I usually ignore washing instructions “ and mostly everything turns out fine!

    Recently I’ve changed to using the Ecover products and getting the bottles refilled at the Daily Bread Co-op.

    Now you’ve put in all that effort to clean your rain coat it definitely won’t rain at Hampton Court on Saturday – have a great day out!!!!


  9. Lindsay

    I am laughing! On our honeymoon many years ago we put out clothes in a lauderette washing machine and watched helplessly as everything turned pink!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

HTML tags are not allowed.

2,259,412 Spambots Blocked by Simple Comments

Copyright © 2006-2024 Cottage Smallholder      Our Privacy Policy      Advertise on Cottage Smallholder

Skip to toolbar