A lot of my projects use wool, silk, and other fabrics that are recommended as “dry clean only”. Well, I believe that unless it is something really bulky and a major pain to press – like a winter coat – just about anything can be hand washed instead. It is partially to save money but also because I just don’t like the chemicals they use in dry cleaning. Plus I hear the horror stories every so often on PR about how the dry cleaners lose a treasured item. So I do a lot of hand washing.
One of the problems with hand washing is that you are never going to be able to squeeze out as much water as a washing machine can spin out. I do my best with squeezing it out but it seems like after hanging for a few minutes it is dripping water like crazy. In the warmer months I just hang it outside on the clothesline because no one cares if it drips on the ground, but in the winter I have to set up a drying rack in the shower and let it dry to the point of not dripping in there. That gets tricky if someone wants to take a shower a little earlier or later than usual, plus it is awkward getting the drying rack to even fit in the shower.
Another problem with drying on a clothesline is the weight of the wet fabric can stretch your yardage out of shape. A lot of times I can press it back into shape with a lot of steam but it takes time to do that.
I came across the Nina Soft Spin Dryer on Dharma Trading. It is small, energy efficient, and somewhat inexpensive ($145 including shipping). It spins things nearly dry rather than drying them completely with heat, so it is great for wools and delicates. It had a lot of positive reviews.
I ordered this from Dharma Trading on Sunday night, and had it on my doorstep tonight! (Rather than shipping from the Dharma Trading warehouse in CA it is drop shipped from the manufacturer in New Hampshire.) So of course I had to try it out.
You operate the Nina by first putting some sort of container to catch the water – I used a dishwashing pan – under the spout. Make sure you do this first because sometimes it starts dripping water as soon as you put in the laundry! Next put in your wet laundry (making sure to balance the load), then push the pink “stopper” into the drum, making sure you press it down so it is holding the laundry in place. Then close the lid and plug it in. It will start spinning. The operation is very quiet. You can either wait for it to stop spinning after a minute or two (the lid pops open) or you can manually pop open the lid yourself to stop it. Wait for the drum to stop spinning (takes about 10 seconds) and then reach in and take out your laundry. That’s it! Make sure you leave it with the lid open so the drum gets a chance to dry out. I also left a small cup under the spout because it does tend to drip a little for a while after you use it.
I ended up “drying” 4 loads tonight. My first consisted of a silk jersey wrap dress, 3 yards of silk charmeuse, and a silk charmeuse slip. It spun for several minutes and I manually popped open the lid. The silk charmeuse and even the silk jersey were nearly dry. Had I wanted to I could have taken it directly to my ironing board and pressed it dry.
My second load consisted of 2 weeks of bras (most of them foam cup, some with “bump” padding) and some pantyhose. For this load the lid ended up popping open after a couple of minutes, indicating it was finished. Same result – everything felt almost dry. The foam cups (particularly the ones with the “bump” at the bottom of the cup) were damp but nothing came close to dripping.
My third load was 2 yards of a 60″ 100% wool basketweave suiting. It was dripping when I put it in, but after only a couple of minutes of spinning it was nearly dry! And anyone that has hand washed wool knows how it loves to absorb water…
My fourth load was 3 yards of a sopping wet 59″ 100% wool crepe. Same result – put it in dripping and after a couple of minutes it was damp but was not dripping at all. The water collection from this load was a little over 1″ in my dish pan.
I’m sure some of you are wondering about the capacity. It is bigger than it looks from the picture. A good rule of thumb is whatever you can comfortably wash in a 5 gallon bucket will fit in this. This is great for washing the yardage for a pair of pants or a jacket, but I wouldn’t recommend drying 5 yards of a wool melton coating. Personally I wouldn’t put more than 4 yards of 60″ wool suiting in it.
I am very happy I bought this! No more dripping on the floors and it is going to save me SO MUCH TIME when it comes to prewashing yardages by hand. Less time drying = more time to sew! I highly recommend it if you wash yardages and finished garments by hand.
In case if you’re wondering, here’s the other components of my hand washing setup:
- Eucalan (silks and wools)
- Forever New (everything else, including lingerie and pantyhose)
- 5 gallon bucket, available from hardware stores
- Mobile Washer (helps agitate and make sure that you get all the yardage soaked)
- Y-shaped drying rack (drying indoors during the winter, and flat drying heavy coating outside during the warmer months)
- An outdoor clothesline during the warmer months