Truth and Lyes book coverThe best way to get started in the Slow Laundry way of life is to purchase John Sage’s groundbreaking book Truth and Lyes: The Slow Laundry Revolution.

Published in 2012 by, Truth and Lyes pulls back the curtain on the soulless and profit-obsessed laundry industry. It also provides practical tips for hand-washing clothes, making soap, and constructing an environmentally friendly clothesline. Truth and Lyes was followed up in 2013 by Youth and Lyes, a comic-book version of the original with bonus chapters “Ten Fun Work Songs” and “Don’t Put Lye In Your Eye!”

To help you take the first steps on this journey, below is an abridged step-by-step guide adapted from Truth and Lyes Chapter 47: “And Now You’re Ready to Learn How to Hand-Wash Clothes.”


1.) Start collecting wood ash. Since you’ll need to free up some laundry workspace anyhow, this is a good opportunity to chop up your furniture and burn it.


2.) Make lye by mixing the ashes with water in your favorite lye-leaching barrel.


3.) Collect some fat. Beef tallow or pig lard is best – ask your butcher. You’ll need a lot, so try to negotiate a bulk purchase discount. Make sure you have a large and very, very watertight container.


4.) Using the lye and fat, make soap. Trust your instincts on this one. Your ancestors have been doing this for thousands of years, and soapmaking knowledge lies dormant deep within you, waiting for the eye-watering scent of lye fumes to awaken it.


5) Fill a large washtub with boiling, soapy water.


6) Soak clothes in the washtub for 10-15 minutes while stirring vigorously with a wash paddle. You will really need to work up a sweat. Use this time to reflect on the sublime fact that you’re cleaning clothes while getting the clothes you’re wearing dirty, but that later you’ll clean those clothes while getting other clothes dirty, and all of life is a wheel, and death is but a door, time is but a window, I’ll be back.


7) Scrub each garment on the washboard. One way to determine if you’ve scrubbed long enough is to ask yourself, “Couldn’t I scrub for just five more minutes? Or am I in such a hurry to go watch TV or drink soda that I can’t take time to properly nurture my clothes?”


8) Wring the soapy water out of each garment. If you think you’ve wrung all the soapy water out, you’re wrong. Wring it again.


9) Rinse clothing in your 50-gallon rinsing tub.

step010 10) Wring out clothing again. The water will be soapy, because you haven’t been wringing hard enough. Go back to step 8.

11.) Hang clothes to dry.


12.) It’s probably time to start making some more soap.

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