How Do I……Wash Clothes?

Clothes get damaged quickly here in Kenya since we wash our clothes by hand and hang them out to dry.  I have to admit knowing how to wash your clothes by hand is a handy skill that comes in when you travel (you don’t have to pack as much).

First, I get rainwater from a water tank.  If no kids are around (e.g term break) then I will wash my clothes outside.  When school is in session I usually bring the water inside and do my washing inside in the wash room because 1) the kids will either want to wash my clothes for me 2) kids + school staff will analyze how I wash things 3) people will ask me for my clothes 4) it takes a lot longer to get things done when you have kids around who want to chat 5) our school cows LOVE water and will come over to try to get some….their horns are scary…


I pour water into a basin (basins are so helpful around here) and add powder laundry detergent.  The kiddos use bar soap because it’s cheaper and lasts longer.  Then rub the fabric of a clothing article against each other to get all the dirt out (hence the reason why clothes wear out so quickly)….make sure you get a good lather.  You’re also likely to end up with blisters and rips on your hands afterwards.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Empty the dirt/soapy water out and add fresh water to rinse.  This gets tricky because it’s hard to get all the soap out…’s a challenge during the dry season when you’re trying to minimize the amount of water you use.  There have been times when I save the soapy water and use it to mop my house floor afterwards….the kids are told to do similar things during the dry season.

SQUEEZEEEEEEEE as much water out of the clothes as possible.


Put clothes into a bucket and take them outside to air dry.  Sometimes if I just have a few items, I’ll dry them inside my house by open windows…they dry quickly during the dry season because it’s so humid.  Also, undergarments should be dried inside (we were told this during in-service training) to be polite, besides I don’t want my kiddos to see their teacher’s underwear!

It’s not always easy to find a place to hang my clothes to dry when school is in session and I prefer not to put my clothes on the barbed fence (like some kids end up having to do) or on the grass/bushes (cows sometimes end up with the kids’ uniforms on their horns).  I also usually end up with ants crawling all over my clothes when I bring them back inside.


Sometimes during the week when the school staff don’t usually wash their clothes (usually done on the weekends) I’ll end up walking into the clothes wire on my way to the choo.  The wire always ends up sliding down the tree to about neck level after a school staff moves it up the tree.


During the wet season, we have plenty of water to wash clothes with but it’s hard to get clothes to dry.  It’s not as humid so I hang my clothes outside but sometimes it will be raining. It’s always something!  There have been times during the wet seasons that it’s taken days for my clothes to dry completely!

Laundry can take a couple of hours to do if you have a full load of clothes.  It’s a pain to wash jeans, sleeping bags, and blankets by hand.  Seriously, everyone should know how to wash clothes by hand…the skill does come in handy.

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