Washboards are still made and sold today:
My hand "washing machine" consisted of a washtub, a washboard and a toilet plunger bought and used only for this. I am sad to say my "washing machine" broke and I put off repairs due to...well letting too many other things that aren't worth doing get in the way. In contrast my costs will be far less on this than if I was repairing an electric washer. Since I have to replace the plunger, that's what $2 at most?
Some tips for you:
If you can put the tub where you can access water and drain used water, all the better. Trying to haul water and lift the tub to empty is the hardest part.
Prepare to have wash days. This task takes more time than using an automatic. You will have to take breaks in between as it is a physical task. I would stop when I had my laundry lines full and give the kids lessons until the laundry was dry then wash more while they folded and picked up the clean clothes.
The tub can be made with a number of common items:
- a bucket- easy to empty and store but it doesn't hold as much clothes as other tubs
- a child's swimming pool- this will hold lots of clothes but takes more than one person to empty
- a metal or plastic tub- tubs can be found still but they aren't common. I found a plastic one that was a planter trying to look like an old fashioned wash tub for the country gardener.
- A Rubbermaid or other brand storage box- I was using a high sided one that worked well for this
- An ice chest- I am eyeing my husband's that he has so foolishly left in my line of vision. It has a stopper for draining the melted water. Hmm..might not that make a fantastic and drainable tub? Maybe you know somebody looking to toss an old one that has the latches broken that holds the top on?
Commercial detergent is not necessarily the best to use. It makes a lot of suds and that means you will be rinsing forever. It might also be hard on the yard if you are pouring right onto the ground. I started making my own laundry soap again and will use only that for the handwashing.
The sun is your friend! It will never send you a bill for heating water in tubs left in direct sunlight, drying clothes on the line and giving those clothes extra whitening power.
The rain will not send you a bill either if you find a way to collect rain water and use it to wash in. I am still working on this one myself so I may have comments later.
Protect your hands by using gloves. It won't do to save money now by washing only to spend it later on pricy hand creams to repair damaged skin.