For many urban residents living in houses or multi-dwelling homes that were built 50 years ago or more, laundry rooms are non-existent, and their homes may well not even have the plumbing to handle a modern washer and dryer unit. For others, living without a modern laundry system is a conscious choice, whether for space (most of these appliances are huge, and dual-purpose or stackable units are expensive), to save money, or to minimize their environmental impact.

Since dry-cleaning is expensive over time and uses harsh chemicals, we will assume that is only an option for dry-clean only clothes. Here are some more ways to live well without a washer and/or dryer.

Using manual clothes washers

Hand-cranked clothes washer [via flickr]

You might think old-fashioned “agitators” had gone the way of the telegraph, but manual washers are still in heavy use among the frugal, long-term travelers, and in other parts of the world. Most of the benefit of getting clean clothes comes from the clothes twisting and pushing against each other, so you really only have to use a little bit of soap to get your garments clean, and the process only takes about five minutes.

The WonderWash is probably the best-known manual washing product, and it can handle 5-lb loads at a time.

Laundry pickup and delivery services

These are usually locally-owned businesses, so we can’t recommend any particular company, but you’ll probably find at least a couple by searching for “laundry pickup” + your city. You will usually pay by the pound for clothes to be washed, though some places may offer payment by the bag. Some dry cleaners also offer laundry pickup servies.

Admittedly, this is not a particularly environmentally-friendly approach to cleaning clothes, but it is extremely convenient. If you live in a condo or apartment, your office may have a recommendation of a provider to use.

Clothesline drying

This is an almost effortless way to dry clothes, and you can get clothes dry even in cold climates if you give them all day. If air-drying them makes them too stiff for your comfort, shake them thoroughly both before and after you hang them, and add a little fabric softener to the wash. Here’s a huge list of tips on hand-drying clothing at ThriftyFun.

Hand-washing clothes

Hand washing clothes [via flickr]

It’s not exactly fun, but to get clothes clean by hand, you’ve really got to scrub and twist, giving your arms a thorough workout in the process. If you have a bucket of water or a big sink, you can give this method a try. Hand-washing underwear and shirts isn’t that difficult, but getting jeans and other thick, heavy clothes clean enough to wear is a time-consuming, labor-intensive process.