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Spin cycle

Salad spinner

Here’s an important piece of the post-harvest station, the trusty washing machine-turned-salad spinner, flanked by laundry sinks, working on Sunday CSA harvest. The washer idea I read about someplace. When the washer here on the farm started doing odd things to clothes and was heading for the scrap heap, I intercepted it and pressed it into veggie service. With the agitator removed, it’s used on the spin cycle. Good ol’ centrifugal force! The trick to preventing leaves from getting crushed—either shredded (spinach) or veiny (lettuce, other light leaves)—is not to load too much at a time. The sinks contain cold well water. Mostly, rinsing greens is done to quickly cool them down after being cut in warm conditions (like…a hot afternoon, you can’t always pick your moment). Sometimes, it’s to wash off dirt splashed up by rain. Rinsing greens for one reason or another happens about 75% of the time during late spring through midsummer. Once the days start getting shorter (yuck…), greens harvests can usually be timed for the cooler evening, and rinsing happens less often. The sinks are also used to rinse other crops when they need it! Simple, effective!!

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19 Comments

  1. Excellent re-purposing of an appliance, until this moment I thought the best thing you could do with an old appliance was make a smoker out of an old refrigerator, but your greens spinner is awesome.

  2. My family has used a washing machine to spin-dry lettuce since 1980, when an article in the New York Times mentioned it as an alternative to the expensive and new-to-the-market “salad spinner.” But your photo makes me smile, because I always hated taking the lettuce down to the dreary basement laundry room, and it would be much more fun to just take it outside!

  3. Meps: That’s a funny image! It sounds like you had the washer doing double duty. Plucking wads of salad out of pockets… :)

  4. Dear Sir  /Ms
    we are requested by one of our client for  vegetable  washing and drying machine based on 15kg per hour .

    kindly informed us is is it available by you .

    REGARDS
    AHMAD RASTEGHAR

  5. Drive shed clean-up | Tiny Farm Blog

    […] for years, in case it could become as useful as its companion the top-loading washer has been as a heavy-duty salad spinner. And so on. Every little item in the pic has its purpose. Nothing fancy, no expensive bits of […]

  6. Victoria Sievers

    I’ve used my top-loading washing machine spin cycle for greens drying since 1978.  Works beautifully, but now I’m considering buying a front loader, and new front-loaders spin three to four times faster.  Any experience with this?  Thanks.

  7. ahmad: Um, no. :)

    Victoria: Haven’t heard of a front-loader being used. I haven’t watched one in a while, so I forget what the pick-up is like in spin cycle. It could work, but I guess it requires faster revolutions to work vertically against gravity, and that wouldn’t be good for leaves, likely crush ’em too much. But you can always try it out. See also my next bit…

    Tessa: This Maytag had a tiny little set-screw somewhere around the base of the agitator (I forget where exactly, but you could just reach in with a tiny Allen key).

    As for the amount of produce, that’s trial and error. We’ve used it exclusively for baby leaf lettuce and spinach at all sizes, and both are different. I started off loading quite a bit, maybe 15 lbs at a time, and letting it get up to speed and spin for a couple of minutes. That worked OK, but the lettuce tended to get a bit crushed, which made it like veiny, and some of the spinach kinda tore and shredded. So we reduced the amount, and the spin time.

    Now, I’ll do maybe 8-10 lbs of lettuce at a time, and spin it twice, both times letting it only barely get up to speed, and opening it and loosening it up between. For spinach, I do about the same weight, but only one spin, and don’t it get quite up to speed.

    Doing less of course takes a little longer, but the results are much better, no damage. You have to experiment.

    Overall, it’s probably not the perfect leaf-drying solution, but if you have the machine sitting there ready to use, it is pretty great for handling a fair volume, once you fine tune your method!

  8. What a great way of putting into use an old washing machine! In addition to this great innovation, people who are interested in recycling their old washers can also try to transform the old washer drum into a glowing side table. Any creative ideas are worth trying.

  9. Zach

    Hi,  Do you put the leaves in a bag first.  How do you remove the leaves once you have washed them.  it would seem they would be stuck everywhere.  I had heard about putting them in a mesh bag or pillow case?
    thanks,z

  10. Susanna

    I spin my lettuce in my regular washing machine but first put them in a pillow case or wrap them in a clean bath towel.  No need to have an extra washing machine.

  11. Ahmad – I’ll sell you a broken washing machine if you like. But be prepared, special salad converted broken washing machines don’t come cheap.
    P.S. Nice site thanking you.
    ;-)

  12. Trevor

    As an appliance repairman, I can tell you that not all machines are ideal for this type of use. Many of them are more like cheese graters (I have the scarred knuckles to prove it). And please, for the love of god, do not expect warranty service for a machine used for a function that is so blatantly not what it is intended for. Hope it works for you folks, but from where I sit, it is a terrible idea.

  13. What a great blog and an excellent idea for drying greens. I’ve dragged my feet on this for a while,but after seeing this and reading all of the responses I’m committed to getting this up and running! It will cut my greens washing time down significantly!

    Is the only thing I have to do to retrofit is remove the agitator?!

    thanks!

    Megan
    Hand Sown Farm, MI

    • Yes, removing the agitator was all we did.

  14. Greg

    Did you convert the washer to a greens dryer electrically or mechanically? I thought I saw your video on youtube but it was a manual spinner…I was looking for a way to use the spin cycle to dry greens…thanks! Greg

    • All we did was remove the agitator. If you reread the post and one of my replies above, the trick is in loading just the right amount of the particular greens you’re drying, and then not letting it spin too fast or too long, or the leaves can get crushed or shredded. It’s a finesse thing, used full-on, a washing machine is really too powerful for delicate leaves. Once you find the balance, though, it works out pretty good if you have quite a quantity.

    • All we did was remove the agitator. I mentioned in the post and in one of my comment replies that the trick is in loading just the right amount of the particular greens you’re drying (don’t overload), and then not letting it spin too fast or too long, or the leaves can get crushed or shredded. It’s a finesse thing, used full-on, a washing machine is really too powerful for delicate leaves. Once you find the balance, though, it works out pretty good if you have quite a quantity. If you could figure out a way to lower the spinning speed quite a bit, then loading a lot more at once might work out, but at that point you could probably build a custom greens spinner. I took the quick way. :)

  15. I’ve been wanting to try this, thanks for posting. I only harvest in morning as I’ve noticed lettuce can have a bitter taste sometimes when harvesting later, not because it’s gone to seed or it’s summer either. It took me forever to figure that one out !

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