The laundry meme

15 Sep

Laundry is a big part of my home life. It’s one of those things that must be done, and with the heat and the sweat, my family and I shed our soggy clothes at least three times a day. Multiply that by three people and you get a small mountain of dirty clothes, in addition to the bedsheets, bath towels and kitchen napkins that make a pile by themselves.

I don’t particularly enjoy the process, but I love the end result: the smell of clean clothes, and the look of neatly folded garments and carefully hung shirts. I have had little time to spare for writing or reading in the past two weeks, and doing the laundry has been partly responsible for that.

As payback for the seemingly endless hours of washing that have occupied my time, I am doing the Laundry Meme, which I saw at Kerryn‘s site and which Helen also did. I liked reading how other people clean their clothes, so here’s what I do.

1) In your home, who does the laundry? Oh I do. That is a job my husband never does. When I was gone for a month he did laundry twice, which means he used all his available clothes. You can imagine the amount of laundry I had to do upon my return.

Do you sort your laundry? Yes, I do several loads.

If you sort, how many different color/fabric type groups do you sort it into? I sort pinks together (hey, there are two girls in our family), whites, reds and blues (including jeans) and darks. We use the water heater only in winter here in Pakistan,  as the water comes out hot due to the heat and strong sunlight the rest of the year, so no choice of temperatures. I do a separate load for delicate stuff, and since a lot of the fabric here is not colorfast, some things get washed by themselves.

Do you hand wash anything? Sometimes it’s easier to hand wash than use the machine, and if I want something right away, like my favorite bra, I’ll do it by hand. We brought our washing machine from America, but there is no proper connection in our rental house, and it’s too big to pass through the doors to the terrace (see below), so we bought a locally made one, which is a marvel of simplicity but it’s really small. We had to buy a separate spin ‘dryer’ though, because the washer does only that, wash.

Are there any articles of clothing that you send out to be cleaned professionally? My husband’s suits, expensive dresses and cashmere sweaters. I’ve ruined many fine clothes in the past trying to save money on dry cleaning, so I gave up doing that, but I will do spot cleaning myself.

If you have any clothes cleaned professionally, is that dry cleaning? Or regular laundering/pressing? Dry cleaning. I can do my own laundering and pressing.

At home, what detergent do you use? Any detergent additives that you regularly use? Regular commercial detergent. I try to be responsible by using less than the recommended amount, though. I haven’t found biodegradable cleaners here in Pakistan, and when I lived in the U.S. I felt cheated by the brands advertised as ‘environmentally responsible’, because they were more expensive and came in really small packages, so I couldn’t reconcile the conscience with the pocketbook.

What whiteners/brighteners do you use? Bleach, but only occasionally.

Do you use any fabric softeners? No. I once read a report about the stuff being tested on rabbits, with a horrific-looking picture of the results of the tests.

How do you handle stains? I pre-treat. If that doesn’t work I use a heavy-duty brush. If the fabric will bear it, I use a bit of bleach. My daughter and I are magnets for stains, and what works for me is to take it off immediately and try to wash the stain off before it dries. If I don’t have time to do that, I soak in water until I can get to it.

Do you use different water temperatures for your different loads? No, and I’ve grown used to it.

Do you use a tumble dryer, or do you hang your clothes to dry? Hang. I have a small, covered terrace in the back of the house and there is a tall railing there where I drape our clothes. There is another large terrace on the other side of the house, but the sun is so strong there that I stopped using it. I once forgot to turn a t-shirt inside out and the sun faded the exposed parts. The terrace also faces the road, so my clothes would always smell of dust if they were left out too long. My tumble dryer is stored away, but I may get it out in winter, when things take forever to dry off. Right now it’s so hot and sunny that cottons get dry in half an hour.

Where do you fold your clothes? Our bedroom is the coolest place in the house. Sometimes I’ll sit on the floor, sometimes I’ll sit on the bed.

Who puts the folded clothes away? Who else? If I didn’t do it, things would be sitting there until we went through the whole pile.

Do you have a certain day of the week you consider ”laundry day”? Every day is laundry day, I’m tempted to say. I try not to let the stuff accumulate, because doing the laundry here is very involved. Let me expound on that:

1 First I sort into the afore-mentioned piles.

2 Then I go to the terrace where our washer is and I fill up the washer using the hose from the one tap that is there.

3 I bring the clothes, I add detergent and turn the machine on.

4 When the washer beeps, I take out the clothes and put them in the spinner. I lower the draining pipe from the washer and let the water drain unto the floor of the terrace, where it will go down the tube to who knows where (please don’t tell me, I don’t want to know).  I turn the spinner on, using the pipe to pour water on the clothes as they spin, so the force takes the soap out. When the water comes out clean, I close the tap and let the spinner squeeze the water out. This water also drains out onto the terrace floor. I just bought myself some rubber shoes for this purpose.

5 I put the clothes out to dry and repeat the whole process. It takes a whole day if I have a lot of clothes.

About how many laundry loads do you do per week? Ideally I should do laundry every other day, to save myself some trouble, but most of the time I do laundry twice a week, so that’s ten loads probably.

Do you iron? Yes, but I would gladly give it up. When I had a live-in helper I didn’t have to do it (though so many things were ruined that I wonder if the trade-off was in my favor). I like to iron while I listen to some good music, or while playing a favorite film.


5 Responses to “The laundry meme”

  1. Helen September 16, 2007 at 5:16 am #

    Luckily, ironing is the one job Kiko’s Daddy will do. It was such a relief when he took it over and it increased my writing time so much. But I know what you mean about piles of clothes just staying there! He irons the clothes then leaves them for the laundry fairies to deal with!

    I’m a magnet for stains too, ever since Kiko came on the scene. His favourite trick is to stick a spoon in a cup of tea and splatter it down the right leg of my trousers. I ought to get a brown marker and put splodges over all my clothes and cut out the middle man!

  2. Kerryn September 16, 2007 at 6:46 am #

    I feel for you with your whole day process. When I first moved out of home I had a twin tub machine. It worked well for a while and then it didn’t. The spinner would flood with soapy water — and sometimes the bathroom would be flooded too — and I just couldn’t empty it. I started dreading laundry day, even though I normally only had two loads to do. One of the first things I bought when I could finally afford to was a new washing machine. Oh, how I loved that machine.

    I stopped using commercial detergent some months ago for a couple of reasons: budget and the desire to use something more environmentally friendly. Making it is a little labour intensive but it only needs doing every three months or so, it is cheap and the results, so far, have been worth it.

  3. lvmg (Lizzy) September 16, 2007 at 7:18 am #

    I’ve been meaning to check on your homemade detergent, Kerryn. The detergent here is very strong (I’m kind of scared of investigating further about that) and it can damage the clothes after a while.

    One of the problems in the Third World is the lack of accountability. Companies can get away with everything with impunity. My husband has been doing some consulting work for the diary industry, for example, and from the things he has learned, we’ve made the decision to stop buying milk.

  4. Kerryn September 16, 2007 at 9:11 am #

    Lizzy, the detergent is really easy — one cake of pure laundry soap (no fragrance) grated and covered with enough water to dissolve it. Put on a low heat and stir until the soap has dissolved. When it has, put it into a 10litre bucket, add a cup of washing soda (sodium carbonate, which both softens the water and removes stains) and hot water to fill the bucket. Stir until the washing soda dissolves and then let it sit overnight. It sets into a gloopy semi solid and can either be used from the bucket or decanted into bottles that you’ve recycled. Use about half a cup per wash. I’m thinking of adding some borax next time for extra stain busting goodness but want to check whether there are any harmful effects associated with that before I do (none to the environment but can irritate the skin).

    Interesting that your husband has been consulting for the dairy industry (my father is/was a dairy farmer) — I can think of one big name in the industry whose practises have done a lot to harm the industry and the consumer… I’d stop buying milk, too.

  5. BookGal September 18, 2007 at 8:32 am #

    I just have to jump in with a quick admission. I actually lost my iron for over a year. Yes, I really couldn’t find it. I finally found it, but used it for a craft project involving crayons. My mother-in-law, who I love to death, just couldn’t stand it and bought a new iron which I am not allowed to touch. She’s the only reason a tablecloth or shirt will get ironed in my house!

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