Laundry requires so little, and I despise it so much
November 17, 2020 1:32 PM   Subscribe

Rachel Sugar explores the history of washing clothes (Vox) and recent attempts to outsource it (again) or “luxify” the process.
posted by adrianhon (63 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
 
I like doing laundry because it just goes along in the background while I do whatever else it was I was doing and at the end of it there's proof that I've done something productive even if whatever else I was doing was watching TV. That and the dishwasher are the only household tasks that require so little of me and provide so much evidence of my "work".
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 2:15 PM on November 17 [29 favorites]


I try to make a habit of thanking my mechanical servants - primarily the washing machine and the dishwasher - for their hard work each time I empty them.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 2:35 PM on November 17 [8 favorites]


I don't thank mine. This may be why the dryer recently decided to tie a duvet cover into a massive knot that was last used on square riggers in the eighteenth century.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:39 PM on November 17 [42 favorites]


When the pandemic is over I will never again take the laundromat for granted. Five loads done in two hours, versus the all-day event dictated by the single wee machine I have access to now. Still, it’s better than washing by hand.
posted by corey flood at 2:40 PM on November 17 [6 favorites]


My bougie #lifegoals dream is to have enough disposable income to send my laundry out and get those spoons back. The laundry never ends. It is always there, unfinished. Sometimes it's just the dry cleaning and delicates that remain, but it's still laundry. It does not negotiate, it does not listen when you beg it to please, just this once, do itself. It is a relentless cycle of gather-sort-wash-dry-fold-put away that is exhausting just to think about. And that's just the regular ol' laundry, I'm not even talking about my $150 bras that never, ever go in the washer or dryer, or the dress shirts that go the the cleaners because if you think I have a hard time doing this, I'm sure as hell not doing any goddamned ironing.
Laundry is bullshit, is what I'm saying.
posted by ApathyGirl at 2:41 PM on November 17 [11 favorites]


Props to the essay for citing historians of housework, but I thought it was too subjective to carry much load. (Or just enough history to slide in a couple of adverts, which is creepier.) I’d look for a conversation with someone who has chosen to dress to minimize laundry hassle - all one color, or durable synthetics, or just clothes so simple you might as well dress out of the clean basket, or something I haven’t thought of. And talk to a professional dry cleaner, wet cleaner, and specialty cleaner! How much better are they at it than we are? How does their job suck?

Laundromats you can’t read in, or leave the joint to cross the street to a coffee shop, yes those are worse quality of life.
posted by clew at 2:46 PM on November 17 [2 favorites]


I like doing laundry too because whatever else is going on I can tell myself I am multitasking and being highly productive!
posted by supermedusa at 2:51 PM on November 17 [6 favorites]


The only part I mind about laundry is having to make a special bank trip to buy quarters to feed it.
posted by Greg_Ace at 2:57 PM on November 17 [7 favorites]


That's the problem with every home task isn't it? That it never ends? I actually like laundry comparatively because the washer and dryer work way better than my dishwasher, roomba, or the medieval mop.
posted by The_Vegetables at 2:59 PM on November 17 [1 favorite]


Whenever laundry comes up on Metafilter I feel compelled to go do my semi-regular analysis of the state of robotic laundry machines. Unfortunately the Laundroid folks went into bankruptcy. Foldimate are still there but their machine seems like only a modest improvement on hand folding.

As I’m WFH mostly (even pre-pandemic) I put in loads of laundry most days between calls. It’s the folding where everything breaks down (our washing loads are large - two kids who apparently go through 50 changes of clothes a day). I’d pay significantly more than the cost of our washer/dryer combined to have a machine a couple of generations on from the Laundroid - especially if you could just dump the dried cloths in as is and come back a few hours and find it folded and sorted.
posted by inflatablekiwi at 3:01 PM on November 17 [6 favorites]


Laundry is the one household task that I genuinely enjoy. It's easy, it doesn't require personal interaction with dirt or gross stuff, and in the end I feel like I've accomplished something. Plus you can fold laundry while watching TV. I kinda think that when people moan about laundry, it's probably because they hire someone to do all the genuinely unpleasant cleaning stuff, and laundry is basically the only household task that they do. Because if you think laundry is unpleasant, try scrubbing a toilet or mopping a dirty kitchen floor.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 3:01 PM on November 17 [20 favorites]


It's also kind of an interesting compare contrast to that 'prestige trap' article posted a few days ago. I mean, the extreme economic differentiation of menial labor machines like specialized scented laundry soaps and cutting-edge machines speaks that some of those Ivy/Harvard grads do go into basic industries and apply the same marketing segmentation techniques there. You ever watch an older movie, and even in wealthy people's houses they have formica (or uggh - tile!!) countertops and a basic refrigerator? You can see the history before they came on and MBA'd everything.
posted by The_Vegetables at 3:09 PM on November 17


I'm single and have no kids, so I only have to do my own laundry. And I am extremely grateful to my parents, who taught me by example that you don't have to do anything fancy to laundry. You don't have to separate colors from whites. You don't have to hang things dry. You don't have to wash most things by hand, and if it is something that needs to be washed by hand, do you really need it? But people often act like I am crazy or stupid or just a contrarian when I say this.

(Apparently you are supposed to wash bras by hand, and I don't wear bras anymore, so I have no dog in that fight, but when I did, I never once washed one by hand and it was fine. I also don't fold laundry after it's done, which I realize is a bit extreme but I blame/thank executive dysfunction for that one.)

When I hear people complaining about laundry, I assume they have a lot of kids who are constantly getting things dirty, and I assume for most of them, it's just the constant drudgery of keeping up with it, which I get because that's how I feel about dishes. But I do think there's also so much expectation put on women not just to do laundry, but to do it "right" - separating things, air-drying jeans, etc. and I really just think that advertising companies are to blame for that because the difference in outcomes is marginal.

(It is REALLY nice to have a washer and dryer in one's home, and I have nothing but sympathy and respect for parents who keep everyone's clothes clean without them)
posted by lunasol at 3:14 PM on November 17 [10 favorites]


You ever watch an older movie, and even in wealthy people's houses they have formica (or uggh - tile!!) countertops and a basic refrigerator?

I really miss tile countertops!
posted by lunasol at 3:15 PM on November 17


You don't have to wash most things by hand, and if it is something that needs to be washed by hand, do you really need it? ... Apparently you are supposed to wash bras by hand, and I don't wear bras anymore, so I have no dog in that fight, but when I did, I never once washed one by hand and it was fine.

My 42HH breasts require bras that can only be purchased at specialty shops and I've learned over the 20 years of having them that there are at least two universal truths when it comes to supporting and lugging these girls around:
1) Underwire ends are gonna pop out whether you hand-wash or not, but machine washing weakens and will eventually break underwires in the middle.
2) Popped underwires are an easy repair & reinforcement. Broken ones, not so much.

ProTip: Got an old Salad Spinner in the cupboard collecting dust? Put your hand-washed delicates in there and voila! Now it's a spin cycle for all the stuff that can't go in the washer.
posted by ApathyGirl at 3:32 PM on November 17 [29 favorites]


I used to have a washing machine that had an invisible sharp bit somewhere that inevitably came into contact with my hand/arm whenever I was either taking wet laundry out or putting large amounts of dirty clothes in. We used to joke that it required a blood sacrifice, but for all that, it didn't even do that good a job.
posted by 41swans at 4:02 PM on November 17 [2 favorites]


As a friend of mine once said: If you’re not doing the laundry naked, the laundry is never done.
posted by dbmcd at 4:03 PM on November 17 [20 favorites]


Laundry during all this....has been weird. There's a laundromat I used that was open 24/7 and took credit cards, but I don't know if it's open regularly or even survived. My apartment building has two washers 3 dryers downstairs, but those take quarters and my local credit union was closed to visitors for most of the year, and now there's a coin shortage.

So I've been handwashing what I need, and air drying, which has worked out not too badly, but man I regret not getting an apartment without in-unit laundry.
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 4:07 PM on November 17 [3 favorites]


I spent more than a few years collecting quarters (in the Dark Ages before credit-card swipers were everywhere), lugging the cart to the laundromat, and Doing Laundry was a scheduled event where you spent the entire evening in a cold, noisy, dirty laundromat, every 2 weeks or so. And always some creepy guy. And someone hogging the dryers.

I was so so happy when I moved cross country, to where apartments are built as such and not just a few rooms with a stove and a refrigerator in one of them (ie, Boston). I remember the first time I had the dishwasher! and the laundry in my own apartment! going at once and I thought, wow, this is luxury.

It is still really nice to have the laundry in the warm, dry house.
posted by Dashy at 4:12 PM on November 17 [5 favorites]


I sincerely like doing the laundry. Folding the laundry, not so much.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:21 PM on November 17 [5 favorites]


I realized I don't actually fold any laundry. Everything is either hung up (shirts, pants) or just thrown in a container (socks, underwear --- what, am I going to worry they get wrinkled or something?). It still means work putting away (hanging up) so I'm not sure its faster or anything, just that I was surprised how many people talked about folding. Obviously this will vary by both type of clothing (I assume) and what kind of storage you have.

Back when I was younger and didn't have any in-unit laundry machines I hated laundry, once I was able to have my own machines in the house it became pretty much the least annoying of the cleaning tasks.
posted by thefoxgod at 4:53 PM on November 17


Laundry is easily the least objectionable regular job around the house. It never even occurred to me that folding was a separate task. The only bit I have any issue with is putting clean sheets on the bed. I have a real block about that for some reason.
posted by biffa at 4:57 PM on November 17 [1 favorite]


I am the odd man out among almost everyone I know in that both laundry and dishwashing are sacraments in my personal philosophical practice and virtually everyone else I know hates those things with a kind of virulence that I personally reserve for church, post-apocalyptic sci-fi, watching team sports that are not curling, and attending weddings.

I thought for a while that it all came down to my adoration of laundromats, one of the new things in the world I discovered when was expelled from high school and left home at seventeen to find my way outside the familiar environs of decreasingly-rural Scaggsville, Maryland. They were and remain superb places from which to watch people, to take in overhead conversations and the mechanics of how other people talk, and to come to peace with the root cause of popular boredom, which is an inability to sit quietly in a space, doing nothing but letting the mind roam, or taking in radio drama on a portable music player.

I suppose that it'll never be considered a domestic art on the level of cooking, because you can't eat clothes, as a rule, and the subtle delight of making your clothes last longer and wear better lacks the appeal of the instantaneous, but when I rhapsodize over my pleasure of the process of laundry, I get the same ever-so-slightly rolled eyes I get from trying to convey the joy I get when approaching a sink full of dirty dishes and then methodically turning chaos into order. I cannot solve the world's political problems, defeat the divisions between world powers, or correct the suffering of people living far from me, but I can wipe out the sink at the end of the day with rack of dishes drying in the dark.

Where I live, there is some vestigial cultural fondness for the particular scent and experience of taking freshly dried laundry off a line and folding it, but it's not something that is sufficiently nostalgic as to change people's level of interest, but both the process of artfully hanging wet laundry and collecting those dry clothes possess an energy that speaks to me.

When I was in the most fundamentalist throes of my laundry fixation, I bought a well-worn 1951 Apex wringer washer to fully embrace the experience, which led my blue collar Baltimore grandmother to say, "Oh Joe-B, you shoulda told me you wanted a warsher—I'd have loaned you some money so you wouldn't have to buy such an old one!" She then showed me, and a number of older women would also eventually show me, as well, upon hearing that I'd intentionally purchased a wringer washer, the scar where she'd been pulled into the wringer and marred with a fierce rubber burn before she could kick the plug out of the wall.

I washed with that old Apex for a decade before a broken gear in the transmission proved to be made of unobtanium, but I knew full well that my experience of laundry, as a single guy living alone, was redolent of a kind of privilege, having had that explained to me by a number of bemused and patient women of a certain age. I was lucky, in a roundabout way, to spend almost my entire adult life living alone, so I could make some qualitative decisions about reducing the level of complexity in the task, so I removed white from the spectrum of clothes I'd wear, eliminated fabrics that required complicated handling, dressed in colors that can all be washed together in cold water most of the time and hot if they had tough stains, and avoided anything that needed ironing beyond the natural flattening effect of a clothesline.

This year, of course, turned everything upside-down.

I went from a comfortable monastic agnostic existence to sheltering at the too large and definitely too-suburban home of my recent gentleman caller, having not shared a bathroom or kitchen with another person for thirty years and suddenly finding myself living away from my cozy apartment in a walkable small town with another man and an 8-year-old in a 50/50 custody circulation. There's no clothesline, I hate drying clothes in dryers, and I tend to want to do all the laundry, but a family of suburban-raised conventional people that upsets my rituals has been hard, so I often insist on doing my own laundry my own way, using a rack in the house like a European person, and doing their laundry their own soulless, smelly, horrible way.

"What are you making, Joe-B?" asks Little Miss, my quasi-stepchild, as I'm stirring a giant cauldron of strange-smelling goo.

"Laundry detergent."

"Why don't you just buy it at the store like daddy?"

I want to tell her that I have occasionally been very, very poor and that I started making my own laundry detergent out of old motel soaps, borax, and washing soda because it was about ten times cheaper than store-bought and didn't make so much plastic trash, but as she relays many of these things to her mother, a woman I've barely met, but who can't stand my existence, I defer to wry puffery.

"Oh, hon," I say, "I'm making artisanal laundry detergent. It's better than store-bought." It sounds exactly like the kind of thing a so-called hipster would say, and I'm okay with that.

"Can I help?"

"It's a lot of stirring, baby."

"I can stir!"

I give her the big spoon, but her interest peters out after a while, and she wanders off. With no one around, I use the immersion blender I found at a thrift store, which really takes my motel soap detergent to the next level.

I'll probably stay here, and in the same way I have a pang over the thought that I'll be leaving behind the big 1940s gas range on which I mastered Escoffier's five mother sauces, I dread having to dispose of the ramshackle washing machine I got from my client, which I've repaired frequently, but will likely no longer need. Next year, I'll put up a lovely aluminum clothesline tree, which I've laid out in my list of my-way-or-the-highway requirements for pulling up stakes and moving to the…ugh…suburbs, and will start browbeating the household into learning the basics of proper laundry even as I further come to understand why women of a certain age would find my laundry romance inexplicable (the mere thought of having to keep up with even one more child makes the prevalence of Valium and infanticide relatable).

My grandmother had a clothesline on pulleys that reached from the concrete back stoop to the alley, and I hang with her as she'd reel the dry clothes back in in the afternoons. She'd pull the lines, and the metal rings that kept the lines together when heavy things were hanging would ring like little Buddhist meditation bells as blouses and trousers and her husband's coveralls would roll our way.

"Joe-B, could you fold those for me before they wrinkle?"

"Okay," I'd said, with a little pre-teen huff in my voice, as I folded them on the cast-iron garden table. She'd pause, the little rings going quiet, and straighten my sloppy folds.

"Why are you smiling? Aren't you bored?" I asked.

"No. It's a beautiful day and the bluebird of happiness is on the wing."

"Where?"

"It's just something people say, Joe-B. If there's something you have to do, you can either hate it or find out how to love it. I'd rather find out, myself. Everything takes longer when you're not enjoying it."

Enjoying laundry? That'll be the day.

Little Miss watched me carefully measuring a spot on the wall, eyeballing the balance between where my electric bass hung on a hook and the corner, and I marked the position, installed a nice screw-in drywall anchor, and carefully hung up a curious metal object of cast aluminum with a textured double spiral and a circular, slightly domed base.

"Joe-B?"

"Yes, darlin'?"

"What's that?" she asked, as I straightened it up on the wall and admired it there.

"That, young lady, is the agitator from a 1951 Apex wringer washing machine."

"Why's it on the wall?"

"Because it is a fine and beautiful object that makes me feel happy."

"Why?"

"It's the joy of laundry made incarnate," I said, and yeah, she's eight and I am a pompous old man who's possibly too hidebound to be suddenly coparenting an eight-year-old at 52, but like my own parents, I never dumb things down. It looks lovely there, and yet I am momentarily filled with a wrenching panic that this is not my beautiful house, but it passes.

"It looks cool," she says, "Kinda like a seashell or that fossil of an ammonia like you have on your desk."

"An ammonite. Yes, hon—it does."

I carried three laundry bags downstairs and loaded the washing machine.

The passage of my life is measured out in shirts.
posted by sonascope at 5:06 PM on November 17 [85 favorites]


After being abandoned by her husband with seven children to care for, my great-grandmother Malvina went to work doing laundry for a local clergyman. Thinking it would lighten the load, he purchased a brand-new electric washing machine. It somehow electrocuted her instead.
posted by kinnakeet at 5:08 PM on November 17 [7 favorites]


What I wouldn't give for an in-unit washing machine. (There are, as far as I can tell, none to be had in my town unless I buy a house; even the apartments that absurdly charged $1200 for a not-that-luxurious apartment in rural central Iowa had shared laundry facilities).

I used to be able to do my laundry in my building, though I had to compete with the families with three kids, and families with three kids generate an absurd amount of laundry. My knees are not young enough to enjoy going down two flights of stairs with a laundry basket and then up two flights of stairs with a laundry basket multiple times a day because each time I'm convinced that surely by now they must have taken their laundry out of the machine!

But I can't get quarters anymore, so I have to go to the laundromat uptown that takes credit cards.

Someday I will move, and buy a house, and that house will have a ridiculously nice oven, a ridiculously nice fridge, and a medium-nice washing machine.
posted by Jeanne at 5:15 PM on November 17 [3 favorites]


I always hated using the laundromat. Aside from the sometimes weird human interactions, I was great at picking the dryer that had a broken heating element. Using your last quarters to end up with cold soggy clothes is a terrible feeling.

With a washing machine at home, I don't love doing laundry, but I don't resent it either.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:18 PM on November 17 [3 favorites]


I had great laundromats when I lived in New Orleans. The one on Elysian Fields run by an older brother & sister who, I came to learn, were refugees from SE Asia. He had been a monk, and was missing several fingers. He wore a knit glove over that hand, year-round. His sister never talked to me, and never smiled that I saw. The dryers had open gas flames that roared away in the back of the machines, it was so hot there in the summer. He was kind to me.

When I moved to mid-city, I went to Wash Dry Fold, where smoking indoors was permitted (ugh) and often one of the owners would be eating their fried chicken lunch on one of the folding tables. It was a great neighborhood scene. There was a giant tv screen , you could sit on a hard plastic chair and get a crick in your neck while you waited for the dryer.

As a kid we used to cross the border to do it, it was a whole day. Two adults’ and five kids’ worth. Imagine going through customs just to do the wash!
posted by Lawn Beaver at 5:36 PM on November 17 [8 favorites]


for whatever it’s worth portable washers that you hook up to a sink are small, but not bad, and portable dryers are likewise small, but not bad. don’t get the cheapest ones, but don’t pay as much as you would for a real washer/dryer. hide it from the landlord should the landlord try to inspect, because they are forbidden in some leases. but fuck that — it’s not some property-owner’s apartment, it’s your apartment. every landlord is a predator and a thief, but most are simple-minded predators and thieves that you know how to manage. hide the washer if the dumb animal that claims to own your apartment invades, along with all the other stuff the animal thinks it can forbid you from using in your own home.

note: portable washer/dryers are effective and handy, but indeed fairly small. if you’re doing laundry for more than three people you have to accept that they’ll be running pretty much all day every day.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 5:38 PM on November 17 [1 favorite]


Down in the wilds of Australia - there is the Machine Laundry Cafe - which has been going for over two decades.

They were hipster before there even was hipster.
posted by Barbara Spitzer at 5:51 PM on November 17 [2 favorites]


.....the Dark Ages before credit-card swipers were everywhere

I'm not intending to put any card I own, ever, into a swiper at a car wash or laundromat or any other quarter-hungry service. Maybe the ones at gas pumps are just as likely to be hacked but I am drawing the line there.
posted by thelonius at 6:02 PM on November 17 [2 favorites]


I actually much prefer handwashing. Not in the US, but in Central America and anywhere else where the facilities are designed for it.

I LOVE those concrete laundry sinks.

With handwashing, I only have to do it once, and my attention is undivided. With machine washing, I have to come back to it several times. With handwashing, it's easier to be present during the laundry-doing. And the sun dries everything afterwards.
posted by aniola at 6:05 PM on November 17 [2 favorites]


Our machines now use either an an app or a card (that reloads via a machine that takes paper money), so I don't need to use quarters anymore. It is still a pain to drag the laundry down a flight of steps and across an outside courtyard to the laundry room, but we just got new machines so there is that. I still remember my grandmother in the basement running her clothes through the wringer washer, so this is a vast improvement over that.

(This is a sincere offer to the folks that need quarters and can't get them - if anyone wants our stash of about $25 dollars in quarters, I will happily mail it to you as an early holiday gift. Or if a couple of people do, I will split it up between you. Just memail me.)
posted by gudrun at 6:06 PM on November 17


For those of you interested in the history of laundry, I highly recommend a series of documentaries I've been watching that starts with Tales From The Green Valley, which recreates a farm from the 1620s, and goes on to Victorian Farm, Edwardian Farm, Wartime Farm, and Tudor Monastery Farm. Watching historian Ruth Goodman come to grips with the laundry is always one of the most fascinating parts of the show.
posted by MrVisible at 6:29 PM on November 17 [2 favorites]


Thinking of Ruth Goodman - the linked article cites a historian claiming that body linen was rarely washed, which is hardly what Goodman thinks (or Shakespeare’s Merry Wives, for that matter). The history in question seems to be only of Colonial and US cleaning habits.
posted by clew at 7:58 PM on November 17 [4 favorites]


As a parent of a young child who is using cloth diapers, my average laundry throughput is about 8 loads/week.

You know how at Passover, every generation is supposed to feel like they personally came out of Egypt? I feel like I was personally present for the invention of the washing machine, and it led me out of bondage.
posted by aws17576 at 8:55 PM on November 17 [5 favorites]


If anyone is up for an entertaining podcast to listen to while you do your laundry, this limited-run one (with guests like Janeane Garofalo, Patti Harrison, Cole Escola, David Cross, the guys form Pete & Pete) is all about laundry. And very rewarding if you start from the beginning. I wish more people had listened to it. I thought I was a real laundry-head until I did, but now I know I'll never reach that level (and that's probably for the best).
posted by witchen at 9:11 PM on November 17 [2 favorites]


What true luxury looks like to me is a kitchen with two dishwashers, no crockery storage cupboards or cutlery drawers, and just enough cutlery and crockery to fill one of the dishwashers.

No more unstacking. Ever. Just switch on one of the dishwashers whenever it fills up with used stuff and call it Job Done.

#FirstWorldDreams
posted by flabdablet at 12:49 AM on November 18 [5 favorites]


I rather like folding, but I'm just washing for myself, and it's not as though I want to do more of it. However, at this level, it's satisfying to see my treasured t-shirts nice and smooth.
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 1:21 AM on November 18


I like to take a bit of care as I hang my wet shirts on the drying rack, so by the time they're dry they're already half folded as I pull them off.
posted by flabdablet at 1:51 AM on November 18 [1 favorite]


I like doing laundry on the whole except for one item: fitted sheets.

And I actually do a pretty good job with fitted sheets (the secret is to tuck the corners into themselves). It’s just they are usually in the same load as towels and I’m just resentful of the contrast in effort in folding them. Fitted sheets are the diva actresses of the laundry hamper with riders that include items like “bowl of only red m&ms”.
posted by like_neon at 5:07 AM on November 18 [3 favorites]


I have a confession to make: I never fold fitted sheets. I take the fitted sheet off the bed, wash it and dry it, and put it back on the bed. Life is too short to fold fitted sheets. I have spare fitted sheets, but I never touch them.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:16 AM on November 18 [10 favorites]


My most recent flash of "I'm living in the future" was when I got an email from my washing machine scolding me that had used too much soap in my last load and that it had been counting my loads and I was overdue to run a cleaning cycle.
posted by achrise at 7:16 AM on November 18 [6 favorites]


My most recent flash of "I'm living in the future" was when I got an email from my washing machine scolding me that had used too much soap in my last load and that it had been counting my loads and I was overdue to run a cleaning cycle.

But a dystopian future because you can't snark back, telling it to use some of that extra soap to clean itself.
posted by The_Vegetables at 8:23 AM on November 18 [2 favorites]


my great-grandmother Malvina went to work doing laundry for a local clergyman. Thinking it would lighten the load, he purchased a brand-new electric washing machine. It somehow electrocuted her instead.

Early adopters of new technologies face hurdles. In my mom’s first job almost sixty years ago, she was interested to see that the office had a photocopier, an item she knew of only secondhand. It was a thermal copier, and in her first test run with it, she decided she would photocopy her drivers’ license.

She set the license on fire.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:25 AM on November 18 [5 favorites]


My spouse and I have an agreement - he washes the pots and pans, and I do the laundry. I help wash any dishes that can go into the dishwasher, and he will help with folding if he's in the room when I'm doing it (rare, but happens every couple of months). And he won't let me pair his socks, because even though they're all identical, he matches by texture and I apparently am not as good at this as he is. We each think we have the better deal.

I like folding, and for the last few months I've doing it the Marie Kondo way, which is super satisfying. But I know that that's the big stopper for a lot of people. I've worked with some of the people at Foldimate, and it's amazing what the machine can do, but you still have to feed it each garment. Folding is still pretty much impossible to fully automate, because it requires so much space to spread the items out, needs to be able to differentiate between a tank top and a dishtowel, can't handle socks... and forget about fitted sheets. But I don't think there's many people out there who wouldn't get a dump-all-your-clean-clothes-in-and-get-a-folded-pile-out if that ever becomes available.

I don't think anything makes me as hell-is-other-people-y as having to share machines with others. I hate having to rush to be there the second mine is done so that no one touches my stuff. I hate that there are people who will see a washer filled with clean laundry and decide to move it to a dryer to be "nice" - and especially when they run the dryer (some things need to hang dry!) Or worse - take it out of the machine and leave it on a table wet (!!! who does that?!) And I hate hate hate when people leave their clothes in the machine for hours - or worse, overnight - so I can't use the machine unless I become the hateful person who touches someone else's stuff. Which generally means I wait and keep coming back to check if it's free, so I won't be that person. Which then means that there's a non-zero chance that someone else who's also been patiently waiting will swoop in first and take that machine before I get to it.

We have free communal machines in our building, and it's great because they're commercial-size, so I can get all my laundry done in a morning. But it's definitely making me less fond of my neighbors.

Sorry this was so long, but apparently I have Opinions about laundry.
posted by Mchelly at 8:33 AM on November 18 [4 favorites]


It's ok to be that person Mchelly, I wouldn't mind.
posted by aniola at 9:09 AM on November 18 [3 favorites]


I have had to do laundry by hand more than a few times in the past 12 months - sometimes with collected rainwater, ugh - and I currently have functional laundry machines at home for the first time in maybe 10 years and I love it.

Hand washing laundry in a bucket is a huge pain in the ass, especially with cold water and then trying to line dry it somewhere cold and rainy. It's a great way to make all of your clothes smell like mildew.

But for the last few years my laundry situation was such a pain that when I visited my friends in Seattle I would actually pack up about 40 pounds of dirty laundry just so I could use their fancy modern LG machines and wash stuff like my goretex rain jacket and other favorite or functional clothes because it did an even better job than the local laundromat.

And it wasn't really much more effort than trying to haul my laundry to the local laundromat via bus or bicycle despite being about 150+ miles of extra distance. If anything it was slightly easier because I didn't have to walk and carry a huge load of laundry from the bus stop nearest the laundromat, whereas when I visited my friends all I really had to do was short walks for transfers between buses and ferries and stuff.

And I seriously don't miss apartment laundromats. They're always overpriced for the captive audience and people would hog all of the machines at once and then leave wet clothes in washers for hours on end and so availability was often artificially restricted by people being thoughtless and selfish. More than a few times I'd chide people for taking up all of the washers at the same time because it was super rude to do in a large apartment building where someone might only have a small window of time to do laundry between shifts at work.

Which is why I'm that jerk that absolutely will move someone's wet laundry from the washer and dump it on the nearest folding table or on top of the dirty washer if they're not timely about moving it on to the dryer or whatever.

Thankfully at home now people are pretty good about not doing that or not minding if someone moves it from the washer to dryer and then dump it on the laundry room table or what have you.

Also in the event of grid collapse the first thing I'm probably going to invent or build is a solar or bicycle powered washing machine. Doing laundry by hand is seriously hard work.
posted by loquacious at 9:16 AM on November 18 [1 favorite]


ProTip: Got an old Salad Spinner in the cupboard collecting dust? Put your hand-washed delicates in there and voila! Now it's a spin cycle for all the stuff that can't go in the washer.

Apathy Girl,
Don't mean to be dim, but do you put the salad spinner avec lacey/wired smalls inside the brutal washing machine, with the salad spinner top on, to get the desired flow-through? That would be amazing,
posted by Jody Tresidder at 9:24 AM on November 18


Honestly, one of my biggest leveling up moments was finally getting an apartment with an in-unit washer and dryer.

I still loathe doing laundry (and it's hateful counterpart, PUTTING THE DAMN CLOTHES AWAY) but OMG not having to go to the laundromat, or share machines with infuriating neighbors has probably increased my life expectancy.

I wish I could give everyone that gift!
posted by Space Kitty at 10:04 AM on November 18 [2 favorites]


Apathy Girl,
Don't mean to be dim, but do you put the salad spinner avec lacey/wired smalls inside the brutal washing machine, with the salad spinner top on, to get the desired flow-through?

Huh. That's not dim at all. This had not occurred to me. The (older version of the) secondhand spinner I have is, I think, intended to also be greens storage in the fridge, so none of the three parts work without the other. It's hand-
I also batch hand-wash and rinse all my bras in the bathtub, which sounds like a lot of hassle, but it's faster and easier on me than trying to do it in the sink. I can spread them out and soak and swish them around. Uses less water and fancy-ass bra wash, too. I don't hate bra-washing day anymore, now.
posted by ApathyGirl at 11:02 AM on November 18 [1 favorite]


This is secondhand, but I know someone with an MBA whose team in "propose a startup to venture capitalists" class chose a bunch of improvements to shared laundry machines. The capitalists were totally dismissive because shared machines - here I’m probably exaggerating the memory - 'no one uses them and they’re all poor anyway'.

The students had of course researched the market and the possible ROI looked fine based on that, and I think they were all living with some kind of shared laundry at the time.

I don’t know how many of them were eventually indoctrinated and how many are still suspicious of capital’s decrees from that much further into the machine.
posted by clew at 11:19 AM on November 18 [1 favorite]


Growing up we used a washer only for very large items, everything else was washed by hand and hung up to dry in the sun. I find doing laundry in the washing machine and dryer an annoying but necessary chore, with children and 3 dogs in the house, but I genuinely enjoy washing delicates by hand.

It was the children's responsibility to run out and collect the laundry at the first sign of rain. The trouble we would get into if the drying laundry got wet in the rain...

Even now after 20 years of washers and driers I can tell it is about to start raining when I feel a compulsion to do something about the laundry. Like a few days ago I had this intrusive thought of mismatched socks, I could not pay attention to a meeting because I knew that I had paired one of the old socks with one of the new ones(1), and I had to fix it right now. Then is started raining and the image went away.

(1) My socks, except for one pair of full cushioned extra long hunting socks, are all exactly the same make, but one batch I bought in 2014(i) and the other batch at the beginning of 2020, and there is a slight difference in texture and cushioning that is important to me.

(i) Not sponsored by them in any way, I love Darn Tough cushioned merino wool socks. They are between $15 and $20 a pair but my 4(a) pairs of 6 year old socks are almost as good as new, very comfortable and don't stink. I got another 4 pairs this year because I worry that making socks that last 10 times longer than usual is not a sustainable business model

(a) They don't stink, so I wear them for two days in a row, 4 pairs are enough for a weekly laundry schedule.
posted by Dr. Curare at 11:25 AM on November 18 [1 favorite]


Now that is a testament to socks and useful in present-shopping season. Wouldn’t two days but a day off in between be even better, like with leather boots?

(You probably live somewhere house air isdryer than mine in winter, though.)
posted by clew at 11:29 AM on November 18


Wouldn’t two days but a day off in between be even better, like with leather boots?

Makes sense, but that would require planning and organization on my part. The socks feel dry and fresh enough in the morning after spending all night on the floor or on the couch (planning and organization) and I wear work boots almost every day.

This is the thing with good quality wool, it wont stink as much as synthetics and can be mended easily, is still somewhat comfortable when wet and will not kill you from hypothermia like cotton, lasts a long time if you take care of it, and it gets better with age, and it is relatively fireproof and insulating (I've used a wool sock to fish a spoon from the middle of a campfire and to move embers around). On the other hand it is expensive, requires a little bit more care, and is not vegan.

If I could send a message to my younger hitch-hiking, rough camping self it would be to stop buying cotton and synthetics over and over again and just spend the money on some good wool garments (also to drink more water and do some stretches).


(You probably live somewhere house air is dryer than mine in winter, though.)

I live in a sub-tropical climate where humidity averages from 30% just before the rainy season to 80% in August. Right now it is at 38%.

Sorry for the socks derail.
posted by Dr. Curare at 12:35 PM on November 18 [1 favorite]


Americans, and probably others, tend to wear an item of clothing 1 time, and wash it. I wear outer things until they are soiled or have a smell, or seem grubby, so laundry is reduced. Most stuff goes on the drying rack in the furnace room. On sunny days it goes outside on the deck railing. Things like comforters are not washed frequently. I think people hate it because you keep doing it and it's never done. I find it pretty easy and mindless. I kind of like folding laundry - order out of chaos. I used to share the dryer with the other apartment in the old house; you learn too much about people that way. 1 woman would take my not-dry stuff out of the dryer when she wanted to use it and I did want to cause her harm. I separate out white stuff. Things with elastic never go in the dryer, as it reduces their lifespan considerably.

Making clothing last and reducing dryer use spares carbon, also, not ironing, which no one does anymore, anyway. It's a not-unpleasant task that I enjoy not doing anymore. My Mom told stories of her Mom spending a full day every week on laundry, Mom had one of those ironing mangles, a terrifying item. The washer is magic, so easy.

I don't fold tshirts or towels in thirds; some find this shocking.
posted by theora55 at 1:59 PM on November 18 [1 favorite]


Laundry is the easiest of domestic chores. Cleaning the bathroom and mopping floors--those are terrible tasks. I'm grateful every day for having a washer and dryer in my house. Laundromats are hell.
posted by Sassenach at 9:16 AM on November 19 [3 favorites]


It started when I was injured and couldn't do it myself. Now poodle sees me start sorting loads and automatically checks under all the beds for stray socks. She doesn't need a flashlight either. Best dog ever.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 10:17 AM on November 19 [7 favorites]


Americans, and probably others, tend to wear an item of clothing 1 time, and wash it. I wear outer things until they are soiled or have a smell, or seem grubby, so laundry is reduced.
--posted by theora55 at 4:59 PM on November 18


Disclaimer: I work for a major appliance manufacturer, and had to learn a bit about the history of laundry in the USA in the course of my job.

Per the folks on our Laundry Team, what theora55 said correct. In addition, the major way people used to deal with the backbreaking labor of laundry was by simply having less clothing--a lot less, by today's standards. I remember my mother (born 1936) telling me that when she was young (a) you didn't have many clothes, (b) you wore your clothes a few times before washing them, (c) when possible, you hung your clothes up in such a way as to expose them to fresh air and sunlight, to maximize repeat wearings, and (d) when you went out, you wore overclothes (coats, dusters, etc.) that were designed to help protect your clothes from dust, mud, pollution, and so forth; again, that maximized repeat wearings, and you could easily spot-clean an overcoat or raincoat without having to wash it.

The advent of the modern home clothes washers and dryers made it easier to do laundry, so over time people started buying more clothing and not re-wearing them. That ended up reducing the labor gains originally created by those same devices.

A friend and I have in the last year or so moved to capsule wardrobes. As a SINK (single-income-no-kids) woman, I'm confident my laundry load was as nothing compared to people kids or other loved ones living with them. Still, going to the capsule format has meant that I went from doing three loads a week to one, with the occasional extra load for bedclothes or towels.
posted by magstheaxe at 11:19 AM on November 19 [6 favorites]


magstheaxe, Extra washing and drying also wears clothes out faster.
posted by theora55 at 12:55 PM on November 19


Best dog ever.

Indeed!
posted by bahama mama at 10:10 PM on November 21


No more unstacking. Ever. Just switch on one of the dishwashers whenever it fills up with used stuff and call it Job Done.

I've considered doing this with the top rack and the bottom rack of one dishwasher.
posted by bendy at 10:24 PM on November 21 [1 favorite]


I live in a building of 7 apartments and we have a coin-op washer and dryer in the basement. The stairs down to the basement are steep, and narrow, culminating in a left-hand turn at the bottom.

I hate going down there more than I have to, I kind of have to psych myself up to do laundry. However, it has two redeeming qualities:

There's a sign on the wall above the machines that asks tenants to not do laundry after 10:30 PM because it disturbs other tenants. Well guess whose bedroom is right above the machines and is the only apartment that shares a surface with them? I can do my laundry at midnight or 3AM without having to make extra trips up and down the stairs.

There was a tenant - who's long since moved - who would leave six quarters in the coin slots. And I think at one point we were all sharing the same gallon bottle of detergent and someone would always buy another one when it was empty. Similarly, I think every former tenant has left a bottle of detergent or bleach on the shelves in the room and there are twenty or thirty there, half full.
posted by bendy at 10:44 PM on November 21


I've considered doing this with the top rack and the bottom rack of one dishwasher.

I considered that too, and rejected it on the grounds that (a) I actually do want a little more crockery than that and (b) while the dishwasher is running I don't have access to clean dry things. If I'm going to go purely decadent it seems to me that I should commit to the thing.
posted by flabdablet at 11:44 PM on November 21 [1 favorite]


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