Monday, October 11, 2010

Laundry Observations

What is it with me and laundry anyway? And here too.

I have two very fancy machines here for taking care of the dirties. Frontloading beauties.

With portholes for observation if you are so inclined.

When they were new I was so inclined. I spent a good month or two singing the praises of a deceased beloved aunt for leaving me a small but rather tidy inheritance in her will a couple of years ago. So I beamed beatifically and gratefully at the machines in their efficiency. Prior to then I had gone all primitive with a pair of manual elbow-grease intensive little guys.

This windfall has eased my life considerably by providing the funds to buy such swish and environmentally green machines and the services of an electrician (several actually, long story) to wire them up. Along with some other necessary but formerly unaffordable life enhancing items.

I like to hang my clothes outdoors in the stiff sea breezes but wonder why in Maude's green earth we still haven't invented a proper clothes pin. My spring loaded ones break and drop off the line at an alarming rate, so I use the old fashioned wood kind which can be hard to wield and a challenge to buy in our disposable society.

Whatever happened to washing soda? It would do a powerful job on cleaning clothes but I can't find it anywhere.

Like wise bluing – anyone remember bluing?

I remember my grandmother's ceiling clothes-drying rack that could be lowered or lifted in front of her big open fire by means of a complicated pulley on the wall. She would fit a huge amount of clothes on the long wooden dowels and then raise it up so you wouldn't run into it.

Whatever happened to airing cupboards? We had one in our house when I was growing up and each shelf had a label thumb tacked to the shelves identifying what was in there (it was very deep). I would love taking out my warm clothes in the morning.

Waxing a little nostalgic for the way things were today. In spite of all the labour - not to mention the downside of the soot and steam from the fires.

On second thoughts, we've never had it better. I just remembered my mother boiling my father's handkerchiefs. Ew.


  1. Yes - I remember all of those items - some from just a few years ago in Yorkshire - I had an airing cupboard, washing line, clothes pegs. I remember the ceiling racks from childhood years, and the "dolly blue" , soda, starch (ugh! starchy collars!)

    My grandmother lived in a tiny village, had a wash-house (next to their cottage) where she had a big clothes boiler under which a fire had to be lit each Monday (had to be Monday) and all dirty clothes and linens would be piled into the boiling water, boiled to within an inch of their life, then hung out to dry all day, and aired over the fire on the rack. There was also a dolly tub, dolly stick ( a 3-legged affair) - and a "posher"
    all of which were used to crush, swish and generally force out dirt before the boiling.

    Your very mod-cons must be a shiny source of constant delight, WWW.

  2. Wow T!
    I'd forgotten the globby starch on all my father's collars, what a frightening mess that was and all the ironing on top of it.
    My grandfather had some spare collars (whatever happened to those?) with the collar studs, Granny often had to fix him up as he couldn't fit the studs in. It saved on fresh shirts every day.
    You raised some more memories for me obviously!
    Yes my machines are gorgeous, thanks to my lovely aunt.

  3. our local Walmart actually sells decent wooden clothes pins. I hang mine out as late into the season as possible.
    We had a drying closet when we lived in Stockholm.

  4. Hi Zuleme,
    Walmart you say? I just might have to lift my ban on shopping there!
    A drying closet sounds amazing.

  5. I'm very happy with my second hand washing machine and the washing powder I use. It does the job and the clothes come out clean enough. I swear by wooden clothes pins, because they last forever and the plastic ones always break. I don't use washing soda or bluing, because I have very few white items to wash. Dishtowels are the exception, but I even get them clean. I'm not nostalgic about the olden days, because I do remember my mother washing out back with a very primitive washing machine on Mondays and clothes soaking in the tub. I don't think she had much fun on washing days. Life's much improved since then.

  6. You can see how long my nostalgia lasted Nora, right up to the handkerchiefs, that cured me!
    there was absolutely no fun on washdays in my house. Far too many shirts that needed the blueing and the starch, including my school uniform ones.

  7. I also remember the ceiling racks on pulleys and the metal urn full of filthy handkerchiefs. I'm glad we've moved on from all that. As I'm sure you know, most homes here have hot presses (airing cupboards) to keep everything warm. And it's easy enough to buy wooden clothes pegs. Now if we could just have more sunny weather to dry the clothes....

  8. I remember diaper washing day when my two oldest were babies. I used a washer and a dryer but the smell was horrendous. I hadn't thought about that in a long time. By the time my third one came along, it was disposable diapers. That's before we knew what they were doing to the earth. I'm glad I don't have to make the moral decision now. I do worry over my plastic bags, though, when I forget my reusable ones. Oh wait, we were talking about laundry, weren't we?

  9. I remember them all, WWW, especially the Reckitt's Blue, and my mother feeding the laundry through the wringer in the scullery. My first ever summer job was hand-washing our next door neighbour's hankies, when I was 12 and too young to get a real summer job. I still have nightmares ... I love me my automated front-load washer and dryer.

  10. www, your trouble is, you live on the wrong continent and in the wrong country. I have all those things the lack of which you are bemoaning easily available. Some of them actually live in my kitchen, including the pulley thing.

  11. Most of these things I have never heard of and I am past 70. Is it because I live in the South - USA. I do hang clothes out as long as I can. Love the fresh smell. I use a spray starch of some items. Do not know of anyone else that still does this. But I love starched pillow cases. I can remember years ago - married and children at home. I would cook starch for shirt and dresses. I do keep a large drying rack in my utility room and garage that I use when weather is bad. Have a dryer in this new cottage but really do not like to use it !!

  12. I'm in rural Ontario, Canada and haven't seen an "airing cupboard", what is it?
    The ceiling cloths drying rack sounds fascinating, pulley and wooden rods? Is there a picture anywhere of these ceiling cloths drying racks? They sound practical enough and I could use something like that, because we heat with wood and the indoor air is dry, dry, dry in the winter.


  13. My friend lives in a tiny apartment in Shanghai, which boasts it's very own two-line pulley contraption. I will try to find a picture for you.

    I don't know what washing soda is, but could Borax do the job?

    Laura B.

  14. Many of those items are still available just not from your local big box store. You even have to do a little digging on line to find some of the other items you are looking for. I have been drying everything on this laundry drying rack. I bought it because it was based on an antique design and it is made in the US. I thought that not only is it going to help save me money it may keep a few extra dollars in the us economy and not over seas.

  15. @Nick:
    Is it very wet in Belfast? I do believe Cork is the wettest city in Ireland. A true challenge to outdoor drying indeed!
    I used a diaper service in Toronto when I had my babies. So I do sympathize with what you had to go through!
    What a truly awful summer job. It would win any nightmare summer job competition!!
    Lucky you with the pulley thing. I know, I know I have a rich nostalgic fantasy life.
    You know a small part of me truly truly wants to starch the cotton pillowcases. But naaah
    A cupboard that was built over the hot water tank which was in turn heated by the kitchen stove. it had slatted shelves and was as high as the ceiling with a firm door which kept cold air out.
    As to the ceiling rack, try this: it might suit you.
    I'd love to see a picture of the 2 line job. Borax is expensive, I was thinking along the lines of the generic which I never see anymore.
    Thank you soooo much, I just ordered it, exactly what I need for in front of the stove and it collapses to nothing.


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