My nephew does laundry on Sunday so he can handle the chore during football commercials. (Plenty of time there.) Me, I do laundry when the closet is full of nothing but empty hangers and nothing on the floor smells good enough to wear.
Laundry is a mundane chore that all of us face regularly, and which has evolved in technology over the ages. Stone age and Native American women were pretty much confined to the rocks and streams method, but they also had a more durable line of fabric to work with, being mostly skins and hides. Later a washboard was invented which worked pretty well, but took lots of elbow grease.
Our mothers and grandmothers used an old stand up “washing machine”, which was a tub with a ringer above—out of which women were advised to keep the proverbial body part. It stood ponderously on stout legs and weighed about 500 pounds.
Growing up, we had an “automatic” washer. It also had a tub, but differed in that there was this big spindle thing in the middle. The spindle oscillated back and forth, designed to move the clothes around, but instead mostly succeeded in getting important and delicate items wrapped around it. It was called an agitator, and I certainly found it to be one.
There were also front-loading machines, which I saw in a lot of coin laundromats but never in peoples’ homes. They filled about half way up the window with water and sloshed it around without an agitator. I always thought they looked like TV sets. It’s too bad they only got one channel.
These days my wife and I have an amazing frontloading “system” that uses basically no water yet still gets the clothes perfectly clean. It spins so fast you almost don’t need a dryer—and it does so while sounding like no more than an airplane landing maybe five miles away. There’s an excellent dryer that comes with it too, but it’s the washer that’s fun to watch. Even so, it still only gets one channel.
Sorting clothes can be fun. I have a ritual for that. I usually start by sorting everything out into about 5 logical piles and then lumping it all down into one load. Okay, that’s not true: 2 loads. I pretty much go for the heavy vs. the lightweight stuff. These days fabrics don’t fade very much in cold water, and it doesn’t hurt anything to put non-permanent press clothes in on the permanent press cycle. The only items that have to go it alone are those truly likely to fade, and the very delicates. These I save up for months until there’s a full load, then throw ‘em all in together. I’m convinced everybody does it my way.
But it’s not just sorting I’m good at, I’ve got a system for doing the whole job. First, you go around the house looking for anything lying around and decide if it should go in the pile. A lot of things are only semi-dirty. Freshen them up? Sure. Or maybe no. That’s a hard decision. You can spend a lot of time on this step.
Then comes the aforementioned task of sorting; I get through that all right. But the decisions don’t stop there. How much soap—I mean detergent, do you use. They provide those little scoops in each box, but do you really trust those lines? Me neither. I figure the detergent companies might err a bit on the side of company profits. But maybe I’m just being cynical.
So you need to use the scoop advisedly, and make the call on a case-by-case basis. Too little and you’ve wasted all that water and effort and the clothes are still not clean—too much and you’ve got clothes still foamy with detergent. (Don’t you think that soap was a simpler and snappier name?)
I’ve decided to invent the next generation laundry system myself. It will do everything. Gather. Sort. Wash. Dry. Maybe iron the blouses and shirts before hanging them up neatly. It will know which things to fold, how to fold them right and where to put them away gently. It will know how much soap to use. Oh, and of course it’ll get Showtime.
I’m still working some of the kinks out.