Friday, April 3

Airing Dirty Laundry

I received a charming email from a friend, an ‘ode to the clothesline’. It was prefaced by the fact that they were now a thing of the past, due to the arrival of automatic clothes dryers. Well, not in Italy. In fact, I’ve gone without a dryer for so long, that I’m now considered avant-garde for having a ‘Green’ household. The Italians knew long before the rest of us, just how much energy it cost to heat those clothes up to fluffy. And we’re all the better for it.

Not having a dryer was one of those things you sort of just accepted as a way of life in Old Europe along with store closings and lack of ice cubes. The ever-clad Italians in their all-natural cottons and linens when coming to America are always fearful that the dryer will shrink their clothes (they’re right). But, to that they would insist it also destroyed the fabrics. I, for one, would rather risk wrinkle-free, soft and perfumed clothes for fabric maintenance any day of the week.

I’ll never forget when a friend, traveling on business for a few weeks dropped in and asked if she could wash her clothes before moving on. No problem. When it came time to dry them, she asked, innocently,
“So, where do I dry them?”
I responded, “Oh, it’s in the other room.” Innocently thinking of the metal rack on which to hang her outfits.
“But I can’t find it!”
“It’s right there. That big metal thing.”
“What are you talking about?!!”
“It’s behind the door!!! You gotta open it up!”

Dead silence. I finally understood that we were having a ‘Who’s on First” episode of our own making and I could no longer speak from the peels of laughter.

My girlfriend, on the other hand, blew a gasket. It was December 15th, after all.
“You don’t have a dryer??!!!! My clothes will NEVER EVER DRY!!! I’ll be traveling home in wet jeans!”
“Well, do like I do and put them over each of the radiators. They should be okay in a few hours. They better be. The heat goes off at 10pm.”

Needless to say, she ended up wearing sweat pants on her next leg of her journey, swearing she would never ever come to Europe to live.

BASIC RULES FOR CLOTHESLINES: from the email, although I've put it in present tense.

1. Wash the clothesline before hanging any clothes - walk the
entire lengths of each line with a damp cloth around the lines. Mine are covered in pigeon poop.

2. Hang the clothes in a certain order, and always hang "whites"
with "whites," and hang them first.

3. Never hang a shirt by the shoulders - always by the tail! What
would the neighbors think?

4. Wash day on a Monday! Never hang clothes on the weekend, or
Sunday, for Heaven's sake!

5. Hang the sheets and towels on the outside lines so you could hide your
"unmentionables" in the middle (too bad my neighbor doesn't abide by this one)

6. It doesn't matter if it was sub zero weather . . . Clothes would
"freeze-dry." My update: use the radiators and dry away while the heat's on!

7. Always gather the clothes pins when taking down dry clothes! Pins left
on the lines are "tacky!"

8. If you're efficient, you would line the clothes up so that each item
does not need two clothes pins, but shared one of the clothes pins with the
next washed item.

9. Clothes off of the line before dinner time, neatly folded in the clothes
basket, and ready to be ironed.

10. IRONED?! Well, that's a whole other subject!


Dave514 said...

I have to tell you about my Italian laundry experience.

When I go to Roma I rent a studio apartment on the Via Licia almost at the junction of the Via Gallia. It's air-conditioned. In June I needed it.

The studio has been fully modernized. The washer dryer mounted one atop the other in the bathroom.

My driver's wife Daniella who together own it, patiently showed me how to work them.

Italians still wash their clothes in hot water!!! All went well for several days. Then one morning I'd finished the wash cycle and put the clothes in the dryer. I pushed the start button ...nothing, nichts, nada, niente. Needing clean clothes quam celerrime I frantically called Massimo, my driver and I told him to get someone over p.d.q.. After many a phone call, "Did you turn the dial to?.. Did you close the door? Did you push the right button? It finally came, the brillient question, "Did you empty the tray full of water at the bottom of the dryer????? The stupid thing wasn't connected to the main drainage pipe but had to be manually emptied after a number of cycles!!!

I can't imagine the Italian chaotic bureaucratic convolution it would take to tap into the main drainage pipe.

I really can't complain the studio was under E90 per day.

Un altro fatto bello della settimana.

Irreverent Italy said...

Try moving your washing machine up 8 flights of stairs...Inside it, is nothing less than a 50 lb. ROCK to hold it down, I think during the centrifuge cycle.

cuz liz said...

The other advantage to having a dryer is your newly clean clothes don't collect pollen, as they do hanging outside, especially in the spring when the trees are blowing in the wind.

Less pollen on your clothes, sheets, and towels means less itching, sneezing, wheezing in your house, especially in your bed!

Which is more painful: electric/gas bill or miserable allergies requiring drugs?

Carol said...

i actually prefer hanging my clothes to dry...and i don't even have a balcony. my clothes don't ruin so quickly and seem newer longer. when things are too tight, i can't blame it on the dryer shrinking my clothes... hmm, but i am not sure if that is an advantage. . .