Every day really could be laundry day, the way we run these clothes into the ground, but I do a dark and a light every few days. The challenge in the past has been learning to use the machine. (There are no dryers, so it’s just one machine to learn.) The people we rent from always try to explain it, but there’s still a fair amount of winging it. They run famously long cycles. Once for 17 hours! And you can’t open the door mid-cycle so that was a bummer. Might’ve been my fault.
I start with buying what looks like detergent. I like this box because it most looks like it washes clothes rather than dishes or bodies. And it looks very clean.
|I thought I only intuited it was for clothes, but there, |
on the mid-right, is a picture of a sparkling white shirt.
This is what the machine looks like. Not much is familiar, right? There are dials, but you don’t turn them yourself. They move along with the cycle. You just press buttons.
First, you make sure it’s plugged in and the water is turned on. You would never unplug or shut off the water if you lived here, I don’t think. I know I’ll be leaving it all on for the month.
Next, I put the detergent in. There are these three sections. It seems not to matter which one you use. I picked the one on the left because it looked most encrusted with residue from previous users. Put in any amount. Every single time I fill it, and we're talking over 100 times at this point, I think of I Love Lucy and envision coming home to an apartment full of suds. Hasn't happened yet!
Someone once told me 60° was a good temperature. One wrong move here and you could literally boil your clothes. They come home destroyed as it is, but boiling would surely hasten their demise.
It's best to do washes that are small because the cavity is small. Press the button on the far right that is marked GO and PAUSE (I think) and you're off and running. This one takes about two hours.
Then you set up your foldable drying rack on the balcony. It’s really helpful to have a balcony, by the way. When we don’t, we have to hang out a window and crank a line on a pulley from our house to another house across the street. It’s a killer on your back.
There’s an art to hanging laundry to dry. I am self taught. But I think it’s an inherited memory from my predecessors.
First, line up your pins.
|Locked & Loaded|
Shirts are best hung on hangers because it avoids the whole pointy shoulder problem.
Shorts and pants and boxers are best hung upside down because you want the thickest part (the waistbands) to get the most air and not be bunched up under the clothespin.
Always conserve pins by sharing early on because you can never have enough as your near the end. For instance, the inseams of the pants can share one, and the right leg of one pair can share the pin of the left leg of another.
I hang t-shirts upside down (to avoid the pointy shoulders). It’s also important never to fold over the edges. For two reasons: that part won’t dry as quickly and it will retain that fold forever. You’ll walk around with the hem of your t-shirt perpendicular to your body and look ridiculous.
I keep socks together for no good reason but neurosis. And I bunch my underwear up as one clump—for privacy and because they dry really quickly anyway, so the thickness of the bunch is not a problem.
|Proof that dryers aren't always to blame for eating socks.|
This wash will be dry by the time the next one is hung. Always try to hang in the middle of the day and in the sun, and not under any overhang where pigeons roost. And try never to drop a wet item on the balcony floor because you will need to wash it again. If you drop a pin down to the street level, someone will pick it up at some point and clip it to a fence or rail for you. If they’re walking by when it happens, sometimes they try and toss it up to you. This is always a hoot. It has to be the right kind of person, though. Most Italians are very blasé about everything that, to us, is fascinating. Like hanging laundry.