Sunday, June 01, 2008

Domestic Goddess

Lately when I do my clothes washing, I feel as though I have some sense of what it might have been like for those women in the 50s, just after WWII, when all the fruits of aircraft engineering for wartime destruction were used to engineer time-saving domestic appliances.

For years washing was an unsatisfactory chore.  I lived in a old Queenslander house divided into seven flats out the back of which was a funny little fibro shack with a coin operated washing machine.  We only had to pay a dollar per wash, so it was much cheaper, and certainly more convenient, than going to a laundromat, but quite frankly it had all the subtlety of a B-52 Bomber.

It had one speed--turbo--that it applied to everything from stockings and underwire bras to denim skirts, corduroy jackets, and towels.  In order to ward off the premature demise of the more delicate items in my wardrobe, I would place them in a wash bag to protect them from the destructive force of the washing blades, but somehow I still managed to find bra wires lodged in the drainage holes in the sides of the inner drum, or else they were bound up in endless knots of stockings that by now were stretched to accommodate the legs of the 50 Foot Woman

Stain removal was made tedious by the absence of any hot water in the laundry at all.  Oxygen bleach, even that from the eco store, requires warm water at least for it to work. If I wanted to get any hot water into a bucket, I'd have to hold a bucket beneath the shower, high up so I didn't lose any water to the floor of the shower and so down the drain.  Usually I'd end up with water dribbling down into armpits, and that would cause me to get irritated and lose my balance, and very soon profanity would follow.

In the end, I pretty much gave up on nice clean clothes and would more often than not go out in stained and shabby outfits figuring nobody expected anything more of a student.  I learnt in one of my undergraduate French classes that jeans delevee were the standard student uniform, and if those doyens of fashion, the French, could make such a statement then I figured so could I.

Oh but how life has changed since I bought my first white goods. Perhaps one day I will wax lyrical about the fridge (which has brought about a similar revolution), but for now it's the washing machine's turn to shine.

One of the biggest novelties for me, still after 6 months, is that I can do my washing whenever I want to. While everyone may have wanted to do their washing on Saturday morning back at the old Queenslander, not everybody could.  And woe betide anyone who left their finished washing sitting in the machine while others were waiting to use it.

I made every effort not to leave my washing languishing when I was sharing a machine with other people, but I admit it's my natural tendency to forget about it or get caught up in doing something else and not want to be interrupted by hanging out the washing.

Enter the front loader.  It takes hours for a wash to complete, which is perfect for me.  But should I want a quicker wash then the machine I purchased has a time saver option which reduces it down to about 40 mins, and there's a Quick 30 minute wash cycle too.

Sometimes I just sit and watch the washing go around. I watch how gently the washing is spun around with no damaging blades to get caught on. I feel secure that my bras will emerge intact, that my stockings will still fit my short legs. I marvel at how the washing powder and bleach are flushed from the powder drawer and dissolved before coming into contact with the clothes.  I have come to embrace the smell and textures of my clothes and towels that have received the soft touch of fabric softener (channelling Milhouse here).  Ahh.

And I'm especially glad that I was able to get a washing machine with a four star energy rating; that just tops everything off.


Oanh said...

This is brilliant!

I, too, love our front loader. And the great thing about being in the UK is that you don't do laundry on weekends, because you don't hang it outside anyway. I do mine weeknights and hang out week mornings, or load the machine up in the morning, and hang it out in the evening.

Back when I was still living at home and my parents had an industrial strength washing machine, my dad found the underwire from a bra at the back of the machine. Thinking it was a headband, he wore it on his head and wandered around the house to ask my sisters who it belonged to, and why they felt the need to throw it into the wash. Much amusement did ensue.

Perhaps, if you are watching the washing go 'round, you could write a review of it?


Kirsty said...

Oh your poor father, has he ever lived that down?

Hmm, a review of the washing?:

The machine is spare with water and just covers the clothes, bathing them in a gentle soapy liquid. As the washing cycle begins, the laundry is plucked up the sides, before being dropped to the floor of the drum, only to be raised again, then dropped again and repeated ad infinitum in an action that offers a deep insight into the ongoing plight of humanity. There is some unexpected variety in the performance as the cycle progresses, and full credit must be paid to the producers who have managed to challenge and stimulate the expectations of the bored laundress by ensuring the motion of the spinning drum changes direction at various stages of the performance. Four stars.

: D

meli said...

that's great! i love front loaders too, and they're all you seem to get in this half of the world. except if you find something you want to add just after you've started the cycle. that's annoying.

i tagged you for a meme if you feel like it.

Kirsty said...

Yes, it's quite odd how Australia hasn't really embraced the front loader. Maybe it's something to do with hanging the washing outside. You've got to get the lot done in one morning to get the sun and the front loader won't really let you move through the washing quickly. Hmmm.

Anyway, I've come to my own blog because I've just read yours, Meli, and discovered the tag, which I'm now going to do. Or at least start.