* yes, there should be FIVE sets of boots but Allen ignored my advice to get adequate rain gear...

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Laundry Saga

Noah taking off with some Avoca yarn.
It was all sorted in these toddler height bins
waiting for him.
Since laundry tends to be less than picturesque, I included some pictures from our trip to Glendalough.  Most are by my husband but a couple are from me.  His are the ones that don't look like phone snapshots.  :-)  He writes more about the trip here.

It is a fact of life with children that your laundry will be plentiful.  We rented a furnished house.  They tend to be quite common for rentals in Ireland and we also thought it would just be much simpler than trying to ship things here (as well as coming out quite a bit cheaper- shipping is crazy expensive).  We were very lucky to have some friendly work contacts before we moved here.  I was able to shop on-line (although not actually place an order) at the Dublin IKEA.  I made 3 lists- 1 list of things which I just couldn't fathom trying to manage to bring home across 2 bus switches, in the rain, with 3 children (i.e. 7 bed pillows); 1 list of things that IKEA indicated could be delivered but you had to actually buy them in the store (i.e. children's bed and crib- which they call a cot and gave me fits for a bit and circus tent-just essentials); 1 list of things that would make life a little easier if they were already here (linens, towels, a few toys).  Linda, being the very wonderful person she is, managed to go to IKEA the weekend before we arrived and managed to not only buy everything but get it ALL delivered to the house where our landlords were kind enough to accept delivery.

As an aside, assembling flat pack furniture on 4 hours of sleep after 16 hours or so of travel is just as fun as it sounds.

Just after mill tour and just prior to meltdown #2 :-)
So, when we got here we already had the pile of clothes that always accumulate within 24 hours as well as a household full of new towels, sheets, duvet covers, kitchen linen, etc, waiting to be washed.  With an American washer/dryer this is an intimidating but not insurmountable task.  With European washers and Irish weather, it is perhaps an exercise if not in futility then at least frustration.  My mother was here to help for the first week (thank heavens) and we couldn't figure out what we were doing wrong.  The washer was taking 2 hours or more to run a cycle.  We tried using less soap, making smaller loads and picking cooler cycles but they were still crazy long.  We had better luck with the quick wash cycle but that was still an hour or so and the clothes come out iffy.

The spin cycle is unreal in it's intensity even when I turn the rpms down.  To give an idea, the children regularly stand in the door of the wash shed and pretend to parachute out of a helicopter while the washer spins.

I finally did some research to try to figure out where I was making my mistake certain this couldn't possibly be right.  Imagine my surprise when I learned that a- this is totally normal for European washers and b- a source of considerable defensiveness on the part of European housewives.

The washers use about 30% of the water that a typical top load US washer uses.  They also heat the water within the washer so it actually gets to whatever temperature you set it to- a HOT cycle is 90 degrees celcius or almost boiling.  You can also pick the speed for the rinse cycle and your clothes can come out remarkably dry.  I will also say that these washers can really clean if given the opportunity.  Noah wears hand-me-downs from Charlie.  One of his shirts had some light staining from Charlie and those stains came out the other day.  I was shocked!

Glendalough gate
The one thing you don't get to indicate is the size of the load.  The washer automatically weighs the clothing and then runs the cycle accordingly.  The problem with that comes in the soap.  The washer rinses until it detects all the soap and whatnot is washed out.  But, I don't really have any idea how much soap to add.  The box does say but it's all based on how hard your water is and the weight of your load.  I have no idea how much a load of clothing weighs in pounds *or* kilograms.  Nor do I really know if we have hard water.  So, I've been guessing and hoping I'm not adding too much time to the length of the cycle with excessive detergent.

The other big thing I've noticed about cleaners in general here is that hard water:Irish cleaners::antibacterial:US cleaners  I actually had a really hard time finding a cleaner that indicated it would kill mildew which, in a damp climate, you would think would be easy to find.  But, it was really easy to find all manner of cleaners promising to defeat limescale.  You can buy straight bleach but it's in this thick cream formula which seems to work but I haven't been able to figure out if you can use it in washing machines.  Oxygen bleaches are easy to find but don't seem to have much power against mildew and the like.

Mountains around Glendalough
I checked on US front loaders to see if the Europeans have a point.  But, US washers manage to use significantly less water but still finish in a much more timely 30-45 minutes even when fully loaded on a regular cycle.  They also hold much larger loads- 3 children's bath towels, 3 pillowcases and a few washcloths completely fill our European washer's tub.  I can't say if US frontloaders would get clothes quite as clean or remove 4 year old stains but I think I would be willing to make some trade offs if it meant I could comfortably do laundry without it being a full day commitment.

Making all this more difficult is the combination of the European dryers and the frequent rain.  European dryers are designed to get clothing dry enough to finish either in the airing cupboard (indoor clothesline) or via iron.  To get them to completely dry a load, you are looking at a good 45 minute cycle on high- at least 1.5 hours on low- of course, you'll still be waiting on the next load to finish in the washer so...

Allen pulled out his camera to take a picture of the arch.
When Noah saw him, he gave a big smile saying
"cheese."  Who could resist that?
Finally, I can't believe the trouble I've had finding good clothespins!  This is country that prides itself on line drying.  The dryer is for Emergency Use Only.  Between the ocean winds and the constant damp, outdoor clothespins have to withstand a beating and I haven't been able to figure out which kind can actually do it- it's next on my to-ask list when I next corner a veteran housewife.

I've adapted reasonably well.  I try to do oodles of loads on reasonably dry days- 4-6 loads which catches us up for about 2 days.  On wet days, I run 1-2 loads- it depends on how full the drying rack is. I run the children's lights load at bedtime so it can get a full 2 hour cycle leaving their clothes quite clean but then I have to cross my fingers that the weather report was reasonably accurate and I'll be able to hang them out.  Nothing fills a drying rack quite as quickly as tiny underwear and socks!  We run into trouble when the stomach flu goes through the family and I have yet to figure out how I'll ever manage when Noah starts potty training but, there are worse things!


  1. Buy more clothes! (Not joking; I would go nuts having to fuss with laundry that much.)

    I have to do approximately 6 large loads (American washer) a week to stay on top of it for 3 of us, but I give myself some slack by having a tshirt/shorts/underwear surplus for the kid.

  2. I'd forgotten about the clothespins issue! I couldn't find ANY overseas -- no one seemed to use them! That meant every time there was a good gust of wind we all had to go flying out to the drying rack to keep our unmentionables from ending up on a stranger's back balcony. You certainly have my sympathy!

  3. I'd forgotten about the clothespins issue! I couldn't find ANY overseas -- no one seemed to use them! That meant every time there was a good gust of wind we all had to go flying out to the drying rack to keep our unmentionables from ending up on a stranger's back balcony. You certainly have my sympathy!

  4. I remember this well...not one of the things I miss! But it looks like y'all are getting to see some amazing things and all the experiences will enrich your lives for years to come! Miss you!

  5. Goodness, I feel guilty thinking about being behind in my laundry with a large capacity load. Perhaps the next care package could be a dehumidifier for the airing cupboard.