Friday, February 11, 2011

Reflections on Endless Washing Machine Cycles

Naples laundry...always an inspiration
      I am one of those expats living in Italy who has never stopped complaining about how long it takes to wash a load of clothes in my front loading European washing machine. Two hours and fifteen minutes for the cottons cycle is a mind boggling number.  In the US you can wash six loads in the time it takes to wash one load in Europe. What is wrong here? Don't these people understand that time is. . . time?

   Finally, thanks to the Internet, I've been put in my place. Who knew I was such an environmentalist? I was already rather proud of myself to have learned how to separate the paper, plastic, glass and indifferenziato (uncategorized) trash since Via Palombaro was put on the garbage recycling route in January. Now I am feeling even more virtuous with each load of dirty clothes I stuff into my European washer. 

     Here’s what I’ve learned from the websites listed below:

* Up to three times the water is needed for most US top loaders than for European front loaders.

* European front loaders are quieter than top loading machines

* European front loaders have more capacity without that pesky agitator taking up space

* Spin speeds in top loaders are usually slower, resulting in more moisture left in clothing.

* Top loaders that agitate are not as gentle on clothing and linens.

* European front loaders use horizontal-axis, tumbling drum system, which is why they require less than half the water. That's for a pre-wash, main wash and up to five rinses versus only the wash cycle on a top-loader.

* Frontloaders in Europe have internal water heaters, which saves the cost of using your hot water heater at the same time as your washer. This means that you can select temperatures between 30 and 95 degrees Celsius (86-203 F) and the machine will heat the water to that termperature. Rather than using bleach, it's possible to use very hot water on whites such as socks and sheets, thus saving the world from more Clorox in the water system.  Cold water is an option on newer machines and European detergents for cold water are now being sold, as well as good pre-wash stain remover sprays.

* Some models offer spin speeds as high as 1600 rpm compared to the average toploader's less than 1000, resulting in higher water extraction and faster drying clothes.

* The tumbling action of a front loader is much gentler on garments than the an agitator in a top loader.

      So, yes the long wash cycle is a pain. So, here in Umbria we find something to do while waiting the two hours, fifteen minutes for the towels to finish washing:

1) Read a book on my kindle in the bubble bath

2) Have a cup of tea on the terrace and listen to the birds sing

3) Bake a cake. . . from scratch

4) Take a long walk in the country

5) Inventory the pantry and go to the grocery store with an extensive list of staples to buy

6) Make my New Year's resolutions, including a plan to seek the virtue of pazienza (patience)

7) Hang the previous wash load outside on the clothesline to dry in the sun

8) Weed the orto (vegetable garden); toss the snails into the adjacent field

9) Make minestrone, chopping all the fresh vegetables (no cheating with pre-chopped frozen veggies, though they really are quite good)

10) Prune something -- an olive tree, a fig tree, a rose bush

11) Make olive oil infusions with rosemary and sage from the garden or lavender pot pourri

12) Reflect on the fact that living The Slow Life demands some concessions. If I had to choose between my WiFi and a twenty minute wash load, WiFi would win hands down.

Copyright Sharri Whiting 2011

While the towels are washing, the Umbrian countryside beckons

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