Four Reasons I Don’t Gripe about Laundry

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Most people hate doing laundry. Admittedly, there are things I’d rather be doing than laundry, but it’s far less taxing and laborious than mopping the floors or cutting the grass.

Here are four reasons laundry day doesn’t give me the denim blues.

1. It’s mostly mechanized.

My grandmother told me about how she had two dresses the whole time she was in high school. This was in Georgia in the 1940s, when the way people kept cool wasn’t by sitting in an air-conditioned classroom, but by sweating. Her lack of a sufficient wardrobe meant doing laundry was a nightly affair — and it wasn’t as easy as throwing a shirt in the machine.

And it wasn’t just her dress that needed washing, either. She had siblings and step-siblings who also dirtied clothes that needed to be washed.

Old fashioned washing machine

Are you washing your clothes like this? Then shadup.

Laundry meant scrubbing stains with a bar of soap and rubbing them on a washboard, sloshing the clothes manually in a sudsy tub, rinsing thoroughly and squeezing the water from the garments, then running them “through the ringer,” to remove as much excess water as possible before hanging them on the clothesline.

That’s why I don’t make such a fuss about having to wash clothes. All I have to do is throw them in the wash. The hardest part is hanging them up or folding them when they’re done in the dryer — I don’t even have to hang them on a clothes line and check them until they’re dry. It’s not like I have to haul them down to the creek and rub them on a rock until they’re clean. Machines do the hard work. All I have to do is put them in a machine and turn it on, then move them from one machine to another and repeat.

2. It’s not as easy for everyone.

It’s easy to take for granted having a washing machine in your home. But consider the abject panic that ensues when the machine abruptly stops. As with the failure of any major appliance, its restoration to service becomes one of life’s priorities.

But think about not having one at your personal disposal at all. Think about the investment in time involved in schlepping those several loads of laundry you must wash each week to a laundromat, paying by the load to wash the laundry and haul it back to your abode.

Laundry Love is a charity movement that started in Ventura, Calif., and has spread to more than 70 houses of worship throughout the country. The charity takes over a local laundromat one day a month and provides free laundry services to those who need it most — the elderly, the out of work, the working poor, etc. For many, this once-a-month washing is the only opportunity they have to wash their clothes, sheets, children’s clothes, etc. They wait in line for hours to get their clothes clean. That should put things in perspective and make logging a little time in the laundry room (where you don’t have to wait in line) a little more appealing.

It’s not just the poor who struggle to clean their clothes. Only recently in major metropolitan areas like New York have architects began allocating a little precious square footage to cleaning clothes. In 2006, the New York Times reported that only 17 percent of current listings had washer and dryer connections. By 2010, that number had risen to only about 20 percent as the Times continued its coverage of New Yorkers waxing wistful for a washer and dryer. Many buildings have communal machines in the basement, consuming quarters and doing the work. Other residents rely on “wash and fold” services, which sound lovely if you’re willing to pay strangers to handle your … unmentionables.

3. It’s almost alchemy.

My daughter’s laundry presents the ultimate challenge.

At 6, her clothes are usually all wadded up in her hamper (and we’re just lucky she actually uses the hamper). Panties are still stuck in her pants, and in the winter, it’s not unusual to find that her socks are stuck in the pant legs as well. How she manages to get pants, panties and socks off all at once is quite a skill. I’m so impressed, I don’t really want to correct her. And also because she’s 6, the clothes are always spotted with a sundry of inexplicable stains.

Spending as much time with her grandparents as she does, I often don’t know what these stains are. (Is this ketchup or blood? Her blood or someone else’s?) Either way, I’ve got to salvage those shirts and dresses, so into the wash they go — sprayed with some chemical that pretreats the stains, with a “boost pack” that enhances the power of the detergent to strip the stains (why isn’t the detergent already “boosted?” how does it know the difference between the stain and the pattern on the shirt? magic!) and set the washer. Should I wash it on hot and chance shrinking the load? Will the steam-based “deep clean” cycle ruin the adhesive holding the frilly parts on her nightgown? Who knows? Let’s find out!

Did you know that the way that stuff you spray on stains is based on the way your saliva works? The enzymes in your saliva start digesting food even before you swallow it. Similarly, the enzymes in the pretreater also “digest” the stains on your clothes, dissolving and loosening the stains from the threads of the fabric.

Mixing these ingredients together, choosing how the machine will apply them and waiting to see if the concoction and equipment cause the clothes emerge clean, bright and un-blighted is exciting to me.

4. What if something happened?

Our world is full of fragile things that we take for granted. Electricity and water, for instance.

These are things that are delivered to our homes by wires in the sky and pipes in the ground. Pipes that are old and brittle, that can be dug up or rupture on their own, and wires that can be brought down relatively easy by wind, trees, reckless drivers, etc.

Imagine that happening when you’re wearing your last clean shirt.

Having the ability to keep a steady supply of clean clothes, enough to last a few days if something happened, is something you won’t value until you’re wearing your last clean outfit and you come home from work, sweaty and tired, and find out your water’s been cut off. But then, that basket of clean clothes won’t seem a chore, but a blessing.

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