Monday, November 23, 2009

Laundry in London

Let me tell you a little about doing laundry in London. When our landlords remodeled our townhome, they attached a remarkably good size utility room with plenty of storage, deep sink and a state-of-the-art Miele combination washer/dryer. Yes, the magic machine does both!

I recently priced the model of our washer/dryer and it retails for about $2000. I'm telling you it has an unbelievable amount of options for soaking, washing, drying, smoothing, you name it, the machine has a setting for it.

I should feel incredibly lucky and privileged to have such a space-age appliance at my fingertips. I should be thrilled to have the latest and greatest--I should be so grateful to do laundry with this fabulous new technology.
It is the most frustrating piece of equipment I have ever owned. To begin with, you need to plan on 3 hours at home to wash and dry a single load of laundry like towels.

When doing permanent press items, your shirts come out of the dryer, as soon as they have finished, looking like this. A wrinkled mess! Did you know that towels can wrinkle? It's true, if you were to walk away for awhile and leave them in the dryer when finished, you would find them with deep wrinkles when you pull them out. I promise! Another curious thing, I'll mention here, is that there is an automatic lint removal system which means you never have to clean a lint screen. I don't quite know where all that lint is going and I'm not going to ask!

Take washing sheets for example. Allow an hour and 20 minutes for the average wash cycle. Remove sheet from small drum in washer and shake it out. I wash only one bottom sheet and 2 pillow cases at a time. Then it's time to dry. If I allowed them to dry completely, they would be such a wrinkled mess, I wouldn't be able to sleep at night out of horror. Since you can not choose the amount of time you want the machine to dry, instead only the category of what you are drying, I trick the machine into thinking I have some woolens drying, and then it sets it for 3 minutes. One 3 minute cycle, remove from drum, shake out, dry another 3 minute cycle, and then while still damp, stretch sheets over kitchen table or on the bed. Then I can start on the top sheets.

Repeat process with top sheet, and when finished drying, a little touch up ironing is still required.

Then there is the issue of Mike's shirts, which he had always had done in the US at the dry cleaners with medium starch. Usually 99 cents in the US, it costs about $4 a shirt in England, and even then the concept of medium starch does not translate. We started requesting heavy starch hoping to get close to the feel of the way he enjoyed having them in the US, and they charged us even more for heavy starch. Other than being entertained by the sweet Polish lady with big hair who runs the laundry, and who always calls both of us "My dahling," it was an exercise in frustration. SO, we found another solution. It was a happy day when we discovered Dillards' Gold Label Roundtree and York shirts which claim to be wrinkle-free. Now we're in the shirt laundry business ourselves.

Once again, tricking the machine into drying 3 minutes at a time, then shaking shirts out and replacing them for another short cycle has enabled us to pull out shirts with moderately less wrinkles.

Heaven forbid that you let any laundry run a full dry cycle, because after the cycle, the machine decides for you that the clothes are too hot to be safe for you to handle, and it locks down for 5- 8 minutes to cool off. As you watch the glass door in frustration, knowing your clothes are wrinkling even more, you try over and over checking the door to see if you can possibly coax it to open. You even try begging it to let you in, but we just have to cool our heels and wait it out.

Taking out a shirt one at a time, leisurely hanging it up to dry while the others keep tumbling, is not an option. No siree! There is no stopping that dryer once it's on its mission to the time that has been programmed.

So we put in five shirts maximum at a time, then hang them up to dry, and finally some touch-up ironing gets them close to where they need to be. Personally, for my clothes, I just take them back and forth to have them cleaned in the US when necessary. Mike keeps wondering why so many of my clothes are being shuttled back and forth across the ocean, to which I respond, "Don't worry about it, my dahling!"


  1. We do get spoiled by the little things in life. Are "ordinary" washing machines in England that frustrating?

  2. Hello Debi! Oh, my we had washing/drying machine trials galore in the apartment we rented when we visited London this last time. We were so grateful thought not to have to go to a laundromat that we just sucked it up, eventually gave up on the drying and hung items up all over the apt. to dry as we were out and about each day. I so understand. But it is a very impressive looking machine. hee hee.

  3. This is HYSTERICAL. I love this post... mainly because we had the exact same experience in our apartment in Paris. We loved the look of the washer/dryer combo, but oh... we HATED that machine. It took FOR-EVER.
    But you've already gone over the whole process, and all I can say is, I feel your pain, especially since you have to put up with it often!

    Bless you!

  4. Oh my! This is a hilarious post although I am sure not at all hilarious to live through! Wow! Kelly

  5. Wow! I'm tired, just reading about it! Guess I would strongly encourage Mike to follow your example, and pack enough clothes to not have to wash them there. How about a steamer? Would it make your life any easier? I have no doubt that I would be the most wrinkled person in England, and I don't think I'd care! :D! Thanks so much for the reality check on your still-dreamy lifestylye!
    (I'd much rather be with Jordan, too!)