Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Laundry List

M had her ' laundry assignment' from school a couple of weeks ago. Their Home Economics (or whatever is the current PC term) teacher sent them home with printed notes on how to sort their clothes by color, put them in appropriate load sizes in the washer, selecting water temperatures and wash cycles, detergents, etc. I promptly ignored the whole thing and taught her my method.
  1. Sort into two piles. Darks, lights. Inbetweens can go in either, so long at the two piles are roughly the same size. Don't bother with wasting your time checking garment labels for cycle instructions.
  2. Maximize the load (i.e. wait as many days/weeks as it takes to fill up your basket, so that it weighs approximately 25% of your body weight.)
  3. Do not, I repeat, do not wash any cotton Indian clothes in the washer. Those have to be handwashed even after the 10th wash, because the colors are guaranteed to run for the lifetime of the garment. Yes, the running will outlast the Energizer Bunny. (In case you ever need to wash it, remember the following tips: Add a handful of salt to cold water and soak the cotton clothes in it for 5-10 minutes. Carefully apply bar soap or mild detergent (Fels Naptha or similar) to only the stained/sweaty parts and squeeze by hand gently till the stain is gone. Rinse again in cold water, and air dry. Iron with high heat when dry, applying spray starch if desired to retain stiffness. )
  4. If the Indian clothes are of polyester, they may be tossed in with the regular darks.
  5. Check the washer for old moldy unattended clothes. If there are any, toss in a cupful of vinegar, run a Rinse only cycle, transfer to dryer before putting in your clothes.
  6. Pour the detergent in as the water is filling (regular cycle, for the most part), arrange the clothes around as evenly as you can. ( We do not want the washer hopping its way out of captivity in the basement to the curb.It is our tethered slave for these last 12 years, at least.)
  7. Transfer clothes to the dryer about 30 minutes later
  8. Follow 5., if you forget 7. and remember a couple of days later.
  9. The dryer operation is simple. Check the screen for lint, remove it if there is any. Toss in the dryer sheet with the clothes, select a Normal dry cycle and press the start button.
  10. And please, for God's sake, take the clothes up, fold them and put them away instead of letting them molder in piles like your brother does. (Not that I have much hopes of this getting done, but it's never too late to start the nagging.)
I recall a few years ago that at one of the PTA meetings, a parent suggested replacing these 'useless' Home Economics classes on laundry,sewing and cooking with computer and robotics classes, to keep the kids up with the latest in educational gizmos and technology.
I'm so glad that it didn't catch on. At the very least, these kids will learn some essential skills that will come in handy when they go off to college.
I was already well-trained in handling washing the family laundry from the days when we underwent a temporary maid shortage, so having to do all the chores on my own on moving to the US didn't faze me at all, unlike many newcomers who have been used to dhobis and maidservants doing this.
But times are changing, even in India, as washing machines (though not dryers) make inroads into the urban milieu and as some city-dwellers have jumped joyously on the concept of frequenting laundromats, a relatively new offering in metropolitan cities there.
"Mr. Chaudhary, 22, works in back-office services for a big American bank. He works long, long hours and lives alone in a small bachelor flat. “My washing maid did not come the last two weeks so it was really a bad situation,” he said, with the pained expression of a man over-acquainted with his socks.
Tired of hassling with the renegade maid, on Saturday he resolved to do his own wash, and tracked down the gleaming glass storefront of QuickClean in a narrow alley of a working-class neighbourhood popular with students.
An hour later, he had paid about $3.25, been talked through the workings of a small bank of stainless-steel machines, and was leaving with a bag of fluffy if lumpily folded clothes."
Lumpily folded clothes-that reminds me that I have a pile of laundry waiting for my attention, and I need to get M to do another load of her laundry.Off I go.


kochuthresiamma p .j said...

your posts make delightful reading.
on retirement, i was seriously toying with the idea of starting a laundrymat.
"what, a college prof do laundry for the public', exclaimed my only surviving immediate paternal aunt, extremely indignant, scandalised, whatnot.

i haven't given up the idea though.

Lekhni said...

I have bravely experimented with washing Indian cotton clothes in the washer. I wear mostly Indian cotton tops in summer - bought on the street and guaranteed to run. After a couple of hand washes, I wash them in cold water in the washer, and they turn out just fine. Just to be safe, I wash the darker colored tops together, but so far, I have never had the colors run from one to another. I haven't tried this with Fabindia tops though.

Sujatha said...

Kochuthresiamma: The time for laundromats may have come. Add a few dryers and you could make a real killing in the TVM market!

I've noticed that many of the street-purchased tops tend to be poly-cotton blends, and those don't run beyond the first wash. It's the pure cotton, dyes in brighter colors that run and run and run. In fact, I have a salwar-kameez set that dates back to the early 90's. It still runs, despite having faded from a dark maroon to a pale orange-pink- the champion runner in my collection. The FabIndia tops aren't too bad, just one or two washes are enough to stabilize colors, the only problem is that they look like old clothes after wash 2 :(

kochuthresiamma p .j said...

@lekhni, sujatha
depends on which fabric you go for in fabindia-have a couple of tops from '05 which ran colour once - since then remained stable - to date. but handlooms run & run. the faded look is a style statement, said one of the salees girls there!
have heard that soaking clothes in salt water for the 1st wash prevents colour running. havent tried it out yet. so no guarantee.

Priya (elaichii) said...

I enjoyed reading your post and loved the idea of teachinf kids to do laundry!

Sujatha said...

Glad you liked it, Priya. You should probably check, maybe your kids' schools already have similar lessons in their curriculum. 9 or 10 years is a good age to get them used to it.