Sunday, January 8, 2012

Hand Washing vs. Washing Machines

Hopefully it doesn't wind up that way but, no part of this post is meant to sound or be negative. My only purpose is to highlight some of the things I notice about how laundry is done here and in the US from my experience and point of view. If anything sounds negative, let me apologize in advance and acknowledge that I do not have any negative views about the laundry - it's quite the contrary since I don't have to do it at all here! :D

In the US I had full size washing machine and dryer (both big enough to hold a queen sized comforter with no problem - not the biggest around but as big as I needed) set that seemed to run many times throughout each day. Laundry is one of those chores that truly is never done unless you live in a nudist colony and can go a full day without clothes while you wash everything that is dirty. I'm not that lucky, nor that free-spirited so I guess I'm just out of luck on that one.

I hand washed the few items I owned that couldn't be put in the washing machine in the bathroom sink. Most of my items that said hand wash only went into the washing machine on the delicate cycle anyway it's just that there were a few things I couldn't put in there on any cycle. I didn't like hand-washing clothes because that also meant finding somewhere flat to lay them out to dry and praying no one moved them, messed them up, sat on them, piled things on top of them, etc. (This is where India has a distinct advantage of the US - ppl here recognize laundry that is drying and don't bother it....even if it's on one of the beds on the terrace laying flat!) If needed though, I hand washed any spots that could be potential stains before washing in the machine.

I didn't have to worry about sending things out to be pressed or ironing them myself (another chore I had rather not do). After coming out of the dryer most things were ready to wear and looked fresh and wrinkle free. Of course, I did usually go out of my way to purchase wrinkle free clothing so that's no big surprise even if I started laundry before work and didn't take it out of the dryer until I got home.

At one point in my life I washed clothes in the bathtub - oh the good old days right after leaving home when you were too broke to afford luxuries and your apartment had nothing in it lol. I actually had fun with doing the laundry in the bathtub. For agitation I kicked the crap out of them, jumped up and down on them, stomped on them and more. I could dance on them or whatever I wanted and just be ridiculous and crazy without care. Then of course they had to be rinsed and wrung out and then hung up to dry. That was tiring to say the least.

In India the women beat the clothes with a stick for agitation. I don't understand how that works but it seems to be okay and so I don't study it too much. It looks like a lot of fatigue on their arms and shoulders though. The laundry is done using buckets. MIL and Chachi put the clothes in, put in the soap, add plenty of water and leave them to sit - sometimes overnight before starting the washing process. Once well beaten they are put into another bucket and they sit there until time to start the rinsing process and then they are wrung out and hung out to dry on the line (we have sun and shade since not all clothes should be dried in the sun).

The main challenge I see and have experienced with hand washing is getting the soap back out of the clothes.  I often had to rinse twice (but I do have soap allergies so I am extra cautious) to make sure the soap got out of my clothes in the US. Here I notice that quite a few of my clothes come back with soap still on them only now it is dried and white and powdery again. Thankfully I haven't had any allergic reactions to the soap that I'm aware of...which is another good thing because it indicates that there aren't as many chemicals in the laundry powder here.

MIL and Chachi both have washing machines. Chachi uses hers more than MIL. MIL's sat in my bedroom for months without being touched. Now that it's cold she has taken it out to the wash area again but I don't see evidence of her using it too often. She doesn't seem to think it does as good of a wash job. (I beg to differ because they do laundry and dishes in the same space and many of my clothes have been ruined by oil leftover from the dishes leaving behind orange spots on them.) Chachi does laundry by hand every day but still breaks out the washing machine a couple times a week and does several loads that way.

I've yet to see any major difference between hand washing or using machines (in the US or India) other than the amount of physical work involved. Since there are really no ergonomics here there is a significant amount of fatigue involved with hand washing. There is still quite a bit of fatigue with hanging the clothes out and bringing them back in (we use both of our terraces to hang clothes - especially when bedsheets are washed). Though I must say Chachi makes her life harder by keeping her washing machine on the ground floor of the house and having to climb 2-3 flights of stairs to hang them out on the line.

What are your thoughts on hand washing vs. washing machines? I would love to hear your experiences with laundry inside and out of India. I should also mention that full sized washers and dryers are available here and I know people that have them. I myself though prefer the fresh smell of line dried clothing rather than the smell a dryer leaves behind.

21 comments:

  1. Hello white bhabi, my housekeeper does all my washing here in our machine. Most of the time the stains come out in the washing machine...but not always. I hate anything dried in a dryer apart from sheets or socks and underwear so everything gets dried on a little clothes horse on the balcony. It's not efficient but works for now. In India I find we don't have good stain removers like the vanish gel pens or spray bottles which we used back home. But I have relaxed my thoughts on washing these days, India will do that to you ;-)

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  2. Well, that is one of my prized possessions here in Nepal- a full sized Whirlpool washing machine!!!! Woo Hoo! Oh how I wish I had a dryer. Nice fluffy towels, no ironing......

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  3. handwash saves energy ( keeping Global Heating in mind ) and is such as floor mopping a very good physical exercice

    - rinsing is the problem

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  4. Well most washing machines around here aren't too good at taking stains out, I come from a country where we prefer front load machines with a water heater, and coming to a top load machine place I saw a huge difference, so yup I can understand the reasoning that handwashing can be more efficient in getting stains out, but it also damages clothes much much much faster because of all the stick of hand beating. Many old houses in South India still have a washing stone in the backyard or on the roof top to get the laundry done in a more efficient way.
    DH and I had a semi automatic top load machine for a while, this was a giant PITA to wash clothes in there, now we upgraded for a front load machine that use much less water to wash clothes, and does a far better job at getting the oily stains out as we can set the temperature of the wash water accordingly, it use a bit more electricity though, especially if we use it on warm water mode. But it uses less water than handwashing a load of the same size.

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  5. There is really no need to apologize in advance for any potential hurt you may cause to ultra sensitive people. Since you live in India, you have as much right to complain/crib/curse/praise anything Indian as you see fit.

    Washing clothes have been historically one of the biggest millstones around women's neck since ancient times. The biggest of course was grinding grains to make flour. Thanks to the mechanized grinding mill, even village women no longer grind the grains except on religious occasions (and that too only for the food that goes to the Gods).

    Washing machine is one really useful thing that has still not caught on in vast India, mainly due to affordability. In 1940s, when washing machines first made it's appearance in the market (in EU/US), many older women considered them as the biggest tool of liberty, which is exactly the correct way to see it.

    When I was young and my dad was unable to buy this gadget, it was one of his biggest dreams to gift it to my mom. It broke his heart to see my mom toil with the clothes everyday. One of his pet themes around dinner time (and quite tediously so) was to express the desire of how much he valued this gadget. Since we acquired a washing machine about 11-12 years back, it is quite impossible to do justice to the relief it brought in our family. We do not have a front loading machine and I don't see what difference it makes but it never gives us any complaints about the quality of wash. The clothes last longer, are cleaner, better smelling (we have plenty of sunshine to dry clothes) and it is just a matter of pressing three buttons - one to switch it on, one to set the wash intensity, one to ... errr it is only two buttons :D ... It also remembers it's state, if power fails in midst of a wash :)

    It is quite a different thing for me. I live alone in a different city and have no washing machine. Washing clothes is a big headache for me. I deliberately wear only those things which are easily washable .. so my favorite kurtas are always kept in the wardrobe :( Thankfully winters are not severe here so I dont have to worry about warm clothes either. I try to make do with shorts/t-shirts as much as I can and avoid pants as much as possible.

    I soak my clothes in a bucket with washing powder for 12-24 hours ... they start stinking badly :( then i massage them inside the solution for 5 minutes ... whatever dirt can come out in this little time, comes out, rest I don't care (my clothes do not get much dirty, they are just soaked in sweat at most) and then I rinse it two times in plain water. That is the way I wash clothes. I wash my gym clothes every alternate day in just plain hot water.

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  6. see this TED talk about washing machines

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6sqnptxlCcw

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  7. I agree about the dryer! I hated mine in the US but we didn't have a line for years so I had to deal with it or hang laundry all over the house. And yeah, India will relax your standards on dirt for sure lol...even if you don't want it to.

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  8. I don't iron anyway lol. I still have quite a bit of the clothes I brought from the US that don't require it and I have gotten lucky to find some things here that don't as well. Salwar kameez on the other hand, we just send out to be ironed because there's no hope for them otherwise.

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  9. Lol, I have to agree on the rinsing. I did laundry here once and rinsing is by far the worst part. As cold as it is here in the north today, that global heating doesn't sound so bad haha (just kidding).

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  10. Hmmm, I hadn't noticed quality of the wash. I do know that many of my clothes have come back from being handwashed still dirty and some came back with stains they didn't have when I put them in the wash. I've now quit buying anything white for that very reason. But, that's an entirely different issue lol. I don't fully understand some things around here yet.

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  11. I get what you mean about dirt. I'm learning that myself. In the US it didn't matter how long I had it on or what I did, if it came off I washed it no matter what. I did my own laundry by hand in the US at one time and it's not easy there. Here it's worse because of the lack of western convenience to get it done so I don't blame you one bit for trying to keep laundry to a minimum. I hadn't noticed a smell from clothes sitting in wash water but that's probably because here they sit out on the terrace while soaking.

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  12. the clothes stink when kept in detergent solution for more than 12 hours. the detergents probably contain some enzymes or there may be some bacteria which feed on dead skin cells in clothes ... but after rinsing there is no smell.

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  13. My MIL has many reasons why she will not use the washing machine we gave her when we left India. 1) The dirt from tricky spots like the shirt collars needs spot cleaning. 2) The water and electricity usage is higher and expensive. 3) When there is water, the electicity might not be available and vice versa. 4) The lights and darks need separate rounds and then the chance of having water and electricity at the same time two times in a day....
     
    If she does use it, she will still soak the clothes with detergent in a bucket, scrub the collars, squeeze out the dirty water and then use the machine with no further detergent only for rinsing. Then they will be put on the line for drying.

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  14. Nishakr.. where is your MIL living? But this water and electricity problem is common in various parts of India for sure.

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  15. Those are some of the same excuses I hear from my MIL. In some ways they are valid. I just wish she would use it more in the winter. It's so cold here and the water is freezing. She deserves a little break.

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  16. I washed clothes by hand for around 2 years in India due to traveling around and living in various places. It was the most draining, labour intensive, task that I hated.  Then I got a semi automatic washing machine because there was no permanent place to keep it in the apartment, and it had to be stored in the kitchen and wheeled out when used. I've now got a fully automatic one, but can only do cold washes because there's no hot water in the kitchen where the fixture is. It's good enough though.

    I just don't think that all these Indian women who continue to wash clothing by hand know how much time and effort they could be saving by using a washing machine. I think it's kind of like a dishwasher -- you don't discover the benefits until you start using it.

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  17. Hey Jennifer,
    I'm sure you recall in the US we have dryers that run on 'gas' (CNG) -I had one in California that was quite efficient. I have to laugh as I hang clothes out to dry here in Nepal- In the posh neighborhood I lived in in California it was actually a fined offense ($150) to hang laundry out to dry in public view. (Geez those folks were UPTIGHT)

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  18. I never tried one of those CNG dryers. Yeah, it's odd about zoning laws, but in some ways, it keeps the neighborhood tidy. There is this Malayalam show in US called Akkara Kazhakal. It exposes some humorous situations Malayalees face in US. In there, the characters dry their dhoties on the hedges in Jersey somewhere! That's quite a funny scene. Also in India people dry their clothes on the street where people drive!

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  19. Yeah cold water only is so much better than hand washing lol. I really get the sense that MIL refuses to use it because she will feel like she's not doing enough. I know she says it's not as good but I'm just not sure I believe it with all I see around here. I think she somehow feels she's keeping her place secure by suffering.

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  20. Don't worry, when we don't have electricity(in future) we all must wash our cloths by hands perhaps your friend or relatives hand :P

    It is like an exercise for our hands, if you see the people in villages of India they will be strong and sound than people in cities.
    Very first man would have washed his cloth with his hand right ? and so the last man :P i guess
    DeePaK

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  21. Let's pray I don't live to see the day when the world has gone back to always hand
    washing their clothes and living without electricity. Lol.

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