Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Laundry day

At some point or another, I knew I would need to cover this. You see, I come from a land of electronic convenience. A land where, you can litereally throw your clothes into a machine, come back some time later (not even on the same day if you're that lazy), throw them into another machine, and then immediately wear them. There are even special chemicals and potions you can throw in so ironing is not necessary. It's that magical where I come from.

Well, let's just say, that by moving to Finland, I learned that not everywhere is as magical. And I learned the hard way that there are some skills you really should have learned some time ago. Otherwise you really are that incompetent fool who is asking the stupid questions. Unfortunately I was that fool for awhile. ~_~

So, Laundry Day.

First rule of Laundry Day: Don't leave your laundry for more than a week, maybe a week and a half.

The machines here are tiny. They hold about the size of a paper grocery bag's worth of dirty clothes. Leaving laundry until the last minute, especially given the amount of clothing I have, would just be foolish. It's taken me a little time to get used to this, but laundry must be done, and done frequently. Luckily I have found the perfect-sized plastic bag to keep me in check. When the plastic bag is full, laundry must be done.

Second rule of Laundry Day: Turn on the water and the laundry machine.

Failling to do either one of these equals no laundry. Makes perfect sense, except that in the US these are a given - your laundry machine is always technically on (as soon as you turn the dials) and your water is always hooked up (because your machine knows not to explode if you leave it plugged in). Unfortunately that is not the case here. You have to make sure to shut the water off every time otherwise (apparently) your machine leaks and the world implodes. Or something. Not sure, but definitely sure I don't want to find out and pay damages.

Silver knob at the top of the picture? The water knob. (-) = water is off. (|) = water is on. Luckily the symbology (giggle) is universal.

Third rule of Laundry Day: Don't let your hand be eaten by the laundry machine.

The first time I saw the insides of one of these standup laundry machines I hesitated. Was this a laundry machine or a bear trap?!?

Surprisingly scary mechanism for something so domestic. But then again so are many beauty contraptions, so I guess it is only slightly logical that there would be some crossover. But I digress.

Anyway, the mechanics of these machines are actually quite genius. You push the white button in the middle of "drum" and it springs open two little doors. You do have to be careful, since there are teeth (this is what it uses to catch itself to close), but the two doors open to reveal the drum in which you put your clothes in. Put your clothes in, close the hatch again, and voila! The entire thing spins inside the machine, like a normal front loader, just that it happens from the inside and you load it from the top. Quite amazing, really.

Fourth rule of Laundry Day: Put the detergent into the right chute.

Oddly none of these chutes is really labeled. I mean some of them do have things written on them, some of which is even in English, but none of them actually just plainly say, "Put soap here."

Four of them is bound to be right. I'm not sure how, but my mom figured out that the second from the left is the correct one. I experimented once and put it in the leftmost chute, only to have soap pour out the bottom. Utter fail.

Water seems to collect in the third chute, no matter what you do, and the fourth chute seems to have no purpose whatsoever. In fact there doesn't seem to be a real purpose to any of the chutes except the second one, as far as I can tell. It's the only one that is labeled, as well. It has a line that says, "Max ---" on it. And that's it.

Fifth rule of Laundry Day: Choose the appropriate setting or you will literally be doing laundry for 2+ hours...and that's just washing.

Because this is a Finnish machine, everything on it is relatively in Finnish. This is to be expected, and luckily there are some vaguely decipherable icons on it. My apartment agent one explained some of the simple ones to me (most of which I remembered, but which were of little use to me later), but in general, no one prepares you for the vast choice and variety of things you can apparently do in this machine which seem to have little or no difference in the outcome of your clothes.

It's probably hard to see from this picture, but there are in fact, three knobs and four buttons on this machine. From the left: three buttons in a column, only the middle of which I've understood as "no iron." Somehow though, it still leaves my clothes I think it's pretty useless. Knob for amount of water used? Not actually sure. Knob for which wash cycle type you'd like (I'll get into this a little more). Knob for water temperature. Power button.

Now, the knob for which wash cycle type you'd like. Boy oh boy. I don't know what all of them do, but as you can see, there are three main categories of washes. They're separated out by the type of material you are washing - cotton, polyesters/synthetics, and delicates. And then there are the appropriate different types of cycles beneath each category.

After some experimenting, my parents and I finally figured out that #6 gets you the fastest wash cycle - only 30 minutes long. But this was after some painful 2 hour wash sessions in which mistakes were made and tempers ran high. A PDF version of the manual for a similar washing machine has been discovered, but even so, the mysteries of this machine have still not been fully uncovered.

Sixth rule of Laundry Day: Drain the machine or it will smell like warm peas.

So in general, in the past, I used to keep the door of my washer open to air it out. In San Diego this meant keep the lid open while my clothes were drying because it would wring out enough of the water from the clothes that it was relatively dry when I took them out and therefore didn't need much airing. By the time my clothes were out of the dryer, I could close the lid and think nothing more about it.

Not so with these machines. As I stated before, water collects in the top container, near where the detergent goes in. For the longest time (i.e. many weeks) I didn't know there was a release button so you could take this container out and separate it from the machine. So though I kept the door of the washer open for a week at a time, whenever I closed the door again each time I opened it later to do laundry, it would smell like damp, warm peas.

Now, many of you know I am freaked out by certain plants, moss, and mold. And the thought of anything similar to that 1) in my bathroom (which is where my washing machine is) 2) near my clothes or 3) even in the vicinity of my household was more disturbing than I could bear. So I asked my friend Canadian M about it. He was the one who told me about the release button. And thank god, because now I've been able to take it out, drain it, and it dries within a day or so (because it's so dry here). Warm pea smell, resolved.

Seventh rule of Laundry Day: Make your house like a laundromat.

Again, I come from the land of dryers. There are no households in the US that don't have dryers or that don't have access to dryers. It's simply unheard of. So when I found out that people here don't have them (unless you live in suburbia), I definitely did my share of whining and wandering aimlessly in the streets mumbling about the impossibility of it. I even considered buying one and sticking it somewhere inane like my living room (small as it is), just so I wouldn't have to give up the convenience of it.

But alas, I gave in and did as the locals do. Which is: the drying rack.

Normally I would have this in my kitchen/walk in closet area, but since I had maintenance people coming in to fix a gutter outside my window, I had to move it, so that's why it's in my living room this time.

Now, being completely naive and ignorant in this newfound field of "air drying," there were definitely some lessons I needed to learn before I got to my current state of nowhere-near perfection. And I'm still learning. And what you see here is not my normal state of efficiency (again, maintenance people coming in). Normally I have pants hanging from hangers and clothes pins off of every cupboard door handle in the kitchen to maximize air circulation and everything is spread out. I basically turn my kitchen into a laundromat. But alas, not this time.

Eighth rule of Laundry Day: Get yourself a Doc Sock.

And last but not least, you need to get yourself a Doc Sock (as my sister lovingly dubbed him).

These guys: priceless. You can hang socks, undies...any sort of small item off of them. Invaluable. And hilarious! Mine hangs conveniently off of the purse hook I installed on my kitchen bar table. This was acquired from Ikea for a minimum of euros. Totally awesome.

So, in conclusion, despite the fact that I came from a land of fluffy warm laundry that conveniently appears whenever you throw it into a machine, I am indeed learning to deal with harsh realities. And it's not so bad. I feel like a real person who has some real world skills now. I may actually make it, should I be left to my own devices in some electricityless land somewhere out in the middle of nowhere.

Thanks Finland, for showing me light. I still miss the smell of dryer sheets, the warmth of clothes straight from the dryer, and most especially the fluffiness of a towel freshly washed and dried...but it's cool, because the dryer sheets I foolishly brought with me are being given as a wedding present to someone who does have a dryer and who knows the preciousness of such things (plus she now understands the pains of knowing something amazing and not being able to get it anymore...she just ran out of her supply a month ago and has not been the same since). Ah, the sacrifices.

And yet, the world still goes on (unless of course, you forget to turn off the water ^_~). Until next time...


  1. Hahaha, oh Jen. Washing machines in the UK are like this (minus having to switch the water off - that is weird), so I find this post adorable! The dial on the left is for choosing the spin speed. The higher the number, the more rpm.
    I hope you're very well. It certainly seems that way from your blog, which I have been following with great interest :) x

    1. Thanks for the info about the spin speed. :) I have now changed it and my clothes are instantly less wrinkled! :D

  2. I miss having a dryer too. I'm lucky to have a patio with a clothesline. That's where we dry our clothes. hehe