Friday, May 01, 2009

Line Dry (洗濯物)

These days, I find myself checking the weather compulsively.  Google Chrome, which ranks my most frequently visited websites for easy, one-click access, places's weather page at #3, right behind Gmail and YouTube.

As much as I would love to profess that my time spent here in Shikoku has endowed me with a new found connection to this, our planet Earth, I cannot lie.  The force that brings me back time and time again to stare blankly at the tiny sun, cloud, and raindrop symbols on my computer screen is none other than my own laundry.

There are two main differences between washing clothes in America and washing clothes in Japan.  The first of said differences is that Japanese washers exclusively use cold water.

To be fair, if one has the mental dexterity and patience necessary to take a hose from their bathtub - snake it through the entire house as if navigating a hedge maze - and connect it to the washing machine unit, they too can recycle last night's now-lukewarm bathwater and experience laundry luxury like the Emperor must.

Being an American, my stately, delicate piano hands are still not fully accustom to cold laundry water.  Suffice it to say, they experienced the shock of a lifetime upon first reaching into the tub here in Japan. 

It was as if my ten chubby digits were being being water boarded.  After successfully extracting all of my dripping wet laundry from the machine, my hands were physically blue and I had lost the ability to bend my fingers.  My hands frozen in a gnarled claw formation, I wondered if this was perhaps what life was like for early American settlers?  To date, the state of my appendages has only marginally improved as the weather has gotten warmer.

The Japanese washing machine unit itself has several key differences when compared to its simpleton, Forrest Gump-like American brethren.

Firstly, my Japanese machine goes through a baffling calibration process, where it jostles around the inner tub for ten seconds or so, and, depending on the size of the load, recommends the appropriate amount of detergent to add.  In theory, a washing machine with an IQ to rival that of Einstein seems like a wonderful idea; however, I've found that any medium to large size load will yield a maximum detergent recommendation.  The result is soapy clothes.

Another highly lauded feature allows one to freely set the time for a laundry cycle to commence or finish.  I suppose the idea is that one can throw their dirty jersey and grass-stained athletic pants into the washer, set the timer, jump in the shower, change, and be out of the house in time for the date.

However, in my experience, this "set it, and forget it!" laundry feature simply encourages the neighboring apartments to all begin their loads at 12 or 1 AM.  Nothing like having just transitioned into REM sleep, only to be shocked awake by the whirring initiation of the dry cycle. 

Speaking of "cleanliness," I've found that my washer doesn't actually clean my clothes.  Rather, it gingerly sloshes the contents back and forth, as if for show. Also, despite having fierce sounding names like, "Attack!" and "BOLD," Japanese detergents seem equally ineffective.  I believe I'd achieve similar cleanliness results by ripping open a few Pixi Stix and sprinkling them over my clothes.

The second main difference between cleaning clothes in America and Japan is the near absolute lack of tumble dryers throughout this country.  With the exception of coin laundromats and the personal residences of Japan's rich and powerful, nearly all Japanese families line dry their clothes outside.

No matter what sorts of softeners one adds, line drying always produces rigid, impliable clothes that hurt your nipples.  My t-shirts hang on the line stiff with rigor mortis.  My pant legs permanently spread as if undergoing a cavity search.  If he rubbed these clothes across his face, Snuggle Bear would get cut.     

Of course, line drying necessitates a keen awareness of the weather.  There is no feeling quite as deflating as watching your newly-washed clothes sag and droop as rain water pelts down from the heavens.  

Locked in an eternal game of chess with Mother Nature, I have, at times, spent a full week attempting to successfully dry a single load of laundry, constantly shuttling my clothes in and out as the weather changed.

My solution?  By a full week's worth of outfits at my local Circle K, and then dispose of the dirty laundry the following week.  After all, dirty laundry is easily burnable.



Tony Mariani said...

My wife dries her clothes inside. The Japanese have these hangers that let you hang multiple garments at the same time. They are cheap plastic (hanging ovals with clips). It seems like the bathroom and closet are good places to dry laundry. Although in a Japanese home they will dry their laundry any place they can, after all, only family members are around.

You may want to try nylon blended fabrics. They seem to dry quickly and they don't have the stiffness of cotton blended fabric.

Tornadoes28 said...

One of the things I don't like about line drying is that my socks end up being stiff and hard when line dried. Clothes are just softer from a dryer. But I know dryers use a lot of electricity.

. said...

Apparently there are little to no phosphates in Japanese detergent. This accounts for their poor cleaning power.