• Suzanne Norquist

Not More Laundry!

Updated: May 19

Every day there’s another set dirty clothes. It never ends.

As a working mom, I developed my own laundry strategies. My mother dutifully taught me to sort laundry and to iron everything, including pillowcases. I don’t do those things now.

If the clothes are old, they can all be mixed together in one load. The occasional sock turns pink or green. A small price to pay for simplicity.

When I buy new jeans, I separate them for a while, until they don’t turn the underwear blue anymore. How do I know? I throw in a test item like a mostly white rag. If I can’t find a rag, one of my husband’s socks will do. When it comes out white instead of blue, I’m free to mix colors again.

At least I don’t have to wash clothes like people of old. Laundry has existed since nearly the beginning of time. Our ancestors washed clothes in streams and beat them on rocks or with sticks. Even the washboard we associate with our western history is a relatively modern invention, patented in 1833.

In Roman times and Medieval Europe, human urine was used to clean clothes because it contained ammonia. It was saved from public toilets and chamber pots. Eeeeew.

The first civilization to offer public laundry services was ancient Rome. Laundry was a man’s job. I would be okay with that.

In historic Europe, washing clothes at public wash houses called lavoirs provided a social outlet for women. A place for singing, gossip, and connection. Water sat in giant, waist-high tubs covered by a roof.

I seldom identify articles of clothing for special treatment. As a young adult, I washed some sweaters separately. I’d roll them in a towel to squeeze out the water and lay them flat on sweater drying mesh. Now I check the labels when I shop. If I accidentally buy a special treatment garment, I push the bounds to see if it really requires special treatment. What is dry cleaning, anyway?

There is nothing dry about it. Clothes aren’t zapped with special dry cleaning solution. They are washed in a solvent instead of water. They swish around in a washing machine just like they do at home. Apparently, water can damage some fabrics.

Dry cleaning has been around much longer than I imagined. The first dry laundry was founded in Paris in 1825. Modern dry cleaning methods have existed since 1855. Why haven’t I ever seen that in a historical novel? That gives me an idea.

I once worked at a place where “business professional” dress was required. I avoided dirtying jackets by not actually wearing them. I would hang a jacket over my arm as if I had been wearing it. During a meeting, I would drape it over the back of the chair. No cleaning needed.

I keep an iron for the occasional sewing and craft project. As a toddler, my daughter saw my mom ironing once. She said, “Grandma, what are you doing?”

I guess I shouldn’t complain about washing, given my modern conveniences.

And, if I don’t buy new clothes very often, I don’t need to sort.

#History #laundry #ModernLife

© 2020 by Suzanne Norquist
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