Expat Mom: Laundry is a battlefield

Expat Mom: Laundry is a battlefield

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American blogger Expat Mom gets all-spun-out using a German eco-friendly washer-dryer called Braveheart.

Every country seems to have its own technology for washers and dryers. Most washers in the US seem to be top-load, although front load is becoming more prevalent, and dryers in the US all have an external exhaust system.

So what happens when one country tries to be as environmentally-friendly as possible when it comes to doing laundry?

In my experience, it becomes a battlefield. And I've decided that our washer should henceforth be called Braveheart and our dryer dubbed FUBAR (F-ed Up Beyond All Recognition).

Braveheart is a lot smaller than machines in the US. But do you think it stops me from trying to cram as many clothes as possible into it? Of course not.

In my mind, Braveheart should be able to wash the same amount of clothes as my machine in the US. After all, this is how we save on water and electricity, right? After all, this is an environmentally friendly country...

More loads equals more water and electricity. (Warning: The Science Dummy has now checked into the house.)

Braveheart is a front load machine, which sounds convenient, but the first noticeable difference is that the machine is on the ground and not the most accessible to me. It is however, very accessible to a baby, which is why he shouldn't be downstairs while I am doing laundry.

Since everything is in German--even Kay (my German husband) had a hard time deciphering what the cycles were--we finally just selected one and I've pretty much used the same cycle since I've moved here, regardless of colour or fabric type.

Using the same cycle, however, has obviously worked to my detriment.

The last time the baby was downstairs while I was doing laundry, either I, being in such a hurry, or the baby accidentally threw an angora sweater into the machine; my first felting job without even trying.

Now I just look like Chris Farley saying, It was awesome angora sweater.
Now I just look like Chris Farley saying, "Fat guy in a little coat."

The day before yesterday I tried to wash two micro-fibre sheets. Not only did two sheets not really fit into the machine, but after the two-hour cycle they were supposed to be done in, I opened the door to find a soapy mess still dripping with water.

This is about the time I screamed for Kay to come downstairs. I'd had it! Not to mention the last time I tried to wash these sheets, Braveheart started spitting soap out at me.

It was at this point that Kay informed me to just use the "blah, blah, blah" cycle. Grrrr! It worked to remove the soapy mess of sheets, but nice to know now.

The water in Krefeld (where we live) is extremely chalky, so we now also add de-chalking tablets in order to protect the machine.

Not so long ago we had a major malfunction, which involved Braveheart stopping and locking the machine door.

After a few hours of being unplugged, we were able to open the door (water naturally gushed out). Neither Kay nor I am handy with machines and it was actually my mother-in-law who figured out the problem.

There was a coin in the machine that came out of this do-hicky on the bottom right of the washer... along with more water.

Hopefully you can now understand why the washer is called Braveheart; it is somewhat abused and isn't afraid to retaliate.

Since everything is in German--even Kay (my German husband) had a hard time deciphering what the cycles were--we finally just selected one...Throughout the cycle, we have to make sure to be home and listen for the water pump (Rocky) since sometimes Rocky jams and requires a quick punch to the lid. While this is annoying having to go all the way downstairs, I do find some pleasure in kicking the crap out of a plastic box.

When the load is finally done, it's time to sort through the clothes and determine which go into the dryer; FUBAR and which should be hung. By the way, we are fortunate to have a FUBAR; many people living in apartments/flats do not have this luxury. Plus the washing machine is in their kitchen.

Call me high maintenance, but towels and sheets must go into FUBAR... as do socks and underwear since crispy towels are no fun, and in the summer, undies hanging outside are not only disturbing to look at in public, but so light they just might be Gone with the Wind.

And so the fun begins again trying to translate settings on FUBAR.

I've since learned that it really doesn't matter which setting is used because dryers here don't really dry much of anything anyway.

It takes just under three hours to dry clothes. And no, it has nothing to do with the amount of clothes I am trying to cram into the dryer. Most everything gets hung. I don't care how much or how little is put into the machine, it takes forever to dry.

So, for the newbie in Germany, here are the top 10 most important things to know about doing Laundry in Deutschland.

1.)    Not all apartments and/or homes have dryers in Germany. As Americans, you can feel special...or wasteful...however you want to spin it (nyuk, nyuk, nyuk) .

2.)    Sometimes the washer is or must be put in the Kitchen depending on the size and setup of an apartment or house.

3.)    Washers in Germany do not have hook-ups to hot water. The washer warms up the water to the desired temperature depending on the cycle selected.

4.)    The dryer typically has two lint collectors.

5.)    You must not only empty the lint collectors but also the water container. (Instead of an exhaust that goes to the outside, dryers have a water catcher.

6.)    Dryers take forever to dry.

7.)    Most people hang their clothes on a line because they either have no dryer or it takes too long to dry... or they are just extremely environmentally conscious.

8.)    Washers and dryers in Germany are supposed to be more energy efficient than those in the US. (I'm still trying to wrap my head around this one, because for me, Time is Money.)

9.)  If you live in the Düsseldorf area, you will need to use some kind of de-chalker tablet with your washer or you will either ruin the machine and/or have a battle with your washer trying to get the clothes out on the day the washer begins to retaliate. (I slip one of these into the soap dispenser about every other load. I've been told that you don't need to use as much soap when using the de-chalker.)

10.) Regardless of in what country you live, the Sock Monster will eat your children's socks. The Sock Monster is a very hungry global entity.

 

 

Expat MomOriginally from Washington State, Expat-Mom, Sarah Jakob now lives in Germany with her German husband and dual citizen son. You can follow her adventures of Career Woman gone Stay-At-Home Mom at www.expat-mom.com 

 

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4 Comments To This Article

  • karina das posted:

    on 12th April 2014, 18:48:30 - Reply

    ...Really? How about using some common sense? I can explain how the washer is environmentally friendly when it washes for so long... It simply uses LESS water - which is why it has to cycle longer. The old top loaders in the US use (or shall I say waste?) a lot of water which is why they finish quicker - the less water you use, the longer you have to cycle.. does that make sense? The way the German made washers are set up - the electricity is not the issue, it is the water and even more so: the water that goes down the drain. This is what a German washer tries to reduce. By the way I like the fact that the washer heats up the water to a good temperature rather than using the luke warm tap water... and have you ever realized that when you sanitize your laundry (=wash it really hot) in the US it will take two hours to run the load?
    As for the dryer, the same thing: common sense. For starters, the dryers we use in the US transport the moisture outside - a very simple technique (you recall the silver tube connecting the dryer with the hole in the wall?). The German dryers do not work like this in most cases because you don't have the connection to the outside (no hole in the wall), they are condensing the water which uses a lot of electricity. And because - unlike in the US - electricity is very pricey here, people simply prefer to hang their laundry - and they don't care whether you can see their underwear flattering in the wind (to make them stay in place we use a device called a peg... Well, anyway, stay calm and feel free to contact me for more info and tips on how to survive as an expat mom in Germany.
  • Katie posted:

    on 16th May 2012, 14:41:17 - Reply

    These German washers and dryers do take forever! The quick setting on my washer takes 1 hour and 18 minutes!!! I find it very hard to believe it saves any electricity cycling for that long. I usually find a stray sock or something after I start a load, and of course I can't just open the lid and toss it into the wash like I could in the states. The washer I had in the states finished up around the 35 minute mark. Don't even get me started on the dryer. I feel your pain! You are not alone! :)
  • Mary posted:

    on 11th May 2012, 21:09:01 - Reply

    I agree with the previous writer 100%.
    We have had a front loading washer for the past 8 years now, and would never go back to top loading.
    First, if you have children, you must sort your clothes into baskets or piles befor loading the machine. Then move the pile you plan to wash to a spot immediately in front of the washer door. Open the door and pick up one item at a time to be placed in washer. Keep your body in front of the door o child can not help load. Do not stuff washer........
    We also do not stuff dryer, AND we are extremely diligent in cleaning lint screen after EVERY load.
  • Hans posted:

    on 10th May 2012, 09:21:39 - Reply

    This is for @Sarah Jakob - I can feel with you and just have to say a few word to help you out. First, my wife and I were in the same boat. I'm German, she is an American and we lived in Vancouver, WA for many years until we moved to Duesseldorf, Germany.
    So, here are a few tips for your washer / dryer issue ...
    First, do NOT cram all you can in either dryer or washer. That not only helps cleaning the cloth, but definitely helps drying everything as fast as you want it to dry. On top of it, you should clean the 2 (two) lint strainers /filters after every dry run. That really helps to try the cloth fast in your drye too. What makes it most often soooo slow in drying is an "overstuffing" (aka cramming it full up to the gills). Those dryers are tumble dryers and the cloths need to tumble in it to dry. Sooo, stuff it half full and you will see the difference :-).
    Hope that helps you to deal with an excellent system, that's so much better than the U.S. toploaders with their agitators that are hard on the cloth. Cloth show wear and tear much sooner when using a toploader. Not so in the front loader systems, and it's about time that this kind of system get more used in the States. They are available there for a long time already. It was the first thing we changed when we bought a washer