Laundry Curmudgeon

I realize that there are urgent and important stories making
the news or being under-reported. Nevertheless, I ask your indulgence while I
vent about a seemingly minor topic.

Over the past year, our laundry has frequently piled up. We’ve
often been on the road doing speeches and appearances for two-week periods with
seldom more than two days in one city. Rapid-fire travel has meant packing,
unpacking and repacking without much time to run a few loads in between trips. When
possible, I gladly settle down for a major washing day.

I am truly grateful for the plethora of clothes on the
market. Most years I can even find items to fit my needs.  Still, the sheer volume of clothes made me
aware of a problem I have been increasingly noticing. The clothing industry and
I seem to be living in different realities. While I don’t want to sound
curmudgeonly (which probably means I am about to do exactly that) please excuse
me while I voice a pet peeve.

Dear clothing manufacturers: I don’t know who does your laundry,
but I think I speak for many who wash our own clothes. If I am buying an outfit
in which to be introduced to the Queen of England or to wear to a child’s
wedding (one of those events happens more frequently than the other) I will
look at items with a “dry clean only” label. Otherwise, that wording leads me
to move on to the next item. Have you seen dry cleaning prices lately? I prefer
spending money on different options like food and housing.

Perhaps you have a laundress working full-time for you. I am
grateful not to be scrubbing clothes on a rock down by the river, but I load
and unload my washing machine myself. What exactly do you intend to
happen when you label something ‘wash separately’? Seven blouses should take
seven cycles? Get real!

Ditto for ‘hand wash only’. I might on occasion wash a very
special item by hand. However, saving time is more important to me than owning an
item that catches my eye in a store, but demands that I stay up an extra five
minutes at night.

I understand that fear of complaints from litigious
consumers may encourage you to put the most restrictive cleaning instructions
on your labels. This is not without cost. I will callously pass up an item that
says, “hand wash cold” while if it has the option of going in the machine it
may very well make it into my shopping cart.

Am I a laundry curmudgeon? Or do my shopping habits reflect
those of millions?


17 thoughts on “Laundry Curmudgeon”

  1. At my husband’s 20th high school reunion, they had a book made that had all the student’s hobbies, etc. on it. I laughed so hard and remember it well when one of the women’s hobby was “laundry”. I don’t know if she was serious, but it gave me a good laugh. You can see why laundry would be a hobby when you have to know so much. Great article, Susan!

  2. Karen Like you I don’t hand wash. But I found if I put those items in a mesh bag then in the washer it works.

  3. How true!! I can’t remember the last time I “hand washed” anything. It goes into the washer lol. I don’t even look at “dry clean only” clothes. It it can’t go into the washer, I wouldn’t buy it. I am lucky with five people in the house to separate the laundry into “whites, lights and darks”. 🙂

  4. Keep on doing exactly what you are doing! Everything you say is profound- even about laundry! We love and appreciate you. Tell Rabbi for me he is a lucky man. oh I know, there is no such thing as luck G-d’s people – but you get the idea…

  5. I also hesitate to buy special care items.
    As a side note, if a teen is old enough to work and buy their own (special care) clothes, they are certainly old enough to do their own laundry. It may take a few late nights or expensive trips to the cleaners, but some people have to learn by experience.
    (Or Mom could charge market rates for the service!)

  6. Thank you Mrs. Lapin for a very accurate appraisal of a reality, I think, we’re all currently living out. I long ago resigned my wardrobe to “washable” and “special care” garments. For me, washable means those items, whites and everything else, that I can personally wash without fear of damaging or destroying. After replacing my old faithful, inefficient top-loader of some 25 years with a more efficient front-loader, I switched to only using cold water in an effort to save money by extending the life and “new” appearance of the garments. Only to find “ultra” detergent and bleach. Which meant, now I was pay
    ing more for less. I consider “Special Care” garments those requiring “hand wash”, “dry clean” or “wash separately”(whether an actual label or dictated by common sense). For me, these are laundered dress shirts, wool suits, wool slacks ,wool sport coats and denim or loud colors that bleed. Who does cotton dress shirts better than the cleaners? Even limiting the wools to steam and press as needed, maintenance is expensive. So, I’m left believing and may be even convinced that with all the effort to save and conserve, High-Efficiency this and “Ultra” that, doing our own laundry and reducing our ‘Special Care’ purchases, this industry still gets the best of us.

  7. “A time to be born, and a time to die;”
    Our 17 and a half year old washer died in March of this year. Now we have a new Maytag from Home Depot. This new washer is terrific! It’s definitely another noticeable step away from the rocks by the river. For example, my wife has noticed that a jug of liquid laundry detergent is lasting at least twice as long with this new unit. I’ve noticed that our perpetual mountain of teenage laundry has been reduced to a mole hill (well, maybe a foot hill). I’m still getting used to all of the new washer’s whirs and chimes and stuff like that. My wife is the expert on laundry, so I’ll ask “Which buttons to I push for this [a single shirt or something]?” The answer always comes back “Just drop it in an press start – it will figure the rest out for you”. I’m like, “Huh?”.
    For once I’m grateful for planned obscolesence; who knows how much longer we’d have kept that older unit. But Susan, we are right there with you in the laundry room. It for sure beats spending a small fortune at the dry cleaners.

  8. Tell it, Sister, tell it……..When did clothing turn into such a can of substandard worms bemoaned by everyone I talk to? ..poorly made ….imported material…. and higher maintenance than we are? so not.
    Now I go on an adventure….searching for real fabrics with real thread versus questionable “blends”.. easy care, with labels that can be cut out because , so surprise, they irritate skin…and easy care.
    …I worked for my money ….clothing can darned well do the same. … I just “woke up stubborn” about it one day…waiiiiit a minute…who owns who here? Now my clothing takes up half the room it did in the closet …and I smile …victory…!

  9. You may do handwash clothing in the gentle cycle of a washer if you put it in a laundry bag. Having said that, I too walk away from any every day wear clothing that requires any special wash or dry instructions. If it doesn’t go in my washer and dryer it stays in the store. Thanks for sharing your thoughts every week!

  10. Anastasia Mather

    I so totally agree.
    I view my family’s laundry as that rock that Sisyphus keeps pushing up the mountain only to have it roll back down, to be pushed up the mountain again. Sigh.
    I am looking forward to the day when I get my RN and I wear nothing but scrubs to work. So much simpler.

  11. You are so very profound on this subject. Nothing makes me madder than to see “dry clean only or hand wash only” on clothes that I would otherwise buy. who has the kind of time or the money to throw away to get clothing clean. It is ridiculous. So, I am grateful to you for having had the idea to write of these peeves that we all share on your blog.

  12. Gerry Vander-Lyn

    Add me to the “millions” column! At the moment I have a clothes deficit. I really need to buy some more. I have a melt down just thinking about shopping.

  13. If you are then I am too! I do exactly the same thing. Unfortunately my daughter works in a clothing store and buys many more things than she actually needs with her discount and never looks at the care label – so there are too many “wash by hand” items for my liking!

  14. Well, laundry curmudgeon or not, your column bears a cogent message that applies to many things, not just to laundry. The message applies also to what we eat, what we drive, what we read. It applies to what we buy and what we keep: the tyranny of things.
    The things we own can enrich us and they can also burden or enslave us. Our possessions possess us. What we purchase and maintain is a function of our deepest values. But we need to examine whether what we buy will fit the lifestyle we must practically maintain. We want a fine wardrobe, but will our lifestyle support its care? We want the joy of a horse, but can we house, feed and regularly exercise the poor beast? If we want a flashy sports car, can we afford its high test fuel, replacement parts and maintenance?
    And industry oft does not seem to march in step with our consumer needs. So many items available present us with a devilish conundrum. The quality clothing we desire may require more than the maintenance on the fly that our schedule allows. Hot dogs come in eights but buns come in sixes. Extension cords come either too short or too long.
    Once a young hardware clerk was trying to persuade me to buy the 16-oz can of spray paint, to get more for my money. But he did not ask and failed to consider, how much paint did I need? I had but a very small job, and the 14 ounces of leftover paint would languish and rust on my garage shelf until the can wound up a headache of environmental disposal. To everything there is a season: a time to acquire and a time to discard. So when we think about it, we should examine every purchase we make to decide whether it reflects wise and thoughtful stewardship of our lives, our time and also of the earth. Thanks, Mrs. Lapin, for your time and for the opportunity to contribute.

  15. Amen Sister!!!
    Close to everything I own is black or denim. 1 load, one temperature…easy on the detergent. I haven’t the patience or the time to nursemaid my laundry.

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