Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Line Drying & Tricks of the Trade

Technically, I'm now going on my 6th year of not using a clothes dryer (very much) for those out there in cyberworld who have gone all the way, I commend you.  When I first moved to Japan, I thought the house looked so....well, "3rd world" with all the clothes hanging out.  It the states, that just would not be okay.  In fact, some Home Owners Associations have rules about having clothes hanging out to dry for fear it will lower property values.  Living off base in Japan got me started with line drying.  The dryer we had there was well, pretty pathetic.  If we had the dryer and the microwave going at the same time, a circuit would break in the house. It literally took 3-4 hours to dry a load.  I was sooooo done with it.  So, I bought a rod and clips and got going.  I found out my clothes were drying faster outside then they were inside and I wasn't heating up the whole house with the dryer going.  At first the stiffness of the clothes bugged me but really, I started to like that feeling after a while.  I also loved that when I went home to California to visit, I could literally smell the Yokosuska seaside on my clothing when I opened my suitcase.  And yes, I  line dried my skivvies even when I was at risk from the panty thief.

Then we moved back home and I kept up my line drying fetish.  My husband thought I was a little odd.  We bought an "old fashioned" hanger to post up in the back yard.  (Although, I did miss the Japanese style of line drying. They dry their clothing on rods and not on lines.  Click here to see an example.  The Japanese also have all kinds of knick-knacks for drying odd items like stuffed animals or shoes. ) The American washing machines don't wring out the water as well leaving much wetter clothing to dry.  In the dry hot Summers of California that wasn't much of an issue but still, American washers don't seem to be set up to encourage line drying.  I still did it though!  Well, mostly.

I confess, I've always had a clothes dryer in my home but I find I'm using it less and less. Just recently, I read a lament about learning how to cope with line drying.  I've been there.....there was a period where I HATED it.  But, I encourage everyone out there who is new to the whole line drying world: Take heart.  It's like Stockholm syndrome.  You get used to it....and you even start to like it.  Here are a few tips I've learned throughout the years along with some reasons why line drying is a good thing.

PROS:

  • It's better for the environment (duh, I think this should go without saying but hey, I'm gonna put it out there) Just knowing that a circuit would break every time I had the dryer and the microwave on was enough to tell me....yeah, I'm using A LOT of power in my house.
  • My clothes last longer.  I found that the colors stay brighter and the elastic doesn't wear out as much in your pants or undies. (rubber elastic going through super hot dryer....means broken elastic)
  • It keeps the house cooler during the Summer
  • It keeps the power bill down 
  • Sometimes it really does dry faster
  • I can smell sunshine on my sheets....for serious. Despite what the package says, mountain fresh "scent" is not the same as actual mountain fresh smell.

TIPS:

  • Sunshine really is natures bleach.  Now, I'm not saying anyone in this house has yellow sweat stains....but if they did, this gets it out.  Also, if you want blinding white sheets, hang them out in the sun! Not even bleach gets them this white.  Ever been to a flea market and see the clothes that have been hung out in the sun for too long and they are all faded?  Well, that's what sun does to whites with stains.  The Ancient Pompeians did it and so can you! (They also thought Camel urine was the most fabulous liquid to wash clothes in....but, the sunshine thing seemed to stick)
  • Again, refer to the first tip....sun can fade your clothing.  So, to prevent this, turn brights inside out if they are drying outside in the sun.  For folks out there who are fortunate enough to have a covered patio, then just hang them there. 
  • Hang all shirts on hangers.  Purchase a cheap clothing rod on wheels for this or, hang them on the balcony rails.  When they are dry, just take them from that area and hang them in the closet.....no folding or placing on hangers neccessary. 
  •  Use inexpensive spring loaded curtain rods placed in door ways to use for drying.  In most homes they can be place there without any interference of "door operations".....they are also temporary and can be removed without scuffing up the walls or paint. 
  • During the winter, I place my hanging rod near the dryer.  Clothes dry faster this way.
  • Don't want to iron?  The German dryer fries my clothes.  My pants shrank majorly and lets face it, high waters can't be fixed.   If you don't want shrinkage (MEANING: CLOTHES! READERS, GET YOUR MINDS OUT OF THE GUTTER!) place clothing in the dryer for 10-20 minutes then take them out and hang them.  They will "steam" dry.  This will cause them to dry quicker and not wrinkle.
  • Most German stores also carry mini lines that hook on to the heaters in the house.  This is fantastic for winter because the clothes dry pretty darn well this way. It's just another one of those space savers.
  • If you find yourself without a clothes dryer, use fabric softener for your towels.  It's not the same as fluffy soft towels but it helps. Seriously, I knew military house wives that gave bottles of Downy as gifts to their Japanese friends.  I think a small bottle off base was like 800 Yen. (About $10) it was a highly prized "luxury". :)
  • If you're lucky enough to have a bathroom with heated tiles....during the winter, this is the absolute best place to dry clothes.
  • For pants, hangers with clips seem to do it best for me.  I use something I got in Japan that I've a little overzealous about and it works great. Here's what mine looks like.
  • Once the washing machine is done, get those clothes out on the line!  Because European water has no chlorine in it, things get that musty nasty smell really quick.  For this same reason, the toilets get nasty quick too.  Get a little hangy thing that clips to the side of the toilet and "cleans & freshens"  when it's flushed. American foreigners may notice that their sinks may just get stinky.....vinegar and baking soda or, lemon and baking soda work for this.  Every once in a while, it helps with the funk.  There are also cleaners available for your washing machine.  Sometimes, German washing machines end up stinking after time.  It's a good idea to run a clean cycle through or, having baking soda on hand or borax run with laundry detergent keeps it at bay.  A German friend of mine says she user uber hot water with bleach on her white towels every once in a while to kill the smell.
  • Purchase local clothing.  Most European clothing is better designed for line drying. Knit tops sometimes are lighter or, have a little more polyester in them to dry quicker and with less wrinkles. Despite the synthetic cloths bad reputation, polyester is fabulous for keep stains at bay too.


    Lastly, I'll include a couple more fun links to webpages that might be more informative or just plane fun to read:
An American house wife sharing her experiences of laundry in a foreign land.  Along with some other real interesting stuff.

More information about German washing machines and laundry

Missing Japanese stuff?  This is a site that will ship to you!  Especially cool laundry hangers. 

Our Japan Blog also has a laundry entry which is very similar to this one.....creepy.

Housewife in Japan.  This is a goofy video about laundry in Japan.  The one thing that I disagree with her on is the hot water thing.  Hot water is available but,  the machine hose just needs to be hooked up to a hot water faucet.  If your home doesn't have one....then, yes you can only access cold water for your machine.

Hans Rosling does a fabulous TED talk on the washing machine and the strides we've made and how lucky we really are.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Keepin' Cool

Most if not all German households do not have a central heating and air conditioning system.  If there is a house with one, I have yet to witness it.  Most modern homes are constructed of concrete.  This has it's pros and cons.  A major "pro" is that it's great insulation.  With double pained windows and concrete walls it keeps the sounds and "environment" out and the "indoors" in.  For most of the year this works splendidly. I equate German summers as mild.  Similar to Central California early spring or late fall.  Meaning cool mornings and warm afternoons and cool evenings.  So, to keep it comfy in the Summer we open the windows in the morning close up during the afternoon and then open up in the evening. 

The trouble or "con" really starts during that one super hot humid week or two during the year and there really is no relief.  Which brings me to another trouble with German homes.....NO FLIPPING SCREENS! I don't mind bugs I most truly do not....except for fruit flies and they are abundant during the Summer.  Also, regular flies are a nuisance but I can usually swat them outside (and yes, I am one of those crazy granola crunchers who puts out the bugs and doesn't kill them). Screens are sold at the local home depot store.  A screen door for one of my balcony window/doors would cost 69 Euro.  WTH?! For all 4 of those doors it would cost close to $400 and that doesn't even include the regular windows. This along with built in closets and bathroom shelving gets checked off as  'things that are just automatically included in a rental property at home'.   A good thing to invest in is fans.  The cheapest I've found them is about 20 Euro.  (I'm talking about a good sized standing fan. Now again, ceiling fans or whole house fans don't seem to exist here). The fans I have seems to keep the fruit flies and gnats disoriented enough to not pester me.  Something with moving air detours them I've found. Portable AC units are available, I believe the price tag on those was about 400 Euro.  But, for anyone who needs this it might be worth it.  Also second hand is always an option.

Another way to keep cool and this seems to be what most Germans do is to go to a local lake or pool.  There is usually a public indoor pool in most areas. Azur, Waschm├╝hle, and Monte Mare or some that came up from my Google search. In our area there are many many local lakes as well.  The closest one to us is in Kindsbach.  It's a old old man made lake (There are not many if any natural ponds or lakes in German forests most are man made and in olden days, were stocked with fish) Barenlochweiher is a small lake with a wading area for smaller tots, a Cafe, restrooms, and playground and it's free to enjoy.
Another place that I've just heard of is CUBO. This I've heard is a fantastic natural pool (no chlorine or saline just plants are used to filter it) there is also an indoor spa.  Click here for a link in English. Something I've mentioned in the past but will again here is Gartenschau.  For families this is really a fun place.  There is a creek that runs through the park area along with a water play area.  This is fantastic for parents like me don't necessarily want to "bless" everyone with an appearance in their mom bathing suit.  This park is great and for a little over 40 Euro families can purchase a season pass.

So, keep the faith newbies.  When the thermostat reaches a hefty 98-100 degrees with humidity in the "hell" rating, go swimming and for heavens sake, don't cook!