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November 13, 2008 Laundry Quandary

I’ve gotten pretty good at handwashing my laundry, if I do say so myself. But there’s always more to learn…

One of my secrets is letting the clothing soak in soapy water for several hours before I wash it. Everything’s faster and easier to clean when it’s been soaking for a while. I understand that it’s a little harder on the fibers, but who am I kidding: I really don’t expect any of these clothes to come back to the US. Moroccan life is hard on clothes.

The other advantage of leaving the clothes to soak is that, if I leave them on the sunny roof where I do my laundry (‘cause it’s far and away the warmest part of the house, especially on sunny days when it’s a good 20° warmer in direct sunlight than it is indoors), the water warms up. Washing clothes (or dishes, for that matter) in ice-cold water is never fun.

Yesterday, I put my clothes up on the roof to soak at around 10am, figuring I’d let them soak till noonish and then wash them and hang them to dry. But the afternoon completely got away from me, and by the time I was home, it was twilight. True, twilight comes early in my mountain valley with just over a month till the shortest day of the year, but still.

I figured that an extra 24 hours of soaking could only help clean the clothes, so I didn’t worry too much about them.

This morning, I woke up around 8. I checked my handydandy indoor-outdoor thermometer. It was 39° in my bedroom – about fridge temperature – and 33° outside, so I decided to give the laundry a couple hours to soak up some rays. Around 10am, I trotted up to the roof to start scrubbing. I figured the water would have gotten chilly overnight, but it had had the hours since dawn to re-heat in the sun…right? I brought up a big teakettle full of boiling water, just in case.

Turns out the water had FROZEN overnight. Yeeah. I guess I should have predicted that, since it was barely above freezing an hour after sunrise, but it honestly hadn’t occurred to me. So what to do? I broke and tossed the pancake-thick layer of ice from the top of the bucket of rinse water, but the buckets full of clothes were harder to deal with; they leak a little (I keep forgetting to buy new washbasins in souq), so clothes were poking above the surface like icebergs. Since there were no handy sheets of ice to lift out and toss, I ended up just pouring the boiling water over it all. Then I went down to the kitchen to boil another gallon or two of water.

Even after I mixed in all that boiling-hot water, the water still felt cold to the touch. And the first piece of clothing I grabbed – a sock – was frozen to itself in about six places. I tried to pry it apart for a minute, then shook my head and headed back downstairs. I’d need to harness a little more sunlight before any laundering would take place.

Fast-forward a few hours… The water is still cold to the touch, but the clothes aren’t frozen, so with a little scrub-a-dub-dub, everything’s soon hanging on the line, basking in the autumn sun. :) Then I go downstairs, use heated water to do the dishes (and warm up my hands), and presto chango, I’ve got a house full of clean stuff. :)

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