My life in laundry

Feb 22, 2019 | 16 comments |

As you may have seen on Twitter, Tech Guy and I got a new washing machine last week.

Not only did it mark a milestone in my complicated relationship with laundry but, and in a clear indication of advancing middle age, few things in recent years have brought me so much excitement.

The wringer washer 

One of my earliest childhood memories is watching my mother and her mother labouring with my grandmother’s ancient wringer washer.

On a hot and humid July morning, I was sent outside to sit on a sun-warmed step and told to stay there, far away from the machine that clanked in a corner of the back shed, steam rising from its galvanized tub like the cauldron of some evil witch.

Although my mother soon got an automatic washer, I’d already formed the indelible impression that laundry was not only labor intensive but dangerous—as the horrific tales of wringer washing machine injuries whispered about by Grandma and her friends attested.  

Communal washing days

When I left home for university, I was catapulted into an era of stockpiling coins to feed communal washing machines—always in short supply unless I had nothing better than laundry to do on Friday and Saturday nights. 

Sadly, and unlike what is often depicted in movies, no cute guys did their laundry at the same time as me.

And when I came face-to-face with a bat in the gloomy laundry area of a student rental house, I was on my own, awaiting the arrival of the animal protection officer who’d “helpfully” advised me to “stay put” on the other side of a flimsy wooden door and not approach the animal “in case it was rabid.”

Happily ever after…

After Tech Guy and I got married, I moved into the house he’d bought several years before, a fossilized shrine to 1970’s décor including orange shag carpet, metallic avocado green wallpaper and, in the basement, a matching harvest gold washing machine and tumble dryer. 

While we updated the rest of the house to reflect late 1990’s chic, their (to me) atrocious color didn’t impede function so the harvest gold appliances stayed, still going strong almost thirty years after their purchase by a previous owner.

Laundry goes international

Our move to England, though, ushered in a new era of laundry adventures.

In one flat (apartment), a trendy new build in a newly trendy part of London, I discovered the dubious joys of the “combined” washer/dryer. 

Whilst some such models may work brilliantly, ours did not and since the flat didn’t feature an airing cupboard (an essential attribute of the British home), we became accustomed to sodden washing festooned 24/7 not only from a collapsible drying rack but from every available doorknob and rail. 

After Tech Guy got a new job and we moved west of London to a “maisonette” in a pretty Berkshire village, our washing machine woes continued.

Not only did the new machine break at regular intervals, but the repair technician, with whom I was soon on a first-name, cup of tea sharing basis, proclaimed our model to be “absolutely the worst” then on the consumer market. 

When we left the maisonette for a terraced house on the other side of the village, we gained another new washing machine and, with a new baby English Rose, I was filled with hope for a happier laundry future.

Yet, that machine was also plagued with problems . When it finally reached the spin cycle (over an hour in), the noise escalated to such a crescendo that my visiting dad likened the sound to an aircraft thundering down a runway at London Heathrow, twenty miles away.

In addition, the front-loading door often fell off. On one memorable occasion, I sat in our galley kitchen with my back propped against a cupboard and my feet holding the door in place until the wash cycle finished—so English Rose had the clean school uniform she needed for the following day.

Home is where the washer is

Once back in Canada, we bought a house with a ground floor laundry room. For the first time in my life I had a separate and efficient laundry space. 

But soon, the malicious laundry fairy struck again. The washing machine (which came with the house) not only cleaned clothes but was what Tech Guy dubbed a “combination washer-shredder,” ripping seams, pulling necklines out of shape, and tearing delicate items from zippered mesh laundry bags. 

Deciding enough was enough, and after due research and saving of money, we finally settled on a new machine, supposed to be the most durable model on the market, (lasting twenty years or more), easy to repair, with superior but gentle washing function, and low noise.

Delivery day, the day after Valentine’s Day, was the best Valentine present ever and, as I write, I trust a new, less stressful era of domestic life beckons. 

Now if only the dishwasher hadn’t started making a grinding sound…


  1. Jennifer Wilck

    Ha! This is so funny (especially since I don’t have to go through it)! Here’s hoping you’ve finally gotten your laundry issues sorted and that the new one works like a dream.

    • Jen Gilroy

      Thank you, Jennifer. So far, the new machine is working well. Fingers crossed…!! Glad you enjoyed the post and thanks for commenting.

  2. Dorine

    I think you’ve missed your calling. This is hilarious, Jen.

    • Jen Gilroy

      Thanks, Dorine. I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I don’t usually write ‘funny’ but in retrospect, my laundry adventures are amusing, even though they might not have seemed so at the time!

  3. Juanita Whisenant

    Oh,my it sounds like my luck with refrigerators. 366 days after buying one of them I woke up to about 4 gallons of ice cream on the floor. The best one we had was also full of insulation on the back side where it went through the tornado that destroyed my grandmother’s house.

    • Jen Gilroy

      Oh my goodness, Juanita. Yes, my washing machine saga rivals your life in refrigerators! And the thought of a refrigerator going through a tornado and (more or less) surviving…wow! Thanks for reading my post and commenting.

  4. Heidi Vanstone

    What does it say about my life when I plan my activities around a 48-hour laundry “cycle”?? With our children going through multiple changes in one day (kung-fu uniform, school uniforms, sweaty PJs), I count myself very blessed that we have an extra-large water efficient machine!

    • Jen Gilroy

      I have a similar laundry ‘plan,’ Heidi! Automatic washers are indeed a blessing, especially with growing children. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  5. Lynn Folliott

    So many of your, laundry, memories I share with you. From the wringer washer, to the coins, etc. With my rental I have a fragile, stacked washer and drier. I give thanks for every load, completed…Enjoy your new washer, Jen and thank you for another good post!

    • Jen Gilroy

      And thank you, Lynn. Stacked laundry appliances is the one variation I’ve missed…at least so far! Sending you good wishes for many more problem-free loads. I appreciate you reading and commenting.

  6. Susanna Bavin

    What a wonderful blog, Jen. So very amusing while at the same time being totally recognisible. We’ve all experienced something of what you describe, though possibly you are the only one to have faced every one of the horrors! I hope your new washing machine gives you long and faithful service, with no rabid bats for company.

    • Jen Gilroy

      This blog post seems to have a struck a chord with many readers, Susanna. So far, so good with the new washing machine and nary a bat in sight! Thanks, as always, for supporting supporting my blog.

  7. Tara

    I hope your new washing machine is The One. I remember my mum washing with an old twin tub that needed a big stick to push all the clothes down into the boiling hot soapy water! What could go wrong?

    • Jen Gilroy

      Thank you, Tara. So far, so good with the new machine!

      Your comment about your mum having to push the clothes down into the water with a stick made me chuckle, albeit with more than a tinge of horror. What could go wrong indeed?!

  8. Sylvia Pattenden

    The stacking washer & dryer in my new apartment do a good job getting clothes clean but the noise it makes at intervals in the wash cycle are startling. Neighbour below claims she doesn’t hear the noise so guess I can live with it.

    • Jen Gilroy

      I’m glad you’re moved into your new apartment, Sylvia. It’s good you have a washer & dryer in your suite but too bad about the noise. Hopefully it’s something you’ll get more used to over time.

      Thanks for reading my post and commenting.


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