Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Laundry Day in Africa

I can't say that I have ever really enjoyed doing laundry. In college I would let my clothes pile up until I had nothing left to wear and then overload the washing machine. I had no clue where to even begin with washing clothes by hand. Luckily, my host sister sat me down and showed me how to do it.

I will break it down into a few (relatively) easy steps:

Step 1. Fill tub with water and then sprinkle in some laundry detergent. (I am very fortunate to have a tub to do this. During home stay, I used several large buckets and had to hand carry the water from a faucet).

Step 2. Throw your clothes in to soak and do something else for 30-60 minutes while they soak. (I have even left them overnight in hopes that more time will magically mean more clean - it doesn't).

Step 3. Come back, stare at my clothes in the tub, wonder how I ever disliked doing laundry back in the US, and promise myself to never take a washing machine for granted ever again.

Step 4. Swish the clothes around and then start scrubbing them by hand. It is difficult to explain in words, but here goes: You take the clothing item and grab it with both hands. Then you vigorously rub it between the heels of your two hands. Repeat this step over and over and over again until at least one hand feels raw. Pay special attention to dirt or stains; this calls for even more scrubbing by hand.

Step 5. Wring each item, drain the tub, and then refill with water.

Step 6. Swish clothes around again, in hopes that this will wash out all of the soap suds. Wring the clothes again and put aside to be hung up.

Step 7. (optional) I sometimes do a second rinse and wringing if I think I haven't washed all of the soap suds out. Jeans are especially tough to wash by hand (and so I rarely do...).

Step 8. Go out back and hang clothes up on the line. Hope and pray (in vain) that they will not stretch out.

Step 9. Ignore neighbors laughing and telling me that I should have a maid to do my laundry (most of them do).

Step 10: Wait for clothes to dry (and hopefully not be too wrinkled). Go and collect them and fold. This step is easier now that it is summer. Clothes dry very quickly in 100+ degree heat.

Nothing to it right? All told, a full load (what I wear in one week) takes me about 4-5 hours from start to finish. Now that I have it down to a routine, I really don't mind it as much.