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©July 2004

Carol Jane Remsburg



The Business of Laundry






Recently there has been a great debate over the laundry.  This came from the outside the house rather than within.  My husband works in an industry that prefers uniforms.  For several years, he worked on his own and purchased his own uniforms, the cost of which I still cringe over, and I laundered and maintained them for him.  The "having-my-own-business" got old in a hurry if nothing more than the paperwork and taxes.  But now the business of uniforms has reared its ugly head again, and with it the dilemma of who handles the laundering of said uniforms.


Unless you buy the uniforms outright, most companies make their bread and butter dollars from laundering and maintaining the uniforms they've contracted with the company they are serving.  Most people don't mind that one bit.  However, somewhere along the line, I've spoiled my husband.  The way I do laundry shouldn't for if I have to wash it, dry it, and weight it down with the monoliths of Easter Island in order to pull the wrinkles out of it, I'll do it—but I refuse to starch & iron.  Amend that, I refuse to iron—period.


Actually, I tossed the one iron I had gotten and rarely used when we first married many years ago.  It was hiding up in a closet above the water heater before we renovated the house.  Yet, I knew it was always there, just lurking—in case of a dire emergency.  I didn't like to think what that emergency might have been or could be, but I got rid of it just the same.  It was like having a dark idol in the house and I figured that I'd already done my time with an iron growing up and I was hopeless at it.  About the only thing I remembered that I ever COULD iron with any degree of efficiency was my dad's handkerchiefs.  Forget those white, button-down oxford shirts and those razor-sharp creases in the pants—it would take me forever to get them close to being respectable enough to be worn.


By the time I married, great advances had been made in the arena of perma-press materials and I learned to either line-dry them so they wouldn't wrinkle or blast-dry them in a dryer ensuring to remove them before the last tumble of the dryer stopped and get them onto hangers within seconds to ensure their perfection.  My innate sense of timing also revealed I could know exactly when the washer needed softener—no matter what else I might be doing at the time—yard work, cooking, or scrubbing out the bathroom toilets.  I often felt I could be two states away and know when it was time for the rinse cycle or that the dryer was about to stop.


Over the years I have tested out a myriad of laundry detergents from the most expensive and heralded down to the store brands.  The same goes for softeners.  There was a time when there seemed to be only five major brands of laundry detergent out there, discounting the store brands, and perhaps three brands of softeners.  They all did about the same job—they cleaned the clothes.  And if you were dedicated, you would always be experimenting with your laundry adding the 20-Mule Team Borax®, the brighteners for colored laundry, a measure of bleach to your whites—but not with such a heavy hand that the bleach ate holes through your whites.  I used to be among the heavy-handed bleach users, and then I found the old-fashioned bluing which helped a lot (try to find that NOW).  Even baking soda could be added to a wash load to help eradicate the most clinging of odors.  Which odors you might ask?  Don'tjust know that sometimes no amount of detergent or soap can kill certain odors.


As with my mastery of learning about cat litter-box layering, I worked over the years to perfect the best way to clean our family's clothing, towels, and bed linens.  In the most recent years, there has been an enormous surge in new detergents and softeners that simply guarantee not only to clean and smell outdoor fresh but also to scrub your floors and make a candlelight dinner for you too.  Now I've always been an vocal advocate of line-drying.  For many reasons I still do.  Number 1 on the hit parade is the fresh scent it gives (I live out in the boonies, so that helps).  Number 2 reason is that it's CHEAPER—I'm a tightwad when it comes to spending unreasonable amounts of money using a dryer when I can do it for free outside—unless it's 20o degrees or lower outside that simply freezes anything you put out, or that it has been raining for days on end—like it is now.


The latest rush in scents in laundry have been of the outdoor fresh variety.  It doesn't really matter which brand you choose, if you line-dry your bed linens on a fresh and breezy day, they come in smelling so good that you'll sniff them until you wear out your nose.  The only sad part is that you can't make it last longer than the curling up in bed that night.  For the next night, you'll only get a slight whiff of what was.  Then you have to wait the rest of the week to do it again—unless you want to be anal and try that everyday.  Me, I'll take my small joys once-a-week thank you.


Yet, what I have learned, over these last 20+ years is that the most expensive laundry detergent isn't the best, but if you must, spend the extra on a mid-grade to best softener for the fragrance when you have to dry indoors.  Yes, bleach on whites is still a must and using hot water DOES make the difference.


Now the uniform debacle has almost been decided.  The agreement hasn't yet been reached over just who will be washing hubby's uniforms, but I've got an idea how it will go.  Most men never tout or seem to care about how fresh and clean their clothing is, it's a given because they'll never do it themselves unless they are forced to.  My hubby can FIX a washer and dryer, yet is somehow genetically unable to know how to use them.  Therefore when he balked at having the uniform service company clean his uniforms and preferred to have me do it, I'll tell you that I was more than surprised.  I was floored.  Remember, I'm the woman who refuses to iron.  (Worse, one of those things came back into the house as expected for a school project that required an iron-on.  It is now duly hidden beneath old blankets and I hope something alien ingests it)


Meanwhile, I'll keep loading up the machine with special combinations of cleaning agents and my favorite softeners along with my little chants over keeping the wrinkles at bay.  


Now if anyone finds some bluing out there I can buy at bulk rates, let me know.



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