|Self Portrait by Bonnie Rose Photography © 2013 All Rights Reserved | www.bonnieroseblog.co.uk
One day I got dressed up, did my hair, put on my make up, and got in the tub. Only to turn the shower on to capture my weekly self portrait. To wear wet clothes in the shower is an odd experience to say the least. While this was a fun artistic endeavor, my experience with dealing with wet clothes is a weekly occurrence.
Let me introduce you to this Expat’s guide to Doing the Laundry in the UK vs the USA.
UK vs. USA
- Washing powder = Detergent
- Clothes peg = Clothes pin
- Linen basket = Hamper
I came to the realisation in writing this post that there are pros and cons to how you do laundry in both countries. I have heard the complaints of US expats in England and UK expats in America. I have also done my own laundry in both countries. Here is my personal experience and take on the laundry situation and differences.
1. Size & Location. Just as America has oversized cars and food portions they also have the largest washing and drying machines. Though today they have some more streamlined versions (or ones that stack nicely on top of each other) they are still very large. If we are talking about a standard american sized home there is usually a designated space for these monstrous large laundry machines. That could mean the basement or in its own designated room. I have experienced having mine also in the kitchen, but tucked away in its own closet behind doors. In England I have most often found them only in the kitchen. However in our current home our machine (Singular. More on that soon) is on the opposite wall of our stove, in the back hallway next to our refrigerator. In our last flat our machine was in the kitchen, tucked away under the counter top, and very small. Though we have never had the luxury of a dishwasher in England they are quite small too. My expat friend has one in her kitchen and the size lends itself to look like a child’s kitchen toy.
|This is our tiny 2-1washing machine from our flat. The size of the door is about the size of the capacity inside.
Do not be fooled by the large rectangular shape, because it is not the Tardis. It is much smaller on the inside.
2. Load Sizes. Since the machines are more compact in England then it is only simple math that the loads will be smaller too. For a girl who used to stuff her american washing machine with a very full load that is a huge size difference compared to what I can do in England. I also learned the hard way that you cannot ‘stuff’ the machine. Clothes will not get washed properly and cleaned unevenly. Not all washing machines are the same size here. In fact our machine in our last flat was the smallest I have ever used. Which takes us to the next point.
3. The ‘2 in 1′ Machine. I mentioned the very small washing machine in my last flat. It was confusing and no manuals or google searches were making it any easier. I would choose a setting for the specific load like I would in the US. The door locked, it washes, it dries and it takes hours. We could only put one towel in the machine if we wanted to not ‘waste’ the drying process. To wait so many hours just for two outfits, compared to one load was not making me very happy. Luckily we eventually figured out a trick. We would put the clothes on the ‘quick wash & dry’ which would wash the clothes and dry them. They would not be dry. So then choose a drying setting to finish up the job. However it still took much longer to dry for such a small load. When I took the clothes out they still felt damp and very, very hot. I have burned myself on metal clasps on the garments taking them out. I then put the clothes out to dry on a drying rack and in an hour or so the small load should be dry. Unless there were too many clothes or I chose not to use the drying setting. Then it could take days.
4. Hot & Cold Water Hookups. From what I can tell in America you have both hot and cold water hookups to the washing machine and in England that is not necessarily the case. More often you will only have cold water hookup, with the unused hot water valve caped off. If that is the case the the washing machine warms up the water to the desired temperature selected. In America the water is not heated by the machine but by the water supply in the building. I also wanted to add that my current washing machine actually drains the used water into the utility sink that is next to it.
|This is our slightly bigger washing machine, does not dry, which drains into the utility sink.
It shares a wall with our stove.
5. Top and Front Loading Machines. While there are definitely exclusions to this rule in America, most machines are top loading. Which means you put in the laundry from the top of the machine while in England the machines are front loading. Though it can be easier for clothes to spill out on the floor when you take clothes out of a front loading machine, I favour it over top loading. Mainly because in the top loading machines in America you have what is called an agitator. It is the piece in the middle of the machine that looks like a pole. I cannot tell you how many spaghetti strap shirts and other garments I have had ruined or tanged on the agitator while living in Hawaii. To me it seems like a design flaw.
6. Wet vs. Really Wet. The clothes I would take out of my washing machine in America, to put into the dryer, were always quite wet. The clothes out of washing machines in England come out less wet and so then dry faster on the line in comparison. From research I have found it boils down to the voltage. America runs off of 110 volts and the UK runs off of 220 volts which makes the spin function better or worse depending on which you use. This is definitely one issue that unless you have used both machines in both countries, you may not fully understand the difference.
7. Dryers are a Luxury. In America I have had the luxury of having a dryer next to my washing machine. Always. Heaven forbid the dryer breaks on someone because in America it is only the ‘hippies’ who put their clothes outside to dry. While this is just a mentality believed by some in the USA, it is not a view shared by those in the UK. More often than not people will think less of you for having a tumble dryer because they really spike the utility costs in the UK. Our current home does not have a dryer so we seek other options for our clothes when they come out of the washing machine.
|This is one of two drying racks that we use inside and outside to dry our clothes. It compacts when not in use.
When in use it takes up a lot of space. However this one takes up less pace than are more horizontal version.
8. Energy Efficient. It is normal for someone in America to do laundry at any hour of the day. In the UK it is more efficient and saves money to do it during a certain time of day. Electricity is cheaper from 11pm to 6am and is when most people will set their machine to work. Also in Europe washing machines display an EU Energy Label with grades for efficiency. This helps consumers in the UK to buy more efficient washing machines. Now in America they say ‘Time is money’ and it does seem to take most of my time to do any of our washing and drying. I honestly feel that people are more environmentally conscious in Europe than back in America where things like electricity can be taken for granted.
9. Drying Clothes Outside. As I said more often than not people dry their clothes in a dryer in America. For those that do like line dry outside, may still use a dryer for items like bedding, towels, and undergarments. If you had to choose between a soft towel and a crunchy towel, which would you prefer? However in England line drying is a common practice. It is a luxury in its own for those who have a garden (‘yard’ for my American readers). In our last flat with the small washing machine we did not have a garden. We also were not allowed to hang any clothes from the windows or have our laundry visible clearly from the windows because it is unsightly. Now that we we have a garden I can hang my clothes outside. But lets be practical and remember that I do live in England. Where the temperature is usually cold and it rains a lot. I tried just moving my drying rack outside so the clothes could get fresh air back in January. Did not matter that there was no rain in sight, the cold air would not aid in the drying process. So after hours I brought my clothes back inside just as wet as they were before.
|Wrinkled from the small washing machine I put the clothes out to dry on racks on the radiator.
Those trousers will have to be ironed later.
10. Drying Clothes Inside. In America this would imply that you use an electric dryer. Or for clothes that are more delicate or prone to wrinkling you may hang it up and let it air dry. There may be some clothes drying adapted radiators available, but usually central heating is involved in American homes. In England we have varying size radiators in every room except our kitchen and one in the hallway. We are two short since those ones do not seem to be working. However the others do a fantastic job and helping to dry our clothes. If I do my kids uniforms at night before bed I can draper them over the radiators and go to bed. In the morning their outfits are dry, usually warm and ready to wear. We have our radiators set on a timer and they go off at certain times in the 24 hour period. I know when they go on and so plan my washing accordingly. We also have these neat racks I can place on the radiator so that I dry a few more garments than I could without them. If I am trying to get a lot of clothes dry or drying bigger items like bedding and towels I have to use drying racks. It can literally take up to three days to dry these items especially if the weather is cold. Plus they take up a lot of room and you are constantly side stepping around them and hoping not to knock of laundry on the floor.
Extra tidbit from an Expat in the UK: I do spend a lot of time multi tasking and trying to remember to go back to other tasks. This includes always checking the weather in case I need to put clothes outside or take them back inside. I am constantly having to open windows, to prevent mold, and remembering to go back later to close them again. Especially if it starts raining. For my clothes on the dryer I periodically go around and flip them over like pancakes so they get dry evenly on both sides.
In Summary there are differences between doing the laundry in the UK vs in the USA. I do miss my american sized dryer so much. However I do not think I could ever have one here because I know how expensive it would be to use it and then it would just be taking up so much space with its large size. In the UK I do love being eco friendly compared to wasting resources, money, energy, etc. However I would like to figure out a better system of having all my laundry done at once. It is so easy to get backed up with laundry with waiting for it to dry. My goal is to finally figure out a systems so that I get down to manageable amounts of laundry and not IKEA bags full of loads I need to do. It can get overwhelming at times and makes me want to move back to Thailand, where I can pay to have my laundry done by someone else.
Q: Have you experienced differences in doing laundry in the UK vs USA? What about other countries? I would love to hear your feedback!
*Self portrait belongs to Bonnie Rose Photography © 2013 All Rights Reserved | www.bonnie-rose.co.uk
* For information regarding the use of photography by Bonnie Rose and photographic services contact bonnie[at]bonnie-rose[dot]co[dot]uk