For almost all of my life, I’ve dried my clothes in the fresh (or not so fresh, depending on my location) air. I’ve never owned a clothes dryer. Sometimes, when I didn’t even have a washing machine, I used to go to the local laundromat and wash and dry my clothes there. So the only time I’ve ever dried my clothes in a machine has been in laundromats, or when I’ve been on holidays.
And now, in Moscow, I still dry my clothes in the air. Not outside, because our balcony is really small. But inside on a clothes horse. Here’s what I use to dry our clothes.
Almost everyone in Moscow lives in a flat. There are very few houses here, until you go to the outskirts of Moscow and into the suburbs. But even then, there are still a lot of flats. So, if you don’t have a dryer, you have to hang your clothes somewhere – and usually it’s on the balcony.
This photo is of the block of flats opposite us. It’s quite a common site here all year round, even in winter. This was in November, not winter yet, but still really cold!
First washing memories
As a kid, one of my first memories is being outside in the backyard, washing my dolls clothes and hanging them out to dry. At least, I think it’s a memory – it’s getting difficult to know what’s a memory and what’s not as I get older!
I used to love pegging the clothes onto the line! I don’t know why, but I got some kind of satisfaction out of doing it.
As an adult hanging out the clothes, I had a system. All the ‘smalls’ together in the centre of the clothesline, then all the kids clothes together, all the work clothes together, working out towards the outer line where there would be the sheets and towels – you get the picture. That way, nobody saw our underwear, because it was ‘protected’ by the bigger things around it. My clothesline was always very organised and practical.
The Hills Hoist – an Australian legend
For those who don’t know, the most common clothesline in Australia for many years was the Hills Hoist. Here’s a photo of one:
And it was GREAT fun hanging off it while your brothers/sisters/friends pushed it round and round – until your parents looked out the kitchen window and yelled at you to “Get off the clothesline!!!” and we were so afraid we fell off immediately. I’m sure my Australian readers will relate to this.
Pegs and laundry baskets
I never had an obsession with the pegs, though. I’ve known people who use the same coloured pegs for certain clothes. Or who only used plastic ones, or wooden ones (do they even exist anymore?). I just used whichever peg ended up in my hand when I put my hand in the peg basket. And my peg basket was sometimes my pocket, my hat, or my kid’s plastic bucket. I didn’t always have a ‘proper’ peg basket, we were too poor for that.
Did you have a plastic laundry basket, or a wooden one? I love the wooden ones. I think they were made of cane or something similar. They were great. They kind of creaked or squeaked when you picked them up or moved them – or am I having a memory problem again?
Plastic laundry baskets were never as exciting as the wooden ones. If laundry baskets can be exciting, that is. I much preferred life before plastic invaded the world. I guess you’re probably the same if you’re over a certain age. Laundry baskets, pegs, peg baskets – all plastic now.
Many years ago, back in the mid-1980s, I lived in a flat in Fremantle, Western Australia. It was a big block of flats and I lived on the 6th floor. The balcony was huge, and faced the west so we got all the lovely afternoon sun. Only thing was, we were all banned from hanging any washing on the balcony. Not on a line, not on a clothes horse, not over the railing. Nothing at all was allowed by the strata management/body corporate management (a bit like the HOA in the USA but for units, flats, and other multi-storey buildings).
Apparently it was deemed unsightly because it made our building look ugly from the street. So we were told to use the dryers in our flats.
So, we had all the sun in the world, being Australia, and I couldn’t use it to dry my clothes on the balcony.
I had a dryer in that flat, but it wasn’t the normal tumble dryer. It was something I’d never seen before or since. It was a metal, standalone, cupboard with some rails for hanging your stuff, and some electric heating elements at the bottom. You put your clothes in there after washing them, closed the door, turned it on and it became a heat box to dry your clothes.
It wasn’t very effective, especially because I had a baby so had a lot of nappies to dry every day (no disposables then, or rather, they were available but they were very, very expensive). So I used to dry my clothes on a clothes horse. I put the clothes horse just inside the balcony door in the living room, left the door open, and let the sun do its magic.
It would have been a lot better, though, if I’d been able to dry them directly on the balcony.
The laundry room
Another place I lived in, about 15 years ago, had a laundry room on the ground floor. It had a combination lock on the door, so only the residents could use it. I’m not sure how secure these locks are, I’m sure that some clever people can bypass a combination lock (any high-school student for example).
Inside the laundry room there were a couple of washing machines (paid ones with coin slots), one dryer (also had to pay) and a trough (an old one made of concrete).
I used to put my washing in the machine, go back upstairs to my flat until it was finished, go back down, pop it in the dryer (if it wasn’t being used), and then upstairs again until that was finished. Not a problem.
Until, one day, I went down to get my clothes out of the dryer, and there were some things missing! I couldn’t believe it! Someone had opened the dryer, gone through my clothes, took what they wanted, and closed the door again and left with my stuff. What a cheek!
Then, one day, a few months later, my clothes were returned, clean, folded on the bench in this laundry room. With a note. The note said something like ‘I found these clothes, they may belong to someone here’.
Very strange! I was glad because one of the items was my favourite pair of work pants. I’m sure a lot of people wouldn’t wear the clothes again after that. But I wasn’t rich and I couldn’t afford to just throw out clothes, even if I didn’t know where they’d been, or who’d been wearing them for the past few months.
At the same place, in addition to the laundry room, there was a clothesline outside. Not a hills hoist, just a small one. A few lines strung up between two poles.
One hot day, I decided it would be nice to have some clothes dried in the air and not in the dryer. So, I hung my clothes there, thinking I’d be able to keep an eye on them while they were drying. My flat was just upstairs, and besides, nobody would steal my very unfashionable and very cheap clothes from the clothesline, would they?
I got a bit side tracked and went out for a while. It was dark when I got home and I went straight to the clothesline before going upstairs to my flat. Half of my clothes were still on the line. Half of them were gone.
Who would steal an out of shape, baggy, grey pair of old trackie daks? Someone did. And I thank them for it. They were incredibly ugly. They also stole some t-shirts and other tops. None of these were ever returned, but it was no great loss. Still, who steals someone else’s clothes from a clothesline?
Although in some places, laundromats are a location to stay well clear of, I’ve never had any problems with strange people or weird happenings in the laundromats I’ve used. Of course, some of them are inhabited by the homeless, drunks, or just undesirables with nowhere else to go, but I’ve never been hassled or disturbed by them. I’ve never felt unsafe in a laundromat.
Moscow washing days
One of the reasons I love living in Moscow is that it can be really ‘old school’ sometimes, when you least expect it.
A few times we’ve been out walking and come across washing just hanging on a line strung between two trees in the garden. For, although we all live in flats here, there are gardens in and around every building which people from the flats love to take care of. As soon as the last snow has started to melt, the plants go in and it’s the beginning of making everything colourful again.
And, the residents here use the trees in the garden to string a line and dry their clothes. Not everywhere, and not every day. In fact, it’s rare now, but still we see it sometimes. It’s really nice to see such an old-fashioned activity in such a huge, modern city as Moscow is. It’s nice that some people still appreciate what nature can give, even if it’s more inconvenient than using a dryer or hanging your things on a clothes horse in your flat.
Here’s a few photos of outside drying that we’ve seen in our travels. And, I must note, it seems that they’re not afraid of somebody stealing their washing.
Vietnam washing days
We’ve also seen examples of air-drying washing in Vietnam, although it’s easier to understand there because of their climate. Still, it’s nice to see that they’re drying outside and not using a dryer. I know that people who live in a wonderful warm country such as Australia, still use their driers systematically, even though they have a backyard and a clothesline outside.
How do you dry your clothes? Are you lucky enough to live in a good climate where your clothes dry easily and quickly on the line outside? Or do you live in a humid or cold climate and find the use of a dryer necessary?
Or are you one of the naughty ones who lives in a warm place but still uses their dryer anyway?
Tell me all your laundry day stories in the comments!