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Student Reflections

Why I Like Doing Laundry in Madrid

Jake Austgen
November 14, 2022
a row of washing machines

In Boston, doing laundry was one of my least favorite chores. Even after I moved into an apartment with an in-unit washer and dryer, I still pushed off doing laundry to the last movement. Only when it was absolutely necessary when my last t-shirt found its way into the hamper, would I gather all of my clothes and toss them into the washing machine. I add the detergent, press the start button, and wait, hoping my clothes don’t come out dripping wet. After an hour, I would transfer the clothes to the dryer, paying no mind to different colors or fabrics, just hoping everything comes out looking the same. After another hour, I would take the clothes out and fold them, hanging the inevitably wet sock or two on a chair to dry. That was how laundry worked for me in Boston. In Spain, it is a different story.

If you walk through any neighborhood in Spain, you will almost certainly see clotheslines crisscrossing between the buildings, carrying clothes blowing in the wind. Instead of relying on a machine to dry their clothes, Spaniards take advantage of the hot sun and dry climate. I knew this before I arrived in Spain, and I wasn’t sure how it would be to live without a dryer. However, there was another difference I didn’t know about. In Spain, the washing machines are much smaller, which means less room for clothes but also less time required per cycle. Those two differences mean my typical laundry day has changed since I arrived in Madrid, a change I have grown quite fond of.

Now, I do laundry more often, but with fewer clothes. All I need to do is throw my close in the washer, add my detergent, and set the time to 30 minutes. Once the timer goes off, I remove my clothes, hang them to dry and get on with my day. There is no worrying about bleeding colors or ruined fabrics. Later in the day, I will check to see if my clothes are dry (in the summer it only takes about 2 hours), and once they are I fold them and laundry day is done. While it might take a bit longer from start to finish, I believe this way of doing laundry is better than how I used to do it in Boston due to three key reasons.

The Simplicity

Doing laundry in the freshman dorms scarred me. Not only was it the first time in my life that I had to do laundry, but I had to do it in old, unreliable machines. Additionally, there were not enough machines, so there was a possibility of someone moving your clothes if you weren’t there. There were occasions when the washing machine malfunctioned and left my clothes dripping wet, which took several dryer cycles to finally get them dry. Moving off-campus eliminated the stress of a stranger moving my clothes, but I never fully trust the washer and dryer to work every time. Whenever I do laundry, a part of me expects the washer to leave my clothes soaking wet or my clothes to be damp coming out of the dryer. Therefore I appreciate how simple it is to do laundry in Spain. So far I have not had problems with the washing machine, and even if I do, it only takes 30 minutes to run another cycle. Additionally, I know the sun will safely dry my clothes, even if it may take a bit longer than a machine.

The Convenience

Next, doing laundry this way has stopped making it feel like a chore. In Boston, laundry would take up a good chunk of the day, therefore I would try to do it as infrequently as possible. This resulted in some of my clothes being out of commission for over a week, which was inconvenient. Now if I have a few minutes to spare I can start a load of laundry. In 30 minutes I can hang the clothes to dry, and after that, they will be ready to go when I need them. I have also found that my clothes have had fewer wrinkles after hang-drying, another bonus!

The Environmental Impact

Finally, the main reason I prefer this new way of doing laundry is the environmental aspect. Not using a big appliance, like a dryer, obviously results in some pretty big energy savings. Pairing that with cutting washing time in half means that my energy consumption from laundry has decreased significantly since arriving in Madrid. In Boston, I always felt guilty when I used the washer and dryer more than I needed to. I tried to avoid doing small loads of laundry and preferred to hang my clothes instead of drying them again if they were still wet after the first cycle. Now when I do laundry, I have none of those concerns, instead, I just appreciate this environmentally sustainable method of doing laundry.