Tuesday, April 9, 2013

My Italian (laundry) is Terrible

I have a straight up nemesis here in the Eternal City, and his name is Whirlpool.

Hi, I have no soul, but I bet I can get you to make a trip to the Confessional.
Or I wish it were, because then the *#%R($* thing would probably function predictably and/or accurately. I have, as you well know, 2 small and dirty boy, and a husband who is prone to stains, especially of the wine and coffee variety, probably because he wrongly assumes I love a good detergent challenge. I don't know.

At any rate, in my most productive days of yesteryear, I was cranking out two loads on a good day, and patting myself smugly on the back for being so on top of our family's wardrobe needs that we could get by with pretty basic and modest-sized layettes, every one of us.

Well, our wardrobes are definitely smaller now, (and not just because the US dollar is a contestant on the Biggest Loser beside the mighty Jillian Michaels Euro) because I have dyed many, many costly and beloved items a putrid shade of green and a sickening shade of burgundy over the past 3 months.

. That's one of Dave's $50 Jos A Bank permanent press dress shirts, stained with the hideous remains of an Italian bath towel and the salty tears of regret.
Now you're probably wondering why I keep staining things. Am I enjoying myself? Am I too proud to ask for help? Am I washing our clothing by standing in the gutter and exposing my soiled articles to a fire hydrant blasting non-potable city water?

Definitely not; surprisingly, no; and just about.

The first week we arrived in Italy, I very unwisely laundered a load of our own clothing with some towels belonging to our rental apartment. Not yet acquainted with the phenomenon of buying ones linens from filthy street vendors featuring nicotine-scented bath towels and duvet covers, I wrongly assumed that colored items were permanently thus. But alas, no. A green bath towel, tossed in with a load of colored polos, t-shirts, and pants, will not hesitate to pollute it's drum-mates with its detestable hue.

After weeping over a few truly ruined baby boy sweater vests (sob. the grief is still fresh), I made the heart wrenching decision to toss the truly hideous colored victims to the curb...but not everything that was affected looked completely awful. This turned out to be an unwise move, but one whose ramifications I would not fully grasp until yesterday afternoon, when the above-pictured dress shirt disaster occurred.

You see, gentle reader, I ought to have tossed the whole lot of crappy green-hued items after the initial contamination, and not just because they all looked awful, but because the few stragglers who made the cut to the 'keep' pile have, apparently, been slowly poisoning our remaining wardrobes these past few months. A green sock here, a green polka-dotted thong there...they kept popping up, but in mysteriously and otherwise unaffected loads of wash. Why oh why wasn't everything turning green? Why only some things?

I actually don't have an answer for that. But I do have an impressive cache of weapons employed in the losing battle of looking like a family of hideously-under dressed foreigners:
Most of my 'stash.' Each purchased at a different store. I can quit any time.
I don't know, I guess we're doomed to stand out like sore thumbs here, because we're blonde, we're chubby, and we have more than 1 child before the age of 40. And because we look like a walking ad for clueless tourists with no hope of enculturation.

You would never know I spend 1-2 hours each day fighting with this guy, spinning the dials into new positions and experimenting with different water temperatures and product combinations. Y'all, I'm half expecting to accidentally build a bomb in our laundrybathroom.

And what do I get, for all my toil? Usually some extra grace, sure. And banana or salami smeared across my solitary (sniff) remaining Gap oxford buttondown. So back to the rack I go.

Woe is me, suffering the indignities of laundry drying over my marble floors and (IKEA) Persian rug.

I know what you're thinking - worst post ever. Or at least the most boring. But I had to bring it down to earth after yesterday's glimpse into a heavenly future. And thank you for your encouraging comments and stories of survival - I want to believe!

Ciao for now,


(p.s. I thought it worth mentioning that I literally set a pot of rice on fire during the crafting of this post, and that my beautiful little sister Lizzie gave birth to 7 lbs of delicious girlyness this morning at 3:45 am in the form of Miss Charlotte Therese. So I clearly have deeper domestic issues than laundry, and who even cares, because weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee for new babies, and the first ladybaby in our family in 18 years!)


  1. That Whirlpool washer is THE WORST. We had one in our old rental townhouse and NOTHING got clean for 2 years. Now that we've finally moved, those set-in stains from years ago are actually coming out!!!

    But I still managed to dye a bunch of clothes (thankfully all baby onesies, cloth diapers, or my my 2yo daughter's) pink with the SAME Inca Kola shirt that has turned several other loads of laundry pink. I finally trashed it, because nobody needs a donated shirt that's going to turn all of THEIR clothes pink...

  2. Congratulations Auntie on the arrival of Charlotte!

    And wow, congrats on fighting the laundry battle in Rome:) HAve you been able to find any thrift stores in Rome? Or are those bad words to the Italian stylist extraordinaire?

    miss you!

  3. You know that's why alllll Italians wear black all.the.time.

  4. Hi Jenny... fellow Rome-r here who has lost a few precious items to the stain of death from my own whirlpool. The stains came not from cheap towels but the washer itself. Here's what works with my only-one-cycle-actually-works washer: run a rinse cycle first, with no clothes in it. Every single time the washer has not been run in the previous 2 hours. And then pack it only half full. Also, "Dixan" is the brand of detergent I've found to be the best so far.

    Semi-related: there's an honest-to-goodness thrift store (like Goodwill in the US, where you can really try things on!) in Monteverde on Via Quattro Venti. I don't know if they have kids clothes, but they have adult clothing and all sorts of home decor/ furniture/ books etc.

    Good luck!

  5. This is why Italians only wear black/)

  6. A couple summers ago I ruined about half my suitcase full of clothes that I took to Spain with me...it did the exact same thing but with a horrid shade of grey. It was like this color bully that latched onto certain garments punched them in the face and wouldn't let go! We could not figure out why. Our host family just laughed at us all. It was terrible. Praying to the laundry gods (I mean praying to the patron saint of laundry, I ain't no heretic) you figure it out sooooon!

  7. hi, i've been reading your blog for these past weeks and I love it. What you actually need is a colour run remover. If you don't find it in Rome I can post a box to you. It's worked for me in the past and I saved a couple of ruined items. I live in Malta, just south of you :), and postage to Italy is not prohibitive. I have two kids aged 10 & 8 and i assure you life does get better. Hang in there.


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