A comment Shanta made below reminded me of this little story, which was published in the Sydney Morning Herald a couple of years ago. To save you from scrolling, Shanta mentioned doing an interview with a paper while wrangling her baby boy. I did a live radio interview about this article while filling a paddling pool with a hose and trying to stop my toddler daughter from hurling herself into it. No idea what they thought about the background noise, but that's the life of a mummy writer in a nutshell.
Why are modern clothes and modern washing techniques so incompatible? Did it never occur to the manufacturers that their products might, once in a blue moon, be used together?
I concede happily that traditional delicate fabrics, such as wool and silk, deserve a little respect and a box of the best hand wash soap flakes. After all, they were created by sheep and silkworms hundreds of years before man came up with top loaders, front loaders and tumble dryers.
But I have no patience at all with man’s latest fabric initiatives, most of which have been created by test tube and pipette. Did someone forget to pour in a few millilitres from the bottle marked ‘Make sure it’s machine washable’?
Just a quick rummage through today’s washing basket will provide the full spectrum of sage advice from clothes manufacturers.
“Hand wash only”. Thank you for the suggestion, but no. If I handwashed every $5 t-shirt that my son dribbles juice on, then you could use my hands as a cheap alternative to sandpaper. Not to mention that I like to come out of the laundry every now and again to check that my family are fed and watered.
“Machine wash separately”. Yes, I’m going to put my washing machine through an entire cycle to wash a single baby’s jacket.
“Remove buttons before washing”. What, and then sew them right back on again afterwards?
“If bought as part of a suit, wash together.” I’d be happy to do that, except this only ever seems to appear on items that have been bought separately.
“Do not wring or spin.” It’s just a shame that I’m not psychic and I can’t anticipate the exact moment that the spin cycle is going to start, so that I can break off from helping the baby throw Weetbix at the walls and fish through the suds for a single shirt.
“Use mild detergent”. Ever tried soap flakes in a top loader? It creates enough foam to clean up an oil slick. Regrettably, oil slicks aren’t that common on laundry floors.
“May be dry cleaned”. Well, that’s good to know, but it’s not going to be dry cleaned. Not at $7 a shirt, thank you.
“Dry flat away from direct heat and sunlight”. Hmm, how to do that on a Hill’s Hoist in the middle of the back garden?
“Reshape while damp”. It’s a sweatshirt, not a playdoh animal.
“Cool iron on reverse”. Maybe it’s just me, but I always thought that the whole point of an iron was to be at least moderately hot.
“Do not iron motif.” Well, why then, does the motif cover the entire back and front of the t-shirt? Do the manufacturers think that it makes Spiderman more of a superhero to be as crumpled as an old envelope?
And possibly the most common instruction of all: “Do not tumble dry”. Despite the fact that the tumble dryer is one of the greatest blessings to modern mothers on a rainy day, I can count on one hand the number of garments that I am allowed to use it with.
But being a slovenly slattern, I do it all anyway. Everything the manufacturers tell me not to. I recklessly wash everything in the machine. I heedlessly fling it all in together, even the items that beg for special treatment. I spin it like a whirling dervish and am a stranger to the dry cleaner. I leave the buttons on, I hang it in bright sunshine and on a rainy day I tumble dry it. On a good day, I might even iron it. And you know what? It all comes out just fine.