Communal Washing

There’s one universal problem around the world. It seems in every country I’ve lived in – Spain, Chile and China – where I’ve lived in shared accommodation, there’s been problems with washing clothes. Here are some of them.

Broken washing machines

There’s always at least one faulty washing machine, the one that turns your whites yellow, or is just constantly filled with dark, dirty water. Because they’re communal washing machines, nobody will pay for them to get fixed and the admin departments are also reluctant to get people in to fix these machines.

Washing peak time

Most people have free time at the weekends, and what does that leave time for? Yes, your washing. So at the weekend, you have to get in really early if you want to find a working washing machine.

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Drying clothes on chairs outside in Chile

Drying problems (1) no air flow

Not everywhere has suitable outdoor places to hang washing. Some places I’ve lived in haven’t had washing lines, so I’ve dried my clothes on chairs outside in the sun, hanging over slats of wood by the fire and hanging precariously by coathangers hanging off the curtain rail. When you’re living in a place with bad ventilation and no air moving around to dry the clothes, it’s also difficult, so you may have to use a hairdryer.

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Drying clothes by the fire in the Chilean winter

Drying problems (2) no space

Sometimes because of the washing peak, there actually aren’t any places for you to hang your washing. The clothes horses are broken and already being used, the banisters have been hogged by someone drying sheets so what can you do? Be creative and find other banisters on the staircase, use the backs of chairs, coathangers hanging from your door handles, find some string to tie between two trees outside…all of these methods require effort and thinking though.

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Hanging clothes from my curtain rail in China

Clothes thieves

No matter where I’ve been, I’ve always encountered clothes thieves, and that’s what led me to write this blog post today. In Chile, I had a pair of jeans and some shorts stolen at the same time. In Spain, my t-shirts would disappear off the shared rooftop balcony. And here in China, I’ve had a dress stolen.

Clothes thieves confuse me in a number of ways:

  • when do they steal the items, when they’re semi dry, or completely dry?
  • do they go through people’s drying laundry looking for a new tshirt or dress, or do they just see it, grab it and go?
  • now, I always wash my clothes inside out, and the inside of my dress was dull and black, so why did they take it?
  • do they plan to wear my clothes? and if so, what if they meet me? that dress was from the UK, so I will know it’s mine if I see it
  • why is is such a global thing?

So that’s it… you spend all this time traipsing each floor trying to find a working machine that isn’t being used, then you have to find a place to hang your clothes to dry and hope that someone doesn’t move them when they’re still damp (another thing which I won’t go on about today). And if you’re lucky enough to be able to wash and dry your clothes, you still have to be aware of pesky thieves, who will steal your jeans, t-shirts and dresses!

Everyone has the missing socks problem, right?

I can’t blame laundry thieves for my missing socks though, as I always hang them in my bedroom!



3 thoughts on “Communal Washing

  1. What an adventure, ha ha. When I was studying in Beijing I also had the shared washing machines, but I always hanged the clothes inside my room, so I never had a stealing issue…

  2. When I was living in Korea, a friend gave me a pro tip: if you have a place with radiant heating put it on while you sleep and lay your wet clothes on the (clean) floor. It’ll dry overnight and you’ll also be pretty comfortable. Granted, this all depends on where you’re washing your clothes but yeah. And hangers in the washroom on the shower rack–you know, if you’re lucky to have a shower rack. But you could probably also get an adjustable rod and do it that way and crack a window open. Provided you have a window.

    Also–that’s crazy that people have stolen your clothes! Do you think that the majority of them are your size? Or do you reckon they have more nefarious intentions for those items?

    1. That’s a great idea, but I live in the south of China, where there’s no proper heating system, just air con units. I don’t even have a shower rack to hang hangers from, I scouted the room for hanging places when I first arrived and found no suitable ones, the curtain pole is too high to reach too but we have some chairs and cupboard doors. There are a few people my size, yeah.

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