Monday, January 30, 2006

HELP! Washing machines in Germany

This may seem ridiculous, but I have a problem with these German washing machines. In the one month that we have lived in Germany, so far I have done laundry only twice. Each time when I come back to the machine to retrieve the clothes out comes the water just gushing onto the floor and my feet. I just can't seem to get it right. Look at the following photos and you will see how many controls one can adjust when using a German washing machine. I guess the Germans want to be very percise in the way they wash their clothes and I am not knocking it---it's just a little confusing at first. Maybe I am just not cut out for washing clothes? I guess my partner, M, will have to keep doing the laundry. Take a look:

I need my German/English dictionary just to begin....

Check out all of the temperature settings.....

In America it is very simple. You put in the coins, select the washing settings---usually only four options: whites, permanent press, colors and delicates. I have a one word explanation for the German washing machine: Ordnung. If you want a detailed explanation of Ordnung, then buy the book: Germany, Unraveling an Enigma by Greg Nees.
UPDATE: I forgot to mention what else happened. The best part of the whole laundry event tonight was when I went downstairs to retrieve the laundry an elderly lady was standing by the elevator on the ground floor. She was just leaning against the wall. She must have been waiting at least 20 minutes for me because I could tell by the timer on the washing machine and I was watching the clock in the apartment. As soon as I got off the elevator she gave the polite greeting, "Guten abend." I replied, "Guten Abend." Then as I headed for the stairs to the basement where the laundromat is located, she started saying something in German in an elevated volume, but not too bad. I interrupted and said, "Entschuldigen, aber ich spreche nur ein bissen deutsch." She pointed to the ceiling and I recognized a word, LICHT. I eventually figured out she wanted to tell me I had left the light on in the basement. Whoops! I guess she wanted to wait around and figure who in the building was the culprit. Funny. :)


Blogger Becca said...

i must say, my mom's old washer at home had about the same amount of options as your german washer. maybe you should write a "german basics for americans" blog. think about it! you could describe (and provide translations for) how to shop at the grocery, do laundry, park, etc. it's like a totally different world!

9:27 PM  
Blogger Nyana said...

i have to say i was confused when i did my first laundry in north america: "is this it?" i kept looking at the washing machine like it came from space and checked on it numerous times to ensure it was washing?!? Amazing how things can be so cumbersome when you're not used to them :)

9:33 PM  
Blogger Expat Traveler said...

I'm all for the north american washing machine. It makes for a lot less time washing clothes. I never totally understood them all the way. I just knew which loads worked best for me. 2.5 hours later, there are your clothes...

And don't forget- if you forget anything, you are $%^&. I always hated that!

11:05 PM  
Anonymous Adam said...

What I dislike about the washing machines in Germany (I fortunately have one in my flat) is how little they hold, even if the front-loading machine is supposed to be more water-efficient.

In my case I end up having to do more loads of laundry in Germany that I would do in America, which I think results in me using more water than I would use in America.

A slight increase in the capactity would make a heck of a lot of difference!

11:29 PM  
Blogger Michelle said...

Oh this is a funny one. The first time I did the laundry in Germany (I wanted to help) I don't know what I selected and what went wrong but it was a mess. The clothes were soaking and somehow they didn't smell at all fresh and clean. My boyfriend came home and redid them they were so bad. It is still completely confusing to me and what is going on in there for so long?

11:36 PM  
Blogger Dixie said...

My washer isn't so complex looking - more lights, less dials.

I wash for just two people and most of the clothes are mine so I don't mind the washer being smaller.

Always use the Zeitsparen setting when you can - it usually cuts the wash time in half. You don't need the full cycle unless you're washing completely filthy clothes.

I'd save the 1400 rpm setting for jeans and towels and use a lower setting for other clothes, else you're just spinning in wrinkles.

12:26 AM  
Anonymous Belinda said...

I'm not one of those women that reaaaaally pays too much attention to the washing guidelines on the clothing lables lol


as Dixie said the 600-1400 numbers are the revolutions. The higher the number the faster and more violent your drum in the machine will spin. Therefore the heavier clothes benefit more from the higher spin.

Spülstop=no rinse
Extra Spülen= Extra rinse
Zeit sparen= Time saving/shorter wash
Zeitvorwahl= Time preset
Laufzeit= Machine run time
flecken= a setting for stained clothing
start and pause are self-explanitory

in the second photo

Vorwäsche = prewash
hauptwäsche= main wash
extra/spülen= extra/rinse
schleudern=spin cycle

tür = the door indicator

For coloured t-shirts and other everyday cottons like underwear or undershirts. Usually it will indicate on the lable that those can be washed between 30-40degrees C.

So if you look on your dial you'll see at the top right Kochwäsche and Buntwäsche. the Kochwaesche is for stuff like towels, bedsheets and other items that can be washed between 60 and 90 Degrees. Buntwaesche is for coloured clothing. So for the t-shirts at 30-40 you just have to turn it to that temperature in that section (between 12 and 3o'clock)

Pflegeleicht is Easy care so you can opt to also wash your t-shirts in that section too if appropriate to the clothing.

Leichtbuegeln is easy iron. Stuff that won't wrinkle I guess. I've never used that setting so I'm not sure.

Feinwaesche is for bras, panties and silk items. Bras and panties obviously don't apply to you LOL

Wolle/Seide= Wool and silk setting.

those are the only selections you have to make. The last quarter of your dial is what the machine automatically selects during the cycle so you never turn your dial past the wolle/seide quarter.

Hope that wasn't confusing :)

8:51 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

I have to chime in on this one. I didn't have any trouble deciphering and associating all the words on the front of my washer (yes, I used a dictionary), it was more like trying to figure out why no matter what setting I put the machine on, it takes approximately three hours to do one load. I don't remember it taking as long in the States. But then, maybe the clothing doesn't get as clean?

Ime, it takes three hours to wash and ninety minutes to dry one load of clothing. I can do maximum three-four loads per day (noise laws), and I always have more than three loads to do, so I'm constantly behind. I think I had all my clothing clean at one sitting, like, three times since I've been in Germany. It was such a big deal I felt kinda stunned.

As for the lady waiting on you --> *nodnodnod*, had that happen myself. I even had another adult use "du" to me because of some unwritten, unbeknownst-to-me but German-naturally understood cellar rule I had violated. I wouldn't even have caught it but G was on the phone with me and heard it, and he was furious.

And while I'm blabbing, I still don't quite get all the hoo-doo about "du". Is it like calling someone a filthy name or something???

11:03 AM  
Blogger alala said...

Yep, old Germans have time to wait around for you so they can criticize. Just wait till one of them goes through your garbage so they can yell at you for putting the grass clippings in the wrong bin. Now there's an argument for raising the retirement age...

As for the "du" thing, it conveys familiarity. Friends call you that to show that you're friends, strangers use it to show contempt. Bavarians use it for everybody, though I can't figure out whether that means "we are all equals" or "everyone but me is an idiot".

4:12 PM  
Anonymous megan said...

In defense of the German washing machines, my clothes have never been so clean. White gym socks actualy becoming white again... this was new for me.

(BUT it did shrink my favorite sweater the little bastard.)

4:29 PM  
Blogger James said...

Becca: Maybe I will write such a blog. ;)

Nyana: True. Right now everything seems cumbersome in Germany. I feel mentally retarded sometimes, but I have to say it is getting easier!

expat traveler: I agree. The clothes are done is a shorter amount of time in North America, but probably not as clean. ;)

Adam: Good point. I say make the machines bigger and faster.

Michelle: My poor partner had to redo the laundry a few times for me now.

Dixie: Good tips. Thank you. I definitely use the Zeitsparen otherwise I would be up all night or doing laundry ALL day.

Belinda: Awesome! Thanks for the clarification. I am going to write that down and take that with me to the basement the next time I do laundry.

Lisa: I am glad I do not understand too much German right now. It's my excuse to ignore people when I want to do so... :)

alala: I still don't think I sort my trash correctly, but luckily I haven't heard from anyone about that yet.

Megan: That's true. The whites are so white....I didn't know it was possible to get them white again without half a bottle of bleach! ;)

6:17 PM  
Blogger Haddock said...

Washing machines in UK (and probably whole of Europe) have loads of settings and switches. But in the UK it is of course in English.

Out of all the settings you will find that you probably only ever need 2 or 3 at the most.

On the flip side, when ever I have been in the USA I have found the washing machines to be a bit useless actually (not that good at cleaning clothes!) :)

8:05 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

James, you've got a great crowd gathered here! I'm still giggling at alala and megan! :D And Haddock, re: US washers - I thought it must be so. 45 minutes of bubbly-scrub time just doesn't equal 3 hours, no matter which way I come at it. *sigh* To think I'd been walking around all those years in stinky civvies! >_< Yuck.

12:05 PM  
Blogger Ginnie said...

I just laughed and laughed over this post--all of it. Our washing machine (in the Hannover apt.) is a combination washer-dryer. You never take the clothes out until they're dry! Even though I've been washing/drying clothes in it for a year, I still get out the English manual every time to make sure I'm following the right steps and turning the right knobs. And yes, it takes so long for one complete wash-dry cycle that I never expect to do more than one load a day.

Aren't you glad you have so much company :)

12:38 PM  

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