How I learned to stop lamenting my life without convenient washers

Guest post by Alissa

One day I dream of having these appliances, but until then I adjust my behavior instead of lament.
One day I dream of having these appliances, but until then I adjust my behavior instead of lament.
It’s been years since I’ve lived in a place with a dishwasher or laundry machines. Sometimes it’s frustrating to find many well-meaning cleaning and organization tips or checklists offered up online that assume I have these easily available for my personal use.

“Put all dishes in the dishwasher before bed. Unload in the morning before going to work.” I’ve daydreamed about how amazing that would be! Rather, dishwashing is a constant chore. If I wasn’t already tired from cooking food, I’d probably be tired after washing all the dishes from both preparing and consuming food.

“Wash a load of laundry every day. Towels on Monday, sheets on Tuesday…” In my world, washing anything requires two things: quarters and an open machine. Laundry day has been postponed many times due to the need to acquire just one more quarter. I’m fortunate enough to have laundry machines in the building next to mine, but there’s only three for thirty apartments. I’ve spent a fair number of Saturdays checking hourly to see if machines are free yet.

It’s taken me a while to figure out how to better manage my washer-less life rather than just lament it. Here are some things that I’ve found work for me:


  • Wash dishes immediately whenever possible so they don’t pile up in the sink or get crusty.
  • Have fewer dishes. I have to clean them more often, but it also prevents accidental dish pileup.
  • Have the right tools. For me, that’s a stainless steel scrubber for anything baked-on, and a basic sponge with a drizzle of soap to wipe over everything.
  • Skip drying dishes. I put them in a rack on the counter to air dry, covering the pile with a tea-towel to keep them from getting dusty (due to being under an often-open window).
  • Wear an apron. Water seems to get everywhere when I wash dishes, but with an apron at least I don’t get a soaked shirt from leaning over the sink. Getting rid of little annoyances makes the overall task less burdensome.


  • Plan ahead. Block off most of a Saturday to stake out machines. Make sure there’s enough quarters.
  • Save every quarter that comes my way for laundry. No exceptions.
  • When the weather’s good, run a load through the washer before going to work and hang it on the clotheslines to dry. This may involve bending my laundry room’s hours (Shh! Don’t tell!) but it does save dryer quarters.
  • Reevaluate how often things need to be washed. Undies go in the hamper right away; but if I didn’t sweat or stain something, wear it again.
  • See if someone will let you use their home machines. My best friend has let me wash my linens while we went out for girls night dinner. Note: use this option sparingly and with caution. Don’t be a mooch, and consider trading something like cookies.

Certainly I’m not the only one out there living the appliance-less life. What tips have you found for managing domestic requirements without labor-saving devices?

Comments on How I learned to stop lamenting my life without convenient washers

  1. We live dishwasher-less. There is a washer/dryer in our apartment building, but it costs an extra 50 bucks a month on top of your rent payment to use it and I’m too cheap for that.Listening to the radio while washing dishes keeps me entertained, and I wear rubber gloves so that I don’t have to directly touch yuck. As far as laundry, we do it at my in-law’s. It’s not a bad excuse to go over for dinner once a week and catch up.

    • I love rubber gloves and can’t believe it took me nearly 5 years of living on my own to discover their value. Not only do they separate you from the ickiness but you’re protecting your hands from drying out from too much dish washing.

    • I’m all about cranking the tunes during dishes! πŸ™‚ Or catching up on podcasts — actually a great time to listen to podcasts because scrubbing pots is mindless enough it doesn’t distract me from paying attention.

    • I’m really grossed out by touching the yuck, but I just can’t wash dishes with gloves on. First of all, I’ve never found gloves that fit me right because I’ve got broad palms and short fingers. But more importantly, I’m too OCD to be comfortable cleaning them without my sense of touch. If I use my bare hands, I can actually feel when they’re clean and properly rinsed.

      • I get this! One of the reasons I stopped cooking meat was because I didn’t like washing the dishes from it. Vegetarian dishes are way less gross- if there’s oil, it’s olive oil.

        Also maybe you would like one of those dish washing wands or a sponge with a handle. You can get the gross off with less touching, but then still touch the plate during rinsing to make sure it’s clean!

      • Yes, this, All of the this. I kept trying gloves but I ended up freaking out even more because then my hands were sweating inside and did you know that the slimy feeling from having your hands trapped inside gloves is because of the bacteria growing and not getting washed off? Yes. Yuck. OMG. Food safety classes just made my OCD ten times worse instead of “better with accurate knowledge.” Plus using gloves seemed to ensure that I was getting soapy dishes. So I would end up washing the dishes with gloves and then re-washing to make sure they wee clean—totally defeating the purpose.

        My boyfriend does dishes now. I will keep him and love him and call him my own. As long as he keeps up on the dishes.

    • We do the in-law laundry thing too. It’s tough with two kids, since they get so dirty, but we make it work.
      We do breakfast with the in-laws every Saturday morning and I do laundry while we are there.

  2. Since so many people try to do laundry on weekends in shared laundry rooms I’d suggest trying to do laundry on less busy days. If you have a week day when you have the time, try doing laundry then.

    If you have to do laundry on weekends, get to the laundry room as soon as it is open and try to get your laundry in as the first load.

    Drying things on a clothesline sounds like a good idea, if you can stand the feel of clothes that haven’t been in the dryer. I find many of my clothes are way too stiff if I air dry them. I had to deal with air dried clothes for a while in one of my previous apartments because the dryers often did not work. Not fun when you have no space for a clothesline or laundry rack and therefore have to drape damp clothes over every available surface.

    • It wasn’t until last summer that the thought crossed my brain of, “Hey, Alissa, why don’t you try those communal clotheslines outside?” I was a bit hesitant at first about clothes being stiff, and they are a smidgen but it actually hasn’t been unbearable. I’m not sure if that can be attributed to the water, desert air, detergent, or what.

      That said, before I lived in a place with communal clotheslines, my bathtub would become a clothes-drying hub. An extra tension rod above the middle of the tub would let stuff drip all it wanted without getting the floor and bathmats all wet.

    • I had the same problem with stiff clothes but buying a Downy ball and filling it with liquid fabric softener or vinegar really helped with that.

    • Just a tip – you can dry them on the clothesline and then do a very quick run through the dryer with a static cling sheet to soften them up. Doesn’t save on the time thing so much, but does save an awful lot of quarters and electricity! 15 minutes should handle a whole load (and then some). Also works marvelously for towels.

      • But that only works if you don’t have to pay $1.25 for a load that locks the dryer until it’s done. Those dryers seem to be ridiculously uncommon these days, to be fair, but trying to do the “line-dry, tumble-soft” maneuver with off-site laundry is just not worth the effort.

  3. We have laundry in our building, but it still costs us quarters (and/or loonies).

    We have a old fashioned metal cup (that says LOLLIPOPS, randomly) that all quarters and loonies go in. Always, and i never spend them when i am out, i hoard those suckers in my wallet till i can download them to the cup.

    Our laundry room is pretty busy on weekends too, so i try to do just one load one or two nights a week, and i can virtually always get a machine on a Monday or Thursday. That pretty much means i can avoid the weekends most of the time. Plus we hang almost everything (but sheets and towels – don’t have the space), so in 40 minutes you can wash, and then a few minutes more to hang on our fold out rack.

    I have no problems with stiff clothes for some reason, just doesn’t seem to happen- but if you do, you can use 1/2 to 3/4 cup of vinegar (in place of fabric softener) to really help that.

    (amusing side note – our cat, Tallulah, goes CRAZY when she knows we are going to do laundry – if you rattle the change cup, move the hamper, get the detergent, any of those, she KNOWS and she is at the front door to the hall meowing her head off and practically climbing the door. She escorts us up and down the hall and the down stairs to the laundry room, like a dog. it is seriously her favourite thing. i keep saying i should tape her, it’s pretty funny.)

  4. If you line-dry or dry your clothes on a drying rack, you can “fluff” them in the dryer so they won’t be stiff. I learned this from my mom, who owns a washer/dryer but does this to save energy. Usually there is one damp thing or a couple squirts of water help release the wrinkles. I do 3-4 loads of wash one day, then hang it up in my apt to dry. The next day go back to the basement laundry room with everything to fluff it. I switch out the clothes every 5 minutes (roughly) to fluff all 4 loads with only paying for 1 dryer load. Those machines worked on a timer, so you could open the door to turn the dryer off, and the timer would keep running. I would sit there with a book while I waited.

    I also knew a girl in college who washed her clothes in a bucket instead of using the laundry room. She was the nicest smelling hippy I’ve ever met, so I think she was onto something.

    I just go to the bank and get a couple rolls of quarters instead of collecting them. I tend to use a credit card over cash, so it was worth it to me.

    I love the apron idea- and I bet it saves on laundry too! I also change out of my work clothes into “home clothes” when I get home. One pair of “home clothes” typically lasts me all week, so I can re-wear my work clothes several times before washing them.

    Also something my in-laws do and I saw mentioned in the comments of a previous post: having a dishpan with soapy water in the sink or under it. Dishes immediately go in there so nothing gets dried or caked on, so it saves time when you get around to doing the dishes later!

    It is much harder to do chores in small apartments in the city (no washer/dryer, can’t hang your clothes outside, etc) but at least there is less surface area to keep clean! πŸ™‚

    • Yeah, I remember seeing that dishpan-under-the-sink comment, too! Pretty brilliant idea, I think.

      And omg, I’m not sure how I did dishes (or cooking) before aprons! Laura Ingalls Wilder was definitely onto something with that. Keeping clothes mostly clean and dry during chores? I’m totally a convert!

  5. Oh, can I add one more tip (i actually keep meaning to submit it – but this will do)…

    For those of us that have to cart laundry either to a building laundry room, or a laundromat, I devised a MUCH EASIER way to carry and use liquid laundry detergent….

    I buy liquid detergent in a giant container because it is economical, but you can’t cart that up and down stairs, and i used to use tupperware, but it drips, and you still need a cup, etc etc.


    It is light to carry. It seals. I just pop open the top and squeeze it into the washer directly. (and i always use less than the recommended amount anyway.)

    Honestly, making the little things easier makes all the difference.

    • Nice suggestion, Andrea! It really is all about making little things easier in big chores, isn’t it? πŸ™‚

      Your comment also made me think of a suggestion I saw at Ikea for using those giant blue bags of theirs for laundry. They’re nice because you can swing the long handles over your shoulder freeing up your hands — which is awesome because I need at least one hand free to unlock and turn the knob on our laundry room door.

      • I came here to talk about the giant IKEA bags! They are durable. They roll down to nothing. They are CHEAP AS FUCK. And they hold a ton of stuff. Never going back to the “popup” laundry bag-thingies.

        • I’ve brought them to several “help us move” gatherings and I’m always afraid when jamming them full of crap that I’m gonna rip them, but nope. Those suckers are pretty dang tough.

          • Every now and then when I’m at Ikea they have brightly coloured Ikea bags – they’re slightly more expensive than the big blue ones but I love the three I have and they help easily identify what’s in which bag

      • We use the Ikea blue bags for laundry πŸ™‚ Being in Australia, there’s always outside clotheslines, so we’ve taken to pegging up the bag on the line next to the laundry, once all the laundry has been put up. Means you don’t have to go searching for a empty washing basket πŸ™‚

    • I just bought the smaller container of detergent once, then refilled it from the giant ones. That way I still had a measuring cup and a sealing container.

  6. Also at a laundromat at a not-so-busy time, you can use a bunch of washers rather than just waiting for one or two. Maybe it depends on the neighborhood, but I’ve done like 10 loads at once because no one else was there.

    • Yeah I second this- if you have a car and some work you can do while you’re waiting, it might be worth it just to go to a laundromat since you’re paying for the washers anyway. I’ve lived in places with communal washers but luckily never had much of a problem with availability. Having my own washer/dryer is a luxury I don’t think I could ever give up again, though.

      • Check the prices on your local laundromat first. I’ve generally found they change at least twice as much as the laundry rooms in apartments when I’ve compared prices. If the prices are similar, it would be worth it, particularly if the machines are in better repair than the ones in your apartment laundry room. As a bonus, they sometimes have really large machines that can handle things like comforters, which are difficult to wash in the standard size machines that most apartment laundry rooms have.

        • Lucky you. In my old apartment, the washers were standard home machine size, but they cost a quarter MORE than the double load machines at the laundromat! Plus, dryers at the laundromat were a quarter per 15 minutes, small loads were usually done in less than 50 cents πŸ˜‰ It was $2 per use for the dryers in the laundry room – and some only ran for 30 minutes, others for 50 – the timers weren’t reliable.

          We worked out a schedule so that every 2 weeks, we’d make a run to the laundromat, we got there as soon as they opened on sunday morning and were usually able to get everything done in about 2 hours.

          Other things we learned: delicates weren’t worth the money to machine wash. I learned real fast how to hand wash in the kitchen sink and bought a folding rack and sweater racks to hang/lay to dry.

          We sorted everything before we left for the laundromat, and as things came out of the dryer they were folded and put into baskets. I never had baskets of unfolded laundry laying around until we bought our house and now have our own washer and dryer (that last load of clothes/towels/sheets always seems to get forgotten in the dryer…). We still do laundry day though to keep things organized, although now it’s clothes one weekend, sheets/towels/throw rugs/blankets the next.

    • I’ve never actually used a neighborhood laundromat before. I like being able to go back home to do stuff or even run out to do errands (while keeping a watchful eye on the clock). But there’s something to be said for forced slowdowns in this busy world. I might look into time at the laundromat chillin’ with a library book.

      • Laundry Day at the Mat was always really nice when my boyfriend and I started dating (which was after I moved in with him). We could reliably block out 3 hours of time, and because we’re both food service people we were always going during off-hours anyway. Sort everything from the one pile straight into machines, start them in order. Because of the time it took to get soap and quarters and timers done on each machine, they would all be about 1-2 minutes apart, which was just enough time to get each load into the dryer and get back to the next right as its lock popped. 3 hours, and everything was washed, dried and folded. There might be a load of jeans or towels or sheets that would be the lingering load to fold at home because It Was Time To Go, but having everything done in 3 hours was nice.

        Also nice: Part of laundry budget was splurging on a latte from the Starbucks next door. Anything more than that and I needed to take it out of my spending money, but it really made laundry day with a library book, a latte, and time with my loverface a real joy.

        I love that it doesn’t cost me $50 a month to do laundry anymore, but I hate that I always seem to have clean clothes piled up waiting to be taken care of.

        ProTip: Take a chance on the expensive washers and dryers sometime. The laundry mat across the street from us was run down and occasionally the machines didn’t work so great. The nice one up the street a couple miles were 25 cents more per wash, 25 cents for 10 versus 15 minutes–but there was less hassle with the machines, and we actually saved $10 a month by going there if for no other reason than everything washed and dried faster–it still was a 3 hour block to do laundry, but that included an extra 5-10 minutes driving and stopping for coffee first instead of after the clothes were washing. Washers took 30 instead of 40 minutes, dryers took half the time–sometimes I only needed 10 minutes to dry my clothes even on delicate/low heat just because thew dryers were HUGE and one load had a lot more air going through it.

    • When my all-in-one broke down, I had to go to the local laundromat to wash all my massage sheets. It usually takes me two loads and six hours to do all my sheets at home (small capacity, evaporative dryer so it takes forever) but I could get everything done at the laundromat in about 45 mins – washing, drying, everything! I would use their giant size washer and dryer. It was awesome. But I still love doing laundry at home.

  7. I’ve never had BOTH a dishwasher and a washer/dryer in one apartment, though I’ve been lucky enough to find a reasonable apartment with one or the other for most part. On the whole, I’d rather have the laundry than the dishwasher.

    The first place that the boy and I had together was one of the dishwasher ones, and it sucked. Hording quarters is an absolute pain when you use a debit card for most purchases. Sheets did not get done for almost a month because, well, they took up an entire load on their own. Hell, laundry did not happen at all when the boy was on a business trip, because the basement laundromat that we used was sketch-tastic.

    Since I’d rather wash all of the dishes 24/7 than deal with a laundromat again, we actually made it a priority to have laundry in-unit for our next place. Right now we live in an awesome apartment with an ancient washer and drier that makes me grin every time I see it. There’s no dishwasher (or even a disposal, which is far worse), but I grew up without one, even if the boy didn’t. It’s totally worth it to be able to toss a load of wash in whenever. Besides, dishwashers usually need you to scrub the icky dishes beforehand anyway. πŸ˜›

  8. “Reevaluate how often things need to be washed” also applies to dishes. My hubbi & I always have a glass of water around (gotta stay hydrated!), & we’ll each use our own same glass for a day or two or more (I know I forget how long) until it seems particularly dirty. It’s just water. And if I used a plate for a dry sandwich, I just brush off the plate or maybe rinse it at most — just crumbs, after all. We use cloth napkins & keep them for a few days (except if we’ve eaten something extra messy like BBQ or pizza; those go in the hamper right away). Guests always get fresh stuff, but we can use the same things a few times.

    When we bought our house, we wanted to put in a dishwasher but soon realized that the cute 1940s kitchen had counters that were too narrow for any modern dishwashers, not to mention that the room was just too dang tiny to put one anywhere. There is a laundry room w/space for those machines, but it’s still an expense & waste of water to run them more than 2x a month (I never understand that “wash X on Monday, wash X on Tuesday,” seems crazy!).

    • “Reevaluate how often things need to be washed” also applies to dishes.

      True! I’ll use the same knife each morning for a week cutting fruit for breakfast with just a quick rinse under the faucet. If I’m ever making something that I plan to feed other people, I’ll make sure it’s all had a good scrub first to keep cross-contamination at bay.

    • I do this with not-so-dirty dishes, too! Glad to know others do the same. Also, with cakes or other sliceable desserts I will keep the knife with the cake so that each time someone wants a slice they don’t have to dirty another knife.

      The downsides to using glasses multiple times is that I have to remember to put it in a place where the cats won’t drink from it, and I will often find a cat hair in my drink that settled in the glass while it was sitting. I guess I need lids for my glasses. πŸ˜‰

  9. I hate the laundromat so much I used to do all my wash in the bathtub. Then I got a portable washing machine that’s on wheels and hooks up to the kitchen sink. Best thing ever! Water and electricity are included in our rent, so the machine paid for itself in no time.

        • We have a 3/4 size dish washer that hooks up to the sink. Luckily, it is the same height as the counter, so it’s like a little extra counter space!

          • I had one of these too. It was ancient but worked great. We dried things on a rack inside 80% of the time (in Portland, OR) and it worked well. I still prefer line dried clothes but don’t really have time these days to make it happen.

      • I have been raving about my apartment washer for a while now. We use cloth diapers and they wouldn’t have been possible without it.

        This sexy bitch has been used a minimum of once a day for over a year now and is still going strong. We have a metal hanging rack we use for all drying. It has saved us a bundle. I can even wash a queen sized quilt, or two queen flat sheets in it at once. Amazeballs.

    • I still do most of my laundry (except for blankets and stuff) in the tub. I wanted one of those little washing machines SO BAD, but now I’m moving back to my mom’s in a month so…oh well.

  10. Screw laundry rooms and laundromats. I bought this at Walmart and it paid for itself in a couple months. It’s FANTASTIC and it’s so tiny, y’all. I live in an itsy bitsy apartment and it’s no trouble at all. Originally, I bought it in the spring and was line drying everything, but then, when it started getting bitter out, I thought f-it and bought this , which is so small, I leave it in a closet. Again, it paid for itself in just a couple months. Both of them plug into regular outlets (the dryer is wired by extension cord into the closet). The washer has a quick connect for the kitchen sink. The dryer is vented by just using an indoor lint trap kit. In the last two years, I estimate the pair have saved me about $350, after costs. And, seriously, the time and aggravation savings? As they say, PRICELESS!

    • Oh. My. GAWD. How much of a load do these babies take? (snarf) I have a king size bed and I worry I’d have to wash and dry the sheets one at a time.

      • About 3/4 of a regular washer load. I do towels, queens size sheets, everything except quilts. And, frankly, my old regular washer couldnt handle quilts either.

  11. For the laundry, figure out your building’s demographics. My old apartment building was populated with a lot of Catholics and there was a church right across the street. I started getting up early on Sundays to get my wash done while the building was deserted by churchgoers.

  12. If y’all rent condos or more non-traditional apartment, ask if you can put in the lines for a washer. We got one the electrical lines, water, and dryer exhaust installed for under $400. Yes, it is expensive, but we know we aren’t moving anytime soon, and when we do, it lets the owners up the ret.

  13. Umm, I have a bathtub and a bucket, plus an indoor drying rack (that hovers over the tub).

    Since I hate having to sort my laundry and take everything downstairs, I save that for when things pile up and things like the pile of towels or bedding has filled a hamper. This means my “lazy” laundry happens regularly – fill a bucket with a bit of soap and run the water. Then soak bras first, wash those, then throw in the shirt I wore, wash that, and finish with the socks/undies. Pants I rewear but I find that if I’m at least doing a bucket load it doesn’t get to be too much.

    This also allows for things to not pile up in a massive laundry mountain of doom. (I tend to soak/wash during commercial breaks, then do the final rinse and hang on the next commercial break. If I’m washing that day’s clothes, I only need 1 hanger and it will drip dry in the tub overnight, dry and ready to be moved to the closet in the morning.

    If I need to wash a few extras (or an entire load), then I set up my drying rack over the tub. It takes just as long as going down to the laundry room, but I don’t have to leave the apartment, or sort things, or waste time waiting for a machine.

    Plus, I don’t run out of clothes!

    Oh and if necessary, I’ll do a pair of pants after I shower in the morning – then they can hang to dry all day and would be ready for the next day (in case of spills or whatever on the pants I’m wearing.

    • I now have access to a washing machine, but I still keep a bucket, a bar of coconut laundry soap, and detergent in the bathroom. I try to at least wash my underwear while I shower, and if I have time I’ll do my bra, or a shirt or tank top. It means I never run out of the things I use most. I like to think it saves water, too, but the extra time it takes probably negates that. πŸ™‚

      If you need to do more than a few items, I recommend the bucket-and-plunger method. Get a tall bucket and a long-handled plunger. Drill some holes in the plunger to decrease the suction. Check clothes for and spots that really need hand scrubbing and pre-treat or hand scrub those first. Let your clothes soak in the bucket with some detergent for a little while, then plunge for a minute or two, go do something else, come back and plunge again, etc. Plunge each time you change the water to rinse, too, to get all the detergent out (you’ll quickly learn to add less!). Wring out well and hang to dry, in front of a fan if needed. This is a lifesaver if you’re hand washing sheets, towels, jeans, or other heavy or large items.

    • Commercial breaks. Man, oh man. I remember those. I seriously think I used to get a lot more done when I didn’t watch commercial-free TV. You can switch a load of laundry on a commercial break, load half a dishwasher, brush your teeth, so many things. I think also watching on my laptop makes it so it’s actually more of a bear to get up to do those things even if I’m watching in a way that has commercials. So I chat and check email instead.

  14. This isn’t helpful in the slightest (just kind of funny) but my germaphobe, sorta lazy best friend will actually just buy more clothes and underwear when she runs out instead of having to make a trip to the laundromat. Lord help me if I try to catch her on laundry day, because at that point she’s built up a washload consisting of her entire wardrobe, plus what she’s bought to keep it at bay, and it takes her the majority of the day to get done.

    The dishwasher though, I grew up without one, so I keep forgetting to use the one I have now LOL. Handwash dishes as you use them, soak pots and pans as soon as you’re done with them, and make sure the sink is clear before you go to bed.

    • Ha ha ha ha. I wasn’t that bad, but I did get rid of a LOT of clothes because laundry had become a wait-until-most-of-it-is-dirty-then-spend-a-whole-weekend-washing ordeal. Now all my clothes would probably fit in two (albeit large) loads, but it means that I can’t keep putting it off until I have to tackle a laundry monster.

    • I used to do this. Particularly if I needed clean underwear because, say, I was heading out on a trip the next day and wouldn’t be home for a bit and I was out of underwear NOW.

      I find lately, my loads of laundry consist of JUST socks and underwear, and whatever shirts I trust don’t need more careful attention. Because I’m terribly lazy and trying to fight to get a machine in my apartment is a pain.

      • That is me, because socks and underwear are the highest priority and the easiest things to wash. Sometimes I will wash just those when I’m feeling lazy or are low on quarters. Plus, I wear most things multiple times before washing anyway.

  15. i actually hated having a dishwasher (although my wife disagrees, so we’re discussing a new one…)

    the main things that have vastly improved my dish-washing process have been fewer dishes, as you said, and a dirty dish rack (although switching to dishrags instead of sponges was a big improvement too). it’s like having an inbox and an outbox for your sink: even if you don’t actually wash the dishes, you can at least brush them off and put them neatly in the dirty dish rack, keeping them from piling up in the sink or counters.. we even found a dish rack that is wall-mounted (from ikea), so it doesn’t take up counter space.

  16. Oh man this takes me back!

    When I was growing up my mother didn’t use the dishwasher ( declaring it “broken” ) so I got used to washing dishes. Even though I have a dishwasher I use it far less than most people I know and I have a bunch of rules for it ( because that makes it “ok” to use the dishwasher).

    First rule of dishwasher: only dishes in dishwasher! No pots or pans. Or bulky items. Or items you only have 1 of, like measuring cups.

    Second rule of dishwasher: no mixing silverware! Knives on the left, forks on the right, spoons down the middle. No exceptions.

    Third rule of dishwasher : no clean dishes in dishwasher! You either trust dishwasher or wash by hand. No in between.

    Fourth rule of dishwasher ( still paying attention? cause this one is the best ): only I touch dishwasher! Mostly because I’m the only who can seem to abide by rules 1-3.

    Corollary to 4th rule: I am not unloading your dishwasher. You, yes you with the janky mix of plates and bowls thrown together pell mell and the spaghetti pot covering half the bottom part and all your knives pointing up and the glasses resting on the tines instead of between them, you who somehow rammed a WOODEN [shudder] cutting board between a lasagna pan and a cast iron skillet, you profligate dishwasher whore, I am not touching that shit!!!

    What’s that thing I keep meaning to buy? Oh yeah – therapy.

    • HAHAHAHAHA! At the risk of you virtually beating me… you totally sound like my mom! And THAT is why I am terrified of using other people’s dishwashers. My mother… and you… and so many others I’m sure, have their own “rules” about what goes into the dishwasher and what doesn’t and how, that I totally freeze up and just end up hand-washing everything when I’m a guest at people’s houses.

      • Your mother sounds awesome.

        We’ve probably run into each other at the Order of the Dishwasher meetings and didn’t even know it. Tell her I’ll be under the Sign of the Limp Rag at the next meeting.

        I, too, do not like to load other people’s dishwashers UNLESS they’re empty when I start. Otherwise I have the urge to rearrange everything and thus expose myself as a Dishwasher Emeritus which can be dangerous. It’s like being a Sith Lord at a Jedhi convention. You want to keep that shit on the DL.

      • “THAT is why I am terrified of using other people’s dishwashers.”

        This. I’ve been without a dishwasher for so long (not since I lived with my parents) and I’ve heard so many people argue about them over the years that I wonder if I ever do live in a place with one if I’ll screw it up somehow. Hopefully when the time comes I’ll have a patient roommate to teach me. πŸ™‚

        • All kidding aside… I was the same way. And then you get your own dishwasher and learn your own rules. Like the segregation of the cutlery : I jabbed myself with forks so many times I finally created the rule to protect myself from my own lameness.

    • My husband’s rules are different than yours, but no less stringent for that. He hoovers over the process, critiquing each move. This is why, for the sake of our marriage, only he loads the damn dishwasher! I didn’t grow up having one, so apparently I never got my feng shui down.

    • I agree with your rules, but I would add one that is sort of an extension of the one a about not washing something you only have one of, and that is “Don’t run the dishwasher right before dinner.” My boyfriend has a terrible habit of running it while he’s making dinner, which causes two problems:
      1. Sometimes we find ourself without enough plates, forks, etc. because they’re all or mostly in the dishwasher.
      2. Our dishwasher is the kind you hook up to the sink, so it renders the sink unuseable. I’m a huge proponent of rinsing dishes right away, but when the dishwasher is running we can’t do this.

    • We have a dishwasher. It gets run about once every 2 days, sometimes 3. That’s how long it takes to fill it up with plates, bowls, cups silverware and reusable lunch containers.

      My husband no longer puts anything in the dishwasher, because he is not allowed. He doesn’t understand the concept of leaving room between items so that water can get all around it and clean it. He also doesn’t understand the concept that anything that’s made to hold liquids needs to be placed upside down… He also doesn’t understand that the extremely expensive high quality stainless steel pots pans that i scrimped and saved for years to buy DO NOT EVER GO INTO A DISHWASHER. The first time that i found one of my “antique” wooden spoons (got them from Grandma’s kitchen when she went to a nursing home, they’re older than me and have an awesome patina of age and use) in the silverware rack, i had to remind him that they DO NOT EVER GO INTO A DISHWASHER, nor do they get tossed into a dishpan of hot soapy water to “soak”. Our roommate is a little better about loading the dishwasher, i only have to occasionally rearrange what she puts in, but she knows the rules of what not to put in so i don’t complain.

      I have learned that i cannot complain when dishes are not done because i’m now the only one who does them because my standards for clean dishes are far high than others. My husband got tired of me always rewashing at least half of what he hand washed (he doesn’t use enough soap so things were always greasy), so he stopped washing. Our roommate will wash dishes if i ask, but she also has a tendency to leave greasy dishes or food bits stuck on…

      • Yes one of the advantages of the Order of the Dishwasher techniques is that you run the dishwasher a lot less because not everything goes in. (It’s not a magic box, people. )

        I know that some of my rules are arcane ( big plates on one side! little plates on the other! chop chop! ) and I actually can be flexible about those. But it does peeve me when partners and roommates can’t adhere to even just the common sense rules. Come on, you’re adults. You know that wood soaks up water. And if you don’t know, surely just one experience of a cup full of dishwater will teach you that cups have to be placed upside down? I mean, I know what’s going on here guys : you know I’ll do it if you just keep doing it wrong and I mean really “utensil-destroying, not clean wrong”, not just “OCD wrong”.

        I notice it the most among people who never had to dishes by hand growing up. To them it’s an onerous chore. And that’s fine if you communicate that directly to me and negotiate for some other chore. I will happily do all the dishes if you discuss it with me and say, do the grocery shopping in return. But that passive-aggressive “I’m going to keep fucking it up until you take over” bullshit really gets me down.

        • I don’t think it’s a passive-aggressive thing. I’ve been watching this thread in sort of curious horror, because I’ve realized there is no way I could ever be a roommate with someone with rules on dishwashers. So yes, I’m admitting to breaking well, most of the rules people have been putting out.

          However, when it comes down, I have my own reasons for what I do. Dishwasher has large pots on the bottom? Well, they need to get washed too, and if they aren’t perfectly clean, then so what, they can be run again or handwashed. But they’ll still get most of the stuff off. Cutlery all cluttered up? Better than the spoons all getting nestled together and not washing between them. Wooden cutting boards? There’s basically no difference between that and handwashing the sucker. Of course it’s not a magic box, but if something wasn’t quite cleaned, it takes a matter of seconds to wipe it down again or just leave it in for the next load.

          And I’m sure it’s come up here before, but some people just have different standards of “clean”. My fiance has basically never noticed that he has to wipe down a table or counter after everything is put away to get all the crumbs and spills. And well, sometimes it’s annoying. But I’d rather he clean up and forget to wipe everything down then just ignore it all. If my standard of clean is to wipe down the crumbs, well then I should do it myself, and not grumble about it.

          • I agree : people absolutely have different standards of clean. ( And believe me nobody who saw my house would call me a neat-freak. ) And you’re right it’s not always passive-aggressive. Sometimes who does the dishes just isn’t an issue to either people.

            The difference is, as always, in the communication. I’d prefer my partner/roommate to just say “Look I’m not going to get all anal about the placement of the silverware and you’re fucking crazy if you think I’m going to order the plates” ( to which I’d reply “That’s fine just please don’t ever put the cutting board in” ) than to just keep ignoring my preferences in the hopes I would magically do it every time. If I keep bringing it up and they keep ignoring it, then we are going to have the passive-aggressive conversation.

            On the flip side, I won’t complain about pee on the toilet. πŸ˜‰

    • My husband puts pans and chopping boards in the dishwasher and it makes me want to scream. I’m so glad it’s not just me.

      Although I don’t sort cutlery because I don’t want the spoons to spoon together.

      • I should probably explain something about sorting the cutlery: my silverware holders have lids with slots in them so each piece stands separate from the others. The upside is the silverware is always very clean and I don’t pre-wash it. The downside? You can’t just grab a handful of silverware easily, especially since the forks cannot fit with the tines facing down. You can grab a some spoons and you can grab some knives ( pointing down! ) but forks require more care or you will stab yourself.

        Right. Under. Your. Fingernail.

        Hence: silverware segregation.

  17. I never found living without a dishwasher to be an annoyance, but then until 9 months ago I had never had one so I didn’t know. I don’t find handwashing dishes to be that challenging, especially since it was only for 2 people.

    I also used to go to the bank every now and then and get $30 worth of quarters and loonies for laundry when I used coin-op machines, in the roughly the right proportions, so that I wasn’t waiting to acquire change. Then I’d do a load of laundry Tuesday night and then another 1 or 2 bright and early Saturday morning. I lived in a 6 unit building with 1 washer and 1 dryer and there was almost never an issue being able to just walk in and do my laundry that way.

  18. we try to rinse dishes even if we are not doing the “full wash” to make it easier later. Gloves and a padded kitchen mat make dishwashing less painful.

    I actually found that in my urban area, dropping off my laundry is not much more money than if I do it myself at the laundromat and the time I save is well worth the difference.

    Quarters – I always need quarters to keep in my car for parking meters and I just ask for cash back on my debit card at the grocery store. Usually the cashier is fine to give me a roll of quarters as part of my change.

    • I’ve always wanted to do drop-off laundry. It skeeves me out for some reason. My OCD insists that I oversee the process to ensure it’s been done to my specifications. My boyfriend has learned my specifications over time, he can help. But he can’t fold MY clothes to save his life.

  19. My favorite trick for rewearing clothes before washing them is to hang them up in my bathroom for the night. I am a fanatical bather, so they get a nice steam to freshen them and take out any wrinkles, especially if I’ve added a scent to the bath.

  20. I could have written this myself! Most of my adult life living on my own I had neither convenience washer mentioned.
    Dishes – wash, dry, put away all the same night. Less clutter means it’s less overwhelming to walk into to cook and clean up the following day.
    Laundry – Choose a weeknight or even a Friday night to do it. When we would go to the laundromat we’d go around 7pm on a Friday evening and never had an issue getting enough washers and dryers to get it all done in one go. Also, line dry whatever you can. We have a drying rack and a tension rod in our back hallway for this purpose. Anything bulky (hoodies, jeans), delicates, and anything that we wear a lot (my t-shirts for my teaching job) get line dried.

  21. I never had a dishwasher growing up, and I’ve hated each one I’ve had in apartments. I much prefer to wash by hand.
    I used to get lots of studying done in college when I used a laundromat, but now I have an in apartment washer, so I don’t get much studying done now…

  22. I do some pet/house-sitting on the side, and I make sure to take full advantage of my more affluent friends (affluent being “own a house with a washer and dryer”) I always ask, of course, and I do charge a little less than other pet-sitters simply because I save SO MUCH MONEY doing laundry at their houses. I try to time it so I can save the “big” stuff (towels, small rugs, slip covers, etc) when I house-sit. I also own four sets of sheets so we can make it two months before we have to wash a load.

    My husband is a quarter-saver, while I prefer to just get rolls of quarters from the bank. My local grocery store also will give you rolls of quarters as cash-back on a debit card. And you know what makes a great quarter holder? An old Crown Royal bag!

  23. I wonder if there is a cultural difference in attitude to laundry in the UK vs the US? I have found that for the most part, particularly when renting, it is very common not to have a tumble dryer, as older houses and flats just don’t have room for one. I would say that 90% of people I know don’t have a tumble dryer and always use a line. I grew up without one, and I am so surprised by the comments about clothes being ‘stiff’ from drying on the clothes line. It never occurred to me that that was a problem! It’s just how clothes are after coming off the line, and then you iron most of them anyhow so that sorts any ‘issues’ out. We now have a dual washer/dryer in our rented house, but the dryer is so slow and uses so much energy that we always hang on the line outside or on a clothes horse indoors in the winter months.

    We also don’t have a dishwasher, and I find it much easier washing up by hand (just for two of us) as I used to loathe looking for things only to find them dirty in a half-loaded dishwasher, and you still have to wash the pots and pans by hand anyhow!

    • Am also in the UK where it is common to air dry.

      I didn’t grow up with a drier but in my case it’s because I grew up with hippy parents in a very old house where the moisture produced by tumble driers would be too damaging for the old timber structures etc. We also didn’t have central heating for the same reason….Now I have a choice in these matters I still prefer air drying over tumble drying because it’s so much fresher, plus tumble driers are such huge energy eaters. Also air drying whites in full sun will have a bleaching effect as can also help kill any lingering bacteria. I dry on a rack which goes on my balcony whenever possible or over my bath if needs be. If forced indoors to dry I choose the bathroom because there is a moisture extractor fan which is activated every time the light goes on which helps with extra moisture released into the air from the laundry. But air drying is an art so here a few tips taught to me by my laundry OBSSESIVE stepfather, don’t tell him but he’s right – it’s all about the flap!

      If you are getting things off the line (or clothes rack) and they are really stiff they are probably going on too wet, it also depends on how much limescale there is in your local water supply but there are various ways you can compensate for this.

      Clothes and linens should have had a proper spin in the washer after the wash cycle and be going on damp rather than wet.

      Give them a really good flap to get rid of wrinkles and get as much moisture as possible out before hanging . Hang them not exactly stretched but not drooping either and in the shape you want them to be as dry clothes. They should be as flat and unbunched as possible, don’t cram things on or you will end up with crinkly lumps for clothes. With shirts, flap them out really well, then put them on a plastic hanger and peg to the line, take time to make sure the collars and cuffs aren’t crinkled.

      This way you’ll get unwrinkled clothes and linens that are not the same as being ironed but pretty damn close! Takign the time to hang them out well will also speed up drying time. This method is especially effective on sheets and bed linen. When taking things of give a light flap before folding to loosen any stiffness, which should be minimal, but be careful not to shake out your ironed effect.

      It’s a bit of a faff but as far I’m concerned it eliminates any further stages in the laundry process (apart from taking the stuff off the line/rack and putting them away), as well as further expense or further chemicals. A job interview shirt done this way probably won’t pass muster but for EVERYTHING ELSE it’s the bees knees!

      • Thank you for this… I have a washer with an extra spin cycle. I never understood why you would want an extra spin. Yeah. To get them dryer. I can’t believe it took me this long to mak that connection, and I never would’ve made it without reading this. I’m going to go feel stupid in a corner now…

    • definite attitude difference (i mean, there are places you aren’t *allowed* to have a laundry line in the US) – but also, i wonder if there’s some weather differences? i know where i grew up, the humidity is so high basically year-round that you can’t line-dry without clothes smelling bad unless it’s 100 degrees. now i’m elsewhere and i *love* line dried clothes (but for time’s sake, tend to use the dryer most anyway. buh).

    • Yeah, I’m UK and I’ve never lived in a flat with a dryer till now. Our current one does have one but we never use it because it’s expensive, slow and noisy.

    • Perhaps ironing does help with the texture of line dried clothes, but I don’t iron my clothes. I don’t have the kind of clothes that tend to need ironing, except a few special occasion clothes, and even those can do without ironing if I wash them right and hang them up promptly. I don’t actually own an iron. I did a few years ago, but never replaced it when it broke because I wasn’t really using it.

      Not all pots and pans need to be washed by hand, many are dishwasher safe. In my household of just two people, it is pots and pans along with mixing and serving bowls that makes washing things in a dishwasher worthwhile.

    • I grew up with a dryer, but my parents only used it out of neccessity (shirt needs to be dry now, it’s been raining for ages and there’s no more room to dry in the house) because they thought it was a waste of money and energy. I do the same now. Most of my friends’ flats just have washing machines. Apartments aren’t as common in NZ, but everyone I know who lives in one has a washing machine in theirs, no communal ones.

      I don’t really have any issues with my clothes being stiff – and also, if I do use the dryer, I’ve never used a dryer sheet (if they are even available here) or fabric softener. I think every house I’ve ever been to has a clothesline outside.

  24. So, off topic, but correct audience:

    Any tips on how to deal with trash? When I lived in a rowhouse in a city, there wasn’t any place to put our trash outside. We had to keep it in our apartments until the once weekly trash day. We weren’t allowed to put it in the halls or basement.

    I ended up getting a pretty thick can with a lid, but it was still annoying. I never knew if I should have people over immediately after trash day so it would be empty, but then I would have to live with any trash they made until the end of the week.

    • I dealt with that by cutting down on my trash.

      * Chicken bones that have been simmered into stock don’t really smell at all.
      * Eating all the food I bring home instead of having things go bad and need thrown away helps, as does having a space in the fridge or a labeling system for DON’T EAT THIS so that it only gets put in the trash the day it goes out.
      * Being able to compost helps a lot too, and compost that is properly biodegrading doesn’t smell much at all (just kind of Earthy).
      * I can’t get away with a meat-free diet, but limiting meat packaging helps–I would buy bulk packages on the day before trash day and package them into ziplock bags for the freezer, and we tended to re-use our ziplocks. If it wasn’t getting reused, a good rinse would reduce any smellyness from it in the trash.

      Really, it’s usually the food stuff that stinks. Eliminate what you can, because it’s good for the smell and the effort and the environment. Wash what you can’t eliminate. And after you’ve done all that, try to organize the rest of the smelly things around trash day.

  25. Ugh, this who thing was ringing bells in my brain the entire read. My method is a little different for washing things simply because there are two washers for my apartment complex and one is ALWAYS broken. I’ve started hand-washing shirts (If they need it) and undies in the evening right before bed. I hang them to dry and by the next evening they are clean. This cuts down on laundry by a whole bunch and I know I will never be subject not having any clean under-roos as long as I make it a routine.

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