Is the reason you have never used a laundry machine because you do not know how or where to start? Or is cost a barrier? Do you love white and other light coloured puffed coats, jeans, sheets or curtains but worry about how to manage the laundering and maintain the colours?
This article is for you!
Stella, take it away…
As a Kenyan girl growing up in Western and Nyanza regions of Kenya, I grew up listening to then popular songs by Les Wanyika such as ‘bibi gani huyo, hajui kufua nguoooooo!’ This song mocked modern women who couldn’t hand wash clothes well, among other household chores. These women were not considered illegible wives.
Several popular detergent adverts like, Omo, did and still do promote the epitome of wife-material and mother as one who is able to do thorough hand laundry. Hand laundering is all I knew. In my mind, laundry machines were a preserve of expatriates and the wealthy in society.
As a young college graduate, I would drag my feet, half-frowning-half-sneering through electronic sections in shops looking wide-eyed, totally clueless about how these strange gadgets were used. Some of these electronic equipment cost more than my then annual gross salary!
Countless times as I was shopping, I would look longingly, almost apologetically at a white coat then proceed to explain to the dealer exasperatedly, gasping for imaginary air, ‘I would have taken this one, it fits well, but I will not be able to maintain the white colour.’ I was greeted with an enthusiastic, understanding nod.
I love large white curtains as they illuminate the house, but I kept off because I worried about the effort involved in laundering such heavy and large pieces of fabric! It’s no wonder that I ended up with a depressing black wardrobe: black skirts, black dresses, black coats, blaack…black…blac…bla.
First: I moved to the Netherlands in 2007, where almost everyone owns a washing machine. Through the years I lived there, I used several different models. In most developed countries, there are self-service laundries or coin laundries. According to Business Daily Online, these coin operated Laundromats are set to hit the Kenyan local market very soon if they haven’t already. More here.
Second: there has been an electronic revolution. There are now much cheaper models of washing machines making them accessible to many middle class families in Kenya and across the world.
What to look for when shopping for a laundry machine
My advice on what to look out for when buying a laundry machine is based on models available in Nairobi as well as general advice on specifications. The costs start from about KShs. 15,000.
Size: When buying a laundry machine think about the size of your household and how many times you wash clothes per week. An average Kenyan home consists of 5 people so I would generally recommend a 10 Kg (this refers to the weight of washing) or larger. A 5 Kg or 7 Kg machine is ideal for a single person and smaller households. When used for large washes it means you have to wash several rounds before you complete your washing.
Semi automatic or fully automatic: They are generally cheaper but require more manual input. They have twin cabins, one for washing and a separate one for spinning. This means that after laundering you have to carry the clothes manually from the washing cabin to the spinning/rinsing cabin.
The fully automatic models have better features including different laundering options such as wool wash and different grades of warm washes. However, they have only one cabin which does the laundering as well as the spinning. I would recommend a semi automatic one in a scenario where water shortages are rampant because it is possible to physically use a bucket to pour in water and do wash. More information here.
Space and storage: The semi automatic models do not need an electrician to fix. Some Kenyan homes do not have an inbuilt space for doing laundry so this is ideal because you can simply store it on the corridor or bedroom and connect to the electric socket when ready to do your wash. The laundering must be done at a place with a water outlet for dirty water, like a bathroom.
Advantages of machine laundering over hand laundering:
- Laundry machines are very thorough.
- A laundry machine will completely wring out all the water, which means that they will dry out faster. This is especially advantageous during rainy weather.
- Large items like curtains, sheets, duvets, towels, coats, can be washed regularly and thoroughly, with shorter drying periods.
- Laundry can be done anytime – morning, evening and at night
- Dirty sports shoes, heavy dirty jeans wear, stained sports clothes, school bags, shopping bags, kids toys such as teddy bears (especially after a bout of cold or skin rash) can be included in the wash as long as they fit in the cabin
- Saves time, water and money. A full single wash in a 10 Kg machine requires about 4 buckets of water, 1 hour, and 20 Kenya shillings worth of powder soap and 1 unit of electricity. These are estimates generated from the use of a 10 Kg manual Hotpoint washing machine which can be bought in Nairobi here.
- If your domestic manager/maid does the laundry, a washing machine will do a better and faster job and she can spend the extra time giving quality care and attention to the kids. This will leave more time for achieving a neater home, tending to the house plants or learning a new skill such as first aid. If your spouse does the washing, s/he could use the spare time to spend quality time with the family, plan delicious meals or learn a new skill.
- Buy a model which has a dealer/service centre in your country. If you have any issues, you can always call or visit to inquire and/or buy spare parts.
- If you wash and the clothes remain dirty, re-wash. If clothes are extra dirty, they may need multiple washes.
- When laundering using a laundry machine, for items that can be destroyed like under-wired bras, delicate clothes, clothes with little details and metal pieces/decorations, undergarments and socks, it is advisable to put them in a mesh laundry bag or a zipped up pillowcase.
- If the machine is on but the clothes inside are not whirling then you have overloaded: reduce and continue washing.
- Hot water could shrink and crease clothes. 30 degree centigrade or cold wash is ideal for most washes. Take time to read the clothes labels for the washing instructions.
- Include a spoonful of boric acid powder (which is available in supermarkets near the pesticides section) when laundering beddings to discourage bugs and other insects
- Always start with whites and then coloured clothes because when the clothes are spinning the loose deeper coloured clothes may discolour the lighter coloured ones.
- In laundry machine models with an open top (top loaders), never put your hand inside while the machine is running
- Clean and dry your washing machine and store in a dry place after each wash. Clean the inside and outside with warm water with a splash of soap and white vinegar for a clean and refreshing smell.
- Keep and always refer to your laundry machine manual as needed
- YouTube has demonstrations on how to use different laundry machine models. Some models have ‘How to Use’ demonstrations on their websites.
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