advice, Germany, housekeeping tips

Even more adventures in German laundry…

This morning, I went down to the basement to start a load of laundry.  Unfortunately, I was still half asleep when I set the machine.  I ended up using the “bettdecken” setting instead of “pflegeleicht”, which is what I usually use for washing clothes.  No matter, though…  both cycles take a long time, so it probably doesn’t really make any difference.  But then I got to thinking.  Americans who live in Germany and have to use German washing machines may not always know what settings are best.

The first time we lived here, we borrowed a German washing machine from the US government.  We never had any problems with it, though I have read on Facebook that some folks haven’t been so lucky with their borrowed machines.  The nice thing about the German machine we used first time we were here is that it had a timer on it.  You could see how long the cycle was.  Given that some cycles can take a couple of hours, that was a very useful feature.

This time, Bill and I had to buy our own machine.  I picked one off  It’s a pretty good machine, except when I find it full of grey water (though I think that’s a plumbing issue rather than a machine issue).  Unfortunately, when I bought the machine, I didn’t get one with a timer.  It took a few cycles before I learned which cycle was what.

My trusty washing machine.

Most of the time, I use the “pflegeleicht” setting.  Plegeleicht means “easy care”.  I haven’t actually timed the cycle, but I’d say it runs for about 90 minutes or so.  When I wash my sheets, I use “bettdecken”.  Bettdecken is for bed clothes and duvet covers.  I don’t know how it differs from plegeleicht.  I just use it because I’m supposed to for bedding.  It also runs for about 90 minutes or so.

There’s also the Baum-wolle Eco setting.  That one is kind of the default if you push the play button before making an alternate choice.  Baum-wolle is for cottons.  It’s a very long cycle– like over two hours.  I never use it unless I have nothing else to do all day.

There’s a Wolle setting for wool, which I never use because I rarely wear wool.  And there’s also a Koch-Buntwasche setting, which I think is another all purpose setting.  I never use it because it’s too long.

My machine has a “baby care” setting, which I find funny because it’s in English.  Not having any babies, I’ve never felt the need to try that setting.

Sometimes I use the “Kurz-30” setting, like if I’m washing bathroom rugs, tablecloths, or napkins.  It’s supposed to be a short cycle.  I’m not sure if the 30 stands for minutes or not.  I can’t be bothered to time the cycle.  Maybe I should in the interest of science.

There’s also a silk/delicate setting (feinwasche), which I never use because I don’t wear silk or delicate items anymore.  My clothes are strictly no frills Eddie Bauer and LL Bean jobs that can take a lot of punishment.

My machine goes up to 1400 RPMs, but I never use any settings that go that high because I see no need to.  The ones that go up to 800 RPMs are plenty powerful enough for me.  I never notice my clothes being any less clean with lower RPMs.  (My German friend Susanne says the higher RPMs are actually for getting the clothes more dry.  I suppose that may be one way to save money on drying.)  My machine also goes up to 80 degrees Celsius (176 degrees Fahrenheit).  I usually use the settings that go to 40 degrees Celsius.  The water gets heated in the machine instead of in the house.

One thing we had to get used to is leaving the door to the machine ajar.  If you don’t, the machine will stink of stagnant water.  It will also get moldy.  I imagine I will soon need to run a cycle with vinegar in it to help descale the hard water deposits that can form after awhile.  I have also had to learn how to drain the machine and clean out the filter, which I never had to do with my trusty Roper top loader back home.  And God forbid you use American soap in the machine.  I’ve done it a few times with no serious problems, but a lot of American detergents are too sudsy and can clog up the machine if you use them too often.  Supposedly, you can use the new fangled American detergents for high efficiency machines.  I haven’t tried that yet because I kind of like the way German detergents smell.

I do think my German washing machine does a pretty good job cleaning my clothes.  Unfortunately, it only holds 7 kilos at a time, so I have to do smaller loads.  We had an American dryer last time we lived here because American dryers run on 220 voltage and can handle more clothes.  This time, we bought a Turkish dryer that vents outside.  It does alright and didn’t cost much, though it’s not the most energy efficient machine out there.

Our Turkish dryer.

Maybe as the weather improves, we will embrace using a clothesline or a “spider”.  The people who lived here before us sold us theirs.  It can be an effective way to save money and helps clothes smell “April fresh”, too…  Well, perhaps as long as the field adjacent to our yard hasn’t been freshly fertilized.  I think they spread some manure in the field yesterday because the air had the pungent aroma of shit.

I think doing laundry in Germany can be a daunting experience for some American folks.  Some never get the hang of it.  The clothes washer is not a problem for me; I’m having more problems figuring out the dishwasher.


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