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Laundry in the Philippines

In America, we own a washer and dryer use the laundry room at our apartment or go to the local Laundromat.  We set the water temperature, the agitation speed, put our items into the machine, close the door and let the machine wash, rinse and spin dry our clothes. Then, unless it is delicate, we put the damp clothes into the dryer and then all is left is to put on hangers or fold and put it away.

In the Philippines, laundry is done many ways depending on what you can afford. Some people own a washer and dryer, but that is more the exception than the rule. Some have a machine that just agitates and then spins, but most cases laundry is done by hand. Someone sits on a stool in front of a plastic tub by a water faucet. Powdered soap is added to the water and a few items at a time are placed in the soapy water and rubbed and squeezed. Other times some people will use a bar of laundry soap and scrub each item. After enough if the items are done, the soapy water is dumped and fresh water is used to rinse. The person then squeezes the items to rinse out the soap. The rinse water is replaced as many times needed until the water is clear and soap free.

After a group of the laundry is cleaned, it is hung inside out on a hanger or over the line to air dry. Turning it inside out is to help reduce the sun from bleaching the colors out. With the use of cold water, the colors do not fade that fast. Depending on the size of the family and the frequency of laundry day, this task can take many hours. Some people hire a Labandera; this is a person you hire for a day, just to do the laundry.

Here at our house, our nieces and nephew does their own laundry. Some items, such as nursing school uniforms, which each girl has two, are done a few times a week. As one is drying, they have one to wear the next day.

Some readers asked why we have hired a helper, one reason is laundry. I usually change my clothes twice a day because of perspiration. Therefore, in one week there is two of everything needing to be washed. Then there are towels, sheets and other items. With the other assistance in the home, the help of this girl is probably cheaper than taking the laundry to a cleaner each week.

I find everything is cleaned well; the only problem is without the use of a dryer tumbling the clothes as they dry, there is a stiffness when first put on. Part is the drying and the other is, even with the use of a machine, there is some soap residue left in the material. One other problem is my underwear, which is stretched out over time without the assistance of shrinking with hot water and the use of a dryer and then the stretching as it is being washed.

One Filipino I know mentioned something their grandmother would say when it rained on the laundry drying. She would comment “Natures way of softening the clothes.” I realized it is because they get an extra rinse.

This story is just another thing to realize the differences here in the Philippines and probably other third world countries.

4 Responses to “Laundry in the Philippines”

  1. Evelyn says:

    Bruce, i put a little downey and it helps..just a thought

  2. Kenneth Crawley says:

    I have a local type wash machine, but hang my clothes outside. I offered my services to the government because I found that whenever I hang clothes out, it rains, it works better and cheaper than seeding the clouds.
    Only thing different I do than this article, is I make sure my clothes are right side out when hanging outside. I’d rather the dust in the air that gets on them remain away from my skin.

    • Bruce says:

      Kenneth,
      I agree, but who is to tel a Filipino to do something different. Remember, we are stupid foreigners.

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