Saturday, May 23, 2009

Washing Woes, Laundry Laments, and Mourning Mechanical Malfunctions!

My washing machine is slowly dying. I say 'slowly,' because the process has been taking several years. This particular machine was purchased in Honduras, not brought down in a container shipment. Purchasing appliances in Honduras can be expensive, as the prices are high and the quality is often lower than you would expect.

Not long after we purchased this machine, the main dial started to act up. As on many washing machines, the dial had to be pushed in, then turned, then pulled out, in order for the machine to run. We first noticed that the dial had begun to slip a bit when it was turned. We babied it along, but we knew it was only a matter of time before the knob wouldn't turn the mechanism.

Sure enough, the handle of the dial became useless. It was removed, and we then had to turn (by sliding in a circular motion) a flat piece of plastic which had been behind the dial. There was no more "pushing in and pulling out." As far as the machine was concerned, the thing was always pushed in, so we could no longer pause a load mid cycle. We could still wash laundry, however, and that was the important thing.

Our entire time in Gracias, we've fought the battle of the water pressure - which really isn't the fault of the washer. The pressure is frequently so low that it can take most of an hour for the machine to fill with water for the first cycle. With the quantity of laundry we do in a day, we couldn't really afford for each load to take several hours of the day, so we resorted to bucketing water into the machine from the pila, or using the hose to fill the machine.

There is also the problem of water quality. We have to disconnect the hoses at the back of the washer several times each week, to clean out the screen which filters the water that can enter the machine. It's silly that we still do this - since half of the water is coming in through the unfiltered garden hose - but we like to delude ourselves into thinking we are prolonging the life of the machine by continuing to screen some of the chunks of debris out of the water.

Just about a week ago, the timer mechanism, which tells the machine that it is time to switch from agitating to draining, or draining to spinning, has decided to retire from service. So, we must now manually advance the dial, in order to get a load of laundry through the process.

Here is the entire sequence:

Load the washer with dirty clothing and soap. Dry hands thoroughly, because if hands are wet or slippery, it is impossible to slide the flat piece of plastic we are moving (since there is no actual dial). Set this to point to the beginning of the wash cycle. Put the hose into the washer, so that the water is entering both through the machine and through the hose. Stand by the washing machine until it is entirely full, which takes about 10 minutes. DO NOT assume that you can go do something else, and then return to the washer in time to turn off the hose before the machine overflows. You will flood the laundry room if you try to do this. Trust me on that one.

Once the machine is full of water and agitating, go to the kitchen and set the timer for 15 minutes. When the timer goes off, dry hands thoroughly and turn that flat piece of plastic so that the machine stops agitating and starts draining. Stay by the machine until the draining is completed (this only takes a minute or two) and then advance the dial-less machine again so that it will start spinning.

Set the kitchen timer for 3 minutes, and do something unrelated to laundry during that time. Then return to the washing machine and advance so that the spinning stops, and the machine begins to fill with water for the rinse cycle. Again, use the hose to speed this process, but DO NOT leave the laundry room. I usually use this time to sort the rest of the dirty laundry into piles, mop the floor, scrub bug parts from the corners of the room, etc.

Once the machine is full of water and agitating again, set the kitchen timer for about 10 minutes. After doing something fulfilling for 10 minutes, return to the washer and advance so that the water begins to drain out of the machine. Stay by the machine for a couple of minutes, until the draining is complete, then advance to the spin cycle.

Let the machine spin for about 5 minutes (setting the timer is recommended, but if you forget at this stage, at least you won't create a flood), then advance to the end of the cycle.

Remove the clean laundry, and begin again at the first step for the second load.

Repeat this process four times, and then the laundry is DONE for the day - well except for hanging it up, taking it down, folding it, and putting it away.

I'm still grateful to have a washing machine - I wouldn't want to have to scrub the laundry by hand on a washboard. Still, sometimes, that feeling of gratitude is harder to come by . . .

Our very good friends in Santa Rosa de Copan, the Ward family, are moving next month to work in another part of Honduras. The house they will be using in their new location is partially furnished, and they are selling some of their stuff - including their new-ish washing machine. We have contracted to buy their machine, and we are praying that our old one will continue to limp along until we can get the replacement.


Randall and Rachel Beita said...

This sounds like how we wash. We don't have an automatic washer so it has to also be avanced along. It is also very small as it only holds 3 jeans or towels at a time. The spinning drum is separate and so you have to pass the dripping, wet clothes to the spinning drum and then back to clean water to rinse. Our washer now has a short or something so you have to be very careful to only wet one hand and not drip on your feet or you can get shocked! I am so glad we don´t have to wash by hand.

I will be praying for your washer.

Honduras Sprout said...

That sounds just crazy. I think I would rather wash by hand....But then you have a huge family, so maybe not. I'm sure you will give that new used washing machine a big ol' fat kiss every single day once it's in and hooked up!

Honduras Sprout said...

Oh! Do you have a filter system for the whole house? We have a double filter at the line that goes to the whole house including the washer. We have well water and there is lots of sediment. The filters are so worth it! We change the filters every couple of months.

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