Handwashing: an obsession of a 70s child

I’M OBSESSED with washing clothes. I’ve only recently realised this, but if you’ve followed me on Twitter throughout 2022, you might have caught on that I’m obsessed: photos of my undies on the washing line, tips on how to make your washing detergent last longer and boasting about how early I’ve managed to get the washing out on the line were common tweets during the summer months.

It’s July 2023 and I’m enjoying a holiday in Sorrento, but If you scroll through my Twitter feed you’ll see me boasting about my freshly washed clothes drying on the balcony…

There were two reasons for washing clothes whilst on holiday:

1) The daily temperatures in Sorrento was between 30 and 35 degrees centigrade. The heat and humidity meant a stream of sweat ran down my back and into my undies after walking to and from the town centre. As a result, I was going through clothes at an alarmingly swift rate. I had to ensure I had enough clean clothes to get me through the 10 day holiday.

2) Obsession! It got to the point where I’d washed enough clothes to last the entire holiday, but I kept on washing more! I jetted back to the UK with my suitcase full of clean clothes.

The sink in our hotel bathroom had became my vessel for handwashing. It saw a variety of clothes throughout my stay: briefs, t-shirts (my retro yellow Kodak, pink Miami Vice, white London Underground and the VW Campervan) shorts, socks and shirts. By the end of the holiday I’d used up three-quarters of the bottle of handwashing detergent I’d bought from the local shop (Conad). My handwashing of clothes was so frequent that I had to pile moisturiser (blue Nivea) on my hands to stop them drying out… a minor pitfall of too much handwashing. I loved handwashing my clothes and wanted to do more.

What’s even more intriguing (or weird) is that I was excited by the idea of having a stash of clean clothes in my suitcase for the journey home. My wife reminded me that we do have a washing machine at home and I didn’t need to do anymore handwashing, but I ignored her and carried on.

My holiday handwashing adventure reminded me of growing up in our family home during the 1970s. We didn’t have a washing machine so handwashing was the only option. Wednesdays were wash days. On Tuesdays our bathroom looked like an ordinary bathroom; on Wednesdays it was transformed into a packed to the brim laundry room – clothes soaking in the white enamel bath, clothes in deep plastic washing up type bowls, clothes drip drying over the bath, clothes everywhere. When it came to white cottons, the kitchen cooker came into action and there was a special way of getting them whiter than white… the boil wash. A big metal bowl on the gas cooker with water and washing powder – add dirty whites and gently boil whilst stirring with wooden laundry tongs. The boil wash was hot and dangerous work but was guaranteed to whiten the whites. By Thursday evening the laundry room would be restored to a bathroom.

Washing laundry by hand back then was not like a holiday at Butlin’s, It was hard work: hands in and out of water, sweating, bending, scrubbing, rubbing, wringing and hanging. Hand washing laundry was an all day session that tested your strength and stamina.

Maybe one of the reasons for my holiday handwashing of laundry obsession is because I love doing things the old school way – many times I prefer to write a letter using my trusty Parker pen rather than sending an email… I’ve started writing more cheques instead of doing bank transfers – I’m now the proud owner of a bow tie and I like to wear my shirts with the top button buttoned up – my passion for handwashing of laundry should be no real surprise based on my retro mindset.

Now that I accept that I have an obsession with washing whilst on holiday, I might as well make a bit of cash from it – if we’re staying at the same holiday hotel and you need a bit of washing done, I’m your man. My price list is below…

Item of clothingCost per item (€)
Boxer shorts, knickers, socks, thongs, briefs, bras, vests2.50
Long sleeve shirts5
Trousers and skirts6

5 Popular retro washing powders:

  1. Dreft
  2. Tide
  3. OMO
  4. Radiant
  5. Drive

Use of main photo (Dreft) kindly authorised by the Museum of Brands

One thought on “Handwashing: an obsession of a 70s child”

  1. Your family’s laundry escapades from years gone by sound a lot like mine! We unfortunately were unable to afford a washing machine for many years, and I recently told my mum how sorry I feel for her having had to scrub six people’s clothes by hand! :O That couldn’t have been easy. And my grandfather, well he did have a washing machine but many a time he was caught handwashing clothes that could easily have been put in the machine because he felt it was the ‘best way.’ I guess some of us are just old school through and through. I do hope you found time to enjoy your holiday in between laundry duty! 😉

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