It’s a fact of life that as life goes on we change, we discover new things, try new food items and generally progress from sundried plums with tangy rock salt to gourmet sundried tomatoes. At this point you are wondering, aren’t you, why this post is tagged “travel”? Well, maybe you’re not or you didn’t even notice, but if you were then you’ll figure it out by the time you finish reading this post. Yes, I know, that’s sometimes hard to do with the rambly way I have of writing posts, but you’ve managed to make some sense out of it in the past, so hang in there! You should know that I was in Kolkata or Calcutta this past January.
Back in the days of yore, the sun played an important part in the laundry business. Progress, however, soon hit the masses and post WWII, the number of women in the workforce increased dramatically. Women had long been held back due to lack of access to higher education. It was in 1868 that Cambridge allowed women students, but it did not fully validate degrees for women until 1947. Somewhere in the late 50s and 60s, women started entering the workforce in larger and ever increasing numbers. Soon the day of the husband coming home, throwing his hat onto the hatrack and calling “Honey, I’m home” and expecting a lovely wife greeting him with a drink and smile and the words “Dinner will be ready soon. Now just take put on your slippers and sit down and have a drink” were gone and lived on only in creepy Stepford.
Men came home to TV dinners, canned and frozen food and kitchen appliances became the next aspiration for households. As families sat down to watch tv, the scourge of modern tv was born. Yes, TV commercials. TV Commercials begat consumers and consumers begat consumerism and consumerism begat hope and hope begat laziness and laziness begat the washing machine and the washing machine begat laundry detergent and laundry detergent begat dryers and dryers married forced air heating and the two begat static. And thus the fabric softener was born.
Let’s turn to Wikipedia now and learn about fabric softeners. Take it away, Wiki! < polite applause >
Cationic fabric softeners
In the 1950s, distearyldimethylammonium chloride (DHTDMAC), was introduced as a fabric softener initially to counteract the harsh feel that the machine washing imparted to diapers. This compound was discontinued because the cation biodegrades very slowly.Contemporary fabric softeners tend to be based on salts of quaternary ammonium cations. Characteristically, the cations contain one or two long alkyl chains derived from fatty acids. Other cationic compounds can be derived from imidazolium, substituted amine salts, or quaternary alkoxy ammonium salts.
Anionic fabric softeners
Anionic softeners and antistatic agents can be, for example, salts of monoesters and diesters of phosphoric acid and the fatty alcohols. These are often used together with the conventional cationic softeners. Cationic softeners are incompatible with anionic surfactants used in detergents because they combine with them to form a solid precipitate. So, they must instead be added during the rinse cycle. Anionic softeners can be combined with anionic surfactants directly. Other anionic softeners can be based on smectite clays. Some compounds, such as ethoxylated phosphate esters, have softening, anti-static, and surfactant properties.
< thunderous applause, whistles, hootin’ and hollerin’>
Note that this slavery to the machines is a predominantly “western” phenomena. In other parts of the world, such as Kolkata or Calcutta, where labour is cheaper it is, instead, slavery to the bai, which is more prevalent. Said bai comes in, washes the clothes, by hand, slaps them around either with a thapi ( remember those flat wooden bats? ) or by slamming the clothes against the floor or a wash stone. Then the clothes are wrung manually to within an inch of their lives. This replacement for the washing machine actually extends the clothes. Not their lives, but their physical length. T-shirts, for instance, become this mis-shapen mass of jersey at least 2.5 inches longer than manufactured.
Drying: Drying uses solar power. Clothes are pinned to a clothes line thus aiding the lengthening process that started with the mangling process described above.
Note the absence of fabric softener. Solar power + no fabric softener gives you?
Yup: “crispy”, sun-dried underwear!
< I added the word “crispy” to make it clear – see Sakshi Nanda’s comment below>
This Post Has 23 Comments
Well, you did indeed get around to your title in the end…..what a long way we’ve come only to realize that the old way, while not quicker, is still hanging in there with a song!
Heh! You read all the way through the socio-economic history lesson, eh? Good for you!
Still singing “Seasons in the sun”, yep!
There’s nothing like line-dried clothing. I don’t do it, mind you, but I do admire it from afar.
The further the better, eh? We used to say “good from far and far from good” – in a different context, but hey, it works!
I like that saying!
That saying is very profound!
Thanks for reading!
It was a teenage-boy saying ….from ages ago when I was a teenager!
I was wondering where you were going with this post… so I cheated and looked at the images below… in an instant, the title became clear… ask a working mom what havoc lack of solar power plays in the laundry operations and pain brought about by lack thereof during monsoon months 😛
Most times even I don’t know where I’m going… thanks
(Is this a sponsored post? How much did Downy pay you for this?)
Oh well, not my business unless you send them to me. Enjoyed your sun-dried chaddis. You did forget to mention how much “crisper” they are in the Sun, as compared to when downed and drowned in Downy.
Yes, I didn’t think I needed to spell it out, actually ! 🙂
Nope, this is not a sponsored post. I needed an image so walked over to our laundry room and took a couple of snaps.
Oh yes, I remember the time before such luxuries as washing machines and tumble driers. My mom used a copper boiler and a laundry ponch to punch down the clothes in the sudsy water. She then rinsed them in a big sink and then put them through the hand operated mangle, before pegging them on the wash line. What a business it was! 😯
Thanks for reading / commenting! Yes, it is an intensive operation. I do remember washing my own clothes by hand…
Only once in my entire lifetime, did I wash clothes, and it was a horrific painful experience. My salutations to those who can do it, either the machine or the bai 🙂 and as they say with machinery and bais, we cant live with them, we cant live without them
Ah – at least you had the experience even though it was unpleasant.. I just found it annoying rather than unpleasant. With the washer/dryer it’s only a nuisance, not really unpleasant.
Thanks for reading and commenting.
I will tell it freely 😛
I am recalling my childhood days for this, when I used to pass by the river (near my mother’s native place) and seeing Dhobi washing then drying clothes on the clean sand. I thought at that age as those clothes (after washed) might become dirty from the sand / dust again. Is it silly work? I came to know later in that child age that, natural is natural, pure and clean – Sun is drying the underwear.
I don’t think hat onto the hatrack and “Honey, I’m home” etc. is going on nowadays except at very few heavenly home. Nice to know from 1868 to 1947 and onward history. Learning…
Yeah, natural is preferable…. I just wish there was some way to not dry the clothes to a crisp…
I am recalling my childhood days for this, when I used to pass by the
river (near my mother’s native place) and seeing Dhobi washing then
drying clothes on the clean sand. I thought at that age as those
clothes (after washed) might become dirty from the sand / dust again.
Is it silly work? I came to know later in that child age that, natural
is natural, pure and clean – Sun is drying the underwear.
I don’t think hat onto the hatrack and “Honey, I’m home” etc. is going
on nowadays except at very few heavenly home. Nice to know from 1868
to 1947 and onward history. Interesting post. Learning…
I don’t think it’s going anywhere anymore….but there may be an exception here or there to prove the rule.
As I stay in a remote village , i do have the luxury of primitive system of livelihood. Wife makes hot breakfast, lunch and dinner, and family eats together. Clothes sun dried as stated. Nice post.
Thank you. Please do keep on keeping on coming over. The SloMan and his cohorts are always pleased to see you here.
The maids are becoming unaffordable these days in our metros and have rates for each of the services they provide. So, more often than not, WM’s have made a comeback of sorts. Had a lot of fun reading this…
Thanks! I guess it’s a question of supply and demand, eh?