Friday, August 28, 2009


You have been in Europe for awhile and you know this because the cluster of dirty laundry on the floor is growing exponentially. With each passing day the pile gets bigger and the clean clothes in the suitcases quickly disappear until there is nothing but a cavernous dark space left. You don’t
want to miss a moment away from the exciting life of Paris, but alas you want to at least appear to be civilized with a few clean clothes on your body. If you are in a hotel that doesn’t have laundry service or if you are renting an apartment without a washer and dryer, you will need to bite the bullet and spend a couple of hours at the local laverie (that's laundromat for you and me).

While most of you have washers and dryers back home, I am sure you have visited a laundromat at some point in your life—probably back in your college days. As you know, each washer and dryer identifies the price and you put the correct change in the slot provided on the machine. This is not the case in Paris, or anywhere in Europe that I have explored for that matter. So, a “petite” lesson in English is required.

Firstly, you will want to load the machine. Next, put any detergents, pre-wash and/or softeners in the machine. So far, so good.  It’s just like it is at home. The bad news is the slots probably won’t be labeled to know what needs to go where. Just remember it’s like reading a book. We read left to right. So, the left slot is for the pre-wash (the first chapter), the middle slot is for the detergent (the 2nd chapter) and the right slot is for the softener (the last chapter). If you forget, just look for the space with the caked on detergent residue. That will be the place for your soap.

For the right temperature, it is easier to know a few words in French rather than trying to figure out what degree in Celsius you will need. Couleur = Color, Blanc = White, Synthetique = Polyester, Laine = Wool and Nylon = Nylon. Okay, so you probably didn't need a translation for the last one. Press the correct button and you are almost at the starting gate.

This is the time where things get a little different from our Laundromats. Located on each machine there will be a fairly visible number. There will also be a central machine located somewhere in the room where you deposit your coins. Some places allow bills as well, but double check before loading the machine. You don’t want to be stuck having to unload the washer because you don’t have enough change.

Press the number of the washer that you are using into the coin machine. It will then tell you the price, probably somewhere between 3-8 € depending on the size of the washer. Voila! Thirty-five minutes to an hour or so later, you will have a load of clean clothes.

Whew, we made it through step one.  Next we move our stash into the dryers. The same rules apply here. Typically, you will have ten minutes for each euro or so. I suggest lightening up the loads by spreading your laundry out into a few machines. It will dry much faster, which will give your more time for gallivanting in the city.

If you don't want to find yourself mesmerized by the clothes spinning, just bring your favorite book with you, giving your brain cells something more productive to do. While you are there, I recommend a quick scan of the books anyone else is reading. If you see something with a title in our familiar English language, then why not ask where they are from. It’s a great conversation starter and who knows maybe you will have an interesting dialogue to fill the time. Perhaps, you might even make a new friend.

Happy washing!

Thanks for reading and bonne journée!