Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Those Three Little Words

I spent my Memorial Day exercising my freedom to enjoy 40% off at the Gap. I'd like to say that I at least purchased items in the colors of red, white and blue, but truthfully I'm more of a yellow, purple and pink kind of gal. (Fun fact: Apparently Latvia is the lone country man enough to fly pink in its flag.)

It was only after I had spread out my new loot at home that I realized I had forgotten to check one important detail: the washing instructions. I swear, with God as my witness, that if any of these items were labeled "hand wash only," I would...never wash them.

Over the years, I have gotten pretty good at ferreting out dry clean only clothing. Certain fabrics are dead giveaways (wool, cashmere, silk), as are certain retail outlets (Banana Republic, say, versus Old Navy). You can avoid or buy at your own risk.

Hand wash, on the other hand, is like the stealth bomber of labels. Perfectly harmless T-shirts will, upon closer examination, prove to be too delicate for the old spin cycle. How have we allowed clothing manufacturers to perpetuate this fraud upon us? It's blatant sexism, I tell you.

The introduction of the washing machine freed women from hours of labor. Ladies, remember the bad old days when we schlepped down to the river to whack our jeans and sundresses against the rocks? How about scrubbing blouses and socks against washboards that our husbands mistook for an instrument in a bluegrass band? Yeah, me neither. Because, progress, thy name is Maytag. Except now there's a vast conspiracy to send us back to the Dark Ages, also known as 1930.

At least with dry cleaning, I can fob the work off onto someone else. Hand wash is just me, mano a mano with my garments. Frankly, there's a certain hubris I attach to an item that demands my individual attention, or is so fastidious as to refrain from mixing it up in the washer with her brothers and sisters in cloth. I'm more than a little put off by the presumption that my affection is so great as to overlook this major character flaw.

Against my better judgment, I occasionally succumb to temptation and pull little Miss Hand Wash out of the closet. I usually regret the decision about the time I'm scrubbing the bathroom sink so that it's clean enough to give Miss Prissy Hand Wash and her ilk a soak. Sopping wet items are then draped over the shower rod, picking up creases and rust fragments while dripping water all over the bathroom floor. All of which explains why I tend to simply throw "hand wash only" in the dryer with a fabric softener sheet and set to fluff. It's possible to smell clean without actually being clean.

This solution wasn't an option, though, when I dropped a greasy French fry on a brand-new hand wash tank top. Seriously, first time I had worn the thing. I tried spot cleaning with one of those Tide-to-Go pens--no go. Next I doused the stain with laundry detergent, scrubbed and rinsed. Now I had a big purple-bluish blotch in addition to the grease.

Screw it. I threw the top in the washing machine.

Would I remove the tank in tatters and shreds? Would it crumble to dust in my hands? Would it shrink, turn colors, lose its shape or cease to exist altogether? I waited with bated breath. (Not really. That's the beauty of laundry machines--set it and forget it.)

You know what happened? Nothing. Well, not exactly nothing--both the grease and the blotch were gone.

I was free! Free from the tyranny of hand wash. It was like finding a loophole in "some assembly required." Giddy with emancipation, I tossed another sacrifice into the maw of the washer. Same result.

Fair warning "Line Dry": I'm coming after you next.


Post a Comment

<< Home