Tag Archives: lavadora

Doing the laundry in Mexico

Looking at CFE accounts, they would have you believe that 98% of Mexico has electricity even though 15% of the time there are unstable power outputs or loss of service for hours or days at a time. According to the 2016 census in Mexico, there are more than 500,000 homes without electricity.  Nearly 16% of the total population with access to water do not have water installed in their homes. Only 26% of the population of the state of Guerrero have daily access to water. Nearly 7,000,000 Mexicans live in isolated communities without adequate access to water and electricity.  Having limited or no access to electricity or water means doing the laundry can be a challenge in many areas of Mexico.

I don’t mind doing laundry. Hands down, I prefer it to doing the dishes. However, with not having electricity at our house for so long, we’ve had to be proactive about doing laundry. I mean, we couldn’t just throw it in the machine and let it wash itself now, could we?

laundry area

Our pre-remodel second-floor laundry area, complete with hand pump connected to the ajibe (dry well).

Necessity meant we found alternatives. One alternative is hand washing. Almost every house in Mexico has a built-in washboard just for that purpose. The raised cement ridges are just the thing for scrubbing stubborn stains. When the washboard isn’t quite up to the job, a bristle brush can be used to attack those manchas (spots). Clothes receive one-on-one personal attention and come out cleaner than regular ol’ machine washing. The drawback is that it uses a LOT of water. First, you have to soak the clothes, then scrub with soap, then rinse the soap off. Although we have our gray water running into the garden, it still was a major expense.

doing the laundry

My husband and father-in-law doing the wash.

The next laundry option is to go to the arroyo (stream) and wash. Water is limitless and the washboards angled to get a good suds on. Washing was much quicker with all hands on deck. Again, though, there were some drawbacks. Wet laundry is HEAVY and in order for it to dry properly, we had to haul it back to our house and hoist it up to the second floor where the clotheslines were. Then of course, occasionally, there were the lookie-loos who laughed at our public chonie washing. But what can you do?

IMG_20180727_104856There are other options should you not wish to air your dirty laundry in public and don’t mind other people touching your unmentionables. The washerwoman still can eek out a living here in Mexico. Just look for signs that say “se lava ropa ajena” (foreign clothes washed here).

If you aren’t comfortable taking your wash to someone else’s home, you can have a cha-cha (muchacha) come in and do the washing for you. These girls often come from very small towns and take the bus every morning to their jobs, usually one or two days per week in each home. They take care of everything, the laundry, beating out carpets, general and deep cleaning, minding the children, cooking, even dog grooming, so that the lady of the house is free to devote her time to other things. Pay is dependant on the number of hours and a chore list and can be quite affordable.

IMG_20180416_123629There are also lavanderías, but not the laundromats that you may be used to with quarter slots and TVs and dryers. These laundromats are drop-off service. They have one or two machines in the back and will wash and dry your clothes for pick up. This is a good option for blankets and comforters which are nearly impossible to wrangle clean in the arroyo (stream). Some lavanderías offer ironing services and small clothing repairs, like sewing on buttons or patching garments.

Another option for those special care items is the tintorería (dry-cleaners). Our local dry-cleaner even offers a pick-up/drop-off service.

round-washer

Knowing the pros and cons of hand washing, it’s more and more common for the lady of the house to request a lavadora for Mother’s Day. There are several options available. The most popular is the chaca-chaca machine. It’s a round drum that agitates the clothes clean and makes a chaca-chaca sound. On either side of the spectrum is the mini-washer which holds a maximum of 2 pairs of pants but would work well for undergarments and baby clothes and the modern washer with all the bells and whistles.

I opted for the later and have been blissfully using it at the Little House in Sunflower Valley for over a year now. We made an attempt to move it to La Yacata after we got the 3000 power inverter but unfortunately it didn’t work. It seems our power inverter uses a modified sine wave rather than pure sine wave and the washer wasn’t happy with the power output. So for the moment, it remains washing merrily in Sunflower Valley.

hanging laundry

No electricity = no dryer

As for drying options, dryers are quite rare, so sun-drying is the most popular option. Lines are usually made of a special wire that doesn’t rust instead of clothesline, although I have seen plastic clotheslines for sale. Make sure your line is sturdy and anchored well. It’s not fun when your freshly laundered clothing falls into a mud puddle on the ground. In the event that you don’t have a line, fences and cactus will hold your clothes nicely. Remember to turn your clothes inside out so as to minimize sun bleaching. And make sure the clothespin is clipped securely. Flying underwear has been known to cause a death or two (Motorizado se accidenta por calzón volador en La Ceiba).

local laundrymat

A local laundry mat, although not the one we use.

Now that you armed with this laundry knowledge, I give you the domestic goddess blessing “Go Forth and Clean!”

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Filed under Electricity issues, Homesteading, Small Business in Mexico

A room of her own–a washer

Doing the wash at the community laundry mat.

Doing the wash at the community laundry mat.

Now that the water and electric were established, it was time to manifest my next desire–a washing machine. I spent several weeks checking models and prices at different stores. Did I want one of the commonly found round chaka chaka models that I was pretty sure would work on most Mexican plumbing setups? Or did I want a square one like my mother has? The price difference was enormous! Some careful consideration was in order.

round-washer

The round chaka chaka washers (so name because of the chaka chaka noise they make as they agitate the clothes) were around 2,000 pesos. Although extremely economical, I had no idea how to use one. I tried to find some information on the internet and struck out. It seemed like it would use quite a bit of water as well. Then things would be sopping wet and take forever to dry unless I invested in a wringer too. The wringer I would have to order from someplace because that sort of technology is just not available here. It might not be a bad investment, though.

wringer

The next level of washers varied considerably. There were the basic machines with dials and then there were the digital computerized washers that were quite intimidating. They even came in fashion colors! Washers at the new store Fabrics de Francia cost up to 30,000 pesos! What did it do, fly? I really only wanted a basic machine. I hurried out of the store before a salesperson could convince me otherwise.

washer

I finally found what I wanted at a price I could afford at Famsa. It was a Whirlpool basic, cold water 15K capacity washer with a dial. It was under 5,000 pesos. Yep, gonna get it!

I mentioned my shopping experience at work, and a coworker suggested I wait for Buen Fin before I bought it. In case you haven’t heard of it Buen Fin is something like Black Friday, but not really. I haven’t ever gotten a good deal during Buen Fin sales, but since it was only 2 weeks away, I decided that it wouldn’t hurt to wait a bit just in case this year would be the year I would save money.  Furthermore, if the store did raise its prices to make it seem that there was a discount, well, I’d get the washer at about the same price anyway.

So I waited, mentally washing all the clothes, the towels, the blankets and the stinky, smelly jackets. When I had mentally washed all our items, I mentally washed all my father-in-law’s clothing and bedding. I plan on invading his home and taking everything for a good wash. Living in La Yacata means things often are not as clean as they could be with the limited water we have. (See After ecstasy, the laundry and Water Woes).

So the big day arrived. I headed to Famsa for my purchase. I checked out the other models but again found myself drawn to the same model. The price wasn’t any different from 2 weeks previously. I paid in cash with the option for store pickup because having it delivered was 120 pesos more.

The salesperson said it would be there on Monday. So we went on Monday. It wasn’t there. It seems the delivery truck broke down. So we went on Tuesday. It wasn’t there. The person who called had made a mistake and called the wrong person (us). So we went on Wednesday. After waiting 2 hours, it finally was hauled out of storage and in the back of the truck. Things in Mexico always take longer than expected.

Next was the hookup. I was a bit nervous about this. The plumbing and electricity in the house are not the best. And sure enough, there were problems. My husband changed the two prong plug for a three prong plug without incident. But when he went to add an adapter to the faucet, the whole thing crumbled to bits. Fixing it required a blow torch, new copper piping, and a new valve. But it got done.

cam05015

Then there was the drainage hose. First, it was connected to the sink, but the sink capacity wasn’t large enough for the waste water. So my husband drilled a hole through the wall to the pipe outside and voila, no more issues.

cam05017

My first load was towels. Man, you should have seen the dirty water! My second load of laundry was towels. Just as dirty! Then some jeans.  Then some uniforms.  I spent the weekend happily loading the washer, unloading the washer and hanging clothes. It took me a few loads to get the hang of it. I even watched the instruction video! But now, everything comes out spic and span! I have to say, everybody is pleased with this purchase.

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Filed under Electricity issues, Water issues