One of the first domestic challenges most Americans encounter when moving to France is learning how to dry clothes without a clothes-dryer. When I first arrived in Paris, I had a lot to learn. Once I figured out how to make the washing machine work, I had to untangle the collapsible clothes drying rack, and assemble it. The first few times I had it sideways. Next challenge: inventing the most efficient way of draping damp clothes across so they would actually dry in less than 24 hours. That was a particularly steep little learning curve. But now, armed with various clever drying racks and helpful tricks from French friends, why, gee-- I whistle zippedy-doo-dah all day on laundry days.
I am actually quite partial to air-drying of clothes. In the States, like most red-blooded Americans I was slavish to my drying machine; but I hated going to its dungeon in the cold, murky basement, and avoided it at all costs. Thus I usually ended up re-drying the same load of wadded, crumpled laundry three and four times in a week, just to remove the now-permanent wrinkles. Talk about wasted energy consumption! But when I'm back in the States now, I can't bring myself to put clothes in the dryer, except for emergencies and fluffy towels.
In Paris, drying the clothes means that they are in your face -- no out-of-sight-out-of-mind excuses. On laundry days in my apartment, clothes are everywhere: doorknobs, radiators, shower curtain rod, flung over doors or on various racks. I certainly straighten up before company arrives (oops -- forgot that pair on the window knob once!).
There are so many ways to dry clothes in the air, even without a clothes line or rack. A friend who lives in a farmhouse in the south of France dries her sheets by unfurling them on the lawn. The stiff grass is not short, so dirt never touches them; they dry in a jiffy in the sun, and -- voilà! It took me a while to adjust my sensibilities to that notion; I had believed that laundry couldn't touch the ground or even the floor, or else it was unclean and needed to be re-washed. But I get it now. Sheets drying on the grass? Cool. I guess I'm a reformed woman.
But in Paris, where apparently it's illegal to hang laundry outdoors, there are myriad indoor sechoirs à linge to choose from. So, in honor of air-drying clothes, and encouraged by Blue Vicar, I present a photo gallery of apartment contraptions for laundry day. An over-the door rack from IKEA, a charming Italian wooden lingerie dryer from Habitat, an over-the radiator rack from the local droguerie, and others available from Herby.
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