Sorry about the title, but after several weeks writing about Wills, Death and Cockroaches for expats, I thought it was time to move on to something a little more cheerful, and that this would catch your attention. Let us consider a subject that I know is very dear to the hearts of many expats, and that is the subject of washing clothes.

Retirement in the sunLong gone are the days when most expats would pop along to their local stream and give their clothes a good scrub in its cooling running water. Believe it or not, the question of washing is one of the subjects that I receive many questions about. True, it is a little behind the usual questions about ‘the land grab’, legal and motoring problems, but washing is a popular subject nevertheless. It seems that sometimes we are never happy. We spend much of our lives in the misery of living in the wind and rain in our home country, move to Spain and still complain about the weather, but this time about what it does to the laundry.

The problem is that although clothes dry very rapidly in the heat of the Spanish and Canarian sun, they dry a little too quickly for comfort and end up feeling like sandpaper. We can add as much fabric conditioner as we wish, but it makes little difference. Just imagine the horrors of enjoying your time swimming, sunbathing and relaxing in the heat of the sun on one of our fabulous beaches, only to take a delicious shower at the end of it all and dry yourself off with a towel that feels at best like a sheet of limp cardboard or, at worst, a nasty Brillo pad! Not nice is it?

Now, thanks to many of the delightful expats who write to me, I think we have the answer. It does not come cheap, but it is the answer nevertheless, and it comes in the form of a tumble drier. I can already hear some readers snorting in disgust at the very thought of living in a hot climate and using a tumble drier to dry the washing, but I can assure them that after thorough testing, the idea does work.

First of all, washing enthusiasts can still dry their clothes and towels in the heat of the sun, in the usual way. This is economically and environmentally essential; after all we don’t want to increase expats’ carbon footprint more than we have already. However, for the final ten to fifteen minutes of drying, just pop the towels into the tumble drier to finish off. They will come out of the machine warm, dry and, most importantly, soft and fluffy; just like the towels that mother gave you at home.

Incidentally, whilst on the subject of fabric conditioners, it is best not to use them at all. I had not realized until a correspondent wrote to me recently that most fabric conditioners are made from animal products, with animal fats being one of the main ingredients. In addition, although fabric conditioners may make your clothes feel soft and fresh, the chemicals used are also toxic. Health problems can range from headaches, light headedness and fatigue to serious damage to organs and the central nervous system, as well as cancer.

I had always thought that the ‘fresh clean’ smell of ‘Spring Blossom’ fabric conditioner was for my sensory benefit. Apparently not, as it is there mainly to disguise the foul smelling chemicals used. I am told that, as an alternative, a quarter cup of white vinegar or baking soda can be used in the final wash instead. To end on a more cheerful note, that ‘heady feel’ after a good night out may have nothing at all to do with too much alcohol, but might be the result of contact with just too much fabric conditioner.