Posted by: mollyscafeistanbul | December 18, 2009


this may seem like a funny topic, but i use a lot of tablecloths and of course towels in the cafe, which i take  home to wash.  the tablecloths have to be ironed, and i do those too.  one customer (male) expressed surprise that i do my own ironing, which made me think that perhaps if i can work out the logistics i will get a woman to do the ironing at least.

in turkey, dryers are still fairly rare.  you see laundry hanging out all over the place.  some places have a sort of rack outside the window or off the balcony so the woman has to lean out to hang the laundry.  when a piece of laundry drops, it may be gone forever, unless it falls onto the street or a lower balcony.  otherwise, people (including me) use a wire folding rack at home.  mine is a very tasteful addition to my livingroom…

not quite like mine, but you get the idea

actually, i grew up in a family that did not have a dryer until we were almost grown up.  i remember sheets hanging on the clothesline outside in the winter that would become a sheet of ice, which actually made them dry a little faster.  in high school i learned that this was called sublimation, so i suppose we had sublime sheets 🙂 i also remember the kind of washing machine where you had to reach in and put the clothes through rollers to squeeze them out.  you had to do it twice, once for the soapy wash and once for the rinse.  my mother had a stick she would use in order to not catch her fingers in the rollers.  you always heard about someone who had got an arm caught in the rollers, so it was a good idea to be safe.

my mother's was not full of chochkas

even when i grew up and had my own family, i rarely used dryers.  i found that they were hard on clothes and of course they were expensive to buy and use.  i preferred (still) to hang the clothes to dry, especially outside, as i love the smell of sun-dried clothes. some people complain about the cardboard feel of towels, but i love that too.  they soften up after you use them and they smell good.  now i don’t hang my clothes outside (as i write on a cold and rainy day) because there is no room on my balcony.

i have had roommates who did not know how to do laundry, so here are some pointers for people newly living on their own.  first, separate colours so you do not end up with odd-coloured whites.  i use cold water to wash, as it works fine and is easier on the electric bill (and the environment).  i use warm water wash for whites and sometimes use bleach.

i have seen people literally throw their clothes on the drying rack.  that is not a good idea, as they stay wrinkled and dry less effectively. some people flip the wrinkles out before they hangup the clothes. i do that sometimes and i also use clothespins on the drying rack so the items get maximum exposure to air.  i try to alternate heavy and light items as they dry at different rates.  as the lighter ones dry, i take them off the rack so the heavier ones have more air room.  if you are in a hurry, it is ok to take things down if they are just a little  bit damp, but they should not be put away that way, as they will  smell musty later.  at home i have three laundry baskets– one for the cafe, one for home, and one for ironing.  the ironing one sometimes gets to be a mountain before i get to it, but then it seems like a real accomplishment when i do it.

a few months ago some customers and i were talking about ironing.  a lot of people hate to do it, but i actually don’t mind it, once i have gotten started.  i set up the ironing board in the livingroom and turn on the tv or put in a video. it is easy to get into a rhythm, especially with flat pieces like tablecloths or pillowcases.  shirts and dresses are a little more complicated, but it takes less than a minute to iron one, so no big deal.  the worst part is the anticipation!  one of my old flatmates told me a story about her mother, who hated to iron her husband’s shirts.  she would iron only the collar and the front of the shirts and instruct him to keep his jacket on.

it's not so bad

the good thing about doing laundry is that you see what you have and what condition it is in.  of course, mending is another topic, as that is another pile that sometimes gets to the mountain stage, depending on how big the items are.  sometimes i cringe at burn holes in the cafe tablecloths, for example.  i can see which things did not get the stains out.  when my kids were small, i could tell who went to bed with dirty feet!

i don’t like other people doing my own laundry, but i am considering having someone do the cafe’s laundry.  i often don’t have time or energy to iron and i am sure a neighbour woman would do a better job and be glad for the money. in the meantime, i try to be easy on the environment by using cold water on the short cycle and i always hang up my clothes to dry naturally.



  1. Nice post. My home of origin must have been very similar to yours some of my best memories spent with my mother is of rinsing the clothes with the stick waiting for my mom to put them through the wringer. Today, like you I was only in cold water and I always air dry on a laundry rack that is either in my living room or if it nice outside then on the back patio.

  2. It’s unfortunate that people got out of the habit of using clotheslines. They save so much energy, and it is kind of peaceful to hang the clothes.

    We live in an apartment and don’t have a clothesline, but have been air dry our clothes using this clothes drying rack – being round it works really nice under a ceiling fan!

  3. I just moved to Istanbul and need to buy one of those nice drying racks! Can someone tell me what is the word for “clothes drying rack” in Turkish? Or where one goes to buy them? Thanks!

    • easiest is to go to koctas or bauhaus. or a cleaning material store in your neighbourhood. can’t remember the word in turkish, but a picture would work. enjoy istanbul

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