Coming clean with complications

Washing Machine Control
Kym Seabolt photo.

Laundry marketing is equal parts creative genius and con game. I have been doing laundry, or watching family members doing laundry, for years now.

I’m not claiming to be a laundry guru. I mean I’ve never done it PROFESSIONALLY. I just feel like I know what it takes to turn dirty fabric into clean fabric. It never seemed like rocket science.

In my childhood, my mother had bleach and a box of detergent. She also had a bottle of stain remover. Three products. We only needed the stain remover if I fell down or rolled in the dirt or grass — so fairly often.

I was not a graceful child. The entire “laundry arsenal” of my mother and grandmother’s fit on one shelf. It was not complicated.

Some families used “fabric softener.” We didn’t because we were not “made of money.” Our laundry was soft enough, thankyouverymuch.


Detergent marketing of my childhood convinced me that my spouse having “ring around the collar” was just about the worst thing that could happen to me as a future wife. That campaign remained in use for three decades.

Now, the laundry aisle makes choosing the proper combination of products to tackle laundry seem like an insurmountable feat.

For years, I was spared dealing with the plethora of choices. One family member was sensitive to dye and perfume, so my laundry choice was limited to one allergy free and dye free detergent. I used nothing else. Just that. No one pointed and stared. If Mr. Wonderful or the children had “ring around the collar,” no one was unkind enough to point it out to me.

The sensitive member moved out, and now I can join the army of people who apparently purchase 1,700 different products to get their socks clean.

I have two types of laundry. White, and not white. This I can pretty much deal with.

Our first brand new washing machine had more dials than I imagine one would find at NASA flight control. Worse, it was clearly designed by people who expect me to know the exact scientific makeup of my fabrics. I’m good with cotton and linen. I can handle denim. Add in sports uniforms made out of some sort of climate control space age polymer blend, and I have no idea.

I washed everything on the “Sanitize” setting for six months before I actually melted the logo clean off some of the clothing. They were definitely clean! Also, ruined.


Our front load washing machine was state of the art at the time we purchased it and came with an option to communicate with the factory via cell phone. Yes, really. I can hold up my cell phone in front of a button and it will CALL FOR HELP.

I don’t know if it is reporting me for detergent fraud, off balance loads or just general neglect? I do know it reported back that I needed to run a cleaning cycle for the machine itself.

Excuse me? Why do I need a cleaner to clean the machine that cleans things?

My mother, mother-in-law, and grandmothers all had top load washing machines that never needed a special cleaning product to keep them clean. They also didn’t need to leave the lid open to “inhibit mold growth.”

Now my front load, while I adore it, does have its foibles. The aforementioned mold growth (gross) means I leave the washer door open to keep the seal dry when not in use.

I feel like BoyWonder and GirlWonder can be trusted not to climb inside the washer at this advanced age. This is dangerous in homes with small children, so do not do this.

Once in operation, a top load washer doesn’t lock you out. The front load ALWAYS does — for obvious reasons. Once that cycle has started there is no getting in. Need to toss in one more dish towel real quick? No can do. Better luck next time.

Laundry in a front load washer is A COMMITMENT. I also have to get down on my hands and knees and drain water out of the machine with a little tube, then twist off a filter and take the whole thing off and wash it in the sink every month or so.

I don’t think my mother ever did a thing with the sturdy old washer she had for the first three decades of my life?

The final complication? There is no “soak” option on a front load machine. The instructions say that I should, if soaking laundry is needed, fill a tub with hot water and soap and put the laundry in there. Honestly, if I add a washboard, I will have gotten so advanced that I will have actually come full circle.

I will officially be doing laundry the way my great-great-great grandmothers did.


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Kymberly Foster Seabolt lives in rural Appalachia with the always popular Mr. Wonderful, two small dogs, one large cat, two wandering goats, and a growing extended family.



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