Laundry & Ironing

In France, everything is ironed. Every sweater, every t-shirt, every pair of pajamas. Every dishtowel, every sheet, every tablecloth. I’m not exaggerating even a little bit. Friends, this is a big change for me!

Not that I’m any stranger to ironing — it’s actually a task I enjoy. But in both New York and Colorado, ironing was done more selectively. A special skirt might get ironed, or a particularly wrinkly cotton pillowcase. But in general, t-shirts are not ironed, jeans are not ironed, dishtowels are not ironed.

I think the difference is because of line-drying. There are people with tumble dryers here, but they’re not used very often. Line-drying is the norm. Even in Paris, people keep a clothes horse to dry their laundry.

But line-drying leaves clothes and sheets quite stiff. Running everything under the iron gets out wrinkles and softens the fabric.

How does laundry work in your neck of the woods? Is ironing a part of your every day chores?

P.S. — Honestly, I’d be drowning in ironing without Sharon.

Sharon is English, but she’s lived here for the last 6 years. She’s is amazing! She plays with Baby June for a few hours each day so that I can get my work done. During June’s nap, she helps with laundry and ironing. Or bakes things like Tart Plum Crumble. But that’s not all! Sharon also keeps chickens and ducks and brings us gorgeous eggs, gives us gardening advice, and shares her stash of Interior Design magazines. She’s like Mary Poppins made especially for the Blair Family.

The stack of ironed laundry you see above? That’s all thanks to Sharon.

130 thoughts on “Laundry & Ironing”

  1. Line drying clothes grosses me out. I know it’s better for the environment and everything, but I can’t get over the idea of hanging things outside with pollen and dirt floating around.
    I do like ironing. I don’t do it often though. I always get annoyed having to get the ironing board up and heat up the iron.

  2. Confession: I do not own an iron. My boyfriend does, so I have access to one, but I try and avoid it at all costs. Another confession: I always use my dryer. I could say it’s because I live in Auckland, New Zealand where the rain can and does turn up frequently. But mostly it’s that I’m a little bit lazy when it comes to things like that :)

  3. My aunty was a mad ironer. BUT she had an IRONING PRESS. It was great, super fast, perfect results. Something to think about? Life’s too short for ironing! : )

  4. Mom in Mendon

    Recent History of Ironing:
    When we were married in 1968, he came with a collection of dress shirts. Thanks to my mom I knew how to iron them, and expected to. But to my surprise I learned that some of his shirts were the NEW fiber, 100 % POLYESTER. They didn’t need ironing!

    As our children came along, our generation of moms (1970’s-80’s) all bought polyester, double-knit EVERYTHING for our families. At some point, we ditched the ironing board. I expected the change to be eternal, so I was completely surprised when my teen daughters began asking for darling little cotton skirts or blouses. “Do they still make that sort of thing?” I wondered. Cotton was back; we resurrected the iron. Who knows how fabrics will evolve next?

    In any case, I still can’t get used to the American fad of men showing up in handsome cotton dress shirts or women in sweet cotton dresses–all crunchy wrinkled. Bring out the iron! : )

  5. Line dry when possible. *I* don’t mind crispy towels. Can’t speak for the rest of the household, but until they start doing the laundry I won’t be asking the question. We iron as needed, but NOT all at once. It’s strictly iron-the-things-you’re-wearing-today. Husband irons his own (better than I do). Dry cleaning is so environmentally harmful that I won’t buy anything requiring it.

  6. My husband likes to joke and say that he married the only Brazilian who doesn’t iron. I never iron. I hate it so much. I used to spend saturday mornings ironing when I was growing up, it was miserable. I refuse to iron anything.

  7. Ok, so even though the line drying makes them smell so much better, it leaves them way too hard and crunchy for my taste, not to mention the whole ironing issue! The first time I lived in France, my host mother even ironed all of my underwear each week! I am a just a dryer kind of girl, I like soft clothes and don’t have time to iron, so I whip them right out of the dryer after each load. Oh, I even had a washer/dryer in one in France when I lived there for the 2nd time and that was even worse, I think it took one load 3 hours to dry!

  8. ah to have help with the ironing. if i did, everything could get ironed, but there’s no way. an occasional baby boy outfit, all of daddy’s dressy shirts and polos, and most everything i wear except jeans. but we do it as we need it.

  9. We’re fortunate to have enough room in our walk-in closet (nope! we don’t have a big house – a 2 bedroom condo with plenty of space for ironing) to leave an ironing board up all the time. Each morning I turn on the iron before stepping into the shower – then press my clothes for the day after drying my hair. I don’t like wrinkles… hence, I don’t buy linen (wish I could get past the wrinkles – perhaps someone has a tip to share)… buy clothing with mostly cotton & a tad of man-made (polyester, tencel, spandex, etc) to take care of the heavy wrinkles. I iron the rest of the wrinkles away!
    I used to iron my daughter’s clothes each morning before they got dressed for school. AND, would do all my ironing in the evening (generally on Sundays) while we watched TV. My current husband doesn’t even notice wrinkles. I do iron some of his clothes for work – especially when he is speaking in front of a group of people.
    I don’t iron sheets – we use flannels year round! odd huh! like a few miles from the beach.
    Well – that’s my ironing story!

  10. Yeap I think is a french and Aussie thing too! (lots of Aussies here who are used to it) I’m living in New Caledonia and was also surprised to see that everyone hangs their clothing to dry. I’m not really used to it and as you say I don’t like the stiff feeling on the clothes so luckily there was a dryer in the house moved in! (I think I’m one of the very few who owns a dryer here in Kone)
    But one day (after receiving my electricity bill) I decided to try the line and hang clothes….well….next day while pulling up my running shorts a spider came down my legs! YUCK!!! I’m scared of spiders! Guess what? never used that line again! ;)

  11. Ironing is the the only one thing I don’t miss about Europe! God bless America for steaks, free refills and dryers. Warm=Clean.

  12. We have a set-up in our laundry area so that we can hang dry the majority of our clothes. Luckily my husband isn’t the picky kind, so I only end up ironing my clothes in most cases. We do tumble sheets, towels, and all of our son’s clothes (I’d go crazy if I had to iron all his little pants, or crazier if I had to iron a queen-size sheet in the space available).

  13. Australians iron too, using a tumble dryer as the norm is bad for the environment as they use too much power. Yes, tumble dried clothes are softer and less wrinkly, and I do hate the ironing, but the sun is a natural antiseptic and is free, so ironing it it!

  14. OH, one more reason I’d love France ! My mom started me off with ironing hankies and pillowcases. And I well remember my grandmother ironing boxer shorts, briefs, nighties, sheets etc. When my kids were little I always ironed their little tees and jeans. I still iron my jammie pants, tee shirts, sheets, pillow cases, dish towels. Towels go in the dryer though. I do iron everything at once though–put on some good TV and iron away. I have spent some time in Africa where literally EVERYTHING has to be ironed (undies, socks, towels) to kill the little bugs that land on the clothes while drying on the line.

  15. My grandma had 7 kids and somehow found time to iron everything (yes, even towels and underwear) and sew basically everyone’s clothes, and have a killer garden, and cook all this amazing food, and have an immaculate house. I could go on. I am a stay at home mom of 3 (so far) and I have no idea how she had the time or energy to do all those things, and do them so well!

  16. The only reason I iron dishtowels is if I’m cutting them up to use as something else! And then, I feel so guilty, I do some real ironing…

  17. Hi! Here in Hawaii we do a lot of line drying too. But not so much ironing! Its a little more casual than that! But one trick Ive leared from living here is this: Line dry your towels, sheets, blankets till mostly dry then pop them in the dryer for the last 10 minutes to fluff them up! Its a perfect combo.

  18. Diddo, I need a Sharon. She is welcome over here in Calif. anytime.
    Just think how good line drying is for the enviroment. We have actually discussed it before after watching the documentry Home. Maybe this summer when the weather is warmer…

  19. i loooooooooooove ironed sheets – my favorite no-cost luxury! but aside from that, i also love ironed white shirts, ironed linens and napkins. When we live in the states, i have to do it myself so that’s how i excuse a sitcom here and there. Here in Vienna, our nanny/helper helps out with that but that’s because it’s more affordable here. My grandmother is Polish and taught me that a lady doesn’t go out in un-ironed shirts and it kind of stuck – growing up she ironed everything for me – she would have ironed underwear if I didn’t stop her. Watch though, once you go back to the US you’ll realize how much people are in unironed things and you won’t be able to stop noticing.

  20. I live in Indonesia, and like France, EVERYTHING is ironed. Down to the underwear :-) But I only have one iron and one ironing board, so I keep it in my craft/sewing room (which doubles as an office. But of course the crafts are more important!) And yes, we have a house helper, but honestly I don’t care if my clothes are ironed or not. I have found that hanging the wet shirts on clothes hangars and then hanging them on the line helps the shirts to dry in the right shape. And if something REALLY needs ironing, I do it myself. But if I would let her, our faithful house helper would iron absolutely everything!

  21. when i was a nanny in london i had to wash the girls clothes and i had to iron everything – even the underwear!! and this was a big task for a nineteen year old. i feel for you. now in canada things rarely get ironed and my whirlpool front loader is my best friend!! i should ask my friends though (as we have moved to quebec – la belle provence.) if they have adopted this french custom (as a lot of “france” customs are still around here) or if they are more canadian in this way (as a lot do not wish to be canadian.)

  22. I was raised in South America. Everything had to be ironed!!! Jeans, sheets, t-shirts, everything! [Nothing like the feel of just ironed jeans when the weather is cold.]
    Also, the fact that they don’t use a dryer makes the clothes keep their colors and last so much longer.
    Since I moved here, most of the clothes I buy need no ironing. Just my husband’s shirts. But those we send to the dry cleaners. :)

    1. In America, I always sent Ben Blairs shirts to the cleaner. It’s so easy and affordable. And they do a much better job than I can. : ) But here, drycleaning and laundry services are quite expensive. It sort of surprised me!

  23. Yeah, ironing is one of those things I only do when absolutely necessary. I have Fibromyalgia and Endometriosis, so MANY of the household tasks are only done to a bare minimum around here. I have 2 part-time jobs, so when I’m at home I simply can’t stand on my feet for more than 10 minutes at a time! No ironing for me! Also very little handwashing of dishes, and not nearly enough sweeping and mopping, but hey. My priorities are savoring my time with my husband and furry children and doing my very best at my two jobs! Anything else is just plain less important.

  24. I remember my mom telling us of a dream she had where she literally drowned in laundry. She woke up, went to the “ironing box” and tossed about 80% of it! It was the day of the new “Perma-Press” fabrics and from then on if it had to be ironed, we didn’t buy it! Later as a military wife in Europe I learned that either old habits die hard or Perma-Press never made it across the Pond! I had a “Sharon” by the name of Necla in Turkey and learned how quickly she could iron a weeks worth of clothing and felt a bit ashamed of myself. I think that dream of my mom’s may have made me think it was harder than it is. Of course she worked full-time and had 5 children! We are building a home and I will have an ironing board built-in for easy access. I’m looking forward to ironed sheets again!

    Here’s a laundry question… any ideas on how to keep things white when using cold water and no bleach???

  25. When I lived in Athens Greece not only did I have to wash my clothes in my bath tub but I also line dried everything. With no humidity things dried pretty fast but like many have mentioned all my clothes came off that line stiff as a board! Now back in the states I line dry as much as possible, but have always been frustrated by the stiffness problem. Ironing sounds like a good solution.

    I will have to say how kind it was that you gave credit to your “Mary Poppins” that says a lot!

  26. Boo for ironing! (We hardly do ANY around here.)
    Yea for acknowledging hired help! I love, love, love to see other families shamelessly share how they keep their ship afloat. Lord knows it’s not easy and we’ve each got our own ways (and differing means), but it’s great to get a glimpse of others’ choices. Kudos to you!

  27. I served a mission in France and I remember being asked to go in a help an elderly woman recovering from surgery. She asked us to do her ironing for her. What a surprise to find her bras and underwear and socks in the pile. They really do iron EVERTYTHING!!

    I am loving reading about your family’s experiences in France – I lived in the South and the culture is quite different there but the same in so many ways.

  28. I rank amongst the world’s worst ironers, to the point a life-long ban was happily included by all parties in our hypothetical pre-nup.

  29. I’m fighting my husband tooth and nail for a clothes line. He hates the stiff clothes (and thinks the lines are ugly). Maybe if I offer to iron everything? Ugh. Heaven knows I wouldn’t keep that up! : )

  30. I was just in Portugal and noticed how everyone line dried their clothes. Big difference than the USA! Also, most people have their washing machines (if they have one) in their kitchens.

  31. I’d never survive in France. I hate ironing with a passion! I’ll do anything to avoid it. My boyfriend’s family line dries everything when it’s warm enough outside but things always get a quick 10 min. spin in the dryer to soften it up before it get’s folded to be put away.

    1. That’s how we like to handle towels, Morgan. We let them line dry till they’re 90% done, then throw them in the dryer of the last 10%. It’s just enough time to make them soft and fluffy.

  32. I’ve been thinking about ironing more of our clothing lately. Partly because the ironing board is out for some sewing projects, and partly because I started line drying our clothes now that the weather is hot (we are in California). I was thinking that everything looked particularly wrinkly! And I just blogged about how crunchy line dried clothing is! After reading your post I’m seriously thinking about ironing our clothes (maybe not everything…)!

  33. I hate to iron. I often think line drying (outside) might make life easier. My whites would be whiter, and I feel like my clothes would be a). less wrinkled and b.) less stiff than line drying inside because they might blow around a bit. At least this is how it goes in my head.

  34. Hi!! I’m spanish and been reading your blog for a while now. I’ve never left a comment cause I never had something interesting to say :-) but this is an issue I really care about. Line-drying is not such big a deal and saves a lot of energy!! I was shocked when I discover that in the USA line-drying is forbidden in some neighbourhoods, seriously??? Why??? In Spain, and mostly European contries, line-drying or clothes horse are the norm. Almost nobody has dryers at home.

    1. I totally agree even though I live in Ireland where it rains alot and we line dry as much as possible. I don’t bother ironing though because I am lazy. I do use a drier for the last 10 % some of the time. Everybody has driers here but it would be frowned on if you put your clothes straight from washer in to the drier. Its just so bad for the enviroment and expensive on electricity. I also remember being shocked when I heard that line drying was forbidden in some neighbourhoods in America. Is that a widespread thing in America?
      Funnily enough I have had french au pairs and I swear its like they were all trained in Benetton or something, perfect little piles of beautifully folded clothes done everyday.

  35. I live in Germany and I enjoy ironing (don’t worry…it’s the only chore I actually enjoy) I do it in front of the TV at night…with a glass of red wine sitting next to me. Kind of relaxing :)
    We do have a dryer but I prefer to line-dry in our garden in summer. We use the dryer in the colder months though and I have to iron less then. And line-drying in summer IS better for the environment! (I doubt that it is in winter, because line-drying inside the house cools down the room temperature and you need more energy for heating).

  36. I actually don’t mind ironing, but do it selectively. Love a crisply ironed shirt. Would dry more items outside but the amount of pollen in the air this year has made it impossible. I do remember my mother ironing all our sheets…they were cotton, but after years of ironing, they felt like silk.

  37. When I lived in Spain my host mother ironed my undies. It was interesting but I got used to it. I think it’s a European thing? I dunno. But I was 21 years old and someone else was doing my laundry and ironing everything. I was not about to complain.

  38. The same here in Chile. I remembered my mom ironing everything, school blouse, school jumper, sheets, dish cloths, underware, handkerchief, pants, some socks too. But in my case is different I only iron what really needs be iron, my husband pants, the shirts are “wrinkle free”, so don’t worry about it and my close i don’t care, my childrens cloths always put in the dryer son don´t need the iron. But a few people here has dryer machine because is expensive. So, here, in CHile we use the iron

  39. Here in Australia we hardly do any ironing – maybe shirts and special items but like you said not t-shirts or jeans. But we also mainly line dry. A lot of people do have dryers but we prefer to hang them on the line – or on the clothes horse to dry.

  40. I haven’t ironed for so long, I wonder if I’d remember how! Soo grateful for wash and wear! I remember loving to iron after finals when I was a university student. I loved the luxury of putting my mind in neutral and ironing away!
    Thanks for reminding me of this ! (I do admire expert ironers!)

  41. I remember when I was in my 2o’s. I finally had a washing machine but no dryer so I hung everything INSIDE to dry. I had to iron everything but didn’t mind because it was better than going to the laundromat. I hardly ever iron now. If it needs ironed, I don’t buy it.

  42. When I was living in Germany I had like most Germans my washing machine in the basement, plus cloth line. The cloth dried very fast because the oven for the central heating was next to my laundry room. I left the door open.
    Here in California I only put our towels in in the dryer on rainy days in the winter. It amazes me every time to see all the lint in the filter.
    I take my husbands shirts and pants to the cleaner, but I do iron my cloth, napkins and place mats.
    I turn on the TV and watch German shows on satellite without commercials.
    And simsalabim my ironing is done.

  43. Oh, I am late on this one, but I have to comment, it is my favourite topic.
    I come from a German family, so there is only line drying. My mom tought me from an early age how to plump up (I hope this is the right English word for it) every piece of laundry after taking it out of the machine and then hang it up very straight and carefully so it dries without wrinkles.
    Now my other part of the family is from Ireland and there everything gets into the dryer and then gets ironed from jeans over shirts up to socks and underwear.
    I always thought it is because the drier leaves stuff really crumpled up and wrinkly.
    When Irish people visit us, they often bring their own iron. They are Iron-Addicts. :-)
    (When I am in Ireland I always feel very wrinkly compared to the people around me.)

    Funny thing: We love the stiffness of fresh laundry over here as much as the scent of clothes that have dried outside. It really feels fresh and unworn to me then. One of the reasons why I can’t do dryers.

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