French Language Blog

Properly Soft – Laundry In French Posted by on May 18, 2016 in Vocabulary

Photo by lespritrock on Flickr. Licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.

Photo by lespritrock on Flickr. Licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.

La vie quotidiènne (everday life) can sneak up on you in French. You may know how to conjugate the subjunctive, but can still have trouble asking someone to fermer les stores (close the blinds).

I always have to learn new words for everyday things, like when I needed to buy un tournevis ou une pile (a screwdriver or a battery).

After I moved to France I needed to laver mes vêtements (wash my clothes), which meant buying laundry detergent. Une fois au supermarché (once I was at the supermarket) I realized I didn’t recognize les produits de nettoyage (the cleaning products) and I didn’t know how to talk about le linge (laundry)!

Walking down les allées (the aisles) I spent a few minutes trying to read the names of les produits de nettoyage. Not sure what I was looking at, I picked one hoping for the best.

I went home and gathered le linge sale (the dirty laundry) then went to la laverie au coin de la rue (the laundromat around the corner).

After j’ai fait la lessive (I did laundry) it became clear that je me suis trompé (I had made a mistake). I had bought de l’assouplissant (fabric softener) instead of de la lessive (detergent)!

I had to go back to le supermarché and buy de la lessive! At least I was sure that mes vêtements were very propres (clean)!

Voici un vocabulaire de produits de nettoyage :

La lessive – Detergent
L’assouplissant – Softener
Le linge – Laundry
Les vêtements – Clothes
Le lave-linge – Washing machine
La machine à laver – Washing machine
Le sèche-linge – Dryer
Le séchoir – Drying rack for laundry
L’eau de javel – Bleach
Blanchir – To bleach
Laver – To wash
Nettoyer – To clean
Propre – Clean
Sale – Dirty
Faire le linge – To do laundry
La laverie – Laundromat
Le pressing – Dry cleaner
Le nettoyage à sec – Dry cleaning
Les produits de nettoyage – Cleaning products
Le savon – Soap
Le shampoing – Shampoo
L’après-shampoing – Conditioner

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About the Author: John Bauer

John Bauer is an enthusiast for all things language and travel. He currently lives in France where he's doing his Master's. John came to France four years ago knowing nothing about the language or the country, but through all the mistakes over the years, he's started figuring things out.


  1. sunshine:

    I lived in Paris in the 80s for dry cleaner we used le term le nettoyage a sec. Has that disappeared?

    • John Bauer:

      @sunshine Salut Sunshine ! For the establishment it seems to always be le pressing, but for dry cleaning itself as a noun it’s le nettoyage à sec. I’ve added nettoyage à sec to le vocabulaire though! Hope that helps!

  2. Jeanne B Bauer:

    Excellent information!! As I love doing laundry (Faire le linge)….merci

  3. Betty:

    Thank you – I found your article interesting. I appreciate and find it helpful to learn the vocabulary of day to day life.
    How about a conversation on hearing that a friend or family member is “under the weather”. Expressing concern that they are in better health soon. Just an idea.

    Good afternoon


  4. Denise: