The Wash Post Posted by on Oct 25, 2008 in Culture, Vocabulary

I am still away and still receiving calls for help from my dearly beloved. Last night it was the wash that required five urgent phone calls to get my urgent attention.
We don’t own a washing machine. Actually, our apartment is not even set up for one. Instead, there is something in our building called “tvättstuga.” Despite the name, it’s not a stuga at all, but a normal laundry room in the basement. In order to do the laundry, the tenants need to book their laundry times on a special board.

In our building, we only get two-hour slots, and you can only book one slot at a time. With four washing machines this shouldn’t be a problem, but if two of them are broken at any given time and with the majority of tenants not knowing how to use the booking system (what can I say, it’s a little foreign colony here), then yes, problems do arise. More often than they should.

My dearly beloved does know how the booking system works, because I write down all booked wash times on our big wall calendar in the kitchen. So when the phone rang right before 6PM yesterday, I knew what was up.

“Do I have to do the wash?” It’s the same old story every time I’m away. And trust me, I’m not away that often. And besides, I like my laundry done in a certain way, so needless to say, I’m the one who always does it. Dearly beloved has enough socks and underwear to last him for at least a month, and enough shirts to look clean and presentable for about 3 weeks.

His next phone call came from the laundry room.
“But the instructions on all the machines are only in Swedish!” He seems genuinely surprised every time he notices it. Granted, he only goes to tvättstuga about once a year and he does have a short memory, but still… This is Sweden, what did he expect? Instructions in Swahili?

I told him that on the wall, there is a set of posters with pictures, which are easy to understand and easy to follow.

He somehow managed to follow them, because the next phone call came about 45 minutes later. The washing cycle just finished. We have a stand-alone centrifuge there as well, but I prudently neglected to tell him about it. For his own safety, mainly.

“How do I dry the stuff?” The tumble dryer didn’t seem to work. I vaguely recalled it had been broken since last week, so that much was true. And using our temperamental drying cabinets can be a challenge.

Drying cabinets annoy me, I admit it. I’ve been spoiled by industrial-strength tumble dryers with the capacity to dry piles of laundry the size of medium elephants, or at least king size duvets. So when our sole piece-of-doodoo tumble dryer doesn’t work, I simply don’t do the wash. It’s not just the effort required to hang all those wet clothes on the bars – a major PITA in itself, but the sheer waste of energy that goes into making those contraptions work. I did the math, granted, it was “household” math and the results were highly unscientific, but… a full load that fits into one tumble dryer will take up three drying cabinets. That is painfully obvious especially when drying bulkier items.

It’s true that one drying cabinet is more energy efficient than a tumble dryer, but if you need to run three cabinets to do the job, then it looks awfully wasteful to me. And that in a country where we’re practically ordered to replace our light bulbs with more energy efficient versions sounds really bad. (And yes, I’m one of those nuts who are a bit on the radical side when it comes to conserving energy).

So when my dearly beloved called an hour later once again, this time to tell me that after the drying cycle in the cabinets, the clothes were still wet, I told him to take them all upstairs and hang them up in the bathroom. I bet they will be still hanging there when I get home next week…

Some useful words:

  • tvätt (def. tvätten, pl. tvättar, pl def. tvättarna) – kläder som man ska tvätta eller just har tvättad – wash, laundry (it’s a noun)
  • tvätta (this one is a regular verb) göra så att något blir rent (tvätta händerna, tvätta kläder, tvätta sig) – to make something clean (wash hands, wash clothes, wash oneself)
  • tvättmaskin (def. -maskinen, pl. -maskiner, pl def. –maskinerna) – washing machine
  • tvättmedel (def. -medlet, pl. -medel, pl def. -medlen) – washing/laundry detergent
  • tvättstuga (def. -stugan, pl. -stugor, pl. def. -stugorna) – rum eller hus där det finns tvättmaskiner – a room or a house where there are washing machines.

Do you see the pattern? There are tons of words that begin with “tvätt” and they all have something to do with washing.

The word “torka” (to dry) is similar – there are other compound words that include “tork” in them, and they all have to do with drying. Here are two:

  • torkskåp (def. -skåpet, pl. -skåp, pl. def. –skåpen) – skåp som blåser varm luft och där man kan torka tvätt – drying cabinet
  • torktumlare (def.-tumlaren, pl. -tumlare, pl. def. –tumlarna) – maskin där man lägger blot tvätt i en rund del some snuttar runt och torkar tvätten med värme – in other words, a tumble dryer.
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  1. Arsh Jami:

    Kära Anna! I was getting tired of the same `Hej’ so taking tips from your wonderful blog I am trying `kära’for a change!
    Tusen tack to your `dear beloved’ that we are getting this opportunity to learn about the peculiarities of Swedish grocery stores, milk products and apartment building laundries! You have such a wonderful knack and talent for taking everyday events in Sweden and making it an enjoyable read and use it as an opportunity for teaching Swedish too! God bless you with great health and prosperity so you can keep educating us Swedophiles about our favorite country, it’s culture and customs!!!
    It will be great to have a link to your blog on `The Local’ so more and more people can enjoy what they are missing if they do not subscribe to your blog.
    Happy Halloween !!! (Is Halloween popular in Sweden? ..maybe a future blog topic!).

  2. Nicole:

    This man of yours is a classic – time to send him off for some quick Swedish lessons – or threaten to leave him on his own more often and turn your telephone off!!
    Mine does not speak Swedish after 15 years (!) but he can at least read it. Mind you he often rings me because he cant find his way around the city he has spent the last decade in….
    What would they do without us?

    I’m going to link to this post – very interesting for anyone who has never heard about our laundry system – thanks!

  3. ceci:

    hej anna! i cant understand the picture of the tvätstuga! heheh
    thanks for vocabulary!

  4. Anna:

    Soon you will have more than enough opportunities to investigate posters in tvättstuga of your own! 😉

    my man has been here only for a couple of years, so there’s still hope for him. But I can’t complain. He works hard, brings home the bacon, does the dishes, vacuums, cleans the bathroom AND scrubs the toilet till it shines. He even cooks occasionally. He knows four words of Swedish: hej, ursäkta, tack and nu. So it’s not so bad.

    The Local has a blog listing? How come I’ve never seen it? Let me take a look, I must be getting senile, or something…

  5. Nicole:

    I have posted a link to you – thanks for the article!

  6. ceci:

    hehehe you are right! to improve my swedish!

  7. Shane:

    Ha Ha I am so pleased to see another person blogging on Swedish laundry rooms!

    I wrote about my experience some months back and got teased relentlessly about it.

    I guess there are more exciting topics to blog about!


  8. mr. wash:

    i see that laundry and washing clothes is still a hard work especially for men. tnx, that newer and hi- tech machines help making our chores easier.

  9. washing:

    washing machine is one of the important appliance shoulb be available in our home. However we can still live without it, but if we need our laundry finish faster, should have it in shopping list. laundry

  10. melissa:

    oh laundry areas in apartment buildings can be such stress!