Laundry 101

So moving to a new country there are a few things that are stressful (i.e. scary):working with a foreign language, finding a place to live,  and learning social norms. The most difficult social norms are those that should be so obvious that no one thinks to explain them to  you. Of course I have a huge advantage by having family and understanding some Swedish but laundry is one of those things that is really different in Sweden. So it seems like now a days more people in apartments have their own machines but like any (decent) US apartment building there are machines in the basement.

One huge advantage in Sweden is that you often don’t have to pay to run the machines (woot ~$20 a month I can move out of expenses to fun money in my budget) the downside is you have to follow some pretty strict rules about when you can do your laundry and their are not many machines so it isn’t quick.

First, your apartment probably has a sign up list… the apartment sublet in 2006 this was just a paper calendar where you put your name on a date and you got the whole day. In my new apartment it is more complicated.You can only wash things from 8am-8pm and there are two sign up times a day 8-14 and 14-20. You use your apartment’s key to move your lock to the date and time you would like to sign up for. The problem with this of course is that you only have one lock and therefore can’t reserve dates far in advance if you want to be able to do your laundry now, so weekends and weeknights fill up pretty quickly.

sign up board

sign up board

Once you have signed up for your allotted time, you bring your laundry and detergent to the basement to get started. Now you need to read the machine instructions.



If you can use these instructions great! but our machine had instructions that I thought were probably more useful:

choose1st: empty your pockets, 2nd: pick the temperature, 3rd: pick the program, 4th: add soap, 5: push start!

So in order: put in your laundry. For those who haven’t used a front load washer, only the bottom half or third will fill with water so don’t over fill the machine. I tend to fill it less than full with the clothes still fluffed out not packed tight. Also there is probably a locking mechanism for the door, hopefully yours is as clear as ours is.

washing machine

washing machine

The temperatures are pretty straightforward, hot: 95, med: 60, cold: 40…now our machine had two sets of buttons for 60 and 40….after pushing them all and watching the digital display the first set  of temperatures seemed to change the temperature whereas picking the second set (the ones that are underlined) also changed the time. After looking this up on the internet it seems the underline means permanent press and two underlines would mean delicate; whereas, our machine has two more buttons, one for hand wash/delicate and one for spin only.


Next we need to pick the program. Again I played with all the buttons, watching the change in the wash time to figure out what they all were. So left to right we have: fast wash, 1st wash/prewash, only 20 sec spin, and extra water. The first time I ran laundry I tried the 20 sec rinse but as I will explain later it was not a good choice, unless you have a real dryer (see below) or all day to do laundry don’t pick this option!!!


I always choose the 1st wash 1stwash. As someone fairly allergic to laundry soap I decided to use the first wash as my soap cycle so the second wash is more like a rinse cycle with agitation to really remove the soap. You can include soap in both washes if the clothes are really dirty or use the 1st wash as a typical prewash you might have on an American machine. I have also tried with extra water and without and don’t see a difference so I go without since it is faster.

Once all of your options have been chosen you need to start the machine!

Next you come back to all your wet clothes and wonder what to do. Being an American you see the other machine that has pictures about heat so you try it. So like I said, my first round of laundry I tried the fast spin so my laundry was really, really wet. I tried what seemed to be the longest program on the 2nd machine which had pictures for two whole water drops.

tumbler...not a dryer!

tumbler…not a dryer!

Now, this is not a dryer like and American dryer…and the long program (P3) only runs for about 10 min…so no you can not get your clothes dry in this…you are in Sweden! you skipped a step. What you should have done was hung your clothes in the drying room. What is a drying room? Basically it is a room with clothes lines and a large heat fan that blows hot air into the room to get your clothes dry. It is a “modern” way to dry your clothes inside instead of out on the lines in the yard.

drying room

drying room

Drying room hits: most important is how you hang your clothes in relationship to the fan…first open the door to the room and turn on the fan…leaving the door to the room OPEN! the fan often takes some time to heat up and if someone wasn’t using it before you this will give it some time…however don’t close the door because…well that should be obvious. OK so now you have all this laundry which you have spun in as dry as possible in the washing machine, so how do you hang it? Well put the heaviest fabrics and the wettest things closest to the dryer and the light things like underwear and socks farther away. Once everything is hung make sure you come back and check if your laundry room is set up to have the fan turn off after a certain amount of time to save energy. I would check at 1 and 2 hrs. I find that it takes a little less than 2 hrs for all of my clothes (jeans, towels, etc.) to be dry…

Now the biggest American complaint about drying rooms is that your clothes are “crunchy”. If you now take your dry clothes back to the non-dryer machine which is actually a tumbler and run them on one of the slight heat settings you can remove some of the crunchiness…

Now that your laundry is nice and clean so before you leave it is time to move your lock for your next laundry time on the calendar. Some other things to remember is that some buildings allow you to use your key lock from the calendar to lock the laundry room for privacy. Whether you can do this or not you should be very timely with your laundry signed up time. If your time ends and someone else is waiting to start theirs next your are going to be “that guy” in the building really quickly; be more Swedish and do the polite thing by following the rules. Also if your building only allows laundry between certain times, chances are someone can hear the machines in their apartment so don’t try to sneak around these times, instead plan head and buy a drying rack for your apartment that you can use if your laundry isn’t finished drying. Also notice your apartment number gets one sign up key. If you share an apartment with roommates make sure you communicate what day to sign up for and when each of you will be able to run loads so that  you can fit it all in.

Because we only have a single machine and the afternoon times are basically cut in half even if you leave work early, I have been signing up for laundry once a week and running one machine of mixed things, saving anything that needs really special washing for a few weeks. However, remember laundry is free so if you have time run more loads that are less full.


One comment on “Laundry 101

  1. Sounds like you have caught it all. I am surprised so few things has changed since our kids moved away from home…
    However you know you always have a back-up option here 😉

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