One of the biggest purchases made in my adult life (to date) has been the purchase of our very own washing machine - our new wasmachine. This was made more interesting by the fact that European washing machines are rather different from American machines, even when dealing with recognizable brand names. European machines generally have a slightly smaller load size; the wash cycles run longer due to heating water internally rather than pulling hot water from the heating tank; the centrifugal/spin cycles are more important since most Europeans do not own/use dryers; and the efficiency of the machine is arguably more important due to a higher cost of utilities. Throw in the fact that I can't read Dutch along with all these important considerations and "informed" shopping becomes a real adventure!
(19-06-2013 EDIT: For more Dutch laundry basics, see I'm Still Doing Laundry in Dutch (Kind of...))
After some brief comparison shopping in a store that I knew had delivery, the choice came down to 2 machines of which I only kind of knew what the long run differences would be. The cheaper machine had a larger load size but lower energy rating and centrifugal speed, the slightly more expensive machine had a smaller load size but better energy rating and centrifugal speed. Since I knew nothing about either brand, I asked my helpful sales assistant about quality - and of course he recommended the more expensive machine, noting that the store receives poor ratings in reviews about the cheaper one. So I spring for the slightly more expensive - which also happens to be out of stock for the next 2 weeks. But considering I need the machine now, my kind sales associate lets me know that for €8.00 more, he can give me a Samsung at a reduced rate and I can have it delivered the next day. And the machine has the 6kg load Size, the 1400 t/m centrifugal cycle, the A+ energy rating, and the best ratings of any machine in the Netherlands - the deal closes.
Now that the machine is arrived and installed (though not without its own misadventure) - it's time to use it! Below is the detailed steps for doing your laundry in Nederland.
1. Sort your laundry.
Everyone already does this, but sorting becomes more of an art with the smaller load size. For colors, I've decided to divide the "warm" colors for the "cool" colors. I have no idea if this will matter in the long run for care quality, but it'll do something.
2. Add your load.
Seems simple enough, right?
3. Determine your settings.
Take a look at your settings. Find that your options are available in Dutch and French. Realize that you can't read Dutch, your high-school French didn't prepare you for a washing machine, you still don't know how the Centigrade temperature scale works, and you don't find the symbols intuitive.
4. Find the manual.
Congratulate yourself again on choosing a machine with a good energy efficiency rating. Open the manual. Realize that while the other 2 machines you considered in the store included English instructions within the manual, this machine does not as the manufacturer expects to sell to Dutch, Belgian, and German consumers. Refer to step 3 for your comfort level of written Dutch and French. Consider your German I class your senior year of high school also useless for this particular household task.
5. Get the laptop and fire up Google Translate.
This means, you, the laptop, the manual, and the washing machine all together in the bathroom. Type entire paragraphs from the manual into Google Translate - watch out for typos in your Dutch as that can really confuse Google and you in turns. Patiently translate/blindly assume to pick out your settings on the machine.
6. Add your detergent and softener.
The Dutch mostly use detergent specifically for white, color, or black wash. In the States, you'll find general detergent for anything you might use in 1,000 scent/color/dye-free options, but the Dutch seem pretty big on using color-based detergent and liquid softener (again, no dryers) - though eco-friendly options for each load color type are available (I haven't yet done my research on these products, but plan to). Since we have a toddler, I decide to oxi-clean the wash. This also involves figuring out voorwas means prewash and requires an additional setting on the machine. Wasmiddel is your regular detergent. Voorwas and wasmiddel each require a different compartment - refer back to the manual/Google Translate for which is which. I don't add softener since I haven't figured out if I feel the necessity of it or not...
7. Press the Start button.
And pray. At least the Start button is easy to find. And yes, this is indeed a 2 hour wash cycle. Without the voorwas cycle, this particular setting would be 91 minutes.
8. Examine your wash.
Decide you didn't mess it up any worse than any other time in your laundering history.
9. Hang dry.
Every Dutch household owns some sort of elaborate drying rack that may in fact be a Transformer (we hope no Decepticons). By going the extra step and buying clothes pins, everything will also dry faster and be more spread out.
10. Repeat as needed.
Which is always more often than anyone wishes. But I must say, having the machine in your own home is much better than every other set up I've had previously. Had you told me 10 years ago that owning my own washing machine would be really exciting, I would have thought you were crazy. But I guess that's part of growing up.