To Dry or not to Dry… that is the Question
by Mary Loscerbo
I recently bought a new electro-domestic that has changed my life….well, actually it re-changed my life.
I come from Canada and was born in ‘68. As long as I can remember, my parents have always had a dryer. Washing clothes was never an issue. You never had to “plan” what you were going to wear three days before in the hopes that your favorite outfit would dry on time. It was simple. You dirtied clothes, threw them in the washer, then the dryer and voilà. In less than a couple of hours you could put it on again, often times without even ironing it!
When I moved out to Italy 21 years ago I was shocked by the fact that no one even knew what a dryer was! I’d get two different reactions; the wide-eyed incredulous look as if I had just told them some untold secret about their mother-in-law and the arched-eye-brow and snotty “stupida americana” – look and with a haughty toned reply, “Well, even if they DID exist here, I’d never buy such a thing. It would just ruin my clothes and just imagine the electrical bill…ah no… there is nothing better than drying your clothes out in the open air.”
I was a young student and figured that I’d be out here for only a few years. I wasn’t thrilled about going to a self service to dry my clothes (at that time there were two in Florence and were poorly kept, and walking with a heavy garbage bag full of clothes especially in the winter and when it rained was not my idea of fun) but I just kept my mouth shut and decided to just grin and bare it.
…and bare it I did. I lived in a “bi-locale” for a while in the center of Florence where there were no balconies and apparently against the law to actually hang out your clothes to dry over the street in the center, which meant clothes drying in the middle of the living room, sheets hanging on a rope hooked up from one door to another and the mold that was forming on the walls from the humidity….you all know what I mean….I affectionately call it “the gypsy camp look”. When I met and married my Italian husband, we finally rented a decent apartment in an area of Florence called “Le Cure” and I finally had my little balcony. I was so happy to have a place outside to dry my clothes out in the “open air”.
Then reality hit.
I had to deal with the smog of the cars that left this lingering smell of diesel on my clothes. There were also my friendly neighborhood pigeons that would leave a little “note” reminding me that they came by for a visit. Then there was my upstairs neighbor’s habit of cleaning her table cloth of crumbs etc… after each meal and pounding her rugs over the balcony without looking if there was anything hanging below, in addition to over- watering her plants so that drops of dark water would fall on what were my freshly cleaned white clothes. After a few heated discussions with her, she was able to kick her habits just in time for the arrival of autumn. Then I became literally obsessed with the weather. Mornings were often sunny although crisp and so I’d hurriedly run out on the balcony to hang my clothes while freezing my hands off and then whisk off to work, only to grudgingly return home for lunch under the pouring rain to take in my drenched clothes and have to rewash them because of the dirty rain!
Once again, I found myself hanging clothes on various drying racks pushed up against every radiator in the house and waiting two to three days for things to dry. I became an expert at knowing how long it would take to dry various articles of clothing by the radiator.
Towels and jeans needed to be either placed right on a radiator or on the rack closest to the radiator. Drying time: two days but you absolutely needed to turn sides in order that they dried evenly.
Undergarments and socks would dry over night if you hung them on the rack closest to the radiator but if you had towels and jeans there already then it would take until late noon the next day for them to dry.
Sheets were a nightmare! In fact, I have enough sheets now that I could open a bed and breakfast. Sheets would take a good three days but you’d have to be very vigilant about it. Sheets needed at least half of the drying rack. If they were single sheets you could fold them in half and lay them over about four or five racks so that more warm air was able to get through them and then you’d have to turn them over and reverse the sides that they were hanging on. Drying time: 1 day and a half.
Matrimonial sheets, you’d need to fold four times and every six hours or so change the direction of the fold always leaving at least 4 or 5 racks for them to lie on. Drying time: three days.
What did I learn from this experience? Absolutely never wash jeans, towels and sheets on the same day.
Ok. I know you think I am exaggerating but I would bet my now prize possession VAST & FAST dryer that anyone who has lived in Italy has gone through this same ritual and/or is dealing with it as you read this article.
There is the argument that the weather here is really quite mild and you really only have to contend with about 4-5 months of rainy, cold weather. I don’t know about you, but I also have to go to work, take the kids to school and after school activities, clean the house, make dinner and leave some time for myself and my husband during those five months! Not to mention having to contend with some very rainy summers like last year! The last thing I need is to be a slave to my laundry which is exactly what I’ve been doing up until lately!
Actually that’s not totally true. I need to back track a little and also tell you about past experience with dryers that I have used and that have been out on the market for about 6 -7 years.
When I got pregnant with my first son, my husband and I started searching for these new washer/dryers that had just come out on the market. It saved room because we didn’t have to buy a separate dryer and looked like a pretty good idea. We bought it and I have to say that it dried fairly well the first six months. Small things like baby clothes, socks, t-shirts and underwear dried quite well. However, sheets and towels always came out humid which meant that they still needed to be dried out on the racks or dried two big towels at a time or one sheet at a time in the dryer. If I put the laundry into dry for a second time, they were so wrinkled it would take 15 min. just to iron out one sheet …not to mention the rise in the electrical bill.
We paid quite a hefty price for this washer/dryer at the time. It was one of the better ones on the market. They were a novelty and as with any novelty you pay for it. The cost was 850,00 euro. After the first year, I started having various problems with the inside drum, then the electronics of the machine (which apparently is something that happens frequently with these washer/dryers) I found myself drying the small things but in the end I was still laying towels, jeans, sheets out to dry on racks because they were still humid.
The other problem was that it left so much dust in the house. I was constantly cleaning the filter and inside drum and having people come in to inspect and clean it but they said that it was a big problem with these types of dryers. They give off this hot humid air but it needs to escape out into the air and there is not a tube that goes outside like the way they have them set up in North America.
When it finally totally broke down, I opted to buy just a washer and decided that I would buy a separate dryer at a later date (especially since in recent years there are quite a selection of different types of dryers on the market) I almost bought one of those condensation dryers last year that a friend of mine bought but I wasn’t convinced. She said that her electrical bill had gone up 30 – 40 euro a month since she bought it and she wasn’t impressed by how it dried. It took at least an hour and half if not two hours to dry her clothes. She still had to separate her washing load and use the dryer two times for one washing load. If she put the whole washing load in the drier it would take hours for her to iron out the wrinkles. She also found the dust problem and felt that her clothes just didn’t dry like the dryers in America that were totally dry and soft. She bought an A level dryer that was supposed to save a little on the electricity but if you have to use the dryer double the amount of times per wash load you kind of have to wonder how much you are actually saving.
After a lot of research and evaluating how much I’d probably use it (which I knew would be a lot with two kids and a husband that works in the restaurant business and constant house guests) I opted for a dyer that runs on gas. I believe whirlpool has also just recently come out with this but I found this web site by chance www.vastfast.it I sent an e-mail asking for more information and to my surprise they responded the next day and said that a representative would be calling me for a free demonstration. Sure enough I got a call from this young man named Francesco who was the representative for Tuscany. We set up an appointment and he came over with a dryer that is the same size as my washer. You can load up to 7 kilos and it runs on propane gas or gas that can be hooked up to your gas water heater. It can be placed outside on the balcony if you have your water heater there or indoors as long as there is enough circulation of air (an open window or a hole that goes through the wall where you can place the accordian-like tube like the dryers are set up in America). It can also be placed over a washer since it is the same size as any normal washer. He left me the dryer – if you can believe this – with no down payment, no “cauzione”, no hidden costs or obligation to buy and I could use it as much as I wanted for a week. He hooked it up to this portable propane tank (the kind you use for gas stoves) and placed the accordion type tube outside my window. I have a closed in balcony with windows where I have my air conditioner machines and washer set up. Kind of like a separate laundry room. He left me the instructions, gave me some advice about what numbers to use for certain articles and said “I’ll call you back in 5 days and tell me what you think.”
What did I think? I loved it!! In one morning I washed and dried three loads of laundry (including sheets, towels, jeans, kids clothes, my husbands dress shirts, my cothes) I couldn’t get enough. I was so excited that I was actually looking forward to my kids dirtying their clothes so I could use it again! The sheets and towels were soft just as I remember growing up in Canada. T-shirts and shorts I just had to fold and put away. I could use the washer and dryer at the same time because it doesn’t use electricity and so there is no risk of the electricity cutting off suddenly because you are using too much power.
It has literally changed my life.
It has some great features that I won’t go into because you can read about it on their web site and I urge you to get a free demonstration. I am sure that once you’ve used it for a week you’ll realize that you can’t do without it.
I warn you that they aren’t cheap. They are a little more expensive than the AA+ condenser machines that you can get at Marcopolo or Expert which run anywhere from 850,00 to top of the line BOSCH 1300,00 euro. However, you end up saving in the long run because you don’t use electricity and it actually dries. All you have to do is fold and put your clothes away. It is hooked up electrically but it is used just to ignite the flame of the gas. It is the gas that actually runs it. (just like your gas top stove) Instead of paying 30 – 40 euros more on your electrical bill you are looking at about 3 – 5 euros more a month on your gas and if you use it with a propane tank then the cost of just that. It takes anywhere from half hour to an hour depending on what it is your drying and how large your load.
I have it hooked up to my gas water heater. They put in a “T” attachment and ran a small tube up to the machine. Luckily there was also a hole already in my wall with a grill over it because that room used to be a back kitchen so the large accordion type tube that goes outside was put through there.
I paid 1400,00 euro for it including IVA, transport and installation. There is also the option of paying for it monthly. It is made in Europe, approved by the EU and all parts are European. There is a two year guarantee and a check up after the first year.
If you are sick and tired of being a slave to your laundry Vast and Fast dryers are the answer. I am not a representative of Vast and Fast and I am not interested in being one but I am so enthusiastic about this product I feel that it is my duty to tell everyone who might be interested in it. I know when I speak to a lot of North Americans and Northern Europeans about what we miss the most about our countries among the top five is a dryer. Well, it is my pleasure to annouce that really good dryers do exist here and they work like they do back home. As I said, they aren’t cheap but if I take into account the amount of stupid stuff I’ve bought in the past that I end up hardly using or regret buying – clothes, shoes, kitchen knic knacks or small kitchen electro-domestics, programs for my computer, it would surely add up to at least 1400,00 euro so why not buy something that I know I will definitely use and will change the comfort level of my life? In the end, I figure my time is worth it!
contact for Tuscany Francesco Calvani: cell: 347 5571854
numero verde 800 86 45 47
There are reps in almost every region of Italy.