One glance at this week’s title will let you know that, yes, it’s another “housekeeping” issue. The most recent inquiry I received from the Frugal Japan website came from an intrepid young urban professional who lives in a small Tokyo apartment. Having no clothes dryer, and being away from the house most of the day, she is unable to hang her clothes out to dry. Drying them inside (called “heya boshi”) results in a musty smell in the clothes, and can actually lead to mold (both on the clothes and in the room). What are some tips to eliminate the smell?
Well, this is actually a common problem in Japanese households, especially during the rainy season. So there are a number of unique solutions available, some of them frugal. The solutions are divided into two major categories: knock-out the smell from the start, or dry the clothes better.
In the “eliminate the odor from the start” variety, there are a few basic rules before you get started.
1) Do NOT store your dirty clothes in the washing machine itself. And by all means, don’t collect your clothes in there with the lid closed! The dampness, sweat, dead skin cells, and dirt all collect inside the machine’s already airtight drum to both stink up the clothes AND grow mold on the inner drum. The inner drum mold is very difficult to clean, and will also dry, flake off, and soil your clothes once they are clean. You can’t see the mold on your drum, but it’s there.
2) Do NOT leave your wet clothes inside the washer during summer, ever. In addition to the factors above, your clothes will develop a pungent odor that will take many additional washings (and bleach) to remove, if it ever does. Hang your clothes out (even inside) ASAP. If this means doing laundry at night, then so be it.
3) Do NOT wash or attempt to wash too many clothes at once. The fewer items you have, the better they are washed, and the easier they dry.
4) Always leave your washing machine lid OPEN – this lets air circulate in the drum and dries the drum out after each washing.
By following these rules, you can help eliminate a fair amount of washer- related smell. Another good idea is using a special detergent or additive designed to reduce smells for clothes dried inside. One is called “Heya Boshi Toppu” detergent. Manufactured by Lion, this should be available in many stores. A number of other products also exist with lemon or citrus scents. White vinegar (125 ml per full load) with lemon juice is also a possible frugal option.
The second strategy is to improve your drying method. Simply hanging the clothing on hangers on your curtain rod (I did this for a year!) is not very effective, especially if you can’t be at home to open the window. If you have space, a folding “drying rack” is recommended. These are called “mono boshi sutanndo” and are usually sold in hardware stores or (better yet) in the back of Japanese mail-order catalogs (tsuuhan cataroggu). These, used in combination with either your A/C unit’s “dry” function, a dehumidifier (jyoushitsuki) , or even your bathroom/bathtub fan (leave the door OPEN to circulate air), will probably improve circulation and dry your clothing faster. Yes, it uses electricity, but is still cheaper than a new wardrobe or a dryer. Drying fewer items, and spacing them out, makes them dry faster.
Finally, there is the commercial-clothes-dryer method. Most Japanese urban neighborhoods have a laundromat (coin randori) that rents dryers by the hour. The problem with these is: 1) you are stuck at the laundromat for a while until your clothes dry, or 2) you run the risk of your underwear getting stolen if you are a female. It’s happened more than once to many of us. If you are a male, then probably this is the more frugal option. For women, I recommend a combination washer/dryer (sentaku kansooki).
Hopefully, some of this practical but vital advice can help everyone get through the lingering heat of summer a little more comfortably (and freshly).
© 2005 Wendy J. Imura.