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Even doing laundry in Germany may give you a cultural shock. Do you know your laundry is not supposed to be seen from the street in Germany? Can you hang your underwear outside to dry? How to dry your clothes fast without a dryer (especially in the winter)? In this article, you will also find some guidance on how to use a washing machine and a dryer in Germany.
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How do people dry their laundry in Germany?
In most German flats, you will not find a dryer. Instead, most people in Germany dry their laundry by using a drying rack. When open, the drying rack can be huge to allow spaces for your clothes to dry. When not in use, you can fold it and easily store it.
How should you hang your laundry in Germany?
I still remember I attended a cultural training before moving from Germany to the U.S. The trainer told us to never hang our clothes outside in the U.S. This will make the area looks cheap and thus reduce the value of the property.
Interesting. In Germany, you can hang your laundry outside in your garden or on your balcony. However, it should not be seen from the street. It is very different than in my hometown Hong Kong where you can see clothes hanging outside on each window.
Therefore, even though most people in Germany do hang their laundry to dry, you can hardly see it from outside.
Are you allowed to hang your laundry at home in Germany?
If you live in Germany, you will know that German people are always very concerned about the moisture at home. When I lived with my German flatmates, I was taught to open my window for some minutes every day (especially in the winter) to prevent moisture from condensing on the wall and causing mold.
Therefore, before you hang your laundry to dry at home in Germany, it is better to check if you are allowed to do so. Hanging damp clothes increases the moisture at home and also the chance of mold growth. That is why many buildings in Germany have a designated area for laundry drying (normally a room in the basement). You are supposed to hang your clothes there instead of doing it at home. And your home insurance will protect your clothes there against theft.
Besides, if your clothes are too wet, there may be moisture dripping which can cause damage on your wooden floor at home. And for sure, your landlord would not like that. If you must hang something to dry at home, it is better to do it in your bathroom where most surfaces are waterproof.
Can you hang your underwear to dry outside?
Complaints from the neighbors
The answer depends a lot on your neighborhood. A friend of mine told me that when her parents from China visited her in Germany, they hung their laundry (including underwear) in their garden. She then received a complaint from her neighbor about the underwear.
I have also heard other stories that people, who hung their underwear including bras and thongs outside, received anonymous complaint notes in their letterboxes. Some notes mentioned that it was a Christian area. Schools were nearby and it was wrong and embarrassing to let this kind of underwear visible to young kids.
Be considerate of your neighbors
The rule of thumb is that whatever you do, there shouldn’t be a lasting visual disturbance in your surroundings. So, if you want to maintain a good relationship with your neighbors in Germany, you may want to be careful when you hang your laundry outside. If you are not sure, ask your neighbors first if it would disturb them.
Some German people are very conservative
I remember this being a big topic for discussion in my German class. Obviously, in many other countries, it is acceptable to hang underwear outside to dry. In Germany, it seems that it is a shame (or a sin) to do so and people have to hide their underwear and dry them secretly.
In my opinion, I don’t understand why the German people are so conservative in this sense, while they go naked in the sauna or outside in some lakes. Everybody has their own underwear and we are all the same under it. So, why is hanging underwear a big deal?
Can you hang your laundry outside in Germany on a Sunday?
Sunday is a quiet day
When I first came to Germany, I was shocked that every shop was closed on Sundays. Sunday is called a Ruhetag. It is a quiet day that you should take a rest and are not allowed to work.
What does it mean? It means that you should not run any machine on Sundays that makes a loud noise. For example, you are not allowed to mow your lawn with a mower; you should not drill any holes at home, or even vacuum cleaning. The rule is that the noise you make should not be loud enough for people outside your house to hear it.
And how about…doing a laundry?
It depends again a lot on your neighbors. If you live in a flat with bad sound isolation, your neighbors who live directly next to your wall may hear your washing machine running. In this case, they have the right to tell you not to do your laundry on Sundays. If you are lucky and you live in a stand-alone house, I don’t think it matters as nobody will hear your washing machine running.
So, how about hanging your laundry outside in Germany on a Sunday?
Actually, doing any kind of work is highly frowned upon on Sundays. Hanging your laundry out in Germany on a Sunday means that you are working. And the worst part is that it means that you have run your washing machine which produced noise on a Sunday!
Of course, in the end, it depends on your neighbors.
If they don’t care, you can do whatever you like. But I can tell you that many German people take it seriously. And many like to complain and tell you what you should or should not do (my personal experience).
Quiet time does not only include Sundays
And by the way, this doesn’t only apply on Sundays, but also for any public holidays. There is also something called quiet time (Ruhezeit) which goes from 10 pm to 6 or 7 am every day. During this time, the same “Sunday – no noise rule” applies. To be even more restrictive, there is also afternoon quiet time (Mittagsruhe) every day from 12 or 1 pm until 3 pm. You are also not allowed to make any loud sounds during this time because someone may be taking an afternoon nap.
What can happen if you break the rule?
If your neighbors are disturbed by your noise, you will likely get some finger-pointing, an anonymous complaint note, or they may even report you to the police or public order office (Ordnungsamt).
You need to be good at planning
Maybe this also explains why German people are so good at planning. They have to plan their meals way ahead before Sunday or any public holidays. Besides, they also need to somehow fit their shopping and working schedule (mowing, drilling, laundry, etc.) on the other six days of the week (while they have to work from Monday to Friday full-time as well).
Why is it good to line-dry your laundry?
If you come from the U.S., you may be annoyed that you have to line-dry your laundry as you may not have a dryer in Germany. Even though it is more time-consuming, line-drying your laundry has actually many advantages over using a dryer.
Your clothes last longer
Dryers weaken your clothes’ fibers. You can see that by the amount of lint they create after each load. The lint is the fabric that wears off of our clothes.
Fewer chemicals are needed
The sun is the best natural whitening. It kills germs and can remove stains from your clothes. A friend of mine whose father is a doctor told me that her family insisted to always dry their laundry in the sun as it is the best way to kill any harmful bacteria.
Line-drying your laundry can be quite fast especially in the sun
Using a dryer in Germany typically takes two to three hours for a cycle. On a sunny day in the summer, it may take only a few hours to dry your clothes in the sun. So, there is not really that much time saving by using a dryer.
It is more environmentally friendly
Dryer consumes a lot of energy and contributes to your electricity bills. You can save quite some money by hanging your clothes instead.
You don’t need to worry about ruining certain clothes
Not all the clothes are suitable to be put in the dryer. When using the dryer, you have to carefully sort your clothes beforehand and make sure to exclude sensitive items. You do not have to worry about this when you line-dry your laundry.
How to dry clothes fast without a dryer?
We moved to our new house in Germany a few years ago with a garden. So, in the summer, we dry our clothes in the sun and they are normally dry within hours.
However, in the winter, we really had a problem to dry our laundry in the basement. Our clothes could be hung there for a whole week and they were still not dry!
That was why I started to look into ways to dry our clothes faster. After much research and experiment, below are some ways to help to dry clothes fast without a dryer.
Use a high spin setting
When washing your clothes, you can choose the fastest spin cycle on your washing machine. This way when the washing cycle is finished, your clothes will come out almost dry.
If your clothes are not dry enough, you can even throw them in the washing machine again to do an extra spin. After spinning, your clothes will dry much faster on the drying rack.
Use two bars instead of one
When hanging your clothes on a drying rack, use two bars instead of one. This is especially good for thick items like jeans. You can even lay your jeans flat on the drying rack to speed up the drying. Giving more spaces to each item will allow more air and ventilation in between and thus they can dry faster.
If you have time, turn and rotate your clothes once in a while so that they can dry more evenly.
Dry your clothes close to a warm place
In the winter, if you put your drying rack close to the heating, your clothes will dry significantly faster.
I do this also if I need certain clothing urgently. For example, if I wash my laundry in the evening but I need my jeans already in the next morning, I will put the jeans directly on the heating to dry. My jeans will be dry within hours.
Allow some movement in the air
For example, put your drying rack close to an open window. For us, it is not possible as we dry our clothes in the basement without any windows. Instead, we use a fan so that there is some air movement in the basement. Our clothes do dry much faster.
Do not overload your washing machine
If you put too many clothes in your washing machine, they will become damper after the cycle as there is not enough space for them to spin.
Shake out your clothes before hanging to dry
If your clothes are crumpled, it will take longer to dry. You can also pull out pockets from your clothes and undo the buttons and zips. This will allow air to more surfaces and help them to dry faster. You should also reshape any cotton padding (e.g. in your bra cups) before hanging it to dry.
Use clotheslines and hangers
On top of using our drying racks, we also installed some clotheslines in our basement. This allows more space to dry our clothes. You can also put your damp clothes first on the hangers. And then put your hangers on the clotheslines to dry. This will help to dry your clothes faster as more air can go through your clothes.
Consider using a dehumidifier
Using a dehumidifier is an effective way to speed up the drying process. A dehumidifier works by drawing air from the room to its cold surface where the water vapor condenses. The water is then collected in its bucket which you can remove later on.
Consider using a heated airer
A heated airer is just like a drying rack but it can be heated up. Some heated airers have a small heater at the bottom which helps to dry your clothes. There is also a special cover for the heated airer so that the heat can be trapped and speed up the drying process.
Tips for washing your laundry
Washing clothes with different colors
I used to spend a lot of time sorting my clothes before putting them into the washing machine. For example, I would not mix my white clothes with my colorful ones because I don’t want to risk ruining my white clothes.
Later on, I discovered these amazing color catcher sheets. They are super easy and effective. I just throw these sheets in the wash and they will soak up any extraneous color.
Now I just wash all my clothes together, regardless of their colors. This means I have fewer loads of laundry to do and I don’t have to worry about the different colors.
Removing stains on clothes
If you have a strong stain on your clothes (very often for people with small kids), you can use a stain remover spray before washing your clothes.
Just spray some on the stain, wait for a few minutes and then put your clothes in your washing machine. This spray helped me to save some clothes that I thought I had to throw away.
And if possible, dry your clothes in the sun. The sunlight is a natural whitener that helps to remove stains.
Hard water can damage your washing machine
If you live in a place with hard water, there can be soap residue leaving on your clothes and your washing machine after each load. These residues can accumulate which cause dirt and smell in both your washing machine and your clothes.
You can put a water softener tablet in your washing machine when you run it. It can protect your washing machine so that it can have a longer lifespan. You may also want to check out this post: Water in Germany – Dealing with Hard Water.
Washing machine in Germany
German washing machines are front loading
A typical washing machine in Germany is front loading. An advantage is that it can save up space as you can still have shelves or other storage on top of it. Maybe they have this design due to the small apartment size in Germany.
When I lived in the U.S., my washing machine was top loading. It is easier to put my laundry inside and I could also check the status of my clothes during the wash without water spilling out. This is not possible with a German washing machine.
German washing machines have a small size
If you come from the U.S., you will find the washing machine in Germany relatively small. Actually, you will find everything in Germany smaller (fridge, dishwasher, flat, etc.).
The small size of the washing machine in Germany allows it to fit in small apartments. It also means that you may need to do multiple loads of wash.
Less detergent is needed for a German washing machine
German people care about the environment a lot. You can know this by seeing how popular recycling is in the country. Similarly, the emphasis of a washing machine is on how energy and water-efficient it is.
The German washing machines also need much less detergent to get the laundry clean, compared to a typical U.S. one.
A German washing machine has a good spin cycle
One thing I love about my washing machine in Germany is its spin cycle. After the spinning, my laundry will be damp but there is no more dripping water. The spin cycle is so strong that it helps squeeze out most of the water.
German washing machines have a long cycle
As mentioned before, the German washing machines focus on energy and water-efficiency. One drawback is that it means a longer cycle time. A typical laundry takes me around 2.5 hours to 3 hours. Yes, it takes a long time! If I have a few loads to do, it can take me a whole day doing laundry. But my clothes also last longer as the washing is not very harsh on my clothes.
The long cycle is the reason why I bought a new washing machine now which allows me to program the start time. I can put all my dirty clothes inside but the washing machine will only start in the middle of the night. When I get up the next morning, my clothes will be already clean.
Where will you find a washing machine in Germany?
Kitchen vs bathroom
In Hong Kong, we put our washing machine in the kitchen. This is the most normal thing to do and I have never had a second thought about the location. However, in Germany, people put the washing machine in their bathroom.
Now, when I think about it, maybe it makes more sense to have the washing machine in the bathroom where the dirty clothes are after taking a shower. Why should a washing machine be in the kitchen where it has nothing to do with laundry but food? I am not sure, maybe because the water supply to install a washing machine in Hong Kong is only in the kitchen.
Student dormitories or small apartments
Note that if you live in a student dormitory in Germany, your laundry facilities will be at another location. In my case, it was across the street in another block.
Similarly, if you rent a small apartment in Germany, you may not have a washing machine at home but in the basement of your building. Back then, I always had to remember to plug in the correct water supply from my flat before I turned on the washing machine so that everybody could get a correct water bill.
How to use a washing machine in Germany
Different washing settings
Different machines have different settings. However, you will most likely find the below wordings on your washing machine in Germany:
Buntwäsche: Washing clothes at a high temperature
Pflegeleicht: Easy care. Also suitable for washing delicates.
Feinwäsche: For washing delicates
Handwäsche: Hand wash function
Wolle: For washing wool clothing
Schnelle Wäsche: Fast wash
Different temperature settings
For the above different settings, you can probably choose the temperature to be used. Normally, we use 30 degrees (cold wash) for sensitive items; 40 degrees for normal clothes; and 60 degrees for non-sensitive items like towels.
The place for your detergent and softener
Typically, you will find a place at the top left corner of your machine to put in your detergent and softener (an example below). The left side is for detergent, the middle part for the softener, and the right side for pre-wash (I normally don’t put anything in there).
Close the door before you start
Make sure you close the door before pressing on “Start”. Otherwise, the machine will not start (it has happened to me several times that I found out the machine has not started at all after 3 hours waiting!). The door will open automatically once the laundry is done.
Dryer in Germany
Why is dryer not common in Germany?
Many people in Germany do not have a dryer. Instead, they hang their laundry to dry. German people focus a lot on the environment. Using a dryer is not a big thing in Germany as it uses up a lot of unnecessary energy especially when you can hang your laundry to dry.
Besides, the lack of space in small German apartments also contributes to the reason that using a dryer is not common here.
German dryers are relatively small
Similar to the washing machines, German dryers are quite small compared to the U.S. one. They can fit better in small German apartments.
German dryers don’t create as much lint
Dryers in Germany store the extracted water which you need to remove after each load. The good thing about German dryers is that they are not so harsh on your clothes (compared to the U.S. one).
There is not as much lint after the drying. The color on the clothes does not fade and the clothes also do not wear out as fast.
German dryers take long cycles
The first time when I used my new dryer in Germany, I was very shocked to see that it took 3.5 hours to dry one laundry! This was completely crazy for me as my U.S. dryer took less than one hour.
Most drying programs from my German dryers take around 2 to 3 hours. But I guess this is also one of the reasons why the German dryers are not as harsh on our clothes.
How to use a dryer in Germany
Different dryer settings
Different dryers have different settings but you will most likely find the below wordings on your dryer in Germany:
Sehr trocken: Very dry (high temperature)
Schranktrocken: Not as dry as the above setting but dry enough to put your clothes into your wardrobe.
Bügeltrocken: This program dries your clothes enough so that you can iron them.
Extra Kurz: Extra short drying time
Zeitprogramm: You can choose how long your drying program lasts
You should use the appropriate program for each load but not always use the same setting all the time. This doesn’t only prevent damaging your clothes, but also avoid wasting time and energy if your clothes are dry long before the program finishes.
Check your clothing label
Before putting your clothes into the dryer, make sure to check the clothing label to see if they are suitable to dry in a dryer. If you are not sure, it is better to be safe and not put the clothes in the dryer.
Besides, you shouldn’t use the dryer for any clothes that are required to be hand-washed.
Do not overload your dryer
It is tempting to put a lot of clothes in your dryer. However, doing so will actually slow down the drying process and you will end up having all your clothes not dry after hours.
Therefore, it is always better to allow some room so that your clothes can tumble freely inside the dryer. This also reduces wrinkles in your clothes and prevents you from the need to iron clothes afterward.
Remove all the lint after each load
Similar to removing the extracted water, you should remove all the lint after each load so that the dryer can run as efficiently as possible.
This is because the lint can prevent your dryer from moving air efficiently and thus more energy is needed to dry your clothes.
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What is your experience with doing laundry in Germany? Do you hang your clothes outside to dry or do you use a dryer? Leave a comment below and share your experience!
Moving to Germany or new in Germany? Check out our Support Page for all the resources you need!