How to Do Laundry in Panama 3


jsw_clothes_on_line_2When I first moved here, I washed it all by hand. There are laundromats, but I lived out in Playa Uverito, a hot, half hour bus ride each way. It was less work to just make do with the sink. I hung my wet clothes on hangers snagged into the porch gingerbread, where, in spite of things being sopping wet when first hung out, the the stiff Pacific breeze dried them in a couple of hours.

Yes, it did get old. The aging didn’t take long, either. Not to mention that I began sprouting an itchy, allergic rash between my fingers from the harsh lye detergents here. So when I moved into an unfurnished house in Las Tablas Abajo, one of my earliest purchases was a washing machine of my very own.

I had access to a friend’s washer when I was in Costa Rica. Using it was a complicated ritual reminiscent of helping my mother with the laundry in the late 1940’s. The washer had to be watched for it’s changes. First you filled it with a hose and were careful not to use too much detergent, mainly because it might cause an extra rinse. When the wash cycle was complete, while the machine emptied, you pulled the clothes out manually and put them in the spinner. Then you refilled the washer and rinsed them.

Good little housewives probably rinsed them three times. I seldom made it past two.

I will say that spinner really got the water out of them, though. When I hung my damp duds under the porch to dry, it seldom took longer than an hour in the dry season.

washer control panel - do laundry in PanamaBut when I bought my own machine, I was lured by the promise of “automatic.” The machine burbled the soap and water up through the clothes, sort of groaning each time. But sure enough, it emptied and refilled itself, spinning the clothes to bare dampness between rinses and at the end. I got a lesson in practical Spanish, too.

But very best of all, my machine sang to me.

Now, any US housewife will tell you that the sound of a finished load is Blaaatttt.

Not so, here. My machine plays a cheery little tune to let me know the load is finished. Because it’s so hard to describe, I recorded it for you. Here it is.

On lovely, hot, weekend days the morning is filled with this sweet little song as all the neighbor ladies catch up with their weekly washing. Sometimes as they finish loads in sequence, it sounds like the machines are singing rounds. I love it!

washer to do laundry in Panama

The Washer That Sings in Spanish


3 thoughts on “How to Do Laundry in Panama

  • 4sarge

    Looks Modern enough But, every time the wash was complete I’d be looking out the window for the Ice Cream Truck. Love the Tune

    • JK Mikals Post author

      Ha-ha! I would too, except the ice cream “truck” here is man on a bicycle pulling a cart and what he sells is shaved ice with flavoring and cream. He rings a bell, rather than playing a tune. I should write that up, right? Except I don’t have a plug-in that will convey the flavor!

      • 4sarge

        When I was but a wee lad our ice cream man was on a three wheel bicycle with his cooler in the front. I can only remember ‘push ups’, drumsticks or maybe a Dreamsicle

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