Posted by: passagetoitaly | March 17, 2010

Italy v. America: Do you air your dirty laundry?

Italy v. America: The Differences Observed

Last week, we left off with animal cruelty in Italy, with the abandonment of an estimated 280,000 animals per year, and other maltreatment of dogs. Today’s post is more… positive, and inspired over at ReallyRome’s post on the 5 Things I miss about Gli Stati Uniti. However, mine differs as it’s not a list of things I miss (while in Italy) or will miss (once I’ve moved there). It fits snuggly with our Italy v. America category.

So, what exactly would be missed once I’ve moved to Italy? It may seem silly, but two things I would miss are il detergente, detergent, and il morbidente, fabric softener. We never let them cross our minds to clean and soften our clothes in America. Pretty much they are taken for granted. The clothes come out fresh, as well as soft. This definitely differs from one of Shelley’s most missed things about America – the dryer. The dryer, I can live without, at least during the warmer weather. In fact, when I hung my clothes, they dried quicker on the line than could ever be possible with a dryer. BUT you must also know how to correctly hang your laundry on the line, which is yet another story unto itself. What do I know though? I’m American, and have never had to think about such things with my “luxury” items.

What about in Italy? I first encountered this dilemma when visiting Angelo during the summer two years ago. It was obviously pertinent for me to learn how to do the laundry, as I stayed for three months. Laundry detergent and fabric softeners are expensive in Italy, like many other things – cars, food, postage for your mail to America – you name it, it’s definitely more expensive. Angelo was tending to buy the more inexpensive brands, resulting in the clothes not fully being washed, therefore the clothes were washed twice, and drying on the line as if someone had gone overboard with starching them. The color of the clothing quickly began to fade. In his washing machine, which is actually fairly new, it contains two compartments – one for the detergent, and one for the fabric softener. Not something you find with washing machines here in the States.

With the color increasingly fading from our clothes, and with his constant worry of having to replace the clothes, my suggestion was to buy the more expensive products. It made more sense to do such a thing since he’d save more money by not only salvaging his clothes, but in the end, he’d save money on water as well. In Italy, the stores in fact sell Tide, which is what I use back here at home. Not only that, but I knew it was a product that would better preserve the color of the clothes.

Have any of you had these problems with Italian laundry
detergents and fabric softeners?
Any suggestions for current and future expats?

Or am I the only one who dwells upon such things??

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!



  1. You can use plain white wine vinegar as a fabric softener. It’s much cheaper than fabric softener, is completely natural, and it strips mineral and detergent build up from the things you wash, making your them truly soft.

    • Thanks for the tip, KC! I guess old remedies will have to be used. I will keep that in mind.

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