Advice Goddess Blog
« Previous | Home | Next »

Unsafe At Any Speed


Oh, the joy of the Parisian washing machine.

Part of the fun of being in a different country is experiencing new appliances in rental apartments where the owner has decided to give you an exciting game -- washing and drying your clothes without the directions booklet so you can either correctly decipher the little hieroglyphics or break the appliances and lose your security deposit!

No, we didn't break the washer/dryer. But our clothes were trapped in it for quite some time -- not the first time this has happened to me in France. (You have to wait for the cycles you've accidentally started to complete so it will set your wash free.)

In the inability to figure out how to make "essorage" (the dryer function) work Sunday afternoon, I took photos of the thing -- clever me -- to take to the regular Sunday night dinner at Jim Haynes' in hopes of showing somebody in the know the pics in my camera and getting advice. At Haynes' place, I met a very interesting guy named Johnty doing a doc on France for the BBC, and Lena met a retired logic and then aesthetics prof-turned painter from Vancouver, BC, and we got so wrapped up talking to them that I forgot -- clever me -- to pull out my camera.

Oh well...we ended up having a forest of wet shirts, socks, pants, and underwear to machete through every time we needed to get something out of the refrigerator. Not the worst thing in the world, and these Parisian moments of inability to function on the most mundane level are always good for a laugh.

That said, L'Amerloque, if you happen to be lurking in these blog parts, Lena is heading out, but I'm still here for another week. What the hell is the 800/500 button for, and will pushing it after going to programme K (essorage) dry my wet clothes?

Posted by aalkon at October 24, 2006 1:19 PM

Trackback Pings

TrackBack URL for this entry:


Yep: those washer-dryer combos NEVER work properly. Especially on the dryer end: you always have to put your clothes on a line to get them properly dried up.

As for the many buttons, options, and spin cycles, that's the beauty of French machines: you CAN select what you want to do with your clothes: full wash, half wash, half load, spin speed, you name it. Something I bitterly miss with the more basic U.S. machines. If you find your clothes are stuck in the French machine for the longest time, it's because wash cycles are longer, and gentler, so don't worry, As for the 800/500 button, my guess is that it's the spin cycle, so go 500 for delicates, and 800 for sturdier items like bed sheets.

Btw, your post made me laugh because I recently wrote a "reverse experience" post about washing clothes in the U.S.:
"TORTURE CHAMBERS. American laundry machines. A typical froggie peeve. Their design borders on the absurd. The central spindle brutalizes the clothes so much that you can almost hear them shriek in pain. Those WCD (weapons of clothes destruction) don't even wash well, and if you manage to untangle that ravissant petit top you just bought from the spindle, you'll end up with an overstretched, desperately wrinkled piece of 'thingy'. The choice of washes is primitive (you cannot select for a prewash, a quick cycle, a half-load or the spinning speed). Shall I add that they use and insane amount of energy compared to European machines? I won't go into a rant about the dryers' knack for shrinking your M into an XXS, that'd be too much."

ps: went to some Jim Haynes' dinners. Fun but weird. Did you fill his questionnaire?!

Posted by: Parisienne at October 23, 2006 9:00 PM

I can't work out the model from your pix, but if you google Zanussi #... (whatever it is), you should be able to get instructions in English.

Come to think of it, "800/500" may just be an energy saver button (? pretty common in Europe). Program K = Essorage = Spinning. Program L = Séchage = Drying is what you're looking for, but as I mentioned earlier, it'll never be 100% dry.

The two buttons on the right are: far right: program selection; close right: I guess temperature in ºC.

Happy (cross-cultural) washing!

Posted by: Parisienne at October 23, 2006 9:32 PM

Merci...I figured the instructions would be in French, and I didn't have the head for it at that point. I think I just have to be sure to turn it off before I turn to essorage. I guess I hit some other cycles on the way -- rinse and spin being one of them.

And Parisienne, yes, they're all ruin on clothes. Yet another thing we all have in common. Sigh.

And I've known Haynes for a while, via my boyfriend, who met him at some conference...but I did fill out the questionnaire long ago. My big pet peeve -- he always forgets and introduces me as a gossip columnist. As I said to him on Sunday, I'd rather be described as "slut, bitch, whore"...which doesn't mean I don't pick up the National Enquirer along with the Wall Street Journal and The Economist whenever I board a plane.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at October 23, 2006 9:48 PM

It's easy!
The 800/500 button is indeed for choosing the RPMs - obviously, the higher, the drier. On my machine, the dry cycle will only start if the laundry has been spun at 800 RPMs *and* the half-load option is selected. It also really helps to dry only a half-load at a time. Do not interrupt the dry cycle, including the cool-down bit at the end. If you try to skip the cool-down, the machine's thermostat can cause it to short-circuit. If that happens, all you have to do (!) is take a Philip's screwdriver to unscrew the top of the dryer, lift it up, and you'll find a little red button pretty much in the middle of all the tubes and cables and bits and pieces. Press the red button, replace the lid, and you're off.
Oh, but do *not* forget to unplug the machine before opening the top. I am absolutely not joking. You don't want to touch any of the insides unless the thing is unplugged, or it could be the last thing you ever do.
Hope this helps.

Posted by: Marie at October 24, 2006 6:44 AM

And the smaller dial is definitely temperatures in ºC. I wash almost everything at 30-40ºC, except to get out really tough stains like lipstick on white cloth napkins. That takes 90ºC.

Posted by: Marie at October 24, 2006 7:00 AM

Hi Amy !

(delurk mode on ) (grin on)

/*/That said, L'Amerloque, if you happen to be lurking in these blog parts, Lena is heading out, but I'm still here for another week. What the hell is the 800/500 button for, and will pushing it after going to programme K (essorage) dry my wet clothes? /*/

It's what is termed an "Essorage bi-vitesse: 800/500 tr/mn", a dual speed spin dry phase, of 800 or 500 rpm (tours par minute

Marie is spot on and seems to have experieces similar to Amerloque's, when opening the top. (grin) Amerloque recommends not (repeat: NOT) touching a grounded pipe (like a faucet in the sink) and the outside of the machine simultaneously if the latter is plugged in and in operation. Il. y. va. de. votre. vie. (One can die.)

Hope this helps. (grin always on)

(lurk mode on)


Posted by: L'Amerloque at October 24, 2006 9:02 AM

Sorry to have a laugh Amy....but i had a similar experience in Sheffield UK the first time my band was on tour.

After finding the laundromat, of course what sort of guy in a band on tour thinks about buying or packing detergent? But they DID have it for sale at the laundry at the tune of 1 pound per scoop. Also, it cost 4 pounds for a load of wash per washer and 20 pence for about 10 minutes in the dryer. After it was all said and done, it cost around 90 pounds for the band to do all thier clothes....

Posted by: Rob at October 24, 2006 10:07 AM

Blind tired, just finished deadline...or would've commented sooner...many thanks...and especially for the important advice on how to refrain from being electrocuted. Haven't done that yet, but I'm sure it's always a possibility!

Posted by: Amy Alkon at October 24, 2006 4:47 PM

Leave a comment