We did a load of laundry a while back, but we didn’t quite finish. There’s still another pile in the hamper, still a few more laundry vocab terms to go over. OK, so maybe more than a few. There’s no excuse for each and every one of you to not be fluent Spanish laundry speakers after these two exhaustive lists. I charge ye to go forth and launder, my little bats. But first a word from one of our Colombian sponsors, Shakira, who, as you can see by her tattoo, is just as enthusiastic about laundry as I am (and probably much better at selling it).
First things first. Where is all this exciting laundry action going down? In the laundry room, of course. Most homes in Latin America don’t have a laundry room como tal, but more modern ones sometimes do. Whether they have a washing machine or just a washtub/sink (or both), it’s very likely in the kitchen, just off the kitchen, or in some other nook in the house. That room or area can be called one of a million things depending on the country. Possibilities include lavadero, área de ropas, lavandería, zona de lavandería, cuarto de la lavadora, cuarto de lavar, área de lavado, zona de lavado, cuarto de lavado, sala de lavado, pieza de lavado, and loggia. That last one, la loggia, is said in Chile, and I find it charming because it reminds me of one my favorite movies, A Room with a View. Though I don’t think a Chilean laundry room is quite the setting Eleanor Lavish had in mind for the characters in her novel . . .
Most Latin American households are fitted with one of these beauties. Behold.
Properly attired with a cepillo and a bar of jabón REY
The most common names for this double sink are lavadero and pila.
What’s our mission? To kill the dirt. That is, la mugre, la suciedad, la roña.
We want to take especial care with items that are percudidos. Percudido? Percudir? I’m glad you asked. When your clothes get percudido, it can mean one of two things. One meaning is when the dirt gets really deep-set in your whites, producing an insidious grime that doesn’t come out just because you ask it to. It’s when your whites get grubby and dull and blah. That’s percudido. Men, you’ve probably noticed this around the collars and cuffs (los cuellos y los puños) of your shirts. Women, probably your bras. Watch this commercial, El misterio del brasier percudido, and it will all be made clear to you.
So, another one of our goals for our laundry session will be to despercudir la ropa percudida. As for the second meaning of percudido, it can also mean what happens to clothes when they’ve been washed too many times–little by little, the fabric gets worn out and starts to deteriorate.
We could just throw our clothes in a washing machine, but where’s the poetry in that? That’s right, there isn’t any. Let’s wash this tanda by hand and see what colorful laundry vocabulary we can’t coax out of the experience.
To sort clothes – clasificar la ropa, separar la ropa por colores (ropa clara/ropa blanca y ropa oscura)
To wet – mojar, humedecer
To soap up – enjabonar
For this, we’re most likely to use bars of soap. This can be called jabón en barra, jabón en pan, or a pastilla de jabón.
To scrub – restregar, tallar (Mex.), fregar, refregar
(Reggaetón is often called restregón by its critics – think about it)
To soak – remojar; to let soak - dejar en remojo, poner en remojo
(Just to mix things up around here a bit. If you know Spanish, I can almost guarantee you can read that Portuguese ad. Môlho is a cognate of remojo from above. How’d you do?)
To rinse – enjuagar
To wring out- exprimir, retorcer, estrujar
To drain, drip dry- (dejar) escurrir
Clothesline, clothes rack – tendedero
Here’s a famous Mexican commercial from back in the day for Rindex detergent. Notice the reference to a dove on a tendedero. I find it really beautiful, especially that last stanza, and I’ve watched it countless times. I’ve put the lyrics below (On the internet for the first time ever! Go me.)
La Lola y la Bartola se dieron un agarrón,
querían saber quién usaba el detergente más buenón.
De la Bartola su ropa quedó limpia y perfumada,
mientras que a la pobre Lola le quedó de la patada.
Al mirar los resultados, Lola se puso de llorona
por mal tirar su dinero y haber sido tan gastalona.
Vuela, vuela palomita, párate en el tendedero.
Diles a todas las señoras que Rindex es el mero mero.
If your Mexican Spanish is a little rusty, Rodney did a great job in this post explaining what el mero mero means.
As you know, some clothes can secar al sol (dry in the sun), while others should secar a la sombra (dry in the shade). Another verb for to air dry is orear.
To hang – tender, colgar
Clothespins – pinzas, ganchos, broches, palillos, palitos, horquillas, perros, prensas, and, well, you can look up the rest of them here. I’m worn out. Once again, Chile wins the award for the most interesting term with perros. But what else could be expected from Neruda’s homeland?
Oh, and how could we forget. An imprescindible part of the laundry experience is the soundtrack. There’s a whole genre of music for housewives called música para planchar, and I see no good reason why we can’t enjoy some jams during the entire laundering process in order to break up the tedium. As it’s pretty hard to beat Juan Gabriel, here’s a great song to set the mood.
Sometimes laundry goes haywire. Here’s some help in talking about it.
To fade – desteñirse, decolorarse, desvanecerse
To bleed, run – desteñir, despintarse (Mex.), soltar color, echar tinte
To stretch out - estirarse, agrandarse, ensancharse, dar de sí/darse de sí
To shrink – encogerse, achicarse
There are, of course, all different kinds of encogimiento.
Did I miss anything? Surely not! Believe me, I have scoured the internet, and these two posts form THE list of laundry vocabulary terms in Spanish, the mother of all lists, if you will. Would-be copycats are better off not even wasting their time trying to reproduce such a master file. I don’t think the internet’s big enough for two such lists, anyway. All right, batlings; you’re all set. A very happy and fluent laundering to you!
What about you? Got any laundry experience in Spanish-speaking countries? Did you already know these words? Which ones? If you’re a native Spanish speaker, anything to correct, clarify, comment on or concur with? Which of these words do you use in your country?