Last year , mayhem broke out on Twitter when the rest of the world discovered that it is common for Britons to store their washing machine in the kitchen.
Many expressed confusion and disgust at something that is normal for those living in the UK.
In this article, we’ll explore why the Americans (and some other countries) think the way we do laundry is disgusting.
We’ll also explain why many Brits have no option but to store their washing machine in the kitchen.
Why do Brits keep washing machines in the kitchen?
Many Britons felt personally attacked when it was branded disgusting to have a washing machine in the kitchen.
It is so common, that to have it anywhere else in the home would be seen as unusual.
The primary reason why Britons keep their washing machine in the kitchen is simply a lack of space. There is nowhere else to store one!
The average new home in the UK is 818 square foot. That seems tiny when you consider that in the United States the average new home is 2,164 square foot. - almost 3 times a big.
With a lot more space it’s no wonder that utility rooms or “laundry rooms” are the norm in the United States.
These dedicated laundry spaces are large enough to contain the super-sized washers and dryers that are standard in most American homes.
Why a washing machine in the kitchen is"Disgusting"
To Americans, keeping a washing machine in the kitchen is equally as horrific as it is to Brits discovering that most Americans don’t own an electric kettle.
The reason why? The bacteria that exists both in your washing machine, and on kitchen surfaces.
Bacteria in washing machines
Research conducted by microbiologists has revealed that several nasty bacteria can be found in a washing machine, including e. Coli and salmonella.
E. coli is often found in faecal matter. After swabbing 100 washing machines, researchers found that 10% of them contained traces of E. coli, indicating that the washing machines were contaminated with faecal matter from washing underwear.
If that isn't disgusting enough, the E. coli can survive long enough to contaminate the next wash you put on.
The primary concern is that after handling wet clothes from the washer, you won’t wash your hands before preparing food.
Or, absentmindedly popping the clothes on the kitchen counter, contaminating the surfaces and forgetting to disinfect them before cooking.
E. coli wasn’t the only bacteria to be found lurking; salmonella was too. Both E. coli and salmonella can cause horrible symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting, stomach cramps and more.
(This previous blog post discusses the bacteria in washing machines and steps you can take to fight it)
Bacteria On Kitchen Surfaces
Just as bacteria from the washing can get onto kitchen surfaces, bacteria from the kitchen can get on the washing.
When you consider that you wrap a scarf around your face, or lay your head on a pillowcase; you really want to believe that the items are clean! If you put your washing on the kitchen counter, or the floor, the items may not be as clean as you hope.
Researchers found that the kitchen is the most likely location in a home to be heavily colonised by bacteria.
Some of the particularly bad bacteria that make themselves at home in the kitchen are listeria, campylobacter and, like the washing machine, salmonella.
5 Ways to make a washing machine in the kitchen less disgusting
It’s inconvenient, and in some cases impossible, to move your washing machine once installed.We often just don't have the space!
Here are 5 practical ways you can make it less disgusting to have a washing machine in your kitchen.
1. Wash Your Hands
Wash your hands with antibacterial soap before and after handling laundry.
As usual, continue to wash your hands before preparing food. One microbiologist even advocates wearing gloves when handling laundry!
2. Use A High Temperature Wash
For more “high-risk” items such as underwear and bedding, be sure to wash at a high temperature to ensure that all nasty bacteria are killed.
40c may be good for the environment, but it isn’t tough enough to kill bacteria.
Some of the better washing machines have special "Anti-Allergy" cycles that wash clothes at 60c.
3. Wash Your Surfaces
Always take the time to correctly disinfect the surfaces of your kitchen.
This is especially necessary for any surfaces that have come into contact with laundry.
Read the instructions on your antibacterial spray to ensure you are leaving it enough time to work before wiping away.
4. Don’t put clothes on food preparation areas
Where possible, avoid having any laundry touch a food preparation area. Use a laundry basket to transport the laundry, rather than dumping it on the floor or counter.
5. Throw away your old sponges
Research has shown that kitchen sponges have more bacteria than toilet seats.
It's also ineffective to clean them so the best thing is to throw them out before your clean your machine.
UK washing machine advantages
Fortunately, it’s not all doom and gloom. Brits may have smaller houses, but this has pushed forward innovation in the world of washing machines.
Below are some of the improvements that Brits get to enjoy.
Unlike American “top-loaders” where clothes are loaded from the top, the UK has “front-loaders”.
Many expats from the US in the UK have commented that they prefer this front-loading system as it prevents clothes being damaged by the agitator which is a feature of American washing machines.
Another perk of this compact-design is that it makes it accessible to everyone. In the US, those living in small apartments often have to rely on a local launderette for their washing needs.
As space is tight, and energy-efficiency is a growing concern among consumers, there is now a large range of energy efficient washing machines.
This provides UK consumers with the option to pick a washing machine with a low running cost.
Wet laundry, when removed from the washer, is a lot less sodden in the UK compared to the US.
This is because the front-loader, combined with the standard voltage in the UK, allows the washing machine to spin faster to displace more water.
Obviously, the less water that remains in the clothes, the quicker they dry.
(And we previously blogged about the dangers of drying clothes inside)
Although this may not be important to many Americans as most have dryers as standard, for Brits who dry clothes on a rack or washing line, getting excess water out saves a lot of time and is much healthier.
Do you keep your washing machine in the kitchen?
If so, let us know if know whether you think it’s disgusting, or if you’d never even given it a second thought in the comments below.