“The Crunchy Towel Blues” (from album: “Ain’t Got No Appliances”)

Gots me some towels… duh duddu dudum
But ain’t got no dryer… duh duddu dudum
Gots me some good good towels…
But I ain’t got no dryer… duh duddu dudum
All I gots these damn crunchy towels
Burnin’ my skin like a fire


I’ve been singin’ these blues for a while now, folks.  If I could go back in time and visit myself 5 and half years ago, I would sit myself down and ask the following:

“Is your love for this Italian man greater than your love for fluffy towels?”

I like to think that it would give me a moment’s pause. But who am I kidding? You ain’t got the blues ’til you lose what you got. I may have met the love of my life, but at what cost? Fluffy towels, baby, fluffy towels.

crunchy towel blues

So let’s try to break this down. First of all, what IS the reason that drying machines are no where to be found here in rural Emilia? Here are a few of the possible reasons I could come up with… anyone have any to add? Do any of my millions of Italian readers have any insights to share?

In a recent Facebook Group discussion with some fellow English speaking expats in Italy, we attempted to get to the root of the crunchy towel problem by entertaining possible substitute methods for softening laundry.

Based on some suggestions from the group, I have been through several combinations and permutations of these six products (white vinegar not shown). entirely too many laundry products

Here’s what I have learned:

1. Calgon is a joke. The ridiculously high levels of calcium in the water here in Emilia are insane. The calcium molecules literally look at Clagon and laugh in it’s little blue face.

2. Napisan does make whites a very tiny little bit whiter. And it may or may be helping with some smell issues, I can’t be sure. But the quantity you have to put in makes it not very cost effective.

3. Dixan does very little to specifically impress me as a base detergent, but also very little to deter me from using it again. I have no further thoughts on it, really.

4. Coccolino doesn’t actually wash off… Everything kind of has this film on it. And it gives those of us with sensitive skin a lovely rash.

5. White vinegar (not pictured) helps with smells and calcium a bit, but I like it better to clean out the washing machine in between uses.

6. Tea tree oil rocks. I have yet to find an application for tea tree oil that does not kick ass. I won’t go so far as to say it eliminated the crunchiness factor. But the immensely therapeutic smell of my laundry with the faint tea tree oil smell is absolutely fantastic.

In conclusion, however, I still have crunchy towels. The only two solutions I see are (a) ironing… ha! NOT gonna happen, or (b) purchasing a dryer.

The problem is that the rest of the tracks on my blues album are:

  • “You Can’t Lose Air Conditioning you Ain’t Had”
  • “Stormy September; Gotta Stufa On My Mind”
  • “Baby Broke My Dishwasher”
  • “Ain’t Gotta Worry ‘Bout That Noise My Fridge Is Makin'”

So, really, it’s all about priorities. Which appliance do you miss the most?

22 thoughts on ““The Crunchy Towel Blues” (from album: “Ain’t Got No Appliances”)

  1. I bite the bullet and take my towels to the lavanderia. I got tired of getting rope burn just drying off. My husband gets mad that I spend €10 a month to dry towels, but my skin…my skin…

  2. I find the fabric softener turns my towels into something a bit softer than an exfoliant. Helps maybe that i have huge soft american towels?
    I gave up neither the built in microwave, nor the dryer. Not that I use either, nor ever did. But I have them.

    • Which fabric softener are you using, just out of curiosity? I also have big (once upon a time soft) American (technically Australian) towel sheets.
      The microwave I don’t miss so much, but I tell ya… every once in a while… I little toaster action would be nice!

  3. Ha Ha Ha! Love it. I remember when we moved here and my Italian husband kept complaining about his mom’s cardboard towels! And for keeping whites white, I’ve started using Dash smacchiatore or smacchiabianco…aiuta..un po’. But really, an Italian would tell you that the sun helps whiten whites ; )! All my beautiful thick towels are stowed away honestly, and I use IKEA towels that are thin and dry easily, they also don’t remain so crunchy. One day, far away, I will used those lovely luxury hotel towels of mine.

    • I have hear whisper of this Dash smacchiatore… I shall add it to the arsenal and see what happens, thanks.
      Yeah, the thinner towels are easier, but I keep holding on to my big guys out of stubbornness!

  4. Oh God, the towel. Groan. But that is the least of my worries. What a nightmare laundry is in this country. The answer in Rome for not having a dryer is that there isn’t a damn apartment in the city that has enough power for it. If I use my stove and my dishwasher at the same time the power blows in my house, if I turn on the hair-dryer when anything else is on, the power blows. AArrggh. But when you have kids it is doubly frustrating….first the washing machines here are like old coffee cans — probably you are too young to remember Chock Full of Nuts coffee cans, but that is about the amount of space I have in my washing machine. So, I can only fit about 2 towels in at a time….then it spins around for about 3 hours boiling them, then everything has to be hung on the “stendino” to dry, and then there is the ironing. When I go back to the States in the summer I spend a lot of time hanging out around the washer and dryer doing loads and loads of laundry– it is so easy!! I did look into buying a dryer once in Italy and the kind of machine they had was part of the washing machine. First it spun it around for three hours washing the clothes and then if basically cooked them– it wasn’t an air dryer. So the stuff came out all hot and crunchy. Yuck.

    • Haha, I think you just summed up many peoples’ sentiments on that subject. I didn’t even mention the power outages in my article – I thought maybe it was just us (we’re in an old building in a rural location). Somehow it makes me feel better that even people in Rome are running down to their circuit breakers every time someone makes the mistake of wanting to dry their hair!

      I did the same exact thing last time I was home in Texas visiting my mom. I kept asking her if she wanted me to do laundry for her!

      They do seem to have a good array of basic dryer options if you look online (something like http://www.hw1.it, for example). But, yeah, I wouldn’t be able to run very often anyway. Not that I would… just towels, really. And sheets. Sheets on a stendino are just ridiculous.

  5. Oh loved this and yes we have the leaky washing machine blues, every time I do a load I then have to mop the floor over and over. Our mop is a beautiful dirty grey and has been used in ways no mop should have to bear, We all wear boots and it is usually either dusty or muddy here in the borgata….two or three days with no washing and the floor is dry again. Oh did I mention that it’s white tiles arghhhh.

    A washing machine that doesn’t wet itself every time it does a load would be great and yes a toaster wouldn’;t go astray! Our towels are big and I hang them on the upstairs balcony. As for being crunchy by the time I light the fire to heat the water for the shower, mop the floor again, squeeze between the tiny opening to get in, have my drizzle of hot water as most of it leaks out of the tap…..I don’t even notice my crunchy towels lol xx

    ahhh my Aussie bathroom…sigh!

    • Hahaha…. yeah, it’s all relative. At the moment washing dishes by hand, freezing my ass off in the winter, and saving up for a new fridge totally trump the crunchy towels.

      Piano, piano. We’ll get there. 🙂

  6. If you’re American, other than having to deal with the whole permesso di soggiorno issue, crunchy towels are the worst part about living in italy.

  7. I bought a dryer, but it costs too much to run it, and after 80 minutes things come out wet and looking like the cat threw them up. In the end, if you use a crunchy towel for a week or two, it gets soft again.

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  9. I have a dryer REX SOLAREX & REX Washing Machine ( about 15 years now) 2 separate pieces 1 on top of the other you can choose models from 7 to 9 kilo they are very good, my towels come out soft and fluffy, the trick is to dry a few at a time for 10 or 15 minutes, just don’t use the diswasher or washing machine at the same time & no probelm with the electricity . normally your resident power contact is for 3 kw but you can ask for 4,5 kw or 6 kw , off course at a major cost.

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  11. I love that you picked a “waffle towel” for the photo. My wife had lived in London for a dozen years and hadn’t noticed the crappy waffle towels until I started point them out to her. I fail to see why people buy them… maybe they dry faster with their increased surface area.
    My complaint with our rentals has always been with garbage disposals and ziplock bags. We were going to bring ziplocks to my suocera, but we decided not to as she will either decide they are the devil’s work (come senora Maria) or she will like them so much that we will have to bring a suitcase full of them from the US.

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