La Vie en France #35: Laundry Day–When You’ve run out of Clean Clothes

Signal Corps Photo #23465 showing Doughboys of the 131st Inf. Regt., 33rd Division, washing their clothes alongside French women in Salmagne. Photo taken in August, 1918.



So what does one do when one runs out of clean clothes on a vacation to the battlefields?  The answer can vary widely.  There is the “old wash socks and underwear in the sink trick.”  They can then air dry in the hotel room, using the radiator on cooler days.  If one is staying in a small hotel or B&B, one can ask the host / hostess politely if they could do a load.  Of course, one should pay them for their efforts!  Most gites have a washer.  If they don’t have a dryer, they often have a clothes line.  That works well in good weather, but the drying near a radiator might be necessary in cold and damp weather.  Finally, there is the regional supermarket or hypermarket.  This appears to be today’s French equivalent of the town Lavoir.  In 2017 the Webmaster discovered that many of these stores have outdoor washing machines and dryers.  Sitting at this computer, the Webmaster can confirm the locations below.  There are likely other locations in the region.

  • Carrefour Express, Varennes-en-Argonne
  • Intermarche, Stenay
  • Cora, Verdun


Having found a machine (that is hopefully not in use), one has to understand the cultural differences of doing laundry in France versus the United States.  Specifically:

  • Euro-size machines are generally half the size or smaller of an American machine.
  • Europeans wash their clothes at much higher temperatures than Americans–in part because their clothes often have a higher content of natural fibers.
    • 30 degrees Celsius = 86 Fahrenheit  (Cold Setting)
    • 60 degrees Celsius = 140 Fahrenheit (Warm Setting)
    • 90 degrees Celsius = 195 Fahrenheit (Hot Setting–and almost boiling!)
  • Europeans dry their clothes at much lower temperatures than Americans.  The best explanation given to the Webmaster is EU restrictions on energy usage.
  • Both washing and drying can take considerably longer than in the U.S.:  It takes about 90 minutes to wash a load in the Webmaster’s gite.
  • Instructions are unlikely to be in English.


Yes, in rural France one can find laundry facilities; but–as with everything else in a foreign county–one cannot expect them work exactly as they do back home.  Understanding and accepting the cultural differences are the only options for enjoying one’s visit in a foreign country.



The modern washer and dryer complex at the Carrefour Express in Varennes is quite large and nice…




especially, because the instructions are in both French and English.