Monday, October 24, 2005

2005-08-16 077One problem with being vaguely scientific is the tendency to experiment. At the weekend I needed some clean pants, and oddly after hanging for 3-days in a cold damp house the latest batch of washing hadn't dried. As the thought of lingering clamminess didn't actually thrill me, I tried to think of ways I cold dry them.

- Radiator: you think I have central heating privileges? It's been on twice since I've been here - once to dry someone's clothes, the other when people staying complained (and then baked overnight).
- Hairdrier: male-only house with insufficient current girlfriends for that item.
- Cooker: Combustion of gas produces two forms of molecules - carbon dioxide and water. So holding something damp over a big source of water vapour isn't going to be the most efficient way of drying it (although the raised temperature would reduce the relative humidity of the air. It depends where the crossover between capacity of lowering RH and the increased RH from the products of combustion comes). Plus there's always the offchance I'll either get bored and forget that I need to hold the pants out of the flame, or that I'll get bored and start wondering what happens if I hold the pants in the flame.
- Oven. Electric, and so avoids the added water vapour problems (well, unless one lives next to the cooling tower of the power station). But needs cleaning and lacks a thermostat. If chicken curls up like those stupid lovefish (ah, school fetes in the 80s), I'm not sure what the 5% Lycra would do; something like DNA or a Slinky I'd imagine.
- Toaster: over or in? Given this thing leaves no bread unburned (if one reduces the time enough to stop it burning, the pop-up mechanism jams, and so the elements stay on), clothing is just a bad idea.
- Microwave: would that work? I've heard of people doing it before. I suppose it heats the water and it's the water I want to get rid off. So maybe. As long as I don't put anything with zips or metal studs or buttons in there. But my socks for the most part don't have studs.

So, I timidly place a pair of pants (UK, not US, kind) in it, and set it to defrost for a few seconds. Burrz, clunk, mmm, clook, burrz... I open the door swiftly to check it's not over doing it. It's not apparently doing much.

I try a while longer this time. There's condensation on the plate under the pants. I stick a bit of kitchen towel in for the next burst.

Still just about getting up to gentle warmth, but no great loss of moisture. The kitchen towel is a bit like trying to bail out the oceans. I bin it.

I struggle on for a while, alternating loads so cooling load dries as the next on heats.

Realising I might be here for a while, I crank up the heat. Time for full power methinks. Rapid burst, swap loads, rapid burst, swap loads, repeat until nearly dry, as I didn't want to find out what happens when it runs out of water.

But by this time the next load of washing had finished and even with the space cleared by the microwave assisted batches, I still didn't have enough space. So one wet t-shirt versus one microwave. Shut door to start, stand back for thirty seconds, open door.

Stand back while steam billows up into ceiling. That's a heck of a lot of water. And yet we expect that just leaving things will get rid of it. The t-shirt's still wet, but hot, with steam condensing on any nearby surface.

So what I need is a microwave source to heat the water coupled with a some mechanism for providing continuous fresh air flow over the surface. So basically a tumble drier which uses a different wavelength from normal. And could be vented outside to dump the near-saturated air (like tumbledriers are meant to be - hands up if you've ever seen this domestically).

But I don't have one of those, so standing next to an open window and flapping the clothing madly until it loses heat (and thereby hopefully water, evaporative cooling etc) will have to do.

Repeat until the clothing no longer feels clammy. It'll still probably feel a bit damp round the hems, but it's much better than it was. All this for only a highly inefficient outlay of time and electricity (and thus money).

Then, with the last t-shirt without hanging space, repeat the process, and then get distracted fleetingly. Return to a smell of caramel.

Open door; smell gets stronger and a bit more acrid. Remove t-shirt. It's warm and dry. Oh, and has over one part of a it a couple of lines of small brown circles ringed with brown, against the black of the cloth. It looks like it's been strafed by a machine gun, except the bulletholes aren't holes. But brown dust does fall from them on first contact. I wonder if it's the cotton or polyester which went? And where the circles cross the seams, the thread has melted into neatly spaced blobbles.

It's probably just as well it was a bottom of the range £2.99 H&M thing. And it'll be great if ever I need to gatecrash a tie-die convention, or dress up as a house in Dubrovnik (although I can think of walls in Dorset which have lines of fire across them).

So now we know whether microwaves can indeed be used for dry clothes, and what happens if it goes wrong. In hindsight I think next time (if there is a next time) I'll have to remember not to try and dry things out completely.

So, what experiments have you done today?


PS. It's only just occurred to me that I could have considered the iron (if I can find it). But the last time I used an iron was in 2002. And also, having been trained on neckerchiefs, ironing is inextricably linked with inordinate amounts of steam.

Hahaha that was hilarious! I cant believe you seriously used a microwave to dry clothes. Actually, just last week i tried to melt some butter in the microwave...forgeting that the container had aluminium foil round it. That was an interesting experience. :-S
Why not?

Well, probably because having defrosted chicken breasts smelling of elastic is a bit weird.
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?