The Mystery of Wizard Laundry
by Lydia Shannon
After reading through all five books numerous times, I recently realized that something was missing from all of them. It is such a mundane thing that it is not really a surprise that so many fans seem to have overlooked it. There are, of course, everyday things that everyone does, whether you are a wizard or a Muggle. Showers, using the toilet and brushing your teeth are just normal things every human does so they’re hardly worth the mention. Who wants to read about every time Harry runs to the loo or flosses his teeth? With the exception of Snape, everyone is generally clean and well kept, which leads to the deduction that they do practice basic hygiene. This brings me to my point. Everyone is generally clean, but so are their robes. We know who brushes Harry’s teeth and who keeps Hermione’s hair clean and frizzy. We don’t know who does the laundry. We also don’t know how it is done.
There are three possibilities of how wizard laundry gets done: the house elves, by hand, or by magical means. We first meet a house elf in the second book, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Dobby the house elf rushes to Harry’s side to warn him of the plot at school. When Harry inquires about the dirty tea towel wrapped around Dobby’s waist, he is told that clothing is the key to a house elf’s freedom. Now, house elves are like the Muggle equivalent of maids. They clean the house, cook the food, and generally take care of their masters. Wouldn’t doing the laundry be included in household duties? But how can it, when it would free the house elves? If the house elves can’t do their master’s laundry, how does it get done? Perhaps they can handle clothing as long as it isn’t actually presented to them. Or perhaps not. This leads us to our next option, by hand.
It is only recently that Muggles have stopped washing their clothing by hand. We seem to take for granted our technological wonder of a washing machine and dryer. Wizards, with the exception of a few (*cough*Mr.Weasley*cough*), shun everything Muggle, which would include laundry machines. Would wizards demean themselves to wash their clothing by hand? Some wizards, like the Weasleys, probably wouldn’t have any problem with it. However, I just can’t see someone like Lucius Malfoy rinsing out his socks. Imagine if Draco had to scrub his knickers in the kitchen sink! Humorous, but highly unlikely.
If laundry doesn’t get done by hand or by house elves, then there’s only one option left. There is a spell for everything in the wizarding world. I’m pretty convinced that a wizard or witch could lie in bed all day long and still get everything done. So, it is a logical conclusion that the laundry gets done by magical means. If we look back to CoS and to the scene in the Weasley’s kitchen, we see that Mrs. Weasley has charmed her knitting needles to knit and the dishes to wash themselves. Perhaps they use actual soap to clean their robes or perhaps its just a simple spell that vanishes the dirt.
While we know that the wizards do keep their robes clean, it is still quite a mystery how. Although a laundry spell seems the most plausible, the other two options are still workable. Will we ever really know the answer? I doubt it. This mystery is so mundane that I doubt Rowling will do us the favor of solving it for us.