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I am looking for the most common way to say:

to place the laundry in the washing machine.

In my German book Schritte 6+, I found the translation die Wäsche einfüllen, unfortunately though I didn’t find any correspondence on Duden, Pons, or Dict.cc. In the Duden, I found this one in the examples:

die Wäsche in die Maschine stecken

What is the most common way to say it? How would you translate the following?

The man put the laundry in the washing machine.

5

I guess there are many local differences. The first 30 years of my life I lived in Graz, and then another 20 years in Vienna (both in the eastern part of Austria), and I don't feel comfortable with this terms:

  • die Wäsche einfüllen
  • die Wäsche in die Maschine tun
  • die Wäsche in die Maschine machen
  • die Wäsche in die Maschine packen
  • die Maschine einräumen

The term that I use is:

die Wäsche in die Maschine geben

I will explain why I don't feel comfortable with the other terms:

einfüllen
When I hear this word, I always have an association with »eingießen« (english: to pour), so my first thought when I hear this verb, is a liquid. Someone can einfüllen a detergent or any other liquid into a machine, or you can even einfüllen sand, or bigger amounts (1000+) of tiny particles, so that you also can pour them like a liquid.

I know, that einfüllen also has the meaning of put something into something else, so that it is correct to say »Ich fülle die Wäsche in die Maschine ein«, but I feel not comfortable with this construction.

tun
This simply sounds like poor German to me. I know, there are regions in Germany, where is is usual to say »Kannst du bitte die Teller auf den Tisch tun«, but where I live (and lived) this sounds like the German of someone who is learning German as a foreign language and who don't remember the correct verb.

machen
The phrase »in die Maschine machen« (without explicitly saying what you put into the machine) has a very dirty meaning. I means »to shit into the machine«. When you add »die Wäsche«, you make indubitably clear, that you mean »to put the laundry into the machine«, but a small part of each Austrian German native speaker's brain comes up with the other meaning for a fraction of a second. Maybe for such a short time, that it won't bubble up to awareness, but still enough to produce a strange vibration.

packen
Packen as used in this phrase »die Wäsche in die Maschine packen« is not Austrian German. This is not how packen is used in Austrian German. It is German German. But since we in Austria are so used to German German, nobody would say it is wrong, but no native speaker of Austrian German would ever use this construction. Ok is »etwas packen«, for example: »einen Koffer packen« (to pack a suitcase«), but not ok is: »Etwas irgendwo hin(ein) packen« (»Ein Buch in den Koffer packen«, »to put a book into a suitcase«).

einräumen
For me this verb means »to clean up by putting things into the container where they belong to«. When I was a child, my parents told me thousands of times: »Räum endlich dein Spielzeug ein!« (»Put your toys back to the boxes where they belong!«) So »einräumen« has to me the meaning of »create order«, so is something that must be done painstakingly. But that doesn't match with the process of putting laundry into a washing machine, because it doesn't matter how the socks and shirts are laying in the machine after you finished einräumen.

But:
You can einräumen a dishwasher (German: »Geschirrspüler«, but very often also called just »Maschine«). Because here it is important that the plates are positioned correctly, and that knifes, forks and spoons are in their box.

But again I want to make clear, that this all is true for Austria (at least for the eastern part of this country). Maybe there are different usages in other regions for all verbs discussed here.

3
  • That is a tough question for me. "Geben" leaves me with a good feeling, immediately reminding me of Graz. I am not sure if it's "German German ". "Tun" sounds ok, but reminds me of NRW. I wouldn't use it in writing. "Stecken" sounds like the person was in a hurry. "Machen"... I agree with you! I got so worked up thinking about this, I am not sure what I usually say. My family says I say "steck' die Wäsche in die Waschmaschine!".
    – Ludi
    Jun 4 '15 at 11:43
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    I see another, unrelated question coming up if this turns out to be a more complicated issue, but ... do you associate "in die Maschine machen" exclusively with defecation? I am asking because here in South-Western Germany, I would primarily understand it as urination. Jun 6 '15 at 16:53
  • @O.R.Mapper: I think it has both meanings. »Die Katze hat aufs Sofa gemacht« can mean both. Jun 7 '15 at 8:48
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According to most manuals, you would

eine Waschmaschine beladen

There are also the term „eine Ladung Wäsche“ and „eine Waschmaschinenladung“, both meaning a load of laundry.

So in your example:

Der Mann belädt die Waschmaschine.

More colloquial versions would be

  • Wäsche in die Waschmaschine stecken
  • Wäsche in die Waschmaschine stopfen (more force, possibly overloading)

I wouldn’t use in die Waschmaschine räumen because räumen implies a sense of order, which is exactly what one doesn’t do when loading a washer.

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  • 3
    @Emanuel: No but Scherben wegräumen implies re-creating order by absence of shards. Unless you are in the habit of storing dirty laundry in the washer I wouldn't use räumen, the dogs "puting socks in the washer" are cleaning up, they could as well be putting them in a box, basket, whatever.
    – Stephie
    Jun 4 '15 at 9:49
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    To me the verb »beladen« is something that must be done with a crane, a fork-lift truck or a similar machine that is able to lift and move heavy loads. When I read »die Waschmaschine beladen« in user manuals, I thought this just was a bad translation from any other language (you very often can find very bad translations in user manuals). I never thought that there are German native speakers, who would say this is correct German. Jun 4 '15 at 10:04
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    @HubertSchölnast... I agree. It's limited to manuals I would say.
    – Emanuel
    Jun 4 '15 at 10:05
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    @Stephie: Then it is either tech-talk, or just another proof that German is a pluricentric language. But I can't imagine, that a mother says to one of their children: »Kannst du mir bitte helfen, und die Waschmaschine beladen Jun 4 '15 at 10:15
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    Technical terms are often different to lay mans terms. An extreme example is a police report. Nobody talks like that but in that one context it's the lingo used. Same thing with manual. To give you an example... manuals use "in Betrieb nehmen" a lot. When was the last time you favored that over "anmachen" and the like when talking with friends.
    – Emanuel
    Jun 4 '15 at 10:29
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This is a very good question and I think there isn't a standard default verb for that. I would never ever ever say "einfüllen" (nor have I ever heard anyone say that) and "stecken" sounds a little too dynamic for my taste. My first choice would probably be

in die Maschine tun/machen

and then maybe "packen". I think the most common phrasing in this context for me however is

die Maschine einräumen

The laundry is implied by context.

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    I'd einräumen (and ausräumen) a dishwasher, but not a washing machine; it implies some sort of individual placement of the pieces to me. Agree with tun and packen, though. For the other direction, (he)rausholen and (he)rausnehmen.
    – chirlu
    Jun 4 '15 at 8:46
  • Würden Sie wirklich sagen "in die Maschine machen."? Das klingt für mich sehr merkwürdig.
    – Ludi
    Jun 4 '15 at 10:37
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    @Ludi... für mich auch, aber so rede ich. "Ich mach Wasser in den Topf", "Ich mach die DVD rein", "Lass mal die Bier kurz ins Eisfach machen."
    – Emanuel
    Jun 4 '15 at 12:05
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    @Emanuel Gut. Wir wollen hier ja ein Gespür für die Deutsche Sprache vermitteln. Daher sind sehr umgangssprachliche Formulierungen wichtig :)
    – Ludi
    Jun 4 '15 at 18:52
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I know this isn’t technically your question, but why ‘put’ laundry into the machine in the first place? I often tell people I’ll be downstairs doing the laundry and the (to me) most idiomatic versions are:

  • Ich mache die Waschmaschine voll.
  • Ich werfe die Waschmaschine an.
  • Ich mache Wäsche.

for putting stuff in, and:

  • Ich hänge die Wäsche auf.
  • Ich räume die Maschine aus.

For taking stuff out. Funnily, I don’t consider the first action to be die Maschine einräumen but ausräumen works.


If you’re confused about me hanging up the laundry, it’s just what I’m doing. Putting it into a bag, climbing three floors, hanging it up. It’s so much turned into a single action that I wouldn’t bother splitting it.

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