Beth Dolinar

Column Beth Dolinar

Beth Dolinar has been writing her column about life, both hers and the rest of ours, for over 20 years. When not on the page, she produces Emmy-winning documentaries for public television, teaches writing to university students, and enjoys her two growing children.

Untangling my web of bandages

Untangling my web of bandages

March 16, 2017

My readers are good at solving problems.

Two weeks ago, I was in this space whining about the entanglement of my bandages. The swelling in my left leg requires that I wrap it in bandages every day, a routine that is awful only in the aftermath. After each wearing, I toss the bandages into the washing machine and then into the dryer. By the time they emerge, they have been dancing and swirling about with such gusto that I’m left with a tight wad of knotted fabric. Most days I spend at least an hour untangling and then re-rolling the bandages so that they’re fresh and ready for the next wrapping.

In the days after that column appeared, my e-mailbox was filled with ideas. Several readers suggested I place each bandage in a mesh bag, allowing it to go through the wash and dry cycles alone. Although that stops the bandages from strangling my bras and underwear, it doesn’t stop them from tangling around and strangling themselves. That might be prevented, another reader said, by wrapping the bandages into an oval loop and tying it at the center with a string. I’m trying different kinds of string and different tightness, looking for the right combination that keeps the wraps free but lets them dry at the center.

A kind woman wrote to suggest I get large Wiffle balls, the plastic balls with holes in them, and wrap each bandage around and around the ball, and then pin the tail to itself. While this would certainly prevent tangling, the layers of fabric that mummified the Wiffle ball might not all get clean or dry, although the next time I see Wiffle balls, I’m going to get some and give it a try.

Another reader suggested a tricky maneuver I believe will work. She suggested I get some old, sheer curtains and stitch long, narrow pockets into it, creating “casings” in which to place the bandages. Each bandage would be folded a few times and then tucked into a pocket, and the whole thing would go it the washer and dryer. I have not tried this yet, but I suspect this might be the answer. I look forward to trying it once I find where I put the power pedal to my sewing machine.

Have you ever put a shoelace into the washing machine with other clothing? Or washed a pair of sweat pants whose drawstring was coming free? Somehow, that string manages to entwine itself with the other laundry buddies. Spontaneous tangling is a fact of science the experts are still trying to unravel. As I sit here, the floor beneath my desk is a spaghetti of cords and cables. And as with those strings, a loose bandage will coil itself around the center agitator in the washer. More than once, I’ve had to use scissors to free it. A reader named “Magoo” told me where to buy an agitator-less washer. I hope it doesn’t come to that.

I can’t be the only one with this problem. Millions of people have the swelling of lymphedema, and we all use wraps. The companies that sell the bandages offer devices that roll the bandages, but nothing so far that would help with washing. Maybe this is a space for an invention – something robotic, maybe.

Until then, I will rely on my kind and smart readers. I whined and you came to the rescue to help me unwind. (If the past-tense of wind is wound, shouldn’t the past-tense of whine be whound?)

My readers have been the best thing about writing this column for all these years. Somehow, you always let me know you are there.

Beth Dolinar can be reached at



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