Saturday, June 23, 2018

Laundry Woes

Cleaning My Closet

We are finally renovating our master en suite, the workers are due this week.  The one problem is that we are also replacing the carpeting in our walk-in closet with tile flooring to match the bathroom tiles.  What this means is that everything in the closet needs to be removed, with the exception of the highest shelves, which should be ok covered with dust cloths.  Some garments we will place in the guestroom closet (where we will be the guests for 3 weeks),  Others we will hang, covered, on  portable garment racks in the garage.  I am confident that it will be necessary to place the overfill on the bed, covered with sheets.  No matter how protected there will be dust and a certain amount of garment cleaning will be required.

This situation has led me to consider how laundering was done in the past.  When my mother was a young housewife laundry was  much more of a chore ( of course I never did understand her need to iron absolutely everything, with the exception of bath towels).
I turned to America’s Housekeeping Book as a reference.  This small volume is packed with information any homemaker post-WWII would need to consider in keeping the perfect home.  There is an entire section dedicated to LAUNDERING which includes laundry equipment, soaps, water softeners, ironing procedures and treatment of spots and stains.  There are recipes for making bluing, starch and bleaching liquids.

                                                    Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, 1947

One of my favorite references, Fashion Victims, tells of the dangers of women wearing street-length clothing which attracted not only dust from the streets but also a myriad of nasties, including organisms responsible for many diseases.  All this detritus was brought into the home and cleaning was done by brushing  and spot cleaning with damp clothes.

                               Allison Matthews David,     Bloomsbruy, London, 2015 

Then I retreated further into history reading Women of the Renaissance. Washing clothes ( and, apparently bodies) was undertaken once a month or so.  Those without house-hold help drew water from the city wells for washing.  Soap was made from lye and animal fats. Outer clothing was rarely washed but linen undergarments were "aired" after each wear.  Those that were washed were dried on patches of grass.  Linens dried on grass for up to 4 weeks resulted in permanent bleaching.

                                                    University of Chicago Press, 1991

Before there was access to city wells, laundry was taken down to the river for washing.  In rural areas the waters were probably fairly clean, especially those upstream from farms, but those near higher populations  were heavily contaminated as raw sewage was thrown out into the streets and washed away by rain ( into the the streams).

After all this research I have come to the conclusion that I am very fortunate to have a large white metal appliance into which I can put my laundry , add a soap pod, and push a button.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Synthetic Microfiber Pollution.

As Fibers Seep into Water, States Seek Warning Tags
    By Lindsey Rupp
    Bloomberg News

I have written before about the contents of the book “Fashion Victims” in which author Alison Matthews David  writes of the "dangers of dress, past and present".

I think many are not aware that there are dangers in the clothing we purchase and wear. Perhaps, we assume that care and warning labels are sufficient, although I would guess not many buyers are even aware they exist (unless they are scratchy, and then they are snipped from the garment).  Or it may be that the government with its thousands of protective concerns for us and the environment  may be cognizant of dangers and are actually doing something proactive (not that I believe that!)

I read the above article this morning and have never considered the problem of shedding microfibers.  It seems that researchers have been finding these synthetic escapees in our water supplies and are placing the blame on "garments made of polymer-based cloth" which, when washed, can actually shed as many as 1,900 fibers with each washing.  These tiny devils are less than 5 millimeters in length and are not filtered by your washing machine nor water filtration plants.  They are known to have been found in sea water and aquatic life, and you may not want to hear this, but are found in bottled water.  So much for the crystal clean water found only in the Rockies, or maybe France.

So what is being done about this pollution?  It seems as though 2 states, California and New York are proposing bills that would require a warning tag on all garments with more than 50% synthetic fiber content.  Of course, this approach has not been endorsed by the retail manufacturing industry.  Not that it would be an inducement to return to natural fiber clothing for the multitudes buying synthetic clothing.

There were listed 3 temporary solutions promoted by the advocacy group, 5Gyres Institute.
              Firstly, wash you clothing less.  It is true we go a bit overboard with cleanliness, grabbing      our alcohol-based hand cleansers at every opportunity but I shutter to think of that effect on my yoga class.
               Secondly, use a front-loading washing machine (why this is better, I don’t know) but they are much more efficient and use much less water per load.
                Thirdly, there are, somewhere on the market, additional filters that can be added to your machine to catch microfibers.  But then, what do you do with them once they have been captured?

Knowing a problem exists is only the beginning and I doubt the person who tosses (no recycling!) plastic water bottles everywhere and drinks with plastic straws would even care, after all the fibers are only 5 millimeters long!!