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Greening Your Wash

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a blog by marie lee, Jan. 21, 2010

You need to wash your clothes. You should wash your clothes. In fact, you HAVE TO wash your clothes. Especially, when they are new. My friend who writes the enormously popular Green Babies organic blog warned me about all the crap they put on clothes to make them look brighter and more attractive in the store. Ready? Some special shiny “sizing” stuff which makes them fold better; pesticides if they are going to sit in the warehouse a long time; formaldehyde. She said this even happens with organic stuff, as once it leaves the factory, there’s not a lot of control. So wash up!

Now, laundry. My Chinese acupuncturist told me about these weird nuts they used to wash clothes when he was growing up. Then, I received some samples (per FTC disclosure rules, I received the samples for free) of something called Maggie’s Soap Nuts, and my doctor said, yep, those are the ones. The nuts are these little marble-shooter-sized things that are sticky with sap. You put four in a little cloth bag and toss is in the wash. I was skeptical at first — those little nuts? Where’s the foam, the strong smells, etc. -- there was none. Of course, all that stuff comes from CHEMICALS.

Amazingly, the clothes are not only clean, but they smell great. And the nuts are so gentle, I’ve used them on silk and wool with no problem.

On to drying. What could be wrong with a dryer? Actually, several things. Some experts claim that drying clothes outside in sunlight naturally disinfects them, while the dryer raises the heat enough that things like e.coli survive on the clothes (which is why I use paper towels and NOT the hand dryers in restrooms).

More importantly, though, dryers emit positive ions, which can make you feel weird and stressed. An accumulation of positive ions naturally (e.g., the Santa Ana winds) can make people go a bit crazy. The opposite of positive ions, of course, are negative ions, and they make you feel nice and calm. Hanging your clothes outside encourages negative ions and, at the very least, avoids the positive ones.

This is true particularly with synthetic fabrics (which you shouldn’t be wearing, anyway!). Notice these clothes in the dryer have an icky staticky feel, while clothes dried outside seem very stress free. Even in the winter, we use a huge laundry rack, set up in the warmest part of the house, and dry some (admittedly not all) of our clothes.

So what’s my New Year’s wish/resolution about my wash? Yes, I have one: Get a whole house water filter to keep chemicals out of the wash.

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