Posts filed under ‘cleaning’

Green Clothes Part I – a long lasting wardrobe

 

Photo: Nicky’s Eye View

No matter how many discussions we have about the benefits of buying green vs buying nothing, there is one thing that widely agreed on: the greenest garments are the ones you already have [TH]. The less stuff you buy, the better for the environment. (Yeah, that’s right, screw the economy, I am NOT here to serve you, so no, I DO NOT have the obligation of spending my money to make you sure you capitalists get fat off the backs of the poor.)

Therefore, I am going to start my Green Clothes series with how we can extract the most life of the stuff that is already in our closet. This means making it last as long as possible, and delay the dreaded moment when your favorite shirt makes you look like a scrub. Personally speaking, I am a very fussy shopper, so I need to absolutely love anything I buy, as well as be convinced that the piece in question makes me look good and passes my quality inspection (part II). So you can be sure that the moment I realize that I can’t wear my favorite sweater anymore because it looks like I stole it from a homeless person is a heartbreaking one. (And my hope is that I realize it before anyone else does, but who knows).

The first thing you must know is that your clothes’ #1 enemy is you wearing them. They get worn, deformed, stretched, pilled, dirty, stained and just plain old. But I have a solution for you. Ready? Take your clothes off! No, really! Take off your clothes as soon as you get home. Slip into something more comfortable *wink wink*. Relax. For example, you can promote some of the stuff you can no longer wear in public to ‘house clothes’.

Consider the benefits:

  • No grease stains (and smells) on your work outfit
  • No tomato sauce on your white shirt
  • Less dirty clothes means you need to wash less
  • No trying to get your pet’s angora off your pants
  • No pulled threads/ruined pantyhose from kitty claws

And here are some other gentle wearing tips:

  • Don’t put stuff in your pockets, namely, cellphones, wallets and hands. Deformed pockets are one of the first things that makes coats unwearable.
  • If you wear a purse or bag of sorts, don’t wear the strap across your body. You’ll notice that the friction leaves pilling and chafing marks on your shirts/sweaters. Those marks get ugly really fast.
  • Also avoid labels from your top layers chafing against your inner layers. (Personally, I cut the labels off, but keep them for the care instructions).
  • In the colder weather you may also want to wear an undershirt or t-shirt under a shirt or a sweater, it’s warmer and means you don’t need to wash shirts/sweaters as often.

Let’s move on to clothes’ enemy #2! As you may guess, enemy #2 is washing. Washing is BAD, using energy, water and detergent, as well as wearing out your much loved stuff, so you should do it as little as possible. By the way, did you know that most of the environmental impact of clothing comes from washing and drying? Of course I am not suggesting that everyone start walking around in dirty clothes. I am just saying you should keep the washing down to when its really necessary.

Personally, I identify laundry by smell (unless I made a mess out of myself with tomato sauce or something, which sometimes happens too). I normally don’t sweat very much, so I wear skin-contact tops and shirts and such for about 4-5 times, pants a little more, about 5-7 times. If you always wear sweaters and knits over something else, you probably don’t need to wash them at all, if you are lucky enough to avoid stain incidents and don’t cook dinner in your favorite cardigan. The same goes for skirts. I hardly wash my skirts, maybe few times a year. I do have to wash my sweaters a little more often than I would like.

Now before you dismiss me as a ‘European’ or someone who clearly never went to a smoky bar and came out smelling like cigarette butts, here is what you should know: the trick is hanging your smoky or stuffy clothes on a hanger out on the balcony, in the wind and sun. Leave them during the day, and they will smell as fresh as when you last washed them (Do I sound like a Febreeze commercial? Sorry…) No, really. You just have to try it, it really works.

So trust me on this, let your nose tell you if you can wear that again, and hang it outside if you want to freshen it up. Don’t forget, if you wear your ‘house clothes’ at home, you can wear your office clothes a few more times before you need to wash them. And be sure you always hang up or fold away the ‘re-wear’ stuff. If you pile everything on a chair, the psychological effect will be that the pile is dirty, even if its not.

Washing Photo: stevec77

More washing tips:

  • Wash garments inside out
  • Use wash bags to protect undies and other delicate items
  • If you get a stain, rinse it and give it a little hand wash if necessary. Machine washing does nothing to dry stains
  • Don’t use softener. Besides being nasty by itself, softener coats the fibers and decreases their longevity. Many people recommend a spoon of vinegar in the rinse cycle, but I never tried it. I just don’t use anything. (a little more on this later)
  • Separate darks from lights, to avoid the classic pink shirt.
  • Don’t use bleach. Some fabrics can’t be bleached even with non-chlorine bleach.
  • Use an appropriate temperature to what you are washing and to how dirty it is. I know cold-washing is the green thing to do, but there is nothing green in a cold-wash followed by another cold or even warm wash because you realized that everything is still dirty
  • And finally, this one is a little blasphemous so use at own risk: some dry-clean only items can be hand-washed very carefully. Basically just wiggle it a little (very little) in cold water with some delicate detergent like Ecover and rinse by wiggling a little more in clean water (change 1-2 times). Don’t wring or twist, just lightly squeeze the water out from the flat fabric. Dry flat.

So now we move on to enemy #3: Drying. Now drying is as evil as it gets for your clothes, as well as for CO2. If you notice, most clothes, and ALL delicate ones, will have a “do not tumble dry” sign on the label. The heat is very damaging to everything, but cotton normally handles it a little better. But it still lasts less, as opposed to shrinking on the spot like wool. Air dry. Use a clothes line, drying rack or even shower curtain rod, whatever strikes your fancy.

Partial Rainbow Photo: tillwe

Useful tips (from someone who never used a drier, EVER)

  • Drying in the sun is great and all, but if you do, dry inside out. The sun discolors fabrics.
  • Listen carefully, because here is the secret of soft clothes without drier or softener: do not overdry. Big mistake. That is the very cause of cardboard stiff jeans off the line. I can’t really describe it better than this: clothes should not feel wet, but should feel cold to the touch. A little moisture should still be left but not too much.
  • If you are going to iron them, then they should be a little more on the moist side. It’s easier to iron and you can use a lower temperature and no steam.
  • Be careful with delicates. Wool and easily deformable fabrics need to dry flat, in which case you should lay it on a towel somewhere. Other things do just as well on a hanger, if not better. Sometimes lengthwise stretching actually works to your advantage, to counter a little shrinking. Drying on a hanger also prevents the line mark and sometimes, even the need to iron.
  • By the way, if you are new to air drying, you may be faced with the situation where you just did a load of laundry, but realized that you don’t have the time or disposition to hang it up. Don’t leave the laundry in the washing machine for more than 12 hours. It gets all musty and stinky and you’ll have to wash it again. Try to time your laundry so that you can hang it right away.

Green Clothes Photo: Ninette Luz

Speaking of ironing, as you must have seen this coming, ironing is, of course, enemy #4. Basically, if you must iron, do it on the lowest temperature that gets the job done, even if you need to use a little more muscle power. Another trick I like is the hanger in the shower, works well for shirts, skirts and tops, etc. The steam gets rid of most of the wrinkles for you. Folding tightly also works on cotton T’s for example, among other things. Also, if you are ironing something for the 1st time, especially with synthetic fibers, do a little test on an inside seam. Just to make sure you don’t end up with a big hole on something brand new. If doubt persists, iron through a sheet or something of the sort.

So there. That’s about all you need to know about making your wardrobe last. You can probably tell that I learned most of this stuff the hard way. But now you don’t have to make the same mistakes I did. Do you have any more tips? Feel free to leave them in the comments!

Further Reading:

How to Green Your Wardrobe

Eco-Tip: Choosing Green Clothing

Ten Ways to Ensure Long Life for your Clothing

Coming up: Part II – Green Shopping for Quality

 

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September 6, 2007 at 1:22 pm 47 comments

It rubs the lotion on its skin

I used to be a really high maintenance chick. I did. At some point, I had at least one different product for each body part, if not more. Let’s see, day cream, night cream, eye cream, hand cream, foot cream, one body lotion for arms and legs and another for the rest, special anti-cellulite cream (yeah, you can imagine how well that works). Body scrub, facial cleanser, sunscreen, perfume, make up, nail polish, not to mention shower gel, shampoo, conditioner, special tips serum, and of course, deodorant and toothpaste. Now I don’t know how “It” ever had the patience to rub all that crap on its skin.

I just got lazy. And I can’t alienate how nasty that stuff is anymore. Or maybe I just got me a one-way ticket to hippie-land. Next I will stop showering and using deodorant and grow rastas and wear tie-die clothes (kinda like this guy) and chant (but not around a fire because that emits CO2). Hmm… Naaaah! But my I think my boyfriend sometimes actually worries about this possibility.

In the meantime, I stopped using most of that stuff and slowly but surely started replacing my nasty products with greener ones. I only use the make up and perfume when I have social special occasions. I stopped ‘cleansing’ my face and didn’t notice any hostile acne takeovers. I stopped moisturizing and my skin is not scaling off yet. And I only put on some face lotion before I got out because of the SPF. I have to say, I stopped using a whole bunch of things and didn’t notice any difference at all.

I also started replacing the main stuff I use with their greener versions, mostly from these guys, mainly because I can find them at my organic shop at a reasonable price. But their stuff is pretty good, especially if you consider their extremely short and simple ingredient lists. I have to admit, their lotions are not the best smelling out there, but their lack of nasties totally makes up for that. In fact, after a while I actually came to like the ‘natural’ smell and started to strongly dislike the smell of conventional products. So far, I’m quite happy with natural toothpaste, lotion, and even shampoo and conditioner.

And I know how controversial shampoo can be. But I think that maybe the persistence is the key to the great shampoo drama. When I first got my natural shampoo, I have to say, I hated it for the first wash or two. It didn’t lather well and left my hair all dull and just overall horrible. But I am a cheap-ass so I just kept using it, and lo and behold, after a week it looked as good as ever. Now I want to decrease the washes from every other day to every 2 days. Once a week would be a dream, but I have to say that I am still a little skeptical of the whole no poo thing. I even tried it once, but that didn’t quite work out for me. And I know there are folks out there that are all about the soda and vinegar thing, but I don’t think I’m quite there yet. So I’ll just stick with my all-natural pooing for now.

Next I want to replace my paraben-laden deodorant, possibly with a solid one from lush. I was also thinking of trying their solid shampoo, but I don’t like the propylene glycol in them. I know there is SLS in it, but if Treehugger says SLS is innocent, I believe them. Ah, maybe I’ll try it anyway.

Oh, and on a related theme, I also changed to an eco-brand of dish washing liquid and I like it a lot more than the conventional one. It works just as good but it doesn’t leave nasty chemical smells on the frying pans like the other one did.

Photo by ktpupp on Flickr.

July 19, 2007 at 12:40 pm 8 comments

Reusable Vacuum Bags

cloth vacuum bagsSo, ok, I know I said I wasn’t going to buy anymore ‘things for the house’. But I went on my usual Wednesday shopping round, and stopped by Action because I was looking to buy some cheap gardening containers. I know that I shouldn’t be shopping at Action, because their stuff is just so ridiculously cheap that there is no doubt they are enslaving little Chinese children to make it. I mean, there is just no other rational explanation for why they can sell stuff so cheap.

But anyway, I didn’t find the flower pots, but I couldn’t resist getting a reusable vacuum bag. I mean, it was ONLY 1E!!! Who can resist that? And I just thought the idea was so funny that I thought I just had to try it out!

This picture gives a pretty good idea of what I got. The material is really crappy synthetic nylon type, with a zipper at the bottom to throw out the trash. The little white circle has is a sticker which you glue to the cardboard fitting that you take of your regular bags. That’s why the box claims it is a Universal vacuum bag. What I didn’t manage to figure out was what the hell the round thing with the sticker is attached to the opening with a Velcro. Anyone?

So I still have to try out if this thing actually works, and then I’ll get back to you. It looks promising, but for that price you can understand why I will have to see it to believe it before I can say anything about how it works. Clearly, not something for the prone to asthma to try 😀

The picture from here, where they are happy to sell them to you for 9,99$. Can’t be sure if it’s the same thing though. Has anyone heard of these?

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Edit:Duh! I figured out what the Velcro was for. Is pretty clever, actually! You leave the cardboard attachment in the vacuum and just take off the bag to empty it, and attach it with Velcro! That’s obvious! I can be pretty dim sometimes, huh?

June 20, 2007 at 5:05 pm 10 comments

Clogs

No clogs, please!

 Ok, not that kind of clogs… 😀

Just two weeks into our sustainable lifestyle and we are already faced with a potentially toxic situation. The shower drain is clogged… again. Last time I used a sodium hydroxide declogger, which as you can imagine, is downright nasty. Now that we are all sustainable and all, that can’t be our choice option.

The problem with our shower drain is that it’s not possible to open it and remove the nastiness manually, so we do have to resort to some sort of declogger. So before I resorted to our old trusted caustic stuff I thought I might try this recipe, with baking soda and white vinegar, washed down with boiling water. Yeah, I tried it… So much for that, I noticed a little bit  of an effect but the bottom line is, we still got clogs (or clog).

Tomorrow its back to the store get the caustic stuff… It’s a pity grandmas old trusted soda fell through, and not just literally. It was worth a try.

Clogs courtesy of travelingbelgian on Flickr.

April 11, 2007 at 12:41 am 7 comments


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