BeingGreen: Green Clothes.

February 27, 2009

Clothes can be both very easy and very difficult to green.  Easy to obtain – while new clothes may not be easy to get organic, pre-owned clothes are green regardless of how they were made.  Hard to keep that way – clothes are tenacious little pieces, difficult to make effectively clean without chemical-based detergents.  Without a squirt of dish soap, body oil causes clothes to smell foul after a few weeks of storage.  White clothes – at least the way we use them – do not come out white without plenty of bleach (read more about the lack of green decolorizers in Green Stain Removal).

Even commercial detergents, when made from environmentally-friendly products, are usually less effective than their toxic counterparts.  Those that aren’t can be higher-priced.  Care2 has a pretty good article on various green soaps and their pros and cons.   One exception is Arm & Hammer’s baking soda-based detergent, which we’re currently using out of frugality more than green intent.  It’s working well so far, but long-term tests are in order to determine its effects on stains, oil, and those white clothes.

Speaking of those white clothes…

Many of the things we bleach (such as towels) we do so not because we like them to look good, but for health reasons.  Wet towels and rags become quick homes for bacteria, which cause a foul stench and, I presume, unhealthy build-up in the linens.  For this reason, chlorine bleach is used to nix the bacteria.  I think it’s a fair trade-off, though I will look into alternate ways to keep our cloths safe and good-smelling.

So… head’s a bit fuzzy.  I’ve been spending too much time in the Blogosphere and it’s having an effect on my lecturing ability.  To wrap up:

  • Buying green clothes is easy: hit a thrift store.  As long as the fabric isn’t a complete environmental menace, you’ll be saving an enormous strain on resources.
  • For green cleaning of clothes, Seventh Generation and Arm & Hammer are said to be the best.
  • For stain and mildew… just bleach ’em, or start experimenting for a better solution.  I’ll get into that as soon as I have a bit more liberty – my mother runs the laundry scene, and she tends to get torqued if something turns out wrong.

Finally, remember to use the most scientifically effective method of filling your washing machine: fill machine, add soap, add clothes.  In that order.  The soap is better distributed through the water, so it cleans more evenly (and, we presume, effectively.)

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