Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Why your sheets and towels smell "off"

Sorting clothes to wash today, I got to thinking about a mystery I investigated before I had this blog. I've noticed every time I go back home to Seattle after I've been gone for more than a few days, our home smells both familiar and strange to me. All the pleasant (and unpleasant) smells of the house become ordinary so quickly that only an abrupt change really stands out (someone cooking, something spoiled in the trash). But one good thing stands out: our house never smells like dirty laundry. One of the things I noticed about twenty years ago when I first combined a big household with someone else, is that when we first put together all our household linens
into the cabinet, not only did we have a lot more than we really needed, but the ones that were rarely used were really stale-smelling, like they'd been put back in the closet unwashed (even though I knew that wasn't so). After we did a downsizing (animal shelters LOVE old towels, by the way) it was marginally better. As a sorter at a thrift store, I used to be horrified by the stink of donated sheets and pillowcases and things which were otherwise clearly clean - clothes, too. How does it happen? Enter Science, of course, because I love to track down the how & why of what I do. This article has the answer in a reader-friendly format:

I changed the way I did laundry then, and it's been working for me ever since. Also, now that I wash towels only with items without zippers, I've had no problems with those annoying snags that make them look crappy, either. Most everyone way overestimates the amount of soap you need for a wash. Then they cram as much stuff as possible into the machine, because they need it done now and they don't want to do two loads if they can make it fit in one. They don't sort by color or type (women are equally guilty of this, it's not just boys putting bath mats in with dress shirts, I assure you) so everything looks dull gray in time. And their clothes and linens wear out or get icky long before they should. I'm not going to get into the economics of having to replace your stuff all the time because it wasn't properly cared for, but just the mental drag of living with worn-out things or wondering if your things are stinky when you have guests isn't good for anyone.

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