An Obsession With Washing

I am not about to confess a hitherto secret compulsion to wash obsessively. My obsession is firmly contained within my head and has yet to materialise into much productive output.

It all began when I looked at the label in my son’s new light grey sixth form trousers to discover that they were Dry Clean Only. I was so incensed that I overcame my inhibitions to ask about it openly at the Sixth Form Information Evening.

I came away feeling that I must be the only one a) ever to look at washing instructions and b) ever to have a had a washing disaster that has left me wary of ignoring them.

Although laundry is something that is undertaken in every household, it is not something that we often talk about. Maybe because it’s trivial. Or maybe because we all have secrets that we are unwilling to share. Normal people (that mythical group of people out there that excommunicated me a long time ago) seem to get rid of every stain with minimal effort. An average family does not seem to include children whose pens leak in their pockets, who spill ketchup at every meal, who go down the garden to find the cat in their socks or who let other children draw on their Tshirts in felt tip pen.

And then there is the added pressure of considering the environmental impact of the laundry product that we use. After doing some research into Ecover cleaning products last year, I switched to using their laundry products. Initially with some reservations.
Can a liquid that is less harmful to aquatic life really get my clothes clean?
Can a detergent without optical brighteners preserve the look of my clothes?
Is less foam really more effective?
The results? Nobody noticed any difference. Nobody complained. All smelt good. All looked fine. And as a family, we started to do our bit to clean up the oceans and save more fish.

So when my youngest son was sent home from school yesterday with a rash and I was asked if I had changed my washing powder recently, I was somewhat taken aback. Do people change their product of choice on a weekly basis? (Who knows, since no-one talks about it?) I do know some people who have never changed their washing powder. When friends pass on clothes that their children have grown out of, my children can recognise where they come from by the smell (pleasant you understand – I’m not looking to alienate all my friends in one go!) How many people are swayed by adverts promoting the new wonder product? How many ways are there of reinventing the wheel – powder, liquid, tablets, gel…..?

Although I have to admit to recently resorting to desperate measures. When my son joined a new rugby club with white shorts as part of the kit, we should have put a stop to it right there and made him find a different club. He handed me mud-caked shorts after the first training session with the words “Everyone else’s mums get them clean somehow.” Somehow? But how? Nothing seemed to work. I soaked and washed, soaked and washed, soaked and washed – at ever increasing temperatures with ever more potent miracle products. To no avail. I discovered there is no substitute for elbow grease. My mother would be proud of me armed with scrubbing brush.

I have strayed into the fantasy world of whiter than white and found it wanting. I have returned to a more natural world where plant-based products have less negative environmental impact. I have learnt to embrace the fact that my conscience is purer and whiter than my clothes. It matters far more in the long run.

Some people have strong views about laundry, it seems. Someone told me a certain product made their machine smell. It doesn’t make my machine smell. How can that be? Do products perform differently at different addresses? Or do some people stick their head in their washing machine more than I do?

There is certainly no excuse not to try an eco-friendly laundry product. There is plenty of choice out there. Different brands, different packaging. Powder, liquid, tablets, whatever suits you, even more traditional (but still eco-friendly!) options like Borax Substitute and Soda Crystals . A liquid for delicate fabrics, laundry bleach, fabric softener for more specific needs. Even soap nuts and eco balls for those ready to try something completely different.

Someone told me that eco balls are like Marmite – you either love them or you hate them. As for me, I don’t trust things I don’t understand – and I don’t understand eco balls. The good news is, this product comes with a 30 day money back guarantee, so like Marmite, we can try them and discover for ourselves if we are a lover or a hater. Like the lady I met at an orchestra rehearsal on Tuesday night (a real eco ball lover) we may end up saying “I wish I had discovered them years ago.”

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