Dirty Laundry

Dirty Laundry                  Sordida lauandi

roman pee pot

Some of today’s dry cleaners have been moving from the chemically based process to greener methods.  But be careful, and don’t be fooled. They may use a petroleum product which can also be construed as organic because petrol is a natural product.  If you are staying away from dry cleaning and washing clothing yourself, there are still hazardous elements to be aware of in your detergents.

Selecting a detergent requires you to do some homework.  Detergents (even some listed as natural) can be loaded with other potentially dangerous chemicals, such as Sodium laurel sulfate (SLS) – a foaming agent linked to skin irritation, Dioxane – carcinogenic product incorporated into many manufacturing process and is not required to be listed on product labels, Linear Alky Benzene Sulfonates (LAS) – benzene is a potential cancer causing agent,  petrol chemicals – linked to cancer, phenols- cause bodily toxicity, phosphates – trigger increases in green algae growth, and ethylene diamine tetraacetic acid (EDTA) – causes reproductive and developmental effects, and nonylphenol ethoxylate (NPE) – causes liver and kidney damage and biodegrades into more toxic substances.

Canada and Europe have already banned nonylphenol ethoxylate (NPE).  The Sierra Club has petitioned the EPA to regulate NPE.  This chemical found in many laundry detergents has now also been found in freshwater, groundwater, sediment and soil.  We need to be aware of how we expose ourselves and our families to potentially toxic chemicals on a regular basis, which eventually flows downstream and is released it into our environment, perhaps leaching back into our groundwater and aquifers one day.

Only a product indicating that it is 100% non-toxic and 100% biodegradable with all plant based elements can provide you with clean and green laundry process.   Use common sense tactics such as only washing full loads, wear your clothes more than once, use concentrated versions of your cleaning agent (or make a natural cleaning agent on your own), and if you are in need of softening, add ½ cup vinegar to the load.   And hang it out to dry and simply avoid dry cleaning services.  Unless you want to launder like the ancient Romans did.

In ancient roman times, dry cleaners were called fullers, and they were a vital part of an urban community because individual homes did not have the ability to do laundry.  The roman clothing Roman clothing was made of natural fibers (mostly woolen fabric measuring 10×20 feet), was light in color (demanding more washing), and wool worn in a hot climate is going to require more frequent washing.  The fullers also treated new clothing, smoothing and polishing the cloth, once it was finished on the loom.  They employed nitrum, pumice and urine – but mostly urine. Urine is sterile and contains ammonia, which is a natural whitener.

The business of being a laundrymen would include setting out and collecting your jars which might be placed along the front of your shop.  Anyone could contribute as need be.  The laundrymen might even go around collecting urine pots, but careful not to take the ones outside of a tavern as that was low in nitrogen, which is a chemical needed to properly wash the fabric.  This laundry process became so lucrative that the emperors Nero and Vespasian imposed a urine tax.

The Romans utilized urine for other things. They tanned leather with it, and they even brushed their teeth with it.  Eeew! -but true!



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