Walden, and the dryer update

Well, I missed some posting there over the holidays – but it’s a new year, so off we go!

I borrowed Walden from the library recently, and have been enjoying it, though so far the first chapter (“Economy”) is still my favorite. He presents the values of simple living most clearly there, whereas the rest of the book so far (I’m not quite halfway through) seems more just musing around. Here’s a nice quote:

“I cannot believe that our factory system is the best mode by which men may get clothing. the conditions of the operatives is becoming every day more like that of the English; and it cannot be wondered at, since, as far as I have heard or observed, the principal object is, not that mankind may be well and honestly clad, but, unquestionably, that the corporations may be enriched. In the long run men hit only what they aim at. Therefore, though they should fail immediately, they had better aim at something high.”

If you’d like to read some Thoreau, his complete works are online as free PDFs through the Thoreau Institute at Walden Woods Digital Archive, and some of them are available in plain text at Project Gutenberg.

Dryer update: After a bit of experimentation, I seem to be able to get most of my clothing dry with 35 minutes of low heat. A few items (heavy things) may still be damp, but static electricity seems nonexistent, except for an occasional item. I’m going to try to minimize the synthetics in my wardrobe, which over time should cut down on the static in my life. I don’t think adding aluminum foil balls does anything, which I suppose makes sense since the inside of the dryer is metal, and that doesn’t dispel the static.

[formerly at http://www.colintedford.com/downpower/2008/01/02/walden-and-the-dryer-update/]

Doing the Laundry

Recently someone told me that dryer sheets contain toxic chemicals which stick to clothing, remaining in contact with the wearer and then getting washed into the water when laundered. Our current box of sheets only lists as ingredients “softening agents (cationic type)” and “perfumes”, so I don’t know what’s in them, but here are some relevant articles at Grinning Planet, Grist, Green Living Tips, and News Target, plus the Wikipedia entry on fabric softeners.

I’ve never been a big fan of dryer sheets, but used them to control static electricity. A little googling turned up some suggested alternatives. The first one I tried was putting a ball of aluminum foil in the dryer; I tried this once (with three foil balls) and it didn’t completely eliminate the static. Two other suggestions were to leave static-prone items out of the dryer; and to dry the load incompletely, hanging it to finish. I don’t have much space so I plan to combine the two, drying the load partially, hanging the static-prone items, and finishing the rest in the dryer. Supposedly adding 1/2 to 1 cup of vinegar to the rinse cycle will soften & eliminate static, but I’m holding off on that one.

Of course, it’s best to skip the dryer altogether when the weather’s warm enough. Clotheslines don’t use electricity or chemicals, don’t produce static electricity, and they make the clothes smell nice. Some neighborhood associations (the type more concerned with “property value” than community) ban clotheslines because they find them “unsightly”. What a narrow-minded, environmentally-destructive attitude! Hanging the wash is a totally homey, traditional American thing to do. Not only are these people indifferent to the Earth, but clearly they hate America.

[formerly at http://www.colintedford.com/downpower/2007/12/12/doing-the-laundry/]