Friday, May 18, 2007

washing soda

Washing and Hoping

On a recent warm spring evening, the Green Man merrily( sautéed local skate while wearing an unbleached linen camp shirt made in Hawaii. After dinner, the shirt smelled powerfully of fish, but the Green Man refused to consign it to the washing machine, which, he argued, drains the life essence of his favorite things. “You may turn up your nose at skate, but it’s not dirty,” he said. “Besides, washing machines use so much energy that you’re not green if you wash your clothes after wearing them only once.”

True, I said, but what about the brown stain in the vicinity of his navel? His face drooped. “The brown butter,” he said.

“Actually,” I said, “this is an old chocolate stain.”

“Then it’s hopeless,” he said mournfully.

“No. Give it to me,” I said, and put it in the bathroom sink. Wearing rubber gloves I scrubbed the shirt with a paste of washing soda and cold water. Like bleach, washing soda is caustic and can burn skin, but unlike chlorine bleach it doesn’t give off fumes that can irritate the eyes and respiratory tract; chlorine bleach can also form toxic organochlorines in waterways. In two minutes the spot was gone. “Wash it in cold water and the machine will use 90 percent less electricity. And remember to put in a full load so we don’t waste energy,” I said.

He looked worried. “The washing soda won’t hurt the other clothes?”

“No. It’ll just brighten them a bit.”

“You’re awesome,” he said.

“So was the skate,” I said, and without further ado we began sorting the laundry together.

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