Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Less is more (Belated Blog Action Day Post)

Hi all. So as any of you who actually know me are aware, I am a costume designer and a wardrobe mistress and a seamstress. As a wardrobe mistress/dresser I am a glorified laundress/butler/nanny/personal assistant. It's not exactly the glamorous side of show biz, but it pays the rent better than the designing part does. On a typical show I end up washing anywhere from two to ten loads of laundry, yes I said Ten loads of laundry (each day). So after about eight years of employment where at least half of the time I am on a Wardrobe crew I've become pretty good at laundry and stain busting... and avoiding ironing when possible.

The chemicals that we use every day including our soaps and cleaning products effect our health and the environment's health so I try to keep my washrooms as "green" as possible. So here are my top tips for keeping your laundry room as healthy as possible

1. Concentrate;
When buying liquids always consider how much of it is water. I like to purchace concentrated products to reduce the amount of water that is being trucked around the country, thus reducing carbon impact and saving shelf space.
My favorite products are;
Simple Green, All Free & Clear concentrated, Liquid starch (not the spray can)

2. Less is more;
Never use as much soap, or OxyClean or fabric softener as the bottle tells you to. I find that using about 2/3 to 1/2 of the company's reccomendation gets everything just as clean if not a little cleaner. Remember, the soap companies are making more money with the more soap that you use. By using less you are saving money, saving gas and saving excess suds going down the drain. Using a laundry-soap enhancer like OxyClean (which I fully endorse) or Borax will make your smaller amount of soap more effective, but the rule is true to the enhancer as well; use less than the company reccomends.

3. Invest in Spray bottles
It's always cheaper to buy in bulk and refill a bottle. In my laundry room I have the following spray bottles;
* Folex Carpet Cleaner-- a "non-toxic" product that works as an all purpose stain treater for everything including grease, stage blood, tomato products, stage make-up and rust, sold at OSH hardware stores (WAY better than Shout)
* Simple Green-- also a good stain treatment (if coupled with some elbow grease and baking soda) and the best surface cleaner I have.
* Vinegar-- yes just straight Vinegar. It helps get rid of iron burns, protine stains and works as a non-toxic glass/mirror cleaner.
* Starch/Water-- it's the old fashioned way of starching, involves a lot less waste than the cans and gets everything much more crisp than spray cans do, I can't believe it took me as long as it did to try it.
* Water-- for ironing and cleaning with. Sometimes dirt doesn't really need much cleaning product at all, just let it soak in some water if it's not a grease or protein stain.
* Liquid fabric Softener/water (a 1:6 dilution)-- I think that Downey sells a bottle of "wrinkle relase" formula for about $5 a bottle, and this is essentially all that it is. I use it to help with steaming and static cling.
*Vodka-- This is an OLD wardrobe trick that comes from Russia's Bolshoi Ballet. Vodka has the miraculous properties of not staining clothes (as isopropyl and rubbing alchohol do) while disinfecting them and making them less stinky. Most wardrobe people prefer Vodka to Febreeze (which mostly masks odor)-- use REALLY Cheap Vodka.

4. Other favorite Cleaning products;
Aside from what I have already mentioned I would like to add;
* Baking Soda-- a good deodorizer to add to the wash, also works as an abrasive for hard to scrub out stains and counters.
* Ivory Soap-- if you're out of laundry soap you can shave it into the washing machine. It works as a stain pre-treat, just get it a litte wet and rub it in (yet again better than Shout).
*The Sun-- hanging things out on the line makes whites whiter, shrinking minimal, gets rid of mildew and Saves energy ( you can make the best of global warming and not contrubute to it)

5. Less Aerosols!
The Health effects of Aerosols isn't something that is published in popular media in the US especially because of how much of our economy is run by corporations. However it seems logical that the aerosol cans are mostly air and when they're spent are dangerous additions to landfills. Ingredients are not listed on most cans, but a little research into their Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) will tell you what is in it.
Check www.msds.com for information on ingredents and known health effects of just about any product you use.
Many products contain metals that can't be healthy to breath in and aerosols produce tiny particles that are easy to breathe in.

***I am strongly against Static Guard. It is mostly alchohol, but 30% of it is propane, butane and Dimethyl ditallow ammonium chloride, which when introduced to water (through leaky landfills or just from evaporation) peaks acid rain production, and kills plankton even from very small doses... I digress greatly but basically there are a lot of complex cleaning products full of ingredients that we are often unaware of.
Instead of Static Guard use a 6:1 concentration of water to fabric softener, or even better a 5:1 concentration of water to vinegar with a few drops of your favorite essential oil to get rid of the vinegar smell.

Well, thank you for reading this far (it's been a long post), I hope it has been useful.

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