Sunday, May 4, 2008

A Rose by Any Other Name Would Smell Like Fabric Softener

I realize that laundry scent is a preference that is largely personal, formed in us from our childhood. The laundry detergent people use can be traced back to the bottle that sat on a shelf in their mother's laundry room. There seems to be little rhyme or reason to it and I don't think I know of anyone who has ever changed.

On summer nights or sunny weekend mornings, P and I can often smell the thick, faux-floral scent of fabric softener wafting from drier vents throughout the neighborhood. In this diffused way, I can almost enjoy the way fabric softener smells. But it's the only way.

You see, I buy most of my kids' clothing used. Ebay, garage sales, second-hand kids' clothing stores--I could write a book on how to satisfy a desire for quality kids' clothing on a modest budget (see my next book, "How to Dress Your Kids in Hanna Andersson on a Faded Glory Budget"). The biggest downfall to this practice has got to be the pervasive smell of fabric softener. It is everywhere, thickly coating the very fibers of every adorable piece of children's clothing you find. On my more high-strung days, it drives me Up The Wall. It can be so difficult to get the smell out of the clothes. I've found I have to wash the clothes in Tide (unscented--ha!) and then hang them up on the clothes line outside for a few hours. Lately I've come across some items that are particularly heavy with the smell (or the smell has gotten stale while the clothes have been in storage-yuck) and I'll have to wash and hang dry again. What a process.

I think the problem lies in my understanding and experience. I am not used to scented clothes. My own mother's nose was as sensitive as any police K-9 (luckily I never got into any smelly mischief as a teenager) and she had a strong aversion to laundry additives. Also, as an adult, I look at bottles of Downy sitting on the store shelf and think, "I have to pay money for something that does what exactly?" It seems unnecessary. Also, if I want to smell like something pretty, I'll put on perfume.

I may be alone in this. Goodness knows that if you're going to go by the contents of most garage sales or second-hand clothing stores I am certainly in the minority. It seems like Most People adore that giggly Downy bear and often wish that he would fling himself on a pile of their clean towels. But personally, the little Bear of Softness gives me a headache.


David Reber said...

S, It is interesting that we often do things without question. There's a place in the washer to put fabric softener so we do it.

I think you are right though, why do we need fabric softener. I've never done laundry without it. I don't know what my laundry would be like without it. Marketing has conditioned my brain to buy it and consume it and so I have been a disciplined consumer and have done as told. I purchase scented detergent, the blue stuff and those expensive little sheets. Wow, I'm really bad.

Don't tell The Red Head, but I am going to try a little test to see if she notices the difference.

-The Laundry Guy-

Angoraknitter said...

I so understand! I washed clothes in my MIL's washer over a month ago, but didn't even use fabric softener...didn't matter, the clothes picked it up from the machine. But I use Charlies soap, so one washing back at home was all it took.

I'm curious though, did the dresses have any sent? It's hard to tell since I'm used to "our"

Saly said...

Hi- I came over fromw Swistle's....I feel the same way. My mother had a very sensitive nose; only used unscented dryer sheets. My MIL douses her clothes in fabric softener. I also use unscented to avoid going over the edge.

Anonymous said...

You are not alone.
I am soooo like you, only much older.
Tips on gently used finery: Wash and add NO laundry soap. add baking soda or vinegar to cut the soap left in the clothes. Hang outside for days. Then bring in and wash and dry in your own method. 100 % cotton does not retain scent as badly as synthetics.
Very sensitive nose: Cannot stand outdoors when neighbors are washing.
Cher of Einefeistyberg