Refuse to create refuse:  What's That Smell?


For the Monitor

Published: 09-02-2023 11:00 AM

This series of articles is about reducing our impact on the environment by reducing or avoiding single use products that, once used, are thrown away. Away where? Mostly to landfills or roadsides. So this week let's tackle some “disposable” household products that the advertisers are sure we need and that, thinking environmentally, we don't. Besides reducing clutter and their other disadvantages, we'll save some money.

“Fresh” seems to be the word the advertisers push for our homes and our laundry. No one likes an unpleasant odor but I wonder if we have been brain washed by Proctor and Gamble? I know a woman who is constantly buying those plug-in perfume emitters for her home but she keeps the home so clean, no odor has a chance to develop. It's an expense she could readily skip and avoid needing to constantly replace them.

A University of Massachusetts study (found on the internet) suggests eliminating odors by first eliminating the source of the odor if possible, e.g. empty the kitchen trash can more often, dehumidify the basement, empty the kitty litter, etc.

Then the study recommends increasing the ventilation by opening windows and using exhaust fans. Opening windows really works, especially if it's windy. It has more than once saved me after burning something on the stove. Third, maintain the HVAC system, fourth, cleaning and vacuuming (dust retains and emits unpleasant odors if left too long), and lastly, use an air purifier, expecially one with a HEPA filter. NOWHERE does the study recommend an air spray or fragrance stick.

Checking with my niece who houses two medium sized dogs, she recommends regular dog baths, washable furniture covers along with an air purifier. This has meant her house is free of that distinctive dog smell. No perfumes needed!

In the laundry room we meet other purported “must-haves” to guarantee that all important fresh smell. They are of course the scented detergent and dryer sheets. There is much eye-rolling here when I see that ad with the woman removing clothes from the dryer and there is a cloud of green representing the not-fresh smell of her just washed and dried clothes. I suppose this might happen if she stuffed too many items into the washer so none of them got enough exposure to the soapy water but in my experience, washed and dried clothes smell clean. They don't need to be perfumed by a disposable dryer sheet. Also, scented or unscented, they are made of polyester and made to be thrown away. This is not what the earth needs, and by the way, not what your laundry or your dryer need. According to a website called appliance center, the softening ingredients in the Bounce or Snuggle or what-have-you will build up on towels making them less absorbent and build up on the dryer sensors interfering with the dryer's ability to dry.

All this is to say, there is not much, if anything, to recommend spending on these products and tossing them in the trash after use. What is clean is not odorous. Avoiding single-use products is the goal for a healthier environment for all of us.


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