Thursday, December 2, 2010

Vinegar, a Winning Solution

Answers are sometimes found along convoluted paths. Occasionally, if we're really fortunate, those answers travel with friends. Plain white vinegar was just such a result I discovered.

For years, hubby has suffered with a persistent case of eczema, the after effect of plaster casts. He found no ointment to ease the symptoms. Dietary changes had no significant effect. Altering hygiene practices did little to lessen irritation. It seemed he would just have to live with it.

One day, while discussing this issue with my mother, she told me she had stopped using liquid fabric softeners because they were irritating my father's skin. A light bulb came on. Could this be contributing to hubby's problem? Following her example, I switched from liquid softener to dryer sheets and it seemed to help. Hubby's eczema diminished, but it didn't disappear entirely. Winter, the worst season with the wearing of close-fitting long-johns and brutal weather conditions, still aggravated it. I kept searching.

A girlfriend had once mentioned her love of "dryer balls," how eco-friendly they are and how well they soften and fluff fabrics. Always on the look-out for thrifty and ecologically-conscious methods and products, I wanted to try them but, at that time, was unable to find any. Months later, I finally found a set and was impressed by their reasonable price and how well they worked. Better yet, hubby's eczema occurred rarely once I replaced dryer sheets with them.

Then we moved. Cache Creek's water has a much higher mineral content than Vulcan's and soon our laundry showed signs of it. Fabrics felt courser, colours appeared duller, and fibres flattened. Worse, the eczema began acting up again. Something had to be done but having quit commercial fabric softeners I was reluctant to use them again. Aside from the environmental aspects, the possibility they might aggravate hubby's problem kept me searching for other, more natural laundry rinse agents.

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That search led me to vinegar. Would it really work? Certainly it was more cost-effective than using commercial fabric softeners. I'd often used vinegar for other cleaning and disinfecting purposes, but never thought to add it to laundry. Still, I hesitated, unsure if our clothes and linens would smell like pickles. Realizing the laundry could be re-washed, if need be, I gave vinegar a try.

What a find! With the very first wash, fibres of our favourite bathroom linens loosened and, folded, they had plumped to nearly double the fullness they had before using vinegar. Colours brightened and bedding felt soft and inviting again. Happily, no garments smelled like condiments. From that point on, only white vinegar and those dandy little dryer balls soften our laundry and control static cling – yes, for some reason, vinegar helps control that, too. As the foul weather blusters in, we watch and wait. For more than a month, hubby's worn long-johns and has been working in cold winter weather, yet his shins remain free of irritation. This may finally be the long-sought solution...pardon the pun.

My search to alleviate hubby's eczema began with single-minded purpose. I wasn't particularly seeking thrift or environmentally friendliness when starting the journey. Those dividends were simply travelling companions of the answer discovered down a long and winding trail.