The Cost of Permanent Press

mom laundryNobody would argue that people are busier than ever these days.  Between work, spouse, children, home and other commitments, there is more and more competition for our time.  And those companies that manufacture goods understand this and cater to the demands of convenience and ease.  But at what cost?

After WWII, many modern “conveniences” were invented so that Mom would have an easier time getting all of her household tasks done.  And one household task that most of these moms were all too eager to omit from their day was ironing.  But how could any Mom worth her salt send her darling husband and children off to work and school with clothes that weren’t freshly pressed?  Enter the age of permanent press clothing!

It used to be that you had to really read the tags to find “permanent press” on the label.  Today, these clothing items are readily available and, as long as clothes aren’t left in the dryer too long, most items don’t require any ironing whatsoever.

But while people are very happy with the convenience and the time savings, they rarely even question how it is that these clothes are permanent press in the first place.  The answer may surprise you.

According to Green Earth News, there are 2 methods currently employed to create the “wrinkle free” clothing.  Sadly, both of these methods involve formaldehyde.

The first process involves soaking the clothing in formaldehyde and then rolling it between 2 extremely heavy rollers to squeeze out any extra resins.  Then, the clothing is baked at 300 degrees Fahrenheit so that it is basically cured, ensuring that the formaldehyde doesn’t wash out.  According to the article, some manufacturers will even treat the formaldehyde baked clothing with liquid ammonia to prevent shrinkage.

The second process, which also involves formaldehyde, involves putting the clothing in airtight containers and steaming it.  Once the items have been steamed, they are exposed to formaldehyde gasses and then baked.  In addition to the formaldehyde gasses, the clothing is exposed to sulfur dioxide to make sure that the bonds between the fabric and the formaldehyde stay cohesive.  In some cases, the clothing will also be treated with either ammonium chloride or phosphoric acid to ensure these bonds.  As you can see, waging a war on wrinkles is anything but easy.  And it’s also costly!

Formaldehyde is highly toxic and, at the very least, can cause respiratory issues and allergic reactions in those wearing the clothing.  But it goes deeper than that.  Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen and becomes even more toxic when heated.

Think about it: you are wearing the “wrinkle free” clothes against your skin, which is filled with pores that lead right to your bloodstream.  You are using “wrinkle free” sheets where you sleep several hours every night.  This is all direct exposure.

And formaldehyde is also harmful to the environment.  The manufacturing process alone is a chemical nightmare, but when you are laundering these items, you send those gaseous elements right into our atmosphere.

So what should you do instead?  Try to look for organic clothing and bedding as much as possible.  Opt for natural materials such as organic cotton, hemp or bamboo.  Not ready to start wielding an iron?  No worries.  According to Green Earth News, bamboo fabrics are lightweight, smooth and the wrinkles can easily be shaken loose.  For some great choices in organic bedding, check out The Honest Company who not only uses natural, untreated materials, but their designs are created with non-toxic dyes.

The more you know, the better choices you can make for your family.

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9 responses to “The Cost of Permanent Press

  1. Wow, I had no idea Penny! Thanks for letting us know about these types of things!

  2. You’re welcome Anita. It’s crazy isn’t it?

  3. I had no idea either! Please tell me yoga pants and workout tops are not in this category!

  4. Once again some really great information that isn’t something we hear every day! Thanks. I don’t own any wrinkle free clothes anymore. They are quite wrinkleful. ;-)

  5. oh wow this is scary! I had NO idea. My sheets and my clothes are full of wrinkles but that is probably just because I don’t get them out of the dryer in time, haha!

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