A (pillow) case study
If you suffer from any kind of #skincomplaint, or from #allergies of any description, it is wise to wash all fabrics that you come into close contact with before use. This is good advice, not only from a general hygiene point of view, but because most of the garments, furnishings, bedding items and towels we buy nowadays have been treated with harsh #chemicals (fire retardants, for example) and these can cause irritation or worsen existing symptoms.
I was reminded of this last week when I bought some lovely, soft new pillows to replace our old lumpy, discoloured ones. They were larger than the standard pillow size and so I also purchased new pillow cases at the same time. I was so eager to use these temptingly comforting-looking fluffy clouds of gorgeousness that I brushed aside a lifetime’s habit (drummed into me by my mother) and decided not to launder the pillow slips before using them. After all, they were new and came in a sealed wrapper so they were bound to be clean, right?
The next couple of nights my husband (who has mild asthma) and I (who have very sensitive skin and throat, linked – I believe – to my vitiligo) felt restless and had difficulty dropping off to sleep. My husband snored more loudly than usual (!) and I developed a sore throat and an itchy rash on my face. The pillows themselves were wonderfully comfortable but we both felt very ill at ease all night (a sensation I can only describe as an indefinable state of anxiousness) and couldn’t figure out why.
It wasn’t until I paid closer attention to my sense of smell, which had been trying to tell me something ever since I unwrapped the pillow cases, that I realised the unfamiliar (but not unpleasant) scent emanating from the fabric was no doubt due to chemical treatment during or after manufacture. Chiding myself for my laziness and impatience in not washing them to start with, I whipped the offending covers off the pillows, laundered them thoroughly and was rewarded with a good night’s sleep for myself and my husband and the swift disappearance of all aforementioned symptoms.
I kicked myself for making this basic error, given that it was only a couple of months or so ago that I blogged about the potentially harmful effects of the chemical treatments that are routinely applied to clothing and other household items. Not only are these unseen chemicals highly likely to exacerbate allergy symptoms or even trigger symptoms in those who previously had none (typically respiratory symptoms or contact dermatitis) but there is good reason to think they could aggravate conditions like vitiligo and psoriasis. It’s a pity I didn’t go back and read my own blog posts!
When I was a child I used to think that my mother must have a bad case of OCD because she cleaned, polished, scrubbed and laundered everything at every opportunity (or so it seemed to me at the time). I never inherited the good-housekeeping gene from her, taking after my happily disorganised father instead, but I do now appreciate the good old-fashioned common sense that prompted her to sanitise everything that came into the home. I’m guessing that, back then, her main concern was cleanliness. But it seems to me that today’s highly processed goods pose far more of a #toxic threat to our health and wellbeing than a hygiene one – all the more so because most people are blissfully unaware of it. So, let this "(pillow) case study" be a warning and take my advice: imagine that all future clothing and household purchases have a big label attached bearing the words “wash before use”.
My name is Caroline.