Cleaning With Dirt?

By , September 22, 2019

We have long known about a certain laundry method that we consider worth trying, but a single act finally pushed me to act: I dried my face.

deodorizing laundry in dirt

One of the towels laid out for interment (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

I use two “high-tech” towels when I wash. Made of synthetic fabric, they dry faster, and dry as effectively as a big terrycloth bath towel in about half the size or less.

I generally use one until it needs washing, then switch to the other. After years of use, however, they’ve begun to smell a bit too much.

We’ve read many times the recommendation to bury smelly clothes in “clean” dirt for a while. Apparently, aspects of the soil counteract the bacteria that holds body odor in clothing, and absorb the odors out of the fabric.

I’ve always wanted to try this, but feared losing a beloved shirt, no matter how . . . fragrant.

But, I grabbed my clean towel for its first use, dried my face, and got hit with a miasma, I figured I should finally try this unorthodox method. After all, at worst, I’d lose a towel that I can no longer stand to use!

I buried the two towels in a pile of soil Michelle sifted a few years ago, and has transferred to the garden as needed. I laid them out and raked a few inches of dirt over each, then left them. I dug one of them out the next day; I dug the second one out a few days later.

deodorizing with dirt

Buried, ready for another towel on top (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

I hosed the soil off each of them over the compost pile, so it wouldn’t be lost, wrung the towels out, and hung them to dry.

line-dried laundry

The other towel, rinsed and hanging to dry (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

Once dry, I couldn’t smell anything—not even dirt. I’m cautiously optimistic about this. The true test comes now that I’ve run them through the laundry once more, when I use them after a shower. If they survive the moisture and warmth of toweling off after a shower without smelling bad, I’ll consider the effort a success!

Michelle buried a few of her shirts, cleverly leaving a long sleeve of each one above the soil, to mark their location. We laundered the shirts yesterday, and she’s “test wearing” one of them today.

Since I pulled my towels out, we started getting heavy rain. I’m not sure if burying laundry in mud is the same as burying it in soil. I guess we’ll find out, won’t we?

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