It’s a fact of life that as life goes on we change, we discover new things, try new food items and generally progress from sundried plums with tangy rock salt to gourmet sundried tomatoes. At this point you are wondering, aren’t you, why this post is tagged “travel”? Well, maybe you’re not or you didn’t even notice, but if you were then you’ll figure it out by the time you finish reading this post. Yes, I know, that’s sometimes hard to do with the rambly way I have of writing posts, but you’ve managed to make some sense out of it in the past, so hang in there! You should know that I was in Kolkata or Calcutta this past January.
Back in the days of yore, the sun played an important part in the laundry business. Progress, however, soon hit the masses and post WWII, the number of women in the workforce increased dramatically. Women had long been held back due to lack of access to higher education. It was in 1868 that Cambridge allowed women students, but it did not fully validate degrees for women until 1947. Somewhere in the late 50s and 60s, women started entering the workforce in larger and ever increasing numbers. Soon the day of the husband coming home, throwing his hat onto the hatrack and calling “Honey, I’m home” and expecting a lovely wife greeting him with a drink and smile and the words “Dinner will be ready soon. Now just take put on your slippers and sit down and have a drink” were gone and lived on only in creepy Stepford.
Men came home to TV dinners, canned and frozen food and kitchen appliances became the next aspiration for households. As families sat down to watch tv, the scourge of modern tv was born. Yes, TV commercials. TV Commercials begat consumers and consumers begat consumerism and consumerism begat hope and hope begat laziness and laziness begat the washing machine and the washing machine begat laundry detergent and laundry detergent begat dryers and dryers married forced air heating and the two begat static. And thus the fabric softener was born.
Let’s turn to Wikipedia now and learn about fabric softeners. Take it away, Wiki! < polite applause >
Cationic fabric softeners
In the 1950s, distearyldimethylammonium chloride (DHTDMAC), was introduced as a fabric softener initially to counteract the harsh feel that the machine washing imparted to diapers. This compound was discontinued because the cation biodegrades very slowly.Contemporary fabric softeners tend to be based on salts of quaternary ammonium cations. Characteristically, the cations contain one or two long alkyl chains derived from fatty acids. Other cationic compounds can be derived from imidazolium, substituted amine salts, or quaternary alkoxy ammonium salts.
Anionic fabric softeners
Anionic softeners and antistatic agents can be, for example, salts of monoesters and diesters of phosphoric acid and the fatty alcohols. These are often used together with the conventional cationic softeners. Cationic softeners are incompatible with anionic surfactants used in detergents because they combine with them to form a solid precipitate. So, they must instead be added during the rinse cycle. Anionic softeners can be combined with anionic surfactants directly. Other anionic softeners can be based on smectite clays. Some compounds, such as ethoxylated phosphate esters, have softening, anti-static, and surfactant properties.
< thunderous applause, whistles, hootin’ and hollerin’>
Note that this slavery to the machines is a predominantly “western” phenomena. In other parts of the world, such as Kolkata or Calcutta, where labour is cheaper it is, instead, slavery to the bai, which is more prevalent. Said bai comes in, washes the clothes, by hand, slaps them around either with a thapi ( remember those flat wooden bats? ) or by slamming the clothes against the floor or a wash stone. Then the clothes are wrung manually to within an inch of their lives. This replacement for the washing machine actually extends the clothes. Not their lives, but their physical length. T-shirts, for instance, become this mis-shapen mass of jersey at least 2.5 inches longer than manufactured.
Note the absence of fabric softener. Solar power + no fabric softener gives you?
Yup: “crispy”, sun-dried underwear!
< I added the word “crispy” to make it clear – see Sakshi Nanda’s comment below>