The All-Natural Geek: Here Comes the Sun

Hello, I am the All-Natural Geek. Once a month, I plan to bring the Geekade community one fascinating clean living tip, healthy eating recipe, essential oil application, home cleaning method, or recycling/repurposing trick. As in my own life, it is my goal to help you, the reader, live as simple and clean a life as possible while impregnated with child-like wonder at the marvels of how the world around us really can provide the answers to whatever we are seeking. In other words, I'm totally going to geek-out on natural living. 

Sun, Sun, Mr. Golden Sun, please do my laundry.

Sun, Sun, Mr. Golden Sun, please do my laundry.

There is a keen awareness on my part that the word “natural” is about a loaded as a 12-gauge shotgun. So for the purposes of this tiny section of the universe, please allow me to define it and its future use here. When I say “natural”, I mean ‘of the earth’, as in minimally processed by man-made machines (although ironically, I am using a man-made machine right now to compose this article) and generally having a net positive effect on your mind, body and spirit. While some in the advertising industry would like to convince the general consuming public that Lucky Charms made with whole grains are “all-natural”, I say give me a break! Not here people. Not here. 

Now that there is a better understanding of how the All-Natural Geek defines her world, let’s dive right in. This inaugural article will feature none other than the single most important thing to the survival of our species, and it makes one hell of a good cleaning product. That’s right, I’m talking about the sun. Yes, that sun! That ever-present, massive ball of incandescent gas can not only warm your face and grow plants to eat, but it can also make your whites whiter and your brights brighter. (Take that, Clorox!) 

They had some pretty good ideas back in the 16th century!

They had some pretty good ideas back in the 16th century!

This technique has been used for centuries to whiten clothes. Towns and villages would have designated areas where laundry could be laid out for sunning in mass quantities. Entire fields in the countryside, called bleaching grounds, were set aside just for this process. Sometimes other agent whiteners such as urine, lye or blue die would be added to boost the process, but more often than not the sun did the job. (Don't worry, I'm not going to tell you to start peeing on your clothes).  

With the introduction of today’s modern cleaning products, this technique has become less well known to the general public, but is making a comeback in cloth-diapering and natural-living communities, which are where I first heard about it. When faced with trying to keep my son’s cloth diapers stain-free, I was instructed to follow the simple procedure listed below and much to my amazement it worked, really well. Bleach, a well-known whiting agent, had long been identified as a big chemical no-no in my house. One of the main reasons I was even using cloth diapers was to avoid harmful chemicals touching my baby’s skin, so I was not about to turn around and use those same chemicals to clean the diapers. I needed a “natural” way to keep them white, and it doesn't get much more natural than the sun. 

So what is this mystical and magical sunning practice I speak of? Here’s what you do... 

  1. Gather up all of your white or light colored clothes, towels, sheets etc that are dingy or stained with last night’s pasta dinner and wash them as you normally would. 
  2. Hang them out, WET, on a drying rack or clothesline in the sun. 
  3. Check back a few hours later and prepare to be amazed. The stain(s) will magically have disappeared. 
  4. For more stubborn stains, you may have to sun for longer. I have heard that for rust and other stubborn stains, an application of full-strength lemon juice or a 50/50 lemon water mixture can boost the sun’s bleaching power (although I have never tried this myself). 
No offense Clorox, but we've got this covered.

No offense Clorox, but we've got this covered.

It’s that simple. It’s that easy. Do you need direct sun? No! Indirect sun works too! It just may take a little longer. In general, I have found that biological based stains are easiest and quickest to get out, such as blood, poop, spit-up and most food stains that have already been pre-treated and washed. Whites that are dingy or yellowed will certainly fade but will need a longer time in the sun. They may not be gleaming white when done but they will certainly be noticeably whiter. 

Sunning is a simple, effective technique and I haven’t even touched on the best part yet. It is free! Go ahead, give it a try! You will not be disappointed and hopefully you will also be impregnated with wonder at the simplicity of something that we depend on for the most fundamental elements of human life also being able to whiten your socks. Can it get better than that? I submit that it cannot. And I humbly submit this small piece of information to your new consciousness.