Gray should be his favorite color

February 24, 2000

Gray is my favorite color. Gray is my favorite color. Gray is my favorite color.

I'm really trying to convince myself. Gray is my favorite color. Gray is ....

But it's no use; it's not working. Gray is NOT my favorite color. And I particularly don't like gray underwear.

cont. from lifestyle

Unfortunately, however, my underwear is gray. It's clean, but it's gray.

That's because I refuse to use chlorine bleach when I do my laundry.

I've read far too many horror stories about chlorine. It's an environmentalist's worst nightmare. For example, chlorine atoms destroy ozone molecules in the ozone layer that protects Earth from most of the sun's harmful radiation. And the chlorine bleaching process commonly used to make pulp for paper can create dioxins, which cause all sorts of damage to the environment.

After reading things like this, I swore off chlorine bleach forever. As a matter of fact, I've had half a bottle of it under my kitchen sink for almost 10 years now. I'm afraid to use it, and I'm afraid to throw it away, for fear that I'll single-handedly pollute the county landfill for eternity.


I used to use bleach to get stains out of coffee mugs and to make my toilet bowl sparkling and fresh. But then I moved to a house with a septic system, and I decided there was no way I was going to flush chlorine into that. After all, if it can kill the AIDS virus, there's no telling what it could do to the bacteria that treat my sewage.

What Clorox had to say

I wrote a letter of complaint to the Clorox Co., the largest manufacturer of chlorine bleach in the country. They wrote back and swore on a stack of bleach bottles that their bleach doesn't do the slightest bit of harm to the environment.

"It will not damage septic tanks or sewage treatment systems," the company promised. Moreover, "recent studies show it leaves NO residue that might accumulate in the food chain or build up in the environment."

And what's more, "Dioxin is not produced when household bleach is made or used for laundry or household cleaning." So there.

I'm no chemist, so I can't argue with them. But as an environmental extremist, of course I don't believe a word they say, and I have no intention of using the stuff.

Instead, I rub a paste of baking soda and water on the stains in my coffee cups. It does the job. It takes some scrubbing, but that's OK.

I use elbow grease on the toilet bowl, too, along with some nontoxic household cleaner. At first I thought it was a bit demeaning to get down on my knees and do that, but now I've decided it's good for the soul.

However, I still don't know what to do about my laundry. I've tried a couple of nonchlorine bleaches, but I can't see that they make the slightest bit of difference. My underwear is still gray, to say nothing of rings around my collars.

I guess I can live with that. I love gray. I love it, love it, love it.

Besides, not many people see my underwear, unless they happen to drive by when I have my clothes drying out on the line.

I was a bit uncomfortable last week, however, when I went to my doctor for a physical examination. He didn't say anything, mind you, but I'll bet he's still talking about the color of my underwear.

I thought of sewing on some labels that say, "This underwear is supposed to be gray," or "Gray is beautiful." But I guess I should just leave well enough alone and stop worrying about it. After all, gray is my favorite color.

Dennis Shaw is a former Herald-Mail editor. Write to him at 12364 Harvey Road or call 301-842-3863.

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