Letter: Reducing Need for Detergent

Mr. Editor:

Reading your news links this morning, the article from Venezuela regarding military protection of food distribution caught my eye.

One of the things the article specifically mentioned is the lack of detergent for washing.

Recently, in our research we came across the opinion that bathing with soap on a daily basis strips too much oil from the skin, upsets pH balance of the skin, and leads to loss of Vitamin C through the skin. Even bathing in hot water can disturb the balance somewhat, according to this research.

Obviously, we don’t need a needless, artificial drain of Vitamin C from our systems, but I was seriously doubtful about whether a person can get clean enough to be civil without soap. However, it does feel good to scrub down with unlubricated terry cloth and hot, running water. The level of friction is refreshing, and it gets a person quite clean, actually.

While we like our hot showers, how many pioneers took a daily bath with a basin of cold water in front of a blazing fireplace?

So, how much of humanity lives without detergent? How many use soap only when it is most necessary? How many get along with a little ash from the campfire as their only soap?

In washing, soap is helpful, but we can do some things to reduce dependence on it. One is to use plenty of hot water. Another is to avoid using excessive fat in the diet. Eliminating animal fats from the cooking, as the Levitical law prescribes, makes the kitchen far easier to clean without soap. Plant-based fats generally emulsify more easily than animal fats. Ideally, use the oils in their natural form as far as possible– those found in seed or fruit or grain, and avoid cooking with unstable, unsaturated fats that turn to plastic when they oxidize. Coconut and olive oil are probably the best free fats to use in cooking.

Also for the laundry, don’t think you can’t wash clothes without soap! They may not come out as clean, but it is certainly better to use water and elbow grease than nothing at all.

Having grown up with a father who is self-employed, at home, as an auto mechanic, I do have a healthy appreciation for good old dish detergent! That has been the old standby for turning black hands back to their proper, non-contaminated color and condition. Dirt, ashes, and other materials can be used to aid the washing, but they take a lot more time and effort, with less effectiveness.

There’s one last thing, for those of us in snow country. Snow is “wet” water, and it contains a noticeable amount of hydrogen peroxide. Rubbing, scrubbing, and tromping the wash in snow is excellent for cleaning and disinfecting. Freshly melted snow water is good, too. So, with the help of a sauna or other means of thorough warming, we can stay very clean in winter.

Another benefit to snow is that the hydrogen peroxide in snow makes seeds (lentils, in particular) sprout within an hour or two–even though they are cold! (I discovered this by accident.) You can duplicate this by adding a trace of 35% food-grade hydrogen peroxide to the soak water. Try it! Also, rinsing sprouts with snow/peroxide-water tends to prevent spoilage. Take care, and God bless. – C.F.