This One Weird Thing…

There’s this one weird thing that I’ve been doing this year. Here it is:

My Trusty Heavy Duty Foil used to protect my clothes from fragrance chemical residue and/or fabric softeners

My Trusty Heavy Duty Foil used to protect my clothes from fragrance chemical residue and/or fabric softeners

I know, some of you can understand why I do this just by looking at that photo; but for those who think it’s just plain wacky, I agree, because that’s how I felt too. The first few times I did this, I felt overly self-conscious and a bit ‘wacky’ about the way it may be perceived. Maybe people thought I had a germ phobia. Or maybe they were thinking: What a weirdo! But you know? How could I even begin to assume what each and every individual could possibly be thinking? I had to hold my head high and do what I had to protect my health: put something between my clothes and any chair where someone may have sat while wearing fragrance or clothes freshly washed in fabric softener!

This year at VU, I only did this for the first semester because by the second, people actually treated the room like it was an actual fragrance chemical free room. Just like the sign on the door said.  Not once this year did I have to throw out my clothes because some type of musky fragrance had adhered to them. Can you imagine being chemically sensitive (or allergic, even) to fragrance and sitting on something that a fragrance wearer had just sat on? And then getting into a hot car. Sans mask? I mean, you go to all this trouble to avoid chemicals (by sometimes wearing a mask, asking people to help by not wearing fragrance chemicals (that impact on others health too!), sitting near air-filters, only going to areas where it’s perfume free, or by being as quick as I can if in areas that are choked with it) and then you forget and go and sit in the stuff? Awful!

Musk based fragrance is one of the worst for me: my eyes dry out, stinging, itching until it feels as if there is something in them, burning the skin around my inner eyelids. Nostrils burning. Head aching. Later, tiny red rashes around my eyes map out their own story. Driving in sunlight hurts… on go on the hat and dark glasses; or I try to stay indoors and avoid light.

And, it’s not like I can wash it out of my clothes, either. One of the worst things someone with this condition can do is to go around sniffing things that have fragrance on them. Avoidance of chemicals means to avoid coming in contact with them in ways in which they effect the sufferer. And besides, quite often, it won’t wash out. And how do I find out when it’s gone? Keep sniffing the bloody thing, inhaling more fragrance chemicals into my system? Wear it for a while and see? Not likely! Experience tells me, it may fade after 15 or so washes (I shit you not.) along with the fabric’s colour and quality)), especially if soaked in bicarbonate of soda, but it doesn’t go away. Not for me.

Last year, 2012, I tried to keep aside the same few sets of clothes to always wear out; while just airing them in between washes. (Note: keeping just a few sets aside is difficult for a chemically sensitive person who loves clothes. Clothes are for wearing, right?) These clothes ended up in the charity-giveaway pile. On a few occasions, I tried using a towel but that was dumb because it went through it. And stupidly, I felt embarrassed. Come 2013, I hatched the plan to always, always, put foil down on chairs before sitting on them. First, I imagined myself doing it. I pictured going into class, putting down my bag, then pulling out the foil and covering the chair like it was the most natural thing in the world to do. (I mean, surely there are others who do this too?) After 2-3 classes it felt natural and I did it without thinking about it.

Sometimes, just imagining doing something that is frightening to do, can help calm any nervousness surrounding it, therefore, making it easier to do in reality. I use this trick on myself all the time.

Does anyone else go to these lengths to avoid getting fragrance on their clothes?

If you think this IS weird,  just say it!


The Labyrinth: 10 Uses for Foil

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Michellina Van Loder is a Professional Writer, Journalist and Blogger. This is where she shares her tales about trail blazing her way out of the Labyrinth of Chemical Sensitivities and Mould. This is also where you will find the latest Research on related topics.

About Michellina van Loder


  1. I have done this too!

    • Michellina van Loder says:

      It’s great to know that I’m in good company in this aspect. Did you get tired of washing towels that end up getting thrown out?

  2. I never thought of using foil but I immediately knew what you were doing when I saw the picture. Getting fragrance on my skin or clothes means I have a hard time “living with myself” until I can get home and change.

    • Michellina van Loder says:

      I know, I’ve had some awful ‘accidents’ over the years. Especially going into public toilets and having air-feshener sprayed over me by those automatic FEDS, not something I can do a lot about.

  3. This might not be an easy question to answer (maybe you have a post on it?), but how did you figure out the thing that was making you sick was chemicals. I have burning eyes and bad headaches and a hundred other things, but I don’t know if I’d ever figure out if chemicals were causing my symptoms…
    Ps you’re very brave and inspiring :)

    • Michellina van Loder says:

      I have touched on it but here is the short answer: first thing I noticed was dry, stinging eyes and headaches. Sometimes it would be when using cleaning products or while spraying aerosols. Doctors said it was an allergy but the search proved elusive. then it hurt to breathe through my nose and I had some inflammation (my nose was never blocked, it was the opposite, and also dry and stinging). It was hard to understand because it seemed like breathing in all smells hurt–cooking, everything. The idea that someone could smell something and get sick did my head in because ‘smell’ had always been about perceiving things. (Oh, that’s nice or that’s yukky, type of thing.) It wasn’t until I saw an Allergist/Immunologist and had testing for various chemicals that I saw for myself that the chemicals behind/or in the smells were effecting me and causing the symptoms. I think making a written list of symptoms and taking that to a doctor helps. And getting second and third opinions (although that can confuse the issue).
      Thank you :) :)

  4. Yea, it is weird, totally weird, that product manufacturers are allowed to make products that keep on giving, and in unwanted ways!!!

    Phthalates are usually the offending plasticizing chemicals that make fragrances absorb and stick to things in long (forever) lasting ways. They are associated with quite a few health problems and have been banned from some children’s products in some countries as a result. If only they’d ban them from mother’s laundry products too, then babies (and the rest of us) wouldn’t be marinating in 2nd and 3rd hand pollution day and night long…

    I use mylar sheets (aka emergency blankets) to cover chairs with, as they are more reusable. I mark the good side with a piece of green painters tape and fold them up into a little ziplock or something. I have one in my backpack for whenever I leave the house.

    I have also used this method for covering my own chairs or car seat to allow others to sit without contaminating my stuff.

    • Michellina van Loder says:

      I think they think that people want these products. And some do. i know i used too.

      We’ve not had them banned here in Australia but our newspapers keep running stories about them being taken out of products in other countries. I think we’ve had them taken out of babies bottles and bath toys but for some reason they’re fine to be in everything else?!

      I need to look into mylar sheets. These could be useful. This foil makes kind of crinkly sound and can slip of when I get up. I’ve heard of people using Tyvek, too.

Information, products and views presented by guest bloggers @The Labyrinth are not necessarily the same as those held by this blog's author, Michellina van Loder. Reviews are my own personal opinions (unless stated otherwise); and satire is used throughout personal posts. Any health topics discussed are not to be taken as medical advice. Seek out medical attention if needed and do your own research; however, you're welcome to use mine as a start.
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