Are They Mad?
What is it with all of these people and their blankets hanging out of the windows in the middle of winter?
This was a question I asked myself often during my first year or so in Italy.
They’re letting out all of the “bought air” and those white down comforters are bound to get dirty while hanging over the dusty window sills…
This morning, I perked some coffee in the moka and munched on a few cookies as I opened my computer.
After tossing the ball for the dog and skimming through various social networks, I decided that it was time to get started on the daily routine.
I’ll make the bed first, but it’s probably a good idea to air out the wool blanket since there are a few dog hairs lingering in the fibers.
I opened the window, the Dolomite mountains radiantly beaming in the background, their tops dusted with a white blanket of snow.
My view of the Dolomite Mountains in Friuli.
Shake, shake, shake! Fling!
Out flew the wool blanket, hanging over the window sill and landing gently upon the outer wall. I left the window cracked open a bit to let some fresh air in the bedroom, as well.
The day before I had already aired out the down comforter (I was sure to rest a towel under it so that it wouldn’t get dirty) and washed some laundry that was still drying out on the terrace.
Yes, I have been converted to the “fresh air” routine. I open my windows in the middle of winter to ensure that my house does not smell like morning breath and dog. I do not own a dryer and hang clothes on drying racks, even if it takes days for them to dry during the cold and humid winter months. They last much longer, which saves me time and money in the long run.
I can’t imagine life without these habits now. Ha!
Italy has definitely rubbed off on me.
I recently took a poll and asked various Italian friends and people that I know what their reason was for airing out the house.
“In your opinion, why is it important to air out the house or put your bedding outside? What does it do to the various fabrics?”
I was curious to see what the average response would be. Here is a sample of their thoughts:
– “For those who suffer from dust allergies like me, it’s important to air out and shake off the bed sheets so that dust can’t accumulate (also hair, skin residue, etc. that all become food for dust mites). When you air out the house, it prevents mold and humidity from forming, you rid the house of foul smells and also let out the excess carbon dioxide.”
– “I open the windows to let out the foul air that accumulates in closed areas – smells and germs. Changing out the air. This frequent habit comes from those who live in the countryside. Those who live in big cities don’t have this habit because there is a lot of smog and the air outside is usually dirtier than the air inside. Looking at skyscrapers, you can’t even open the windows (but of course they will have the proper ventilation built in that create the same effect as an open window.”
– “There are three reasons to air out the house:
1. Letting out the humidity that inevitably forms inside the house (in the kitchen, bathroom or shower area, for example) and we humans produce humidity. This humidity, if it isn’t let out of the house, will rest on the walls – especially corners – and in closets or the coldest locations of the home where condensation builds.
2. To let out volatile substances that can be emitted by furnishings or electronics.
3. To let out foul odors.
If the home is not aired out, it can make the home feel “heavy” or cause sleepiness. Changing out the air in the cold weather can be done in a quick 5 minutes, better if you can create an air current by opening several windows. In the nicer weather, it’s great to air out the home for at least an hour, during the morning or late evening.
– One person said that their grandma always told them (in the Veneto dialect) as a child: “Bisogna che le scoreze le vae fora dai nizioi.” Ehm…this would translate more or less to the fact that we need to air out the bed sheets because of the “foul air” caused by us humans. Perhaps someone who has eaten too many beans, for example. Ha ha ha!
What’s the Point?
Now, I do understand that those who live in big cities (congested areas where pollution is thick and air is not as clean) would not have the same, pleasant experience that I do when airing out the house. For that, I am sorry.
When and wherever possible, however, I highly recommend letting some fresh air into your home and allowing your laundry to air dry.
Here are some excellent reasons to open the windows (regardless of the outdoor temperature) and to dry your clothes outside:
– Stale Air
If you live or work in a closed area without windows or much ventilation, you are breathing in used air. This used air has a lower oxygen supply, which is not helpful to our bodies that require and depend upon a fresh, abundant O2 supply. Open the door, open a window, just let some fresh air in!
I live in a humid area, so just moving the air molecules around helps prevent the windows from fogging up and moisture from condensing (which would create an ideal environment for mold to thrive in). I once found mold that had grown on the bottom of the mattress and on the floor beneath it because the boxed in area around the mattress frame was not exposed to any fresh air. It was quite an unpleasant surprise for me to discover that I had been sleeping on a moldy mattress and had the unexpected expense of purchasing a new one.
I am much more careful about airing things out after this experience.
– Invisible Foes
Vacuuming regularly is a good way to suck up the dust, and therefore dust mites, in the home. Since you might not want to take the vacuum to your finest linens, shaking them off regularly outside can rid them of dead skin cells, hair, and any other microscopic foes that lurk in bedding. Of course, regularly washing bedding is important, but as is the case with the down comforter or any other large blanket, those obviously get washed less frequently than sheets. When I open the windows to let the fresh air in, I try to open the closets every now and then, as well. When clothes and fabrics are left alone for long periods of time in a dark, enclosed area (i.e. closets or drawers), they take on a musty, stale smell. Also, it is more likely for moth larvae to grow and eat holes in the clothing.
A friend of mine, who is starting to go more natural when it comes to household products, recently said that she stopped using bleach on her white clothes. The ultraviolet radiation from the sun naturally bleaches clothing (or hair, as we can see in summer months when the sun lightens our hair color), and is known to disinfect your clothing to a certain extent. The sun is such a great alternative to the harsh chemicals used to make bleach. Bleach doesn’t exactly have a “fresh” smell to it, either, so let the sunshine on your whites whenever possible!
The down comforter is getting some much needed air. I often take my pup out to play (see her in the background on the left) while I tend to the garden or laundry. She’s rather rambunctious and just loves her ball!
I Paid For That Air!
Yes, and I do too. I pay to heat my home just as everyone else does out there, and in the beginning I was more worried about the cost of re-heating or cooling a room that had been aired out (just turn off all heating or air conditioning sources as you air out your home, so as not to waste energy and run up the bills).
What can I say? I’ve just embraced the Italian mind frame when it comes to keeping the home, and everything in it, fresh. In another post,I’ve mentionedthe importance of using fresh ingredients when it comes to cooking Italian meals, and I guess that same principle works throughout many aspects of the Italian lifestyle. Fresco. Fresh.
Open a window more often, regardless of the weather outside!
(Well, if there is storm outside then obviously it’s best to keep the window’s closed, but you get the idea!)