Question corner: Wet clothes
In the rainy season, clothes, when not dried properly, start stinking. Why?
Secunderabad, Andhra Pradesh
Many species of plant and animal kingdoms besides those that belong to neither of these two kingdoms (such as bacteria) release their spores and fertilized eggs into the environment as part of their reproductive phase of life. Normally, these spores or eggs are released some time before the monsoons waiting for a ripe opportunity to hatch, germinate or multiply.
Such spores and encapsulated eggs (also known as cysts), in abundance, either stay put in the layers of dry soil or keep floating like other dust particles in the atmosphere. Once rainy season advents, the spores and cysts are ready to hatch as the humidity, temperature and other physical conditions are poised well.
Though the spores and cysts are in a state of suspended animation, hardly requiring any nutrients, respiration and other physiological processes such as metabolism and growth, the hatched ones are like any other living beings engaged in all kinds of biological processes.
Hence, they do need habitats. The fibrous fabric of the clothes which are not dried properly, come very handy as grounds of attachments for the stability (by anchoring), sustenance, survival and growth of the colonies of the hatched spores and cysts.
The wetness of such clothes meets the water requirement of their physiology whereas the fabric enables them have access to the atmospheric oxygen. The dirt on the clothes, the dusty particles in the atmosphere and the dissolved chemical traces in the wetness of the clothes would provide other material needs of the growing colonies. In other words, the improperly dried clothes are living worlds of microscopic life forms. As part of their physiology, these organisms also excrete wastes which contribute to part of the stinking.
As these monocellular (single cell organisms) and oligocellular (species with limited number of cell aggregates) are growing, their predators in the atmosphere also feed on them leaving microscopic lumps of nitrogenous, thiolic (sulfur based) and phosphorous substances that add more to the stinking.
Clothes which are dried properly would not provide many of the material and physical conditions adequately to the microorganisms for hatching or for survival. Hence, such clothes do not stink that obviously, as the water content, which otherwise serves as medium of material supply, temperature regulator, protective cover, etc, is missing. In seasons other than rainy reason, the spores and cysts are not that populous and abundant in the atmosphere to make use of these features of wet clothes.
Prof. A. Ramachanraiah
Editor, Vidyarthi Chekumuki
Jana Vignana Vedika, Andhra Pradesh