The Next Fashion Trend? Clothes You Hardly Need to Wash

iStock/Yana Tikhonova
iStock/Yana Tikhonova

Detergent companies and laundromats will not be pleased. In a recent Fast Company article, journalist Elizabeth Segran profiled a number of clothing manufacturers who are looking to change the apparel industry by offering clothing that encourages fewer washings.

Companies like Unbound Merino specialize in what they call travel clothes—items made of heavy-duty fibers like wool and designed to be washed infrequently. (Icebreaker, a New Zealand-based outdoor clothing company, encourages users to wear its merino wool Tech-Lite shirts for up to a week between washings.) Another company, Pangaia, makes clothing out of cotton and seaweed fibers and treats them with peppermint oil, a natural antibacterial agent, to keep them fresh between washings. These materials tend to let bodies breathe, reducing the chance of trapping sweat and letting odor-causing bacteria linger. Unbound Merino chooses a light, thin wool fabric that mimics the feel of a cotton T-shirt.

The idea is to design apparel that comes in handy for traveling, since finding places to launder clothing can sometimes be difficult, especially if you’re backpacking or far from hotel amenities. But the ambition is also to create more eco-friendly attire. Fewer washes means less water used.

One question remains: Can the companies overcome decades of aggressive marketing from detergent companies about washing clothes regularly? For some, it will come down to the sniff test. After going three weeks without washing a shirt or dress and still not detecting anything offensive, consumers might turn into believers. That’s assuming they can get past the price. One seaweed shirt from Pagaia runs $85.

[h/t Fast Company]

Why Some Lines in the Road Are Yellow and Others Are White

Gang Zhou, iStock via Getty Images
Gang Zhou, iStock via Getty Images

Even if you can't explain the significance behind every color and symbol used in road signs, you may understand them on a subconscious level. That's why the designs are chosen in the first place: Our brains associate colors with certain feelings, and on the road, a symbol's ability to communicate danger in less time than it takes to read a word could mean the difference between life and death.

This was taken into consideration when the federal government standardized the markings used to separate traffic lanes in 1971. Today the lines are painted in two colors: White for when both traffic lanes are traveling in the same direction and yellow for when they're not. The distinction is meant to prevent accidents, but it took years to convince officials that it was the right choice.

Edward Hines designed the first modern centerline for a road in the early 1900s. He made it white, inspired by spilled milk he once saw on a freshly paved road, and that color remained the default for decades. By 1955, most states used white stripes to divide their traffic lanes. The one exception was Oregon. The state insisted that yellow was a better way to signal caution—a claim the rest of the country didn't buy. Oregon ultimately agreed to change its centerlines to white when the government threatened to withhold $300 million in highway funding.

By 1971, the people in charge of standardizing highway symbols had come around to Oregon's point of view. The case for yellow as the color for caution was stronger than ever: It had been implemented in stoplights as the signal for slow and it was even the color of stop signs in the early 20th century.

But not every centerline needed to come with such a strong warning. While the color of lines separating parallel traffic flow remained white, yellow was used as a buffer between cars driving in the opposite directions—in other words, the lines that are most dangerous to cross. That rule in the 1971 edition of the Manual of Uniform Control Devices for Streets and Highways is still standard today.

Many road sign features, like the green in interstate signs, have interesting origin stories. Here are more facts about the roads you take every day.

[h/t Reader's Digest]

The Reason Escalator Stairs Are Grooved

Thanks to the escalator stairs' grooves, these feet are not in danger.
Thanks to the escalator stairs' grooves, these feet are not in danger.
ananaline/iStock via Getty Images

The thin metal grooves in escalator stairs might make the entire structure look extra dangerous, but they’re actually there for your safety.

As George R. Strakosch writes in The Vertical Transportation Handbook, the steps are cleated “so that people who ride with their toes against the riser will not have their soft shoe soles drawn between the steps as the steps straighten out.”

In other words, the grooves allow ascending steps to merge into a flat surface at the top of the escalator with minimal space between them. That way, the edge of a flip-flop or a runaway plastic bag won’t get sucked into the structure. According to Reader’s Digest, the (often yellow) strips of hardware with comb-like metal teeth that run along the top and bottom edges of escalators are there for the same reason. As the stairs disappear back into the depths of the escalator, these aptly named comb plates keep out anything that shouldn’t go with them.

Since escalator technology isn’t quite advanced enough to have comb plates toss that trash into the nearest garbage can, it’s still up to us to dispose of any litter a comb plate has pushed aside. But the most important part is that it’s been barred from entering the underbelly of the machine, where it could cause the escalator to break down.

The grooves also prevent liquids from pooling on the surface of the stairs, making escalators puddle-free—and possibly even safer than a regular set of stairs, at least on a rainy day.

[h/t Reader’s Digest]

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