Once I recovered (after a few years) from the initial joy and excitement of being able to do my laundry at home, and once I had children as well as a husband and a job, my approach to doing laundry shifted. It became, along with most other household tasks, something in which to invest as little time and energy as possible. I used the same detergent and fabric softener for years – because it was what my mother used. I washed my clothes before bed and threw them in the dryer before leaving for work. It was easy.
So what happened to change my attitude? For some time I have been aware of environmental and household chemicals and the lack of research about their toxicity in developing humans. I started worrying about the impact these chemicals could have on precious babies. Then I started thinking about the world my grandchildren (none yet, but that’s another story for another day!) would live in. I looked with horror at pictures of the great Pacific garbage patch. I saw first hand how the Great Barrier Reef had changed drastically over a 30 year period. I went to the Arctic and saw evidence of global warming up close.
So, after I panicked, I started reading. And then I started making changes. For some weird reason, it all started with laundry. I have no idea why. But here’s what I have done so far:
1. DRYER BALLS…. I bought wool dryer balls EcoNuts (4) for $17.97 at www.EarthHero.com. They last for thousands of loads, are chemical free and are completely biodegradable. AND THEY WORK! My clothes have no static, and there is no difference in the wrinkles compared to using the dryer sheets. Plus my clothes dry faster! There are many other brands available at different price points. So when your box of laundry sheets runs out, don’t replace them!!! Buy some wool dryer balls instead!
Consumer Reports compared various dryer balls; see their report at www.consumerreporting.org/wool-dryer-balls.
Just to compare, a box of BOUNCE (240 – 250 loads) costs about $10.00 to $13.00 per box, depending upon which product you buy. Check out the Environmental Working Group www.ewg.org to see how Bounce products are rated for their environmental and health impact (Spoiler alert: it’s not good).
2. WATER TEMPERATURE….putting the temperature setting of your washing machine to cold water uses less energy and clothes are just as clean, despite what you learned in Home Ec class! Do they even have Home Ec in high school anymore? I think I have just given away my advanced age!
ANYWAY, take a look at these articles that support cold water washing:
3. LAUNDRY DETERGENT….and here is where it gets confusing. I have looked at Consumer Reports for years before making big purchases. But when I started looking into cleaning products, I found that Consumer Reports is not interested in the packaging or toxic chemical issues involved in household products. Their concern is price and efficacy.
(www.consumerreports.org/laundry-detergents/best-and-worst-laundry-detergents-from -consumer-reports-tests) published a new review of laundry detergents in 2019. In this article, they explain their stringent methods for determining which detergents are the most effective in both cleaning and cost. Persil and Tide were 2 brands in the top 10. Sadly, both Persil and Tide were given grades of “F” and “D” respectively by the Environmental Working Group for their toxic effects on the environment. Consumer Reports also mentioned that most people prefer liquid laundry soap to powder, although they didn’t say why.
Here are the choices we have made in our house. We decided to use powdered laundry soap in order to cut back on plastic waste. So far I have seen no difference in how clean my clothes are, nor is it harder to use. Next, we decided to prioritize environmental impact considerations when choosing a detergent. We just don’t get that dirty, and when we do yard work or heavy cleaning, we have stained, ratty clothes that we save for that purpose.
Here is the Environmental Working Group’s rating scale for laundry detergents; take a look here to see how the products you use measure up: www.ewg.org/cleaningguide
Another option is to make your own detergent. Liquid laundry soap is easy to make, cost effective, and environmentally friendly. You can re-use gallon size bottles of liquid detergent for conveniently sized containers; every recipe I’ve seen calls for making 10 gallons at a time. I am just too lazy to go there. But if you’re a go-getter, this website has great, well researched recipes for making your own liquid laundry soap: www.Brendid.com
I decided to try making a laundry powder just for fun (I’m finding it a little weird that I consider this fun, but I’m trying to accept it). I used a recipe from www.Brendid.com; all of the ingredients have a grade of A or B from the Environmental Working Group. Of the 4 ingredients in the recipe, 2 come in cardboard boxes, 1 is wrapped in paper, and 1 is in a plastic tub. I used a large plastic container with a lid to mix the ingredients and stored that in the basement (the garage would work too), and put a pretty cannister in the laundry room to hold the powder (remember the princess thing?). So far it’s working great! I am looking for a recipe that doesn’t involve any products that are packaged in plastic….stay tuned!
4. IRONING….I am one of the 5 people left on the planet who still irons clothes. I love the feel of a crisp cotton shirt, what can I say?! But spray starches have a LOT of things in them that are not great for the planet. HOWEVER, you can VERY EASILY make your own spray starch! Here is the website that tells you how to do it: www.Brendid.com (I LOVE this woman!!!) She also talks about all the toxic stuff in commercially available spray starch, so you will know why you are doing this! I make this up in small batches, as I don’t need a lot, and I’m not sure what the shelf life is.
I hope this information helps you to make some simple changes in how you do the laundry. A single change from a single household isn’t going to reverse global warming. But if enough of us invest a little time and energy – well, it can’t hurt! And I promise to write about my ongoing challenges weaning myself from the dryer soon!