If you have been reading about the ill-effects of chemical detergents and dry cleaning to our health and environment, you know that a pedestrian chore like doing the laundry has a larger impact on the planet than we might think.
Clean, washed and ironed clothes are integral to modern health, hygiene and social etiquette and one can’t forgo a load of laundry, of course! You are probably asking then, what you can do differently and what alternatives exist. Little changes go a long way. Consumers exercise power through their purchase choices and usage behaviours.
Read product labels.
Even green or eco-friendly products may contain toxic fragrances or petroleum derived ingredients. Avoid products with labels that say “Warning”, “Danger” or “Poison”.
Look for phosphate free, biodegradable labels that have plant and vegetable based ingredients.
Follow the usage instructions. Use only the recommended amount of detergent for a load of washing. More doesn’t mean better or cleaner.
Find sustainable alternatives in organic home remedies
Try using 1/2 cup of vinegar instead of a store-bought fabric softener.
Avoid detergents with strong fragrances. For fragrance, try throwing in a damp rag with a few drops of essential oil in the dryer with your laundry.
Try baking soda to naturally brighten colours and get rid of odours.
A combination of baking soda, water and washing soda works well to pre-treat stains before they go into the washing machine. This way you can use a milder detergent.
Maintain washer and drier hygiene to reduce spreading germs
Ensure that your dryer vents outdoors and clean the vent periodically.
Rid the washer of bacteria, soap, scum and grease by running a cleaning cycle with white vinegar and hot water.
Find a balance between cleanliness and prudence
Nearly 3/4th of the carbon footprint of a washing machine comes from drying in a tumble dry. Wherever possible, use a clothes-line or drying-rack.
It is estimated that you can consume up to 5 times less energy by wearing your jeans at least 3 times, washing them in cold water and skipping the dryer and the iron. Simply hang the clothes to dry on a clothes hanger to save energy required to iron.
Avoid dry-cleaning or choose professional ‘wet-cleaning’
Avoid purchasing clothes that need frequent dry-cleaning. Reduce the number of times you dry-clean by using common spirits such as cheap vodka in a spray bottle.
Ask your dry-cleaner about new methods like wet-cleaning which do not have the toxic effects of perc. (a solvent used in the process which has carcinogenic properties as well as hazardous environmental impacts)
Make it yourself
Experiment with do-it-yourself home-made detergents, whiteners and softeners made from organic materials. They are simple to make, ingredients can be sourced locally and you will know what you put in and what you kept out. With some practice, you’ll find a formula that works just right for you.
If we choose, together we can be walking on a continuous path of change towards a safer, greener, healthier way of life. What it needs is simply for each of us to be persistent and responsible in playing our parts. It’s simple, really!