Have you ever experienced sneezing like crazy or getting a really bad headache right after doing your laundry? Do you sometimes get that heady feeling when you smell your newly washed clothes because the fragrance is too overpowering? You must have eyed your empty plastic detergent bottles nervously, wondering what havoc your detergent must be wreaking on your health and the environment.
If you answered ‘yes, that’s me!’ to everything mentioned above, you’re not alone.
There was a time when I couldn’t figure out why I was feeling light-headed after doing laundry. That was until I got fed up feeling that way and I started researching what went into my detergent soap. Trust me, after reading through them, you wouldn’t believe why you’re letting those chemicals near you (and the planet) at all. Ever.
If you’re now having that same ‘uh-oh’ moment that I had after diving deep into ‘carcinogenic chemicals in laundry detergents’, take a deep breath and take comfort that you can do something about it. Yes, you definitely can!
The solution is simple: change to eco-friendly ways of doing your laundry.
Once you shift to more sustainable and green ways to do laundry, you’ll find that you feel healthier and more active, your water and electricity bills are a lot smaller, and the air you breathe in your home is somehow lighter.
The biggest benefit yet? You’ll be helping the environment from where you are, right in your own home. Just a bit of a warning when you decide to go green, though – you’ll be using a LOT of essential oils. Just sayin’.
Top eco-friendly laundry tips
1. Pre-soak your clothes before washing.
I found that this makes my laundry washing the following day so much easier. Pre-soaking your clothes loosens any stubborn stains and helps remove funky odours.
All you have to do is put your soiled clothes in a bucket containing a solution of 1 cup of baking soda diluted in 3½ litres of water. Leave your clothes to soak in the solution overnight before washing. If you’re feeling a little extra, put a few drops in of your favourite essential oil in there for that special touch.
2. Make your own eco friendly laundry pods.
Making your own natural laundry detergent is a fun way to get creative because you get to mix and match scents, just like in arts and crafts class.
Here’s what you will need:
1 bar grated castile soap
¼ cup Epsom salts
1 cup washing soda
¼ cup baking soda
½ cup white vinegar
10 drops essential oil (lemon is always a good choice!)
You’re probably wondering if baking soda (also known as bicarb soda) and washing soda are the same thing. Think of baking soda as washing soda’s more bashful and shy cousin. Washing soda and baking soda are both bases, but washing soda is more basic or alkaline. This means that you can remove stains faster when you use washing soda. Baking soda is much gentler and loosens stains less quickly.
To make your own environmentally friendly laundry detergent, mix all of the ingredients well until it starts to come together to form a loose clumpy mess. Pack the mixture tightly into your ice tray and let dry overnight. As soon as you’re ready to do your laundry, just pop a pod or two and you’ll have clean clothes sans the harsh chemicals.
You can use any essential oil as an eco-friendly laundry scent booster. Try experimenting with different fragrances like lavender, bergamot, or jasmine with lemon. Citrus scents like orange, lemon, and grapefruit are always a favourite because they give your laundry that fresh scent of early summer mornings.
I wouldn’t recommend using tea tree oil on its own, though, just because it tends to smell a bit too medicinal for me. But if you love the scent of pure tea tree oil, by all means, it’s perfectly fine!
3. Whiten your whites with lemon juice.
Tired of wearing whites that look off-white to you? Use this all-natural alternative to bleach by combining half a cup of lemon juice to 3½ litres of very hot water. Lemon juice has strong whitening properties and gives your laundry that bright, fresh scent.
Soak your (off) whites in the lemon juice solution for an hour to overnight, depending on how much you’d want to ‘bleach’ your clothes. This solution works best on tougher fabrics like cotton and polyester, but is not recommended for delicates like silk.
4. Use hydrogen peroxide as a stain remover.
Let’s face it. There are stains that are just too hard to remove. Hydrogen peroxide is not only an inexpensive and eco-friendly laundry disinfectant, it can also remove stubborn stains like blood, berry or fruit stains, and dye stains.
Before trying this, spot test if the fabric of your clothes will fade or bleed out by dabbing a piece of cotton soaked with hydrogen peroxide on the inside hem. If the color fades, don’t continue with this step. You’re good to proceed if the color remains intact.
Simply spray on a bit of hydrogen peroxide on the stain and wait for 10 minutes. You can then wash as usual. For more stubborn stains, scrub the fabric gently until the stain comes off. Take extra care when treating clothes that are prone to dye-transfer to prevent them from bleeding color out.
5. Use cold water for washing.
Using hot water when you wash your clothes consumes more electricity than if you use regular cold water. If you want to help the planet by reducing your carbon imprint, this is the way to go. Even better if you can switch to an eco-friendly energy-saving washing machine. This not only helps save the environment, you’re also saving money from less electricity consumption. It’s a win-win situation.
6. Hand wash when you can.
Okay, you must be thinking that this part doesn’t sound fun. AT ALL. I hear you! And you’re probably right. But in the spirit of using less electricity when doing your laundry, washing by hand can go a long way in helping the environment (and your health, too, if you count this activity as exercise!)
Hand washing benefits your clothes, too. Just pick out the smaller items that you know you can realistically hand wash. Unless you’re feeling particularly industrious, you don’t have to wash the entire contents of your laundry basket! You’ll find that in the long run, the items you wash by hand are better maintained than the clothes laundered in the washing machine.
What is there not to love about air-drying? You’ll be using less electricity, your clothes will smell better, and you won’t have to worry about that awkward static cling that happens when your clothes come out of the dryer.
Air-drying works even better if you have an open space where you can hang your clothes to dry under the sun. Hanging your clothes under the sun deodorizes them and helps whiten whites. Try air-drying your clothes in your backyard and have the scent of crisp, clean linen wafting in your home.
And while you’re on a roll with going green, why not switch to wooden clothespins, hangers, and wicker laundry baskets? These are completely biodegradable, unlike their plastic counterparts, and are even nicer-looking. Wood is very much on trend in interior design, and going Japandi with your choice of household items is just aesthetically on point.
More eco-friendly habits
If you’re on a trip and can’t bring your whole green laundry kit with you, there are ways for you to still take care of your health and help the planet.
For one, you can head to the nearest laundry service that uses natural detergents or has an eco-friendly laundry machine. If you’re staying in a hotel and prefer to wash your clothes by hand, you can use the shampoo or body wash provided in the room as a laundry soap substitute. Just be sure to confirm with the concierge if the toiletries are biodegradable.
Another effective way to start living a greener lifestyle is to do away altogether with toxic non-biodegradable chemicals and cleaning agents in your home, and opt for non-toxic biodegradable products when you can.
You can also ask your professional cleaners if they have a green cleaning option for you. Excellent cleaning service providers should be able to offer an eco-friendly cleaning option as part of their services.
Clean means going green!
Remember how you felt when you first heard about the effects of climate change on the planet? The environmental impact of washing clothes is more serious than we think. Now that you know these eco-friendly laundry tips and laundry hacks, there’s no better time than now to go green and live healthy, one baby step at a time.