I have done a lot of posts in the past that have covered the area of cleaning the home and doing it in an environmentally safe and non toxic fashion. But there is always more to discuss, as the concept of cleaning goes beyond just scrubbing the tub and scraping the stove. You also clean your clothes, your body and the outside area of your residence. In truth, all of this cleaning requires chemicals of various kinds and even the stuff you are sudsing up with in the shower can be toxic both to the planet and to you.
Consider first the washing of clothes. Did you know that only the toilet wastes more water than the washing machine in the average household? It’s that wasteful… and expensive! And as that water drains out, it takes with it the chemicals from your laundry detergent. This means they end up in the drinking water supply and how do they clean drinking water? With chlorine and other chemicals, all of which amplify the toxicity of the detergents you use. While popular, name brand detergents do a great job cleaning your clothes, they also do major damage in the environment. They also have an effect on you and your family, either on the front end where they contact your flesh through the wearing of the washed clothing… or on the other end where they end up in your glass.
So what do you do about washing your clothes? I would say, it is up to you to choose less-toxic detergents or even to make your own substitutes. I often use unscented glycerin soaps with herbal oils to wash my own clothing because I am so allergic to everything. I cannot use the laundry soap everyone else around here uses unless I want to spend every night and every day scratching my skin bloody. So I have to make different choices. Laundry detergent is a major offender on all fronts. Unlike soap, which can be all-natural, detergents are synthetic and most are petroleum-based. They contain surfactants that enable the product to penetrate stains and wash them away. Some common surfactants used in detergents are known to be toxic to the immune system and suspected to interfere with the hormonal system. They are also major contaminants in US waterways where they threaten the survival of fish.
So what is the alternative? One idea, as I have already pointed out, is to use soap instead of detergents. But I don’t use a washing machine or regular tap water so this will not work for most folk. In fact, 85% of US households have hard water and plain soap mixed with hard water equals soap scum. I do not believe that soap scum laden clothes are in fashion this season. So other ideas have to come to mind. If you are willing to use distilled, soft water with soap then you can do what I do.. but if you spend a great deal of time out of the house and have to hurry through the washing process, then consider making some other choices.
Soap Nuts, for one, are not actually soap and may be worth a try. You can make them according to label directions and add them to the machine. They work as well as soap but don’t contribute to scum. But even this may be a real headache if you are rushed with lots of obligations and very little time to spare. So this when a green product enters the field of possibilities and may be the very best solution on all fronts. However, if you have the time to spare and want to do it, you can make your own homemade recipes. I have posted a few of them HERE.
If you are going to go for green detergents as a solution to both environmental damage and toxic exposure to deadly chemicals, remember to look for detergents that are plant-based, biodegradable, and free of fragrance and dyes. As with any green product, the more complete and easy to read the ingredient list, the better. Look at the packaging as well. Look for concentrated formulas that use less packaging, and buy in bulk whenever possible. According to a Green Guide survey, the three most popular brands of green detergents are: Seventh Generation Natural Laundry Detergent , Ecover Laundry Powder and Ecos Liquid Laundry Detergent. I have personally used All Free & Clearand Arm & Hammer Essentials Dye & Perfume Free and can recommend them both.
The way to continue going green at the washing machine and saving money at the same time, is to do a little planning. You can save water and energy regardless of what kind of machine you have by washing in cold water whenever possible. Hot water accounts for 90% of the energy used to wash clothes. Even switching from hot to warm can cut your energy use by half! And it is also a good idea to run your washer during off-peak energy use hours. This means in the evenings after dusk or in the early mornings before 7 am.
If you are looking to get a new washer, consider upgrading to an Energy Star compliant model. These models can reduce your water and energy consumption overall by as much as 40%.