You only have to do small changes in your laundry routine in order to make big differences in how it is affecting not just the environment but also your health.
Every time we do a load of laundry more than 700.000 microscopic fibers are released into the water, and a big portion of those particles end up in our environment threating our ecosystems and harming our wildlife.
It is unlikely that any of us will stop washing our clothes but we can still do our part to make our laundry routines more eco-friendly and at the same time you and your family benefit as well. First of all you save money, you reduce your energy consumption, you cut your family´s exposure to chemicals and you prevent water pollution. All of this without spending days hand-washing or investing in an expensive new washing machine.
1. Avoid detergents with artificial fragrances
Good examples of brands offering laundry detergents that don´t use polluting ingredients, and which are ofen also biodegradable, are Seventh Generation, Ecover, Method, Planet and Biokleen.
2. Go nuts with natural soap nuts
If you want to go all-natural, you can! It may sound a little too creative and eco-friendly, but it is actually very simple. The soap nuts are the berries of the Sapindus mukorossi tree of northern India and Nepal, and the shell of the fruit contains lots of natural saponins (soap). The nuts belong to the simplest and most natural options for laundry detergent. You simply just fill a bag full of the nuts and then straight into the washing machine.
3. Wash full laundry loads
First of all it is a waste of your time washing more than once a week and second of all it is not very eco-friendly. Instead of washing a lot of small loads during the week, you can wait until you can do a full load. Even though you may have one of the new high-tech energy-efficient washing machines it still uses around 27 gallons of water, and the older models can consume up to 54 gallons per load.
4. Wash with cold water
You can actually wash your laundry in cold water, even it is really dirty. The only thing you have to do is pre-soaking the dirty laundry in cold water for about one hour, adding a few tablespoons of baking soda, which will make sure the dirt and grime will loosen up.
5. Separate your laundry
If you want to get the maximum out of your washing machine you have to carefully separate your laundry. Wash towels, heavyweight and lightweight items separately. It will dry faster and more evenly if you separate your laundry into similar-weight laundry.
6. Wash jeans and outerwear less often
We tend to throw all our clothes in the laundry basket after just one day, but some of our clothes can easily last more than a day, actually a whole week, without getting washed. Jeans and outerwear belongs to the category of clothes you can easily use for more than a week before you wash it again. If you want to freshen them up without washing them you can either spray them with a 50/50 mixture of water and vodka (the vodka smell disappears quickly, and the alcohol eliminates odors), or else you can simply hang them out in the sun and let them fresh air for an hour or two.
7. Brighten laundry without bleach
By using either lemon, perioxide or vinegar in combination with the sun you can brighten your laundry without all the toxic, headache-inducing bleach. You simply just soak the white laundry in water with one-quarter cup of any of the three ingredients. Just remember never to mix them. Afterwards you hang out your clothes in direct sunlight.
8. Remove tough stains
It can be fairly easy to remove even the toughest stains like berries, grass, blood, tomatoes, sugary products, coffee, wine, mustard, grease and even the nasty yellow underarm stains. All you need is white vinegar, let it sit for at least 10 minutes, and then wash the clothes like normal. If the accident just happened and the stain is fresh, you can sprinkle on salt or baking soda to absorb as much of the stain as possible before applying the vinegar. Another great, eco-friendly and stain-fighting tool is a paste made of vinegar and baking soda brushed into the fabric with an old toothbrush.
9. Lower dryer time
If you empty the lint trap on your dryer before each load you can increase the efficiency of the dryer. Some dryer´s has a moisture sensor, so if yours has this you can use it to make sure clothes don't over-dry. When washing you can just send your laundry through an extra spin cycle to squeeze out extra moisture before you toss it over in the dryer. Off course the best you can do is to line-dry your laundry, but if you don't have so much time you can use the dryer for 10-15 minutes before hanging up the clothes.
10. Soft, line-dried laundry
You probably have many clothes that come off the clothesline smelling fresh and feeling soft, but then you probably also have some that end up stiff and crunchy, like bath towels. You may avoid line-drying your laundry because the dryer simply makes a better job making everything feel softer on your skin, but here comes an easy trick that will eliminate this problem. Detergent can build up and leave remains over time so a good start is to cut down on your detergent use. When the washer is in it's final cycle you add a cup of white vinegar, which will make the laundry feel soft again.