Detox Your Home: The Laundry
Sep 09, 2014
Updated 10 May 2022
You don’t have to revert to the laundry mangle to go green in the laundry. It's really easy to switch to greener products that don’t have as much impact on you or the environment and as a bonus, will save you money, too.
Clothes washing detergents and fabric softener
One of the worst allergic reactions I’ve ever had was to a laundry powder. My mother in law very kindly did my washing for me, and I broke out in a rash all over. I couldn’t for the life of me work out what it was, and of course, it cleared up when I did my own washing again. The next time she did my washing for me, I broke out again and finally put two and two together.
I’ve been using natural laundry powders for years and never have any problem with staining. Unless my laundry is really stained, I use half the recommended amount and have absolutely no complaints. Eco friendly laundry powders really do work! They’re not only gentler on your skin, but they’re also better for the environment and are quite often better on your clothes.
Skip anything with optical brighteners, which cause algal blooms that choke off aquatic life. Make sure it’s biodegradable and grey water safe. If you choose concentrated or powdered versions, you’ll save on packaging as well.
Don't forget to check out my Laundry Detergents Cheat Sheet, too.
Hang clothes in the sun to bleach them naturally. You’ll be amazed at how well it works. To help it along, you can dilute some white vinegar in water and spray a little onto the stain while the clothes are still wet.
Go with an oxygen whitener rather than bleach. The chlorine in bleach is a respiratory irritant and a reproductive toxin. Try the ecostore laundry soaker, which you can use as a soak, or just pop a little in with your wash. I’ve used this for my husband’s office shirts and the children’s martial arts uniforms.
And my absolute favourite is a stain remover bar called Tuff Stuff. It's incredible and hasn't failed me yet. It also smells amazing.
Get a clothes line or a clothes horse
Clothes dryers can cost you hundreds of dollars a year to run, not to mention the hundreds of kilos of carbon emissions. Line drying, on the other hand, costs nothing to either you or the planet. Air dried clothes never go static. And there's absolutely nothing better than the smell of air dried laundry!
If you absolutely must run your towels through the dryer to soften them up (personally, I like a rough towel!), line dry them first, then give them a couple of minutes to hit in the dryer.
Here in Melbourne, I have a couple of handy clothes horses that I put into a corner of the garage or the rumpus room when the weather is too wet to hang clothes on the line. Here's how clothes horses work at my house...
Use common scents
I’ll admit that there are times (especially during a damp Melbourne winter) when you need to use a dryer. But I will not admit that you need dryer fabric softener or scented dryer sheets!
The chemicals used in these are suspected carcinogens, and it’s so easy to avoid these products. Add half a cup of vinegar to the final rinse cycle of your wash to soften your clothes (the bonus is that it also gets rid of that musty smell when you’ve left the wet laundry in the machine for too long). You can add a few drops of essential oils like lavender, lemon, or my favourite, rose geranium oil, to the rinse. This can help make things smell fresh and lovely.
Instead of dryer sheets, you could try felted wool dryer balls like the ones from That Red House, or you could do my trick and throw an old hand towel into the dryer with a few drops of essential oil on them.
Go plastic free
Choose laundry detergents in powder form and in a cardboard box to cut down on packaging plastic. Stain removers in bar soap form will cut down on plastic packaging, too.
Wool dryer balls are plastic free, too, unlike dryer sheets.
Ditch the Dry Cleaner
Most dry cleaners use a chemical called perchloroethylene, which has been linked to cancer and fertility issues. Some eco friendly dry cleaners now use silicone solvent based or liquid CO2 cleaning methods, which are healthier alternatives. Or even better: skip the dry cleaner altogether. Try gentle handwashing in a delicates laundry liquid, which will also prolong the life of those delicate fabrics.
Shop smarter and buy fabrics that don’t require dry cleaning. If you absolutely have to dry clean something, take it out of the plastic and hang it outside for as long as you can before you hang it in your wardrobe or wear it. At least four hours, or better still, a few days.
Interested in finding out even more?
We've got loads more articles so that you can up your game when it comes to detoxing your laundry and living a more sustainable life!
- Why You Shouldn't Clean with Bleach
- Why You Shouldn't Use Borax in DIY Cleaning Products
- Should You Wash New Clothes Before You Wear Them?
This is the final article in our series about detoxing your home. If you've missed any of the instalments, you can find the links here:
Where to buy natural laundry products
Shop for all your natural laundry products at Hello Charlie. You'll find natural clothes detergents, dryer balls, stainless steel pegs, bamboo pegs, natural stain removers, and more. As always, everything is researched and reviewed against our strict sustainability criteria before we stock it. So you can shop with confidence!