Laundry is one of those household tasks that not only takes a lot of a homemaker’s time but can also have a big impact on the environment. Detergents, bleach, fabric softener, and dryer sheets all have potential issues. Not to mention water usage and energy consumption considerations. But we can take steps to lessen the environmental impact by adopting some eco-friendly laundry practices.
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First up, let’s consider laundry detergent options. There are now a number of laundry detergents which are safer for the environment.
And some people make their own laundry soap, although these vary in their safety. For instance, many recipes call for borax which may not be as safe as some think:
For the first 30 years or so of my marriage I used Amway laundry detergent. It was expensive but it did a good job on our clothes and at one time it was amongst the better commercial options. It can be hard to change a three-decade-long habit but I have successfully made the switch to soap nuts.
I wrote about how I use soap nuts a few years ago. You can put them in the little muslin bag that comes with them and just toss in the washer and that works relatively well in warm water. However, I prefer to make a liquid from them which seems to work better, at least in my front loader. Here is how I make it:
Not only is this one of the most environmentally friendly options, it is also cheap! It costs about 10 cents a load compared to over 30 cents for Amway.
There are many environmental concerns about chlorine bleach. Here is a recipe for making your own color safe bleach:
It’s no secret I love the scent of Downy fabric softener. My mom and grandma both used it and I just adore that “April fresh scent”. However, I know it’s not the most eco-friendly way to soften fabrics. Liquid fabric softeners and dryer sheets contain many untested chemicals which are suspected hormone disrupters:
I’ll be perfectly honest here and admit that I still use Downy occasionally, especially on my sheets. However, I use vinegar in the rinse cycle for most other loads. Maybe someday I’ll kick the Downy habit entirely but at least I’ve cut my use substantially. Baby steps, folks. Baby steps.
I’ve never been in the habit of using dryer sheets but while vinegar is a decent substitute for liquid fabric softener, it doesn’t always reduce static enough during the dry winter months. That’s where dryer balls come in. I like these wool dryer balls:
Not only do they help soften and reduce static, you can also toss them in the dryer with washed pillows to help them dry faster and fluff them up.
While many (most?) of us here in the United States have clothes dryers, that’s not necessarily the case in the rest of the world. While I’m not interested in giving mine up, I am interested in having a clothesline. When we first moved to our current home, there was some clothesline stretched between three trees in the backyard. It wasn’t always the best option during pollen season but I did hang some of our laundry at least occasionally. There is truly nothing that smells better than line-dried sheets.
Eventually those lines rotted, we took them down, and they were never replaced. David doesn’t know this yet but I have a little project for him soon:
I have figured out the perfect place for a clothesline…away from trees and close to the house. I’ll be sure to take some pictures after David installs this.
My daughter has a clothesline and wrote about it here:
I may not have a clothesline yet but I do have an indoor drying rack like this one:
I keep it set up in the tub of our guest bathroom (unless we have guests!). I use it for delicate items or things that can’t go in the dryer. It’s not big enough for all of our laundry, largely because it doesn’t dry fast enough indoors. But it does have its purpose.
In addition to the outdoor clothesline I’m hoping to have soon, I also would like to install a wall-mounted drying rack in our laundry room. This would give me additional indoor hanging space during rainy weather.
Do you use any of these eco-friendly laundry practices? Do you have any others to add?