By laundering clothes using simple ingredients and wise eco-practices, consumers can both save money and lower their carbon footprint.
Natural cleaning ingredients cited by TheEcoGuide.org include white vinegar, baking soda, lemons, borax and castile soap, all of which “can be bought in bulk with minimal packaging and have known cleaning properties that make them safe, effective and carbon-friendly alternatives.” Coarse salt is also suggested due to its mold-fighting power.
Look for biodegradable laundry detergents made with plant oils and other natural ingredients that are free of phosphates, bleach and surfactants such as petroleum-based nonylphenol ethoxylates.
Consider coldwater washing. About 90 percent of the energy a washing machine uses goes toward heating water. By washing four out of five loads in cold water, a household could cut its carbon emissions by 864 pounds a year, according to Energy Star data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Because the cold setting may still heat the water to as much as 80° F, see if the washer has a preferable “tap cold” option. Also, the temperature recommendations on clothing labels represent “the highest spectrum clothes can handle,” Melissa Hockstad, president and chief executive of the American Cleaning Institute, recently told The New York Times, so the hottest water won’t necessarily clean clothes better.
During rinsing, natural disinfectants that can be added include a few drops of peppermint or lavender essential oil; two teaspoons of tea tree oil; white vinegar (one-half cup per load); or one teaspoon of grapefruit seed extract.
Always assemble a full load of laundry each time. Line drying outdoors or on a drying rack indoors also conserves energy and is gentler on fabrics. Further, learn how to make homemade, felted wool dryer balls at DIYNatural.com; tossing four to six of them in each dryer load saves time, energy and money plus reduces static cling. And consider running the dryer early in the morning or overnight: this shifts energy consumption to off-peak hours, which lowers the demand on power plants and could help reduce national reliance on fossil fuels.