Eco-Friendly Laundry Tips

In Home, How To's and Why Do's, HP Featured Article, Videos by Lori Hill2 Comments

About This Sister Eden Video

These eco-friendly laundry tips will save you money, time, water, electricity, detergent and make your clothes last longer. Oh yeah AND reduce our dependency on oil.

Wear Clothes Again and Again

If your clothes aren’t visibly dirty or smelly, wear them again! And again! People really do this! In fact, the CEO of Levi Strauss and Co. suggests you not wash your jeans and clothing designer Tommy Hilfiger goes months without washing his! I probably wear my jeans about 10 to 30 times before washing them. Which explains why the amount of laundry I personally create on a weekly basis is usually no more than 6 items (not counting intimate apparel which I hand wash). I hang up my “reused clothes” in a special corner in my closet so that I can tell the difference between what is “just-laundered clean” and what is “clean enough”. 

A special note for those with kids: I found that once I asked our sons to apply stain remover to their dirty clothes, they were much more careful about not wiping their dirty hands on their clothes! Honest! They use the stain remover a heckuva lot less than they used to because it means less work for them.

Use a Plant-Based, Biodegradable Laundry Detergant

According to Green America, “…conventional detergents are made from synthetic petrochemicals that are hard on the environment … The best eco-friendly detergents are made without nonrenewable, petroleum-based chemicals. They are biodegradable and contain no optical brighteners, dyes, or artificial fragrances.”

I now use soap nuts because they create less waste. Because I want to live a low waste life, I’m trying to not just keep stuff out of the trash, but the recycling bin, too. Soap nuts are compostable and I can place the small fabric bags in textile recycling (but they will break down very quickly if that option isn’t available to you).  

If you’ve never heard of soap nuts, they are a dried fruit with an outer shell that contains saponin, a natural substance known for its ability to cleanse and wash. I place 3 to 5 nuts in a small cotton wash bag that comes with my order of soap nuts from Green Virgin Products and use it for about 5 to 7 washes. I just toss it in with the laundry. That’s it! When moving laundry to the dryer, remove the wash bag (it’s usually easy to find). If you forget and the wash bag with soap nuts goes into the dryer, no big deal. You can still use them again. To be sure your soap nuts still have saponin, squeeze the nut. If a liquid or foamy substance comes out, it’s still good! 

If you are a little hesitant about using soap nuts (I was, and am mad at myself for waiting to use them!), and prefer to use a liquid or power detergant, we are also fans of Seventh Generation. Green America also has some suggested brands.

Wash in Warm or Cold Water and Rinse in Cold

Trust me, your clothes will still get clean and you’ll save on your energy bill by not having to heat up water to the “hot” level. According to Energy Star, “Water heating consumes about 90% of the energy it takes to operate a clothes washer. Unless you’re dealing with oily stains, washing in cold water will generally do a good job of cleaning. Switching your temperature setting from hot to warm can cut energy use in half. Using the cold cycle reduces energy use even more.”

Make Your Own Stain Remover

I used to use Shout on my stains, but then I looked it up on GoodGuide, which helps consumers choose products that contain ingredients with fewer health concerns. I learned that Shout got a zero rating out of a possible 10 (10 being the best) because it contains borax which is suspected of causing cancer. Yikes. That’s okay. I choose not to get cancer! 

In an effort to create less waste and the number of products I had to purchase on a regular basis, I now make my ow stain remover. It’s easy. I combine these ingredients in a bowl:

3 tablespoons white vinegar

2 tablespoons liquid detergent (you can make your own by soaking soap nuts in a jar with water)

4 cups warm water

I then dip a scrub brush in the mixture and then scrub at the stain. Both our sons are in little league baseball and this mixture works to get out serious grass and dirt stains! Anything that is left over after from this batch gets placed in a spray bottle. 

I not only keep a spray bottle of this stain remover in my laundry room but also in my bathroom linen closet so that when I get stains on my clothes, I immediately apply the stain remover and scrub it in. Even if I don’t launder that soiled piece of clothing for days, the stain comes out. 

1 Cup of Vinegar Goes a Long Way

Add 1 cup of vinegar to the wash cycle to:

  • remove odors from clothes
  • prevent color fading
  • prevent colors from bleeding in the wash
  • kill bacteria 

Source: AskAnnaMoseley

Line Dry Your Clothes

I have fond memories of how sunshiny fresh our laundry smelled when mom line-dried our clothes. More and more people are doing this now because they realize that their clothes will last longer because putting them in a dryer wears them down. Also, you save money on your electricity bill because you aren’t running your dryer as often.

What eco friendly products and practices do you use when doing your laundry? Please share them in the comments below!

Lori Hill

Lori Hill

Lori Hill founded Sister Eden in order to inspire people to make sustainable choices in their everyday lives. Before that, she produced special events for 16 years and educated her colleagues about how to make their events more sustainable. In addition to being an online media personality and producer of videos, Lori is a speaker, writer, activist, wife, mom, and plant eater just trying to do the right thing and make a difference in the world. You can often find her walking her rescue dog Dolly while picking up trash in her Takoma Park neighborhood where Sister Eden has adopted a spot.
Lori Hill

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Comments

  1. These are great tips, Lori. We can’t drip-dry in our yard, but the shower rod and door knobs around the house work well, too. Plus – a bonus – a friend who is a dressmaker told me that dry-drying clothes helps them last longer, fade less and shrink less.

    Soap nuts are fun! We also like Berry Plus – http://berryplus.com/ It’s made from soapberries; you use a microdose, and then recycle the packaging.

    Ironing is another chore with laundry that takes electric (or using and electric steamer, same idea!), but a lot of the time, you can just hang things in the bathroom while you shower and they will steam out fine. It’s not as crisp as ironing, but once you’re wearing it a while, it doesn’t look any different. 🙂

    1. Author

      It’s official! Between your comments and the comments from our neighbor Rachel on Facebook (who introduced us to soap nuts), we are doing a video on line drying laundry! Look for it in the future!

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