Just like choosing to purchase more sustainable and conscious clothing, we have to think about the way we launder them too. I recognize that this whole industry and the ethics and sustainability aspect can be very complex and honestly, sometimes overwhelming, even for myself. So I wanted to narrow down 5 tips that you can choose to do today, stress free.
1. Wash on Cold, delicate cycle
Saving Energy ~ Around 90% of the energy used from laundry machines is to produce heated water. You are cutting this down by choosing cold water. This in turn could lower your gas and/or electrical bills.
Less harsh on your clothing ~ Most delicate fabrics, such as lace, silk and tencel, respond better to cold water washing and will keep your clothes looking fresh longer. Also, your clothing is less likely to shrink or fade.
Stain Prevention ~ Some stains, such as blood or sweat, actually respond better to cold water in that they are less likely to become permanent when washed in cold water. Of course, always treat your stains prior to washing and look up the recommended treatment, but knowing that cold water is better is helpful.
Clean Finish ~ Modern detergents are created to function on lower temperatures, ensuring that your clothing will still come out clean!
Towels, Bedding + Bad Stains ~ If you are washing items that need a deeper clean, such as bedding, towels or clothing with really bad stains (grease), opt for warm wash, or a hot/cold mix. Some machines allow you to input the actual temperature, so a recommended alternative is 40-60°C instead of 30°C.
2. Choose a Plant-Based/Natural Detergent
No Harmful Chemicals ~ This is an easy one, by choosing a naturally derived detergent, you are avoiding the use of harsh chemicals to wash your fabrics. Many of these chemicals stay ridden in your clothing, which in turn end up being absorbed into your skin and inhaled into your lungs.
Better For Aquatic Life ~ Choose a phosphate-free detergent. This particular ingredient is known to cause “dead zones” in the ocean, so opt for biodegradable and natural ingredients. Remember, the water that is used in your washer has to go somewhere, and that someone eventually leads to waterways and the ocean.
Plastic-Free Packaging ~ If possible, look for natural detergents that come in cardboard boxes or biodegradable packaging. I know you can’t win every battle, but looking for non-plastic packaging is always best.
The Soap Works Pure Laundry Soap Powder ~ This product “is a pure soap product containing borax – it keeps clothes softer and colours last longer. This is organic, biodegradable and non-polluting. This soap powder contains no detergents, and does not require the use of anti-static or fabric softeners.” It also comes in kraft paper as opposed to a plastic container. It was rated a 5 on Think Dirty.
Eco-Max Hypoallergenic Laundry Wash ~ While this does come in a container, this is an all natural, plant-based detergent that is made in Canada and does not conduct any animal testing. The price is also good!
Nellie's Laundry Soda Tin ~ You only need 1 teaspoon per load of laundry, so don’t be fooled by the small container it comes in. We actually use this one at home, and it works great! It doesn’t have any smell, but those vibrant aromas you are used to verify “clean laundry” are often from the many fragrance chemicals used in the detergent.
Please note that these are only recommendations and should be taken at your own discretion. We recommend that you do your own research and test them on your own laundry to see how they react with your washer and your skin.
3. Hand wash your clothes
Less Abrasive ~ When you hand wash your clothing, you are naturally more gentle with the way you wash them. Your clothing aren’t rubbing against one another while tumbling around in soapy water. This will cause less pilling and a more accurate clean.
4. Wash full loads only
Less Water, Less Energy, More Laundry ~ Plain and simple. You use less water, less energy and you get more clean laundry out of it! Of course, don’t overload it to the point where your clothing doesn’t wash, but ensure that you’re doing fuller loads as opposed to just washing a few items.
5. Choose a Natural Whitener over Bleach
Chlorine Bleach Has Poor Impact From Manufacturing ~ While bleach is known to whiten our clothing and eliminate bacteria, it’s not all that great on the environment. Bleach actually comes from the “organochlorine family of chemicals, compounds rarely found in nature and which can take centuries to decompose.” Such compounds have been found in water, sediments, animals and even breast milk. When manufacturers product bleach, they release large quantities into waterways leading into the ocean. Due to the multiple amounts of chemicals released into the ocean, the chemicals from bleach form together with existing chemicals and other byproducts to form dioxins. Dioxins in turn have been linked to be highly toxic and cause health problems including cancer, especially in the wildlife that is swimming in this water
Natural > Synthetic ~ Just like choosing clothing or food derived from nature, do the same when choosing a whitener, or in other words, a bleach. Look for products that contain Hydrogen Peroxide as opposed to bleach. Hydrogen Peroxide is an oxidizing agent that naturally breaks down into water and oxygen, and is known to be more environmentally friendly than bleach.
Please note: Never mix hydrogen peroxide with household ammonia, chlorine bleach or vinegar in a closed container because dangerous gases can form.
I’d love to hear what you do to minimize your environmental impact when laundering! Remember, doing just one of these tips contributes to having a lighter ecological footprint on this earth.
All photos sourced from Unsplash and Canva