Laundry. It’s something that most adults have to do every day and for most of us, grabbing a bottle or box of detergent at the store is quick, easy, and something we don’t think about.
Your detergent habit could be having a terrible effect on the environment, though, and there IS a better way!
So, do eco-friendly laundry detergent alternatives really work? They sure do! In recent years there has been a steady rise in the number of detergents on offer to the average consumer, and with a focus on better technology, eco-friendly detergents have really improved their results.
What Makes A Detergent “Eco Friendly”?
There are many different types of detergent, and the difference between them lies in their ingredients.
Detergents that claim to have “all-natural ingredients” usually include baking soda, enzymes, salt, and other natural additives that help to break down the smell and dirt build up on different types of fabrics.
The perks of using eco-friendly laundry detergents start with the fact that they don’t contain phosphates or synthetic dyes, which are toxic chemicals that are notorious for building upon fabrics at home.
Eco-friendly laundry detergents are also free of petroleum and have little to no impact on aquatic life when they are drained out of your washing machine. It’s the phosphates that are included in regular laundry detergents that can be lethal to aquatic life and cause problems for our waterways and everything that lives in them.
A huge bonus when it comes to using greener eco-friendly laundry detergent over regular detergents is that many of the bigger brand eco detergents are going the extra mile and making their production facilities greener by investing in renewable energy and recyclable packaging.
There are a lot of companies, like Fill and Ecover, who actively encourage customers to refill their detergent bottles to create a closed-loop system.
Getting Your Laundry Clean The Green Way
What do you get if you mix environmentally friendly detergents with state-of-the-art technology? The answer is laundry products that are not only good for the environment but also great at getting your clothes clean!
Many brands of eco-friendly laundry detergent use plant-based enzymes that are non-toxic and free of any synthetic chemicals. These plant-based enzymes are what help your clothes stay clean in the long term by breaking down dirt and odour-causing bacteria.
In order to get the most out of your eco-friendly laundry detergents, here are seven tips for a better clean.
Spot Clean With Soap
The number one best tip to get your laundry clean the eco way is to spot clean with a bar of laundry soap. There are lots of plastic-free soap sticks available on the market and using these can really save you some money as they don’t need to be refilled as often as your liquid detergent stain remover does.
Simply dampen the area you want to spot clean, use a small amount of soap and agitate the fabric. You don’t need to dry the fabric or rinse it, just throw it in the wash with the rest of your laundry.
Use Vinegar – For Odours and Softening
Vinegar is an amazing substance! When it comes to laundry, you can use white vinegar as a fabric softener and an odour remover.
Vinegar sprayed onto particularly dirty or smelly areas (such as the armpits) give your laundry detergent an extra boost.
Simply mix a vinegar solution 3:1 water to vinegar and spray the area affected before putting the item of clothing in the wash. You can even pour neat vinegar into the fabric softener area of your machine to save on detergent.
Use Bleach Alternatives
Eco-friendly laundry detergents don’t always do a great job on whites because they don’t use optical brighteners.
There are many brands of bleach alternatives that can help to whiten your whites without the dangers of bleach.
One of the most popular brands is bioD Laundry Bleach, which uses a combination of oxygen-activated biodegradable bleaching agents, brighteners and plant-based enzymes. This product is excellent for whitening whites and works well with greener laundry detergents.
Most oxygen-activated eco bleaching agents use sodium percarbonate as their active ingredient, this is a harmless substance that does not pose a risk to the environment or aquatic life.
Use Baking Soda
If you have spent any time researching eco-friendly laundry detergents and green cleaning options you will no doubt know about the three main DIY cleaning agents used by eco fans. These three ingredients are white vinegar, lemon juice, and baking soda (or bicarbonate of soda).
Baking soda is used in many DIY beauty products because it is safe to use (in measured amounts) both externally and internally, and this makes it great for use as a cleaning agent.
Add half a cup of bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) to your machine’s powder drawer to boost your detergent’s effectiveness, especially if your laundry is particularly dirty or soiled.
Use A Longer Wash Cycle
These days, most detergents (eco or not) are rated to work well in cold water washes, and most washing machines will have a 20C (65F) wash cycle for average cotton washes.
For most laundry loads, that is loads that contain clothing that isn’t particularly dirty but has been worn once or twice throughout a normal day, the cooler temperatures are absolutely fine to wash on and your laundry will be perfectly washed.
For clothing that is particularly soiled (such as a dirty football/soccer kit), you may need to use a longer wash cycle and perhaps a hotter wash cycle. A 30C (85F) or 40C (105F) will usually suffice for most dirty washes, although towels and similar loads should be washed on a higher heat (60C/140F and above).
Colder wash cycles are usually shorter for a simple wash, but for heavily soiled clothes you may want to give your load a longer wash cycle or a pre-rinse first to get the most out of your detergent.
Put The Detergent Directly In The Drum
Whether you use laundry liquid (side note, this is the best kind of detergent to use) or laundry powder as your eco-friendly laundry detergent, putting the detergent into the drum with your clothing is the best way to get the most out of it.
Use a laundry dosing ball, a dosing cup, or even a small plastic (or plastic alternative!) cup or pot, fill it with your laundry detergent and throw it in the drum with your laundry.
Run the machine as normal.
Use A Water Softener
If you live in a hard-water area (and almost every city is) you will know all about the fact that you need to use more detergent per wash. This means there are lots of minerals present in your water, which are hard on your garments.
To counteract this, many of the eco-friendly laundry brands actually use a non-toxic borax softener to try and remove some of these minerals from the water. Borax is an excellent general purpose cleaner for washing machines and sinks, which can help to soften really hard water but it isn’t as environmentally friendly as we’d like.
You can soften your water in two ways: use an additive (like bicarbonate of soda or baking soda) in your laundry load, or install a water softener in your home.
Long-term, installing a water softener is probably the best choice for both the environment and your wallet, but if this isn’t an option right now, adding a quarter cup of bicarb to your machine (in the additives drawer) along with your regular eco-friendly laundry detergent will do wonders to help soften the water and improve your clean.