Sunday, February 6, 2011
Green Alternatives: Laundry
Green Alternatives is a series that shows you the green alternatives to normally wasteful/toxic products. I use all of the featured products in my own home. I am not being paid to endorse any of the products in this series, I just really like them! In my opinion, a green alternative falls into at least 2 of these categories:
1. They contain no toxic chemicals/fragrances/etc
3. They contain less or no plastic
4. They are produced by ethical companies who care about my health and the environment
Today's post is about laundry. Personally, this is how I started making changes around our house, and I think it is probably the easiest transition. We have been making our own laundry powder for over a year now, and I will never go back to store bought detergent. It is incredibly easy and cheap to make your own, and it works great! The recipe I use works well in cold water, which is all we really use at our house, except for towels. It's not great if you want your whites to come out incredibly white, but I just bleach my whites occasionally, and that works well for us.
Normal laundry detergents are full of toxic ingredients that can harm you as well as the environment. They contain synthetic surfactants which cause skin irritations and allergic reactions, and also react with the atmosphere as they are breaking down and produce known carcinogens called nitrosamines. Almost all average laundry detergents contain synthetic fragrances that are petroleum based, which can cause respiratory distress and skin irritation. Then when you're done with them, these detergents dissolve heavy metals as they break down in our waterways, allowing them to circulate into our food chain. The companies that make these detergents also don't need to disclose all of the ingredients that are in their products, so a lot of it is left up to the imagination. If they don't want to put it on the label, I am assuming it's because most people would not purchase it if they knew what was really in it. Gross. Ready to switch yet? I promise it is really easy and it will save you money!
So my recipe for homemade laundry powder is:
1 cup soap flakes (or grated all natural soap- homemade would be cheaper, I just haven't tried it yet)
1/2 cup borax
1/2 cup washing soda
Mix all ingredients together and store in an airtight container. Use 1 tbsp. for regular loads and 2 tbsp for dirtier ones. I find soap flakes at my local natural foods store in the cleaning aisle.
There is a version of homemade laundry liquid that you can make that is even cheaper than this one. I make the powdered one because we don't have a lot of storage space, so you can make just a small amount at a time, as opposed to the liquid, which makes a fairly large amount. The liquid recipe can be found here.
Laundry powder and dryer sheets, chemical free.
Now on to dryer sheets. Dryer sheets are probably one of the most toxic products in your house. They contain known carcinogens such as Benzyl acetate, Limonene, and Chloroform. But even more disturbing is the number of chemicals they contain that are neurotoxic. These chemicals go by names such as A-Terpineol, ethanol, and Linalool, and almost all of them are on the EPA's Hazardous Waste List. These chemicals attack your body's central nervous system and can cause brain damage, paralysis, headaches, nausea, and many other health problems. And we use them on a regular basis! There are many different alternatives for dryer sheets, such as dryer balls, but they are usually made from plastic and come in a ridiculous amount of packaging. What I use is a cloth dryer sheet that is completely chemical and fragrance free, and can be reused thousands of times. We got ours as a gift about 2 years ago, and haven't looked back. There are a whole bunch of different brands available, mostly at health food stores. They work very well, and when they start getting a little lax on their duties all you have to do is throw them in with your wash and it brings them back to life! And they came in a little cardboard box. No plastic, child proof, impossible to open packaging needed. Or wanted.
If you don't want to go out and buy cloth dryer sheets, you can always add some vinegar to your final rinse in your wash, and it will act as a natural fabric softener. And if you are lucky, you can always hang dry your clothes outside, and let the sun and warm breeze naturally soften and brighten your clothing! Obviously not applicable to my fellow Canadians right now who are still enjoying Old Man Winter's sense of humour (or malice, whatever you like).
Have a great week!