Is your conscience as clean as your clothes?

In response to a request for laundry tips, here goes:

1. Balls!

Instead of detergent, I’ve used Eco-Balls for years. Though I was initially sceptical, I’m happy with how effective they are. OK my laundry’s not like a detergent commercial. Sometimes a wash doesn’t get every mark out. However, I think they’re as effective as anything else I’ve used.

Not only do they last for 750 washes (meaning both that they put only a tiny amount of whatever it is they’re made of into the water, and that they’re great financial value), you don’t need to use fabric conditioner (even less resources used and more money saved) and you can use a shorter wash programme because you don’t need to rinse out any detergent (saving electricity and water).

I add a tablespoonful of Ecover bleach to white washes. I guess I would have to say that my whites probably don’t come out as white as they used to when I used regular washing powder. They’re white enough though. I’m not looking to dazzle car drivers as I walk down the street. 🙂

2. Smells

If an item is smelly, I pre-soak it in a solution of Borax for half an hour. Actually in Borax Substitute as Borax is no longer available (due to an EU reclassification apparently). It’s amazingly effective, and my web research, plus the fact that it’s sold by a number of green retailers that I trust, suggest that it’s a safe and eco-friendly product.

After I’ve taken the laundry out of the soak and put it on to wash, I keep the rest of the Borax solution for next time.

A word of warning though, don’t soak for longer than half an hour or colours can start to leach.

3. Marks

I use a regular stain remover stick on marks (e.g. elbows, collars and cuffs of white tops). I haven’t found an effective green alternative for this yet and would love to hear from anyone who has. I’ve tried various green suggestions (bicarbonate of soda, on its own and mixed with lemon juice, followed by drying in sunlight) without success.

Wanna know the best way to get grease out? Soak the area for 15mins in cola. Buy the cheapest own-label one. I use low-calorie as it’s less sticky if I spill any. Any cola will do though. It’s the phosphoric acid that does the trick. And it doesn’t stain your clothes. I got a massive smear of bike grease out of a pair of pale pink trousers that way.

4. Low temperature washing

I do everything on 30 degrees these days to save electricity. Seems to work fine.

Drying my washing machine

Dry BETWEEN the drum and the seal

One recommendation though. Without a hot wash (or bleach) going through your machine every now and then, there is a danger of mildew building up, which can cause nasty smells. To prevent this, leave the door of your machine wide open after each load of laundry, until it and the rubber seal are completely dry. In fact, I recommend drying the rubber seal after each load. And make sure you dry between the rubber seal and the drum.

I speak from experience. About a year ago, my knitwear started to smell nasty. It would smell fine when it came out of the machine and then, as it dried, it would begin to pong. Ew! It took me ages to track down the problem. I even tried running bleach through my machine on a hot wash without success. (It takes something to get me to use bleach I can tell you). Eventually I ran a cloth around behind the seal and it came away black and slimy. Gross! It took about a hour of doing that until a cloth would come away clean. Now I ALWAYS dry the seal, including between it and the drum, after every wash.

And I take out the detergent drawer, empty out any water caught in it and leave it on my draining board to dry.

5. Full loads

Does this go without saying? A full load is the most energy and water efficient way to wash. Using a ‘half-load’ programme won’t halve the amount of water or electricity used.

6. Turn the machine off when not in use

Don’t leave your machine on standby. Switch it off to save electricity.

7. Drying

I read somewhere that tumble dryers are the household appliances that consume the most energy. Makes sense. And they wear out your clothes. I’ve never had one.

I mostly dry stuff inside: over the radiators in the winter, on collapsable drying racks in the summer. Although I’ve got a rotary dryer, I rarely use it as I’ve successfully attracted so many birds to my garden that my laundry is in danger of collecting new (ahem) marks if I hang it outside. I find the place in my house where things dry the quickest is over the banisters. I guess there must be a slight air flow there as cool and hot air moves around the house. It’s particularly good for large items like duvet covers.

8. Don’t believe everything you read

Washcare labels err on the side of caution. Some things that claim to be dry clean only can be machine washed, and some things that claim to need a delicate wash can go in a regular wash. It’s worth experimenting, though there is a risk of course (and please don’t hold me responsible for any disappoinments!)

I’ve noticed that clothes with things like sequins and fancy buttons on them are often labelled ‘handwash only’ and I think it’s to prevent these things getting pulled off in the wash. Instead of handwashing them (or using the handwash setting on my washing machine), I put them in the regular wash, protected within a mesh laundry bag.

9. Which machine?

This article is interesting. It points out that an A+-rated washing machine may have a bigger environmental impact than a lower rated one if it doesn’t last as long. It also suggests that the difference in energy consumption between machines with different ratings is only small. So choose a machine that a consumer organisation such as Which recommends as reliable, as well as one that has a good energy rating.

10. Wash only when necessary

Wear clothes until they actually need washing. Don’t wash them just because you’ve worn them once.

11. Iron as little as possible

Music to your ears, right? Choose clothes that won’t need ironing. And don’t iron stuff like hankies or bedlinen. Who cares if they’re wrinkly?

Got any more eco-laundry tips? Drop me a line. I’d love to hear from you.

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