Even though the laundry room is probably the smallest room in your home you’ve also heard it can be one of the most toxic so how hard is it going to be to create an eco friendly laundry room and what do you need to do it? What if I told you it wasn’t very hard, only involved making a few swaps AND might just save you some money? Read my guide on how to make your laundry room eco friendly.
The good news is, it’s pretty easy. A few swaps and a few habit changes and you’re just about finished. Much easier than catching up on folding the endless loads of laundry that seem to pile up minute by minute.
Everything that goes in the washing machine comes into contact with our skin all day long, whether it be clothes, sheets, or towels so changing what you wash your clothes with can have a big impact on your health. No matter whether you suffer from any sort of skin or respiratory ailment or not, you definitely need to keep reading.
How To Make Your Laundry Room Eco Friendly
The products you use are just as important as the routine you follow for washing all your clothes, sheets, towels, etc.
Eco Friendly Laundry Products
One of first and easiest things you can do to ‘green your laundry routine’ is to swap out many of the brand name detergents and stain removers for products that are more eco friendly, meaning no harsh chemicals to harm your health and the environment.
Label reading can be challenging because manufacturers are not required to list all the ingredients on the product labels. Makes this task easy, eh? Not so much. The ingredients you need to look out for are:
- phosphates – cause algae blooms and are harmful to our waterways and aquatic life
- SLS/SLES – sodium laurel sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate – can cause skin irritation, eye damage, cancer, and respiratory problems in animals
- fragrances – catchall term for 3,000 different chemicals
- phthalates – known to cause hormone disruption
- formaldehyde – classified as a human carcinogen by the World Health Organization and the U.S. government
- dyes – known carcinogen and endocrine disruptor and provide no cleaning power
- 1,4 dioxane – shown to cause cancer in animal studies
- quaternary ammonium compounds (aka ‘quats’) – known to trigger asthma attacks and/or cause asthma
and there’s more but surely you get the point now, there are so many harmful ingredients that aren’t even required to be labeled on the packaging so how are you supposed to even know? Even products that claim to be fragrance free can contain some of these chemicals because they are odorless.
Tips to Green Your Laundry Routine
The first thing I recommend you do is to download the Environmental Working Group Healthy Living App. This will make the swapping process so much easier. The App will tell you what ingredients of concern are in the product as well as why they are concerning.
Now, I’m not going to leave you hanging. The App (and the Environmental Working Group website) can also provide safer alternatives so you have a solution to the problem.
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Tip #1 – Check your laundry detergent
Pull out your laundry detergent and your phone. Download the App, then scan the bar code on the detergent packaging for a list of ingredients and uncover any harmful ingredients lurking inside.
Whenever you can, opt for detergents in concentrate form as they use less packaging, less plastic, less materials and a smaller carbon footprint. We use Norwex Ultra Power Plus Laundry Detergent. It’s a powder and I love it for the laundry as well as other cleaning jobs around the house.
If you or anyone in your family suffers from eczema, dermatitis or any sort of skin condition, swap out your current laundry detergent for one that’s more mild to see if the condition improves.
You can opt to make your own homemade laundry detergent however, I’ve steered clear of that because I never had any luck with any of the DIY cleaners I tried.
Tip #2 – Swap the Dryer Sheets and Fabric Softeners for Dryer Balls
Fabric softeners are loaded with perfumes and synthetic fragrances. Those toxic chemicals are left behind as a coating on your clothes, towels, sheets, etc. This means those chemicals are coming into contact with your skin 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
The heat of the dryer transfers the coating on the dryer sheet to the fabric to make it softer. That coating can also be transferred to the interior of the dryer as well as lint trap thereby coating it. If you use dryer sheets, you’ll want to not only clean the lint trap often, but also scrub the lint trap with water to clean off that residual coating.
Any residue left inside the dryer and/or on the lint trap can effect the air circulation. Anything that effects the air circulation also effects the energy usage.
Dryer balls help to lift and separate the laundry thereby improving air circulation which in turn cuts down on energy usage (and saves money on your power bill). Dryer balls also help to soften cloths, towels, sheets, etc.
We use a combination of Norwex Wool Dryer Balls and some wool dryer balls I made many years ago.
After switching to dryer balls you may notice your laundry appears to have more static. Not to worry, it’s not the dryer balls, you just need to reduce the drying time because static is caused by over drying.
Another alternative to dryer sheets and fabric softener is white vinegar. Put a cup full in the final rinse cycle before transferring them to the dryer.
Pro Tip: if you compost, throw your dryer lint in the compost pile or bin.
Tip #3 – Skip the Bleach
Chlorine bleach is not only toxic but also not safe for use in septic systems. It can cause eye and skin irritation, cause lung damage and burn the skin. Sounds awesome, eh?
True story, when I was in high school, I spilled fruit punch on a relatively new white shirt (that I begged my mom to buy me because EVERYONE had one and they were expensive, I’m sure you can relate). Before my parents came home from work, I attempted to remove the stain by pouring straight bleach on the spots.
Well, the stains went away but the bleach ate right through the cotton, the shirt had a big hole in the middle and several other smaller ones, after I ‘cleaned it’. That was the last time I used bleach.
An alternative to bleach for whitening clothes is to soak them overnight in hot water and lemon juice OR add 1/2 cup lemon juice to the rinse cycle.
Interested in purchasing the products I mentioned, click the links above or place your order here.
The Most Environmentally Friendly Way to Wash Clothes
Once you get your products sorted out, these next tips will make you an eco friendly laundry room PRO!
Tip #4 – Wash in cold water
Most laundry detergents these days are formulated for both hot and cold water washing. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 90% of the energy used in the washing machine is for heating the water.
Switching to cold water could turn out to save you about $40 a year. It doesn’t sound like much but every bit helps and that could be a meal out, right!?!
Washing in cold water can also extend the life of the fabrics. It certainly reduces fading and can reduce shrinking.
Tip #5 – Wash less often
When your kids are super young, the laundry never ends, especially if you’ve got a little one with acid reflux or one who treats meal time like art school.
After you get past that stage, they still dirty their clothes but honestly, they’ll go out and play in the dirt the next day so is it really necessary to wash after every wear? Probably not.
Aside from underwear and socks, unless something is stained or smelly, put it away and wear it another time or two before laundering. Pants, jeans, shorts, etc in our house get washed after multiple wearings.
Tip #6 – Only wash when you have a full load
Just say no when your kid or spouse ‘needs’ this shirt for tomorrow, unless there’s a full load of laundry to do.
Even though HE machines have a water sensor capability, you’ll still be wasting water, electricity, and detergent to wash small loads.
Tip #7 – Use the dryer less
Most dryers have a moisture sensor system so they know when to stop drying clothes, sheets, towels, etc. Make sure to use this setting instead of a timed setting so you’re not over drying.
If you can, use a clothes line or drying rack instead of a dryer. It’s not always feasible due to space limitations or HOA (homeowner’s association) rules.
These last two tips for an eco friendly laundry room require a bit more expense so incorporate as you can.
Tip #8 – Switch to energy efficient appliances
When the time comes and you need a new washer or dryer, make sure to choose an Energy Star appliance. It would probably be hard to find one that’s not these days but anything’s possible.
The Energy Star label designates that the product uses less energy to get the same job done thereby reducing energy consumption and lowering energy costs.
You can also use a High Efficiency (HE) washing machine which helps reduce water usage.
Tip #9 – Divert the greywater to your garden
Long dry summers are hard on lawns and gardens and you don’t want to be wasting water (and it’s expense) to keep your flowers, plants and lawn alive all summer.
As long as you are using an eco friendly laundry detergent, you can use the water from your washing machine to water your lawn and garden. This is called greywater.
It’s sort of like the same concept as a rain barrel – capturing water for reuse. We do not have a system like this however, I would love one. You can DIY it (there are plenty of YouTube videos) or hire someone to install it for you.
BONUS TIP – Add a Wash Basin
You can presoak clothes in a wash basin to help remove stains. I’d love to have a sink in my laundry room but there simply isn’t space. I’m not sure who designed our house but I’m curious as to whether they graduated from design school? Some things just don’t make sense.
Are the wheels in your head turning now? Did you grab my FREE Chemical Cleanout Workbook that will enable you to ditch the products with harsh chemicals today?
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