Laundry wastewater that comes with our laundry is of serious concern. Just by switching to a more eco-friendly toxin-free and zero waste detergent we could make a massive individual impact. We show some of the best alternatives in this complete guide!
Why the F&$*# are there so many chemicals in everything?
When did this become okay?
Are they even necessary?
Using detergents full of toxins should literally be banned across every country worldwide. Even more, it is concerning the fact that some cleaning products don’t display the full list of ingredients.
The good news is that there are plenty of options for toxin-free laundry that has taken over in the past few years: smart people creating their own DIY zero-waste detergents and more eco-friendly brands options emerging, making it extremely easy for consumers. Is it time to give your laundry room a zero-waste makeover?
How much we wash: the global impact
With the average household washing 7.4 loads per week (about 50 pounds or 22 kilograms of laundry). If we put this into perspective, just US consumers wash more than 660 million loads every week. This equals about 35 billion wash loads a year, totaling 100 million tons of clothes. That translates to 1,000 wash loads started in the United States every second of every day. Geeez!!
This is a lot of water usage, and loads of wastewater that comes out of the laundry process with additional energy (heat), lint, soil, dyes, finishing agents, and other chemicals from detergents. AND the microplastics.
An academic paper in Environmental Pollution found approximately 6 million microfibres were released from a typical 5 kg wash load of polyester fabrics. Today, textiles are the largest source of both primary and secondary microplastics, accounting for over one-third of global microplastic pollution. All this is made much worse when we use detergents full of chemicals.
This wastewater with all the toxins has an incredibly negative effect on wildlife. In addition, wastewater can also contribute to eutrophication; this means when a body of water becomes overly enriched in minerals and nutrients, causing an overgrowth of plants and algae and oxygen depletion in the water. Not good!
Why we should swap to a toxin-free zero waste detergent
Aside from the disastrous environmental consequences. What about the lifecycle of clothes? Clothing manufacturers anticipate a life expectancy of 50 washings for each garment. The time span covered by these 50 launderings varies widely from less than a year for products that get washed regularly.
And obviously, it makes a big difference looking at the type of laundry soap you use… if you choose a toxin-free detergent the lifecycle of your clothing can dramatically increase. As usual, this carries a long list of more positive consequences: if we extend our garments life by just 9 months we could save up to 22% of the carbon footprint. Altogether, you will save plenty of money both in doing the laundry and purchasing new clothes, since they will last longer.
Toxin-free & zero waste laundry alternatives
DIY zero waste detergent options
There are plenty of DIY natural and zero-waste detergent recipes made by amazing committed bloggers out there. Pinterest is another of our absolute favourite options with endless choices depending on what ingredients you already could have available in your pantry.
The most common and easiest recipe is made with the following natural zero waste ingredients:
1 bar of castile soap (grated or thrown in a food processor)
1 cup of baking soda
1 cup of washing soda
5-10 drops of essential oil (optional)
What are these natural ingredients?
- Washing Soda is sodium carbonate and is water-soluble. It’s used as a water softener and can remove grease, oil and wine stains; it’s known as a stronger version of baking soda.
- Castile soap is a zero-waste game-changer, used for multiple cleaning purposes; it’s natural, non-toxic, and biodegradable. This ingredient is a vegetable-based soap known to be very gentle on the skin and fabrics, ideal for those who suffer from skin irritations or rashes caused by traditional detergents or other cleaning products.
- Horse chestnuts (not to be confused with edible chestnuts!) can be used as a gentle non-toxic alternative to traditional detergents. Interestingly enough, chestnuts contain saponins which are a soap-like chemical compound that occurs naturally. To process horse chestnuts so that they are servable as a laundry detergent, just put 6 of them in a cloth, use the hammer to turn them into a grainy powder. With one cup of hot water mix them in a mason jar and let it overnight. The following day it will have turned into a milky texture, to what you can add your favorite essential oil. This detergent can last for up to a week if well kept in the fridge.
- Vinegar is another marvelous alternative ingredient to DIY non-toxic detergent. It works as a double agent, acting as both a powerful deodorizer and a gentle, non-toxic fabric softener. Also, vinegar can also be used to pretreat stains before putting the garment into the washing machine.
- Essential oils are another must-have to create your homemade zero waste detergent if you want your clothes to smell incredible. Some common essential oils to use in the laundry are lavender, eucalyptus, lemon and rosemary; each essential oil has a range of properties, such as disinfectant, smell remover, etc so choose your preferred one depending on what desired outcome you want to have with your laundry! Pssst, our favorite Essential oils brand is DoTerra.
Eco-friendly toxin-free and zero waste detergent brands
If you still find that DIY zero waste detergent is not going to be handy, there are definitely some great eco-friendly and toxin-free alternatives out there. There is a sustainable laundry choice for every convenience, from the conventional approach to other fancier or, call it innovative, options. Let’s check what those good brands are up to!
Detergent powders and soaps
With The Dirt Company, your laundry’s about to get a whole load better! It’s not just refillable but also cheaper. With the starter pack and laundry detergent that’s x8 times more concentrated, it will cost $0.34 load. The brand has created a zero-waste cycle through our Refill Return program, which means they save all returned refill packs, sanitize them and fill them up again. The detergent is made with vegan and “waterway-first” ingredients, completely avoiding the nasty phosphates and synthetic dyes and scents. Finally, The Dirt donates 50% of their profits to The Ocean Cleanup, an organization that’s working to tackle the plastic problem from a different angle, by developing technology to pull plastics out of the ocean.
Meliora is a beautiful design brand specialized in cleaning products, and as it could not be otherwise, they have zero waste laundry detergent options in their range. Choose from an extensive range such as the original Unscented, Lavender, Lemon, or Lemon-Lavender-Clove scented options. All scents are made from Certified Organic essential oils; no fragrance blends that contain undisclosed ingredients. Each item is Vegan, Cruelty-Free, Preservative-free, Palm oil-free, Dye-free and MADE SAFE Certified. Even better, 1% of every sale goes towards environmental causes.
Nellies laundry soda brings us back to vintage where tins where a thing and plastic was not around. It’s a highly-concentrated formula that will leave your clothes soft and fresh, rinsing residue-free as it completely dissolves in a hot or cold wash. Nellie’s washing powder is hypoallergenic, as we do not use synthetic fragrance.
Lil’ Bit unscented coconut soap is another concentrated laundry powder made from 100% natural ingredients. It’s free from harsh chemicals and synthetic ingredients, which doesn’t smell, and is suitable for sensitive skin. In fact, this is the big deal with Lil’ Bit, using coconut oil due to its natural soothing properties, especially for those who suffer from allergies, dermatitis, and eczema.
If you still don’t trust vinegar, then getting a plastic-free stain remover stick is a great option. This one of the Hippie Haven brand works on many different types of stains, including blood, grass, wine, chocolate, sweat, chocolate, tomato… Free of toxic ingredients such as bleach, parabens, sulfates, preservatives, artificial colors or fragrances.
Another brand that we love is the Soul Shine Soap Company as they offer a range of options including powdered laundry soap, a laundry stain stick and wool dryer balls, all packaged free of plastic and made with good ingredients that are toxin-free.
Have you ever heard of the Laundry Ecoegg? It’s a unique and innovative laundry washing system that cleans clothes effectively, using two types of natural mineral pellets encased in a recyclable egg. Containing no harmful chemicals and kind to your skin, it replaces laundry detergent and fabric conditioner. In case you were wondering, the mineral pellets in the ecoegg Laundry Egg are non-biological and do not contain any petrochemicals, enzymes, bleaches, phosphates, parabens, SLS/SLES, palm oil or microplastics. The ecoegg Laundry Egg comes with a 10-year guarantee and every refill of pellets lasts for around 70 washes.
The Red House soapberries are a non-toxic natural alternative to traditional fabric softeners and laundry detergents, but also a big money saver. Soap nuts cost around 10c per wash load for a 1kg bag. Compared to conventional washing powders, they can save you a great deal over the course of a year. Other great advantages are its anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and odorless properties, not to mention that it’s hypoallergenic, great for those with sensitive skin or allergies. It’s packaged in a reusable drawstring bag with a small wash bag.
Common Good dryer balls 100% pure New Zealand felted wool balls are a natural alternative to fabric softener and dryer sheets. They also reduce drying time (saving energy!) and naturally soften clothes, remove wrinkles, and even out puffy items like pillows and comforters.
This brand has other cleaning products in the range, which are made with gentle, plant-based ingredients and scented with 100% pure essential oils.
Common Good offers a laundry detergent choice, and even though it comes in a large-sized plastic bottle, but the whole point is for you to keep it and reuse it as they have refillable stations across zero waste stores worldwide.
In fact, this is a great point! Many zero waste stores have started offering some refillable options for cleaning products, including toxin-free detergents. So just BYO container and off you go!
Final Pro Tips to do your zero waste laundry
There is so much we can do to boost our individual positive impact on the environment. As you can see, usually using environmentally-conscious products comes hand-in-hand with an improvement in your health. So what are the final pro-tips to give our laundry a zero-waste makeover?
- Air-dry your clothes. To the extent that if you can remove this big piece of furniture, then you should (driers are such a big consumer of electricity anyway!). An outdoors/indoors rack or line is always a great option. Plus! Your clothes will be less agitated and you will enjoy your garments for a longer time.
- If you live in one of those countries that a dryer is a “must-have”, then keep the lint trap clean. Why? Because having a full trap can reduce your dryer’s efficiency by as much as 30%, causing your clothes to need even more time in the dryer.
- Use plastic-free pegs to choose either metallic (which could last forever) or made out of wood, which is a biodegradable material and a natural resource.
- Wash with cold water whenever possible, as hot-water washes contribute to CO2 pollution.
- Last but definitely not least, get your Cora Ball or a GuppyFriend bag to avoid the microplastics entering the oceans. As every textile loses microfibers, but it is the synthetic materials (polyester, acrylic, nylon, etc.) that shed the harmful fibers. Most apparel contains synthetic fibers to some degree (unfortunately, sometimes it is not stated on the label). The Cora Ball is an easy-to-use laundry ball that catches microfibres shredding off your clothes in the washing machine. The GuppyFriend bag is a scientifically approved solution against microplastic pollution from washing and it’s become incredibly popular between the zero waste advocates.
As you can realize there are so many options to move to a more eco-friendly method to wash your laundry. With all the smart sustainable alternatives and good brands – we are almost left with no excuses folks!
Do you have any other zero waste laundry recommendations to include in this guide? Share it with us in the comments below!