Zero Waste Laundry
Did you know those laundry detergents, fabric softeners and dryer sheets are all filled with toxic chemicals?? Don't believe me, just pause reading this for a moment and go read the ingredients on the back of your bottle or box. Crazy, right?! Most of us probably can't even pronounce more than half of those ingredients and yet we soak our clothes in them and then put those clothes on our bodies.
I had never given my laundry regimen much of a thought until my senior year in college. We grow up and we generally end up buying the same laundry soaps as our parents did, because that is what is normal to us. That is exactly what I did too. I spent three years of doing my laundry completely on my own until something shook me. My senior year, one of my roommates and I would sometimes throw our laundry in with each other. Let's just say we lived in an apartment that was affordable for college students. We had some trouble with our laundry machine for some time and just kind of kept pushing the maintenance on it off because there didn't really seem to be a dire problem. Well, after one wash, both of us ended up with rashes on us from the detergent not completely rinsing out of the clothes and then putting that straight onto our skin. That was the first time I realized how harmful the chemicals in laundry detergent really could be.
Enter zero waste, I have this great laundry detergent recipe that I use to wash my clothes. It is a dry detergent, so if that is not for you, I have also seen some great liquid laundry detergents on Pinterest. However, I like that this detergent can last for a long time as long as it is stored in a dry air tight container. There is also some room for playing around with different scents if you don't like a specific one. However, I must say that we have this misconception of clean. We have been conditioned to think that there is a specific clean smell. But the smell that we think of is completely artificial. Honestly clean can be the absence of smell.
With all that said, here is my laundry powder recipe. It is just 3 simple ingredients!
1 bar of Castile soap
3 cups of Washing Soda
4 cups of baking soda
Optional: Essential oil of your choice for scent
Find a bar of Castile soap that you like. I generally prefer lavender or eucalyptus, but if you want your laundry to smell like something else, go for it!
First grate your Castile soap bar. I just use a small cheese grater. Then add the washing soda and the baking soda. This is when you would add the essential oils as well. Start out with 5-10 drops of the essential oil and then add more if you would like a stronger scent. I normally just mix the ingredients together with a wooden spoon, but if you want it more mixed, you could also put it through a food processor. And that's it! This lasts me for months! (I am doing laundry for just one though, so if you are making this for a family, it may not last you as long. However, you can double or triple this recipe so that you don't have to make it as often.)
I add about 1/4 - 1/3 a cup of the laundry powder to the laundry machine depending on the size of the load. For extra whitening, you can also add some white vinegar.
Soap nuts are also popular for washing clothes. I haven't personally tried these, so I can't comment on how well they work. However, they do seem more sustainable than store bought laundry detergent. It appears you buy a large bag of them. You use about 5 soap nuts at a time in the little laundry bag provided. You just toss the bag in the wash and the soap nuts suds up when mixed with water. After a number of uses, the soap nuts will begin to disintegrate, which is when they can be composted. Soap nuts come from a tree, therefore they are completely organic and compostable.
For drying, I use wool dryer balls. I bought a pack of six on Amazon a few years ago and they are still in great shape. Tip: Wash your dryer balls before the first use to get any excess lint off so it won't transfer to your clothes.
If you want your clothes to have an extra scent booster, you can add a few drops of essential oil on your dryer balls before tossing them in the dryer with your clothes.
For an even more zero waste option, consider hang drying or line drying a large amount of your clothes. Dryers use so much energy for just one cycle. I like to hang dry a majority of my clothes, especially pants and linens. I have actually rigged a string in my apartment that ties on one door and goes across my apartment to another door for me to hang my laundry on. It may not be the most luxurious, but it works.