This post was first published on my blog an organized existence (April 21, 2007).
I've been watching with interest as many businesses have been jumping on the "green" bandwagon. Just today I was grocery shopping at Loblaws and noticed a large display of their new President's Choice Green products, including eco-friendly cleansers for laundry and bathrooms.
I bought a bottle of their President's Choice Green Coldwater Laundry Detergent. I've been using eco-friendly laundry cleansers for years, and I'm happy with my current methods, but it's always nice to try something new and be able to give people feedback about the products that are on the market.
Many people don't realize how manufacturers have manipulated our opinions about cleaning dirty laundry. We've become convinced that our clothing is full of dirt and germs, and nothing short of the most powerful cleansers, bleaches, and fabric softeners will give us the brightest, whitest and fluffiest results.
The truth is, we don't really need their products. In many cases they actually make our clothes dirtier, or wear out our fabrics faster. Most people, for example, add too much detergent to each load of laundry. It can't be properly rinsed away by the end of the cycle, and when you add liquid fabric softener to your wash, or throw fabric softener sheets in the dryer, you create a waxy build-up on the fabric that attracts even more dirt.
Try a simple experiment. Take some clothes straight from your dryer and stick them back in the washing machine with a tablespoon of TSP (trisodium phosphate), which you can find at most hardware or paint stores. Run the load again without adding any detergent or bleach, and have a look at the water after the machine has begun to agitate. The water will be a dirty, scummy mess. And those were your "clean" clothes!
The biggest problem with most laundry detergents is that they are made from petrochemicals, which use non-renewable resources in their manufacture, and pollute our waterways when they are sent down the drain after each load of laundry. They are mildly caustic, and are a frequent cause of household poisonings. The residues they leave on our clothing can cause skin and respiratory irritations in people with chemical sensitivities to the dyes, fragrances, or surfactants they contain. Many detergents also contain chemicals that are suspected carcinogens.
There are plenty of sustainable, non-toxic alternatives to conventional laundry detergents. A quick look through the organics section of most grocery stores will reveal a range of choices, including Nature Clean and Seventh Generation products. I've been using Nature Clean's All-Purpose Cleaning Lotion for years. I love it because it's multi-purpose - it does everything from dishwashing to general household cleaning to laundry. When washing my clothes, I add about a tablespoon of the cleaning liquid to a full load of laundry, and add vinegar to the rinse water to soften the clothes, which I then hang to dry.
When washing linens (i.e my sheets and towels, which are white or natural 100% cotton), I use a combination of washing soda and TSP, and again add vinegar to the rinse. I would use washing soda for all my laundry, except it can occasionally leave a powdery residue on dark fabric - especially if it's washed in cold water. When buying washing soda, avoid Arm & Hammer if you are sensitive to fragrances, since they scent their product.
copyright 2007, Michelle Lynne Goodfellow