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The Ultimate Guide to Eco-friendly Laundry

The average person in the UK runs 13,000 wash cycles in their lifetime... And those of us with little ones can probably double that figure in a week – the washing machine catches less of a break than we do. And that basket never seems to stop filling up!

But how can we keep our clothes clean without putting the planet (and our brain...) through the spin?

The Toolkit

You have a pile of less-than-fresh clothes and a basket, but before we can wrangle them into eco-conscious submission, we need tools.

Wool Dryer Balls

You might be thinking, ‘Eh? Balls of wool?!’

But these little woollen lovelies are essential if you’re using a dryer. They’re all-natural and long-lasting, and work to dry your clothes quicker by absorbing more moisture from the tumbling fabrics. It will reduce their time in the machine and reduce energy consumption, whilst helping to prevent static and soften clothes in the process. Little balls of eco joy.

Detergent and stain removal

The most important laundry product under your sink, but also the most potentially harmful to the world once it leaves the washing machine and heads down the drain. Not only are most store-bought detergents packaged terribly, with unrecyclable plastic jugs filling up landfill and ocean water across the world... their ingredients can be just as sinister.

When the synthetic chemicals run off our clothes and out into fresh and salt water, they harm aquatic life. Fish skin is covered in mucus that protects them from bacteria and parasites, and the chemicals found in most detergents will strip this vital protection from them. The phosphates they contain also poison freshwater algal blooms, causing oxygen levels to dramatically decrease as they die.

So, it’s time to switch up our cleaning method!

Oxygen bleach is a brilliant alternative for stain removal and is safe for the natural world when washed down the drain. And the best thing about it is the packaging is also 100% biodegradable, so it’s a win-win for us and our precious marine life.

Prefer to DIY?

We know you like to get stuck in, and so do we! So why not try making your own detergent at home?

It’s easier than you think, and all the ingredients can be easily picked up on your next weekly shop (and are often found in cardboard boxes rather than plastic bottles!).

All you’ll need is:

  • Washing soda: Soda Crystals are similar to baking soda, but with a slight difference. The sodium carbonate it contains is a powerful cleaner and water softener, which aids other ingredients in their efforts to lift dirt and stains.
  • Borax Substitute: Sodium sesquicarbonate is a mineral compound with the perfect pH for cleaning and is gentler than Soda Crystals yet stronger than Bicarbonate of Soda. If you have sensitive skin it's advised that it should still be handled with gloves.
  • Bar Soap: Pick something naturally scented or if you want to add your own essential oils go for something plain.

That’s it! And putting them together couldn’t be easier.

First, grate your soap – you can use a food processor or any standard grater. Then add the shavings to equal parts of both washing soda and borax substitute. Mix it all up and use one to two tablespoons in your next clothes wash. 

The Practice

Now you have your essentials, you want to get cleaning... so let’s make sure our methods are as clean as our efforts so far, shall we?!

It’s all in the timing

The first thing worth asking is, ‘Does it need to go on yet?’

Washing less is the biggest and most obvious contender when it comes to eco laundry, and sometimes the drum isn’t full enough to warrant a wash cycle.

If you can live without your favourite garment for a wee bit longer, hold off until there’s more to do at once.

Turn down the dials

The machine does a good job of cleaning – but it doesn’t need to be so intensive. Give it a breather and turn down the number of spins to lower its energy consumption and, more importantly, the temperature!

Did you know temperature makes up 60% of laundry’s carbon footprint?

A spokesperson for Ariel said: ‘If everyone in the UK washed colder, we could save the same amount of COas taking up to half a million cars off the road.’

Mind. Blown.


Make an eco-alliance

Sometimes it’s best to head straight to the source: Who is providing your energy?

If you’re in the market for a switch and are looking for a provider who is green and clean, there are plenty to choose from. This list is full of worthy candidates, with Bulb, Octopus, and Green Energy UK ranking the highest.

Open the windows wide

The washing is done, the planet is happy, so now let’s get it dry.

You might have a dryer, in which case have your wool dryer balls ready, but if possible, we recommend a good old-fashioned air dry.

If you have a garden, great – sling the damp clothes on the line and peg them tight. But if you don’t have access to outdoor space, don’t worry! A wooden rack and an open window work just as well – and keeps your clothes safe from the elements.

Not so scary, right? With a few simple switches, your laundry doesn’t have to be a burden on you or the planet. You’re going to smash it.


Are you feeling ready to wash with pride? We’d love to hear from you over on Instagram @shop.econess

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