An ecological and economic choice: simple raw materials and natural ingredients to do laundry in a green way respecting the environment and our skin
Detergents for washing machines and fabric softeners represent a quite expensive slice of the expenses for household cleaning products. The recommended doses are really abundant and the bottles seem to run out one after the other very quickly! Perhaps you don’t know that by replacing classic detergents with a few simple raw materials you can have not only stain-free laundry, but also soft, fragrant and even whitened and sanitized!
How? Certainly not going back to washing clothes by hand but making some considerations on the use of the washing machine and using simple raw materials such as natural alternatives to laundry detergent:
They are low cost products and above all durable. Here we explain how to use them according to the type of washing you need to do, what to use instead of fabric softener, bleach and industrial sanitizer.
Doing the washing machine: washing tips and tricks
When it comes to natural alternatives to laundry detergent, water itself has a huge washing power! Even doing laundry at 40° gives the clothes a certain cleanliness: the temperature, the water and the mechanical action of the washing machine wash the clothes in a natural way. However, water is not enough for a degreased and sanitized laundry, but starting from this assumption we can halve the doses of detergent. Here are some basic tips on how to handle your laundry before jumping into the natural alternatives to laundry detergent.
Separate clothes according to the degree of dirtiness
Another trick to avoid using too much detergent is to divide the garments that only need to be rinsed (everyday clothes, sheets, towels) with those that need to be washed more vigorously (tablecloths, children’s clothes, underwear).
For the former, a wash with water at medium temperature, bicarbonate(baking soda) and antibacterial essential oil is often sufficient. For more intense laundry you need to add Marseille or Aleppo soap.
Put tennis balls in the washing machine
What? Tennis balls in the washing machine to do laundry? It sounds strange, but adding two tennis balls in the washing machine along with the laundry boosts the effectiveness of the wash, allowing you to use as little detergent as possible. The balls, together with the power of the washing machine, have a detangling and rubbing action on the fabrics: for this reason the detergent penetrates more between the fibers.
Alternatively, you can also use two washing machine dosing balls.
Eco-friendly and natural alternatives to laundry detergent
Why looking for eco-friendly natural alternatives to laundry detergent? What substances are present in traditional detergents?
The ingredients of detergents are polluting the environment and irritating to the skin:
- surfactants, which are derived from petroleum and highly not recommended for those with delicate skin
- chlorine bleaches that can form carcinogenic components
- phosphates, mainly responsible for the eutrophication of the seas
- active enzymes eliminate stains from our laundry but can cause irritation and allergies because they remain on the fabrics
The list continues with descaling agents (composed of acids harmful to health) and synthetic perfumes that hide unpleasant odors but can have irritating effects. Finally, fabric softeners, which cover clothes with a chemical film, harmful to fabrics and skin!
Let’s now take a step by step look at the properties and uses of natural ingredients for the washing machine… to say goodbye to the classic detergent!
For our green washing machine, Marseille soap is a powerful natural ally: it is effective without being aggressive, it removes stains thanks to its degreasing action and has antiseptic properties.
But why do I prefer it to classic washing machine detergents? Certainly because it is a natural product, eco-friendly, and definitely without harmful ingredients for the skin. And its cleaning power is not less than that of detergent. When you buy Marseille soap check the INCI: it must contain Sodium olivate, that is, olive oil and not fats of dubious quality.
Advice for use: you can buy blocks of Marseille soap and shred them. On the market there are also Marseille soaps already in flakes.
Add a few tablespoons of flakes directly into the basket of the washing machine.
For particularly dirty laundry, however, it is better to pre-treat the stains by rubbing the soap directly on the clothes and without rinsing them put them directly into the drum (the pretreated clothes will act as a detergent for other clothes!).
Baking soda and essential oils
If the laundry is not very dirty and just needs to be freshened up, there is no point wasting detergent: bicarbonate and essential oils are sufficient.
Baking soda is cheap, eco-friendly, and easy to find and thanks to its antibacterial, sanitizing and anti-odor properties is perfect for an average dirty wash. To increase the washing effect, add a few drops of Tea Tree essential oil, which has strong antibacterial and anti-parasitic properties!
Suggestions for use: put a few tablespoons of baking soda directly into the basket of the washing machine or in the detergent tray, adding a few drops of Tea Tree.
Ecological laundry with Indian Soap nuts
Another alternative to washing machine detergent are the Indian soap nuts, which are the fruits of the Sapindus Mukorossi tree. These nuts are made up of a substance called saponin that, once dissolved in water acts like soap. But with the advantage of cleaning in a natural way without polluting. It’s one of the most effective products for eco-friendly laundry, used by women in India for washing clothes, this fruit from the Sapindus Mukorossi, also known as the soap plant, releases the vegetable saponin.
Wrapped in a this cotton bag or net, Indian walnuts can be used in the washing machine as the plant saponin works as a detergent, softener and does not attack fabrics.
In addition to being eco-friendly and sustainable, since they are totally vegetable and biodegradable, Indian walnuts are solidarity, because they promote the territorial development of small businesses in India and Nepal.
The Indian soap nuts can be found in herbalist stores or organic product stores with all the directions for use.
What to use instead of fabric softener?
White vinegar and citric acid to replace fabric softener.
If we have learned to use as little detergent as possible in the washing machine (preferably replaced by Marseille soap or Indian soap nuts), the use of fabric softener is really unnecessary. That doesn’t mean we have to stuff stiff, uncomfortable clothes in it! Replacing fabric softener is simple!
Add white vinegar to your fabric softener tray – you’ll get the same effect on your clothes. The strong smell of vinegar fades during washing. Vinegar acts on the static electricity in the fibres, making the clothes softer. It also has the merit of “reinforcing” the detergent used for washing because it has disinfecting properties.
An alternative to vinegar is citric acid. Dissolve 100 grams of citric acid in 1 liter of distilled water: you will have obtained your bottle of “softener”! If you love scented laundry, just add a few drops of your favorite essential oil to this mixture.
Recycled fruit peels
Another valuable product for eco-friendly laundry is fruit peels, which can be reused to produce a fragrant and flavored home vinegar.
To recycle fruit scraps, it is possible to let the peels macerate with simple tap water and sugar, in order to obtain a turbid and fermented liquid. Once filtered and left to mature for about two weeks, fruit vinegar is ready to be used for cleaning clothes. The product of this process has a consistency and functionality similar to white vinegar and can be used in the washing machine to replace fabric softener.
Natural alternatives to laundry detergent: baking soda and lye to replace chemical bleaches
If we want to add a whitening and sanitizing action to our laundry, sodium percarbonate comes to our aid: the ecological alternative to bleach or industrial whiteners. Percarbonate naturally whitens clothes thanks to the chemical reaction of decomposition of sodium carbonate and hydrogen peroxide. Even at 30°C it is capable of whitening greasy or yellowed garments and of removing dirt stains. Percarbonate comes in powder form and can be added to the detergent tub or directly into the drum of the washing machine. If you need a strong action you can soak very dirty clothes overnight in water and percarbonate.
On the market you can also find lye: the modern version of the ash that our grandmothers used to whiten and sanitize the laundry! Lye has a very low environmental impact and has similar functions on laundry as percarbonate.
White vinegar as an anti-scale
In addition to our laundry, even the washing machine needs attention and periodically it would be good to descale it. Here too, natural ingredients come to our aid: once a month, run a long program at 60° by putting only one liter of white vinegar in the drum. The danger of limescale in the washing machine is averted!
One of the first steps to improve the environmental conditions of the planet is to pay more attention to the actions carried out in everyday life, such as the traditional moment of doing laundry, trying to change habits to reduce the levels of pollution produced by the many chemical substances included in detergents. In order to carry out an ecological, perfumed and efficient laundry, there are different ways to go.
On the market there are many detergents of vegetable origin, not tested on animals and considered ecological because they are biodegradable, but it is possible to make an even greener and more fun choice, taking advantage of the products offered by nature and trying to play with different and heterogeneous ingredients for the self-production of detergents.
Versatile and functional for the cleaning of dishes and of the house, white vinegar can be diluted with water and inserted in the basket of the fabric softener to make clothes softer and to contrast the felting effect of the meshes. Moreover it has a valid whitening effect, it can be applied as a pre-treater before washing and it removes bad odors.
There are many eco-friendly and natural alternatives to laundry detergent to replace chemical products, so if you manto to make a change and live more sustainably try to gradually change daily habits and lighten your footprint on the planet