Green Your Laundry

How green is your laundry?  If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you may recall, I don’t use laundry detergent. If you haven’t been reading, you’re probably shocked right now. I know. It seems extreme and, well, unclean, but stick with me a while, this may change your thoughts on how you launder your clothes.

I stopped using laundry detergent in May 2010 after reading an article where the CEO of 7th Generation was quoted as saying the mechanical action of the washing machine was enough to clean all but the most heavily soiled laundry. So I thought I’d try it.

I reported three months later I was using laundry detergent on my towels still, but that has since stopped. I haven’t purchased any laundry detergent in over a year now.  My clothes are clean.  They don’t smell, at all.  I found if I just rinse the heavily soiled items (kitchen towels used for spills and really dirty kid’s clothes) in water before washing them, I don’t have problems with odors and I have no more stains than I did with laundry detergent.

Why would anyone want to not use laundry detergent?  

Lots of reasons.  First, think of the money savings. Really, I don’t buy laundry detergent. Ever.

Second, environmental reasons.  I only put water down the drain when I do laundry, no chemicals or soaps at all.

Third, health reasons.  There was a small study recently published that found carcinogens being emitted from the vents of dryers when scented laundry detergent and fabric softeners were used.  Now, granted, it was a very small study and certainly more studies need to be done to confirm, but I’d rather err on the side of caution.

But, you say, I’m not ready to go cold turkey.  I understand that. There are some steps you can take to ease into it.  Or just go as green as is comfortable for you.

1. Switch to unscented green laundry detergents

There are a lot of options out there that you can get pretty much anywhere you buy regular laundry detergents.  Why unscented?  Well, there’s the  potential carcinogen risk.  Also, if you think you might try no detergent, going unscented first will help take that next step.

There are also soap nuts.  They can be ordered online.  They are fruit off a tree that you throw in a mesh bag in the washing machine.  I’ve never used them, but apparently they work great, make your clothes super soft, and last through multiple loads.  I would try them if I still used soap.

2. Decrease the Amount of Detergent Used

Those lines on the measuring cups are really just wrong.  No one needs to use that much detergent. Remember, the machine really does all the work.  Try decreasing to the line below what you usually use. See if you can tell a difference.  Keep decreasing it.  Maybe eventually you’ll be comfortable trying no detergent.

3. Just Try It

You can always re-wash the load if you think it’s dirty.  I’m guessing you’ll be surprised that you can’t tell the difference.

How do you try to keep your laundry green?  Have you ever not used detergent at all?  Do you think you might try it?


** This post was written as part of the Healthy Child Healthy World blogger program. I received no compensation for this post, it’s just a cause I believe in strongly.


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15 Responses to “Green Your Laundry”

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  1. Moomser
    Twitter: moomser

    This is interesting, I actually bought soapnuts the other day. Do you get the same result with all kinds of dirt? Like, do you use stain remover? What about bodily fluids (like blood or vomit – issue right now as Girl is sick, or pee from sheets)? I’m planning on greening by going the baking soda and vinegar route. I’ll also try the nuts. Let me know how you deal with stains and stuff! Thanks
    Moomser´s last post ..Virtual Coffee {23}

    • Jessica Anne says:

      I don’t use stain remover at all. I found if I just rinse it/wipe it off with water as soon as I can, I don’t have problems with stains. With the urine, so far my sheets have always still been wet when I laundered them, no stains. I rinse the clothes. Same with vomit and poop (love the potty training). I’m curious about the soap nuts, let me know how it works? Vinegar and baking soda are great too.

  2. Kristin @ Peace, Love and Muesli
    Twitter: kristinglas

    I’ve been reluctant to jump on this train. But you’ve never led me wrong before, so I should totally trust you.
    We use a ‘green’ er laundry detergent and a (gasp) dryer sheet.
    I am going to try next time I wash the kids clothes. I am terrible with treating stains right away, I think that’s why I am scared.
    Kristin @ Peace, Love and Muesli´s last post ..10 Ways To Get Your Husband To Cook Dinner.

    • Jessica Anne says:

      Yay! Let me know how it goes. Did you see the comment below you about using hydrogen peroxide to remove stains? I’m going to try it.

      Also, two words, dryer balls. Or 2 new tennis balls in the dryer instead of fabric softener.

  3. dropitnot says:

    For another green alternative use Hydrogen Peroxide.
    It will get the stains out with out bleaching.

  4. Amanda says:

    This is an interesting post. How do you handle oil-based stains? When my middle daughter smeared (my) oil-based foundation all over my bedsheets, the only thing that I could think of was scrubbing it with Dawn. Is there something besides soap that would work? I know water alone won’t do it.

    I use cloth diapers and I would be afraid to go completely detergent free with these. ;) But I don’t need to use much. Actually using too much detergent (and additives) can lead to build-up and make the diapers less absorbant.

    • Jessica Anne says:

      The oily stuff would fall into the “heavily soiled” category, I think, and you would need to use detergent for those kinds of stains. I used detergent too when I was cloth diapering, again, heavily soiled. Having used cloth diapers made me realize I didn’t need to use so much detergent overall.

  5. Wow! I had never considered this, but it totally makes sense! I’m always telling people that for light cleaning jobs around the house, I often just use water because it is the universal solvent after all. Never thought to extend that thinking to laundry.

    You are one smart cookie! Thanks for writing this and for being a part of the Healthy Child blogger network!

    Janelle Sorensen
    Chief Communications Officer
    Healthy Child Healthy World

  6. Betsy (Eco-novice)
    Twitter: eco_novice

    What a novel concept. I might have to give this a try. I’m sure this would absolutely work for most people who, IMO, are washing their clothes WAY too often. I wait until our clothes are pretty stinky to wash them, and I know it wouldn’t work for my husband’s undershirts, b/c they sometimes smell a bit even after washing with detergent. But I think this could work for a few loads at least.
    Betsy (Eco-novice)´s last post ..The Smell of Clean

    • Jessica Anne says:

      You’re right, it works well for the wear once and wash kind of crowd. Sounds like you’re already greening your laundry by reducing how often you do it. Really stinky clothes probably need some detergent, though. Although, I haven’t had issues with my or my husband’s smelly work out clothes.

  7. Jen @ LitasWorld
    Twitter: litasworld

    I’ve been using no laundry soap just this GreenWash Ball from Gaiam.

    It’s supposed to last 3 years, but honestly, I’m not even keeping track, I just love the fact that I don’t have to use detergent :)

    Now, after reading this post, I’ll never go back to laundry soap…and just keep throwing this ball in for fun :) Thanks for the great tip!!
    Jen @ LitasWorld´s last post ..Loving the Loving Hut

  8. Lavon says:

    Hi, I think your blog might be having browser compatibility issues.
    When I look at your blog in Ie, it looks fine but when opening in Internet Explorer, it has some overlapping.
    I just wanted to give you a quick heads up! Other then that, very good blog!
    Lavon´s last post ..Lavon