Doing laundry has a major impact on the planet: the volume of water used in each load, the energy used to heat the water, harmful substances in detergents such as phosphates, bleach, petrochemicals, palm oil and sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS) and plastic if you use pods or liquid detergent (unless you keep refilling the same bottle at a low waste shop like The Good Life).
Here are some suggestions for reducing your impact:
1 Try soap nuts: Place them in a cotton bag and throw into the wash, the hot water causes them to release saponin, a natural soap like chemical that combats dirt and stains. The soap nuts can be reused and there are many brands to chose from.
2 Make your own washing powder. This recipe is from a leaflet by Climate Action Marple entitled “How to clean without chemicals”:
500g washing soda
500g borax substitute
75g soap flakes
Mix together and use one heaped tablespoon for each wash
3 Use less fabric conditioner: It can cause towels to become less absorbent, and if it doesn’t get properly rinsed out there is a build-up, which also makes coloured fabrics look dull and whites grey. To keep your towels fluffy, use fabric conditioner only every second or third wash. For the other washes, add half a cup of clear vinegar to the first rinse; put it in the detergent drawer while the machine is filling with water. Don’t worry — your clothes won’t smell of vinegar!
4 Dry your towels outside on a line if you can.