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How to Do Laundry in an Eco-Friendly Home

Woman holding a stack of clean laundry

Laundry is one of those household duties that is never really done. Whether you live alone or have a full house, there is a revolving door of washing, drying, folding, and collecting. In my house, whenever I get to the bottom of our basket, I know the feeling of satisfaction is short-lived.

In eco-friendly households, laundry takes on a new roll, too. It’s not just clothes and towels that need washing—it’s all the reusable cleaning cloths, face cloths, diapers, and more. At times, we need to ask ourselves whether the extra laundry is actually a sustainable solution… Don’t worry, it is.

But there are ways we can do even better. When we makeover our laundry routine, we boost the eco-friendliness of all our efforts. We also reduce our family’s exposure to of toxic synthetic fragrances and chemicals. It’s a win-win.

So what are some simple ways you can makeover your laundry routine? Below, I’ll share what I’m doing and then offer some alternatives in case the options I’ve found aren’t accessible in your area. If you have other ideas, please feel free to share them in the comments.

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1. Go Zero-Waste with Soap Nuts

Soap nuts in a small fabric sack to be used in laundry

This is my first month using soap berries, also known as soap nuts.

Here’s how they work: Add 4-6 soap nuts in a small laundry or muslin bag and tie closed. Toss directly into your laundry machine and set the water temperature to warm. After about 4-6 loads worth, or when they start losing their brown colour, remove from the bag and compost them.

I found soap nuts at my local Bulk Barn and was able to fill a jam jar’s worth for around $9. I did the math, though, and have to say this is not the budget-friendly way to do your laundry. My $9 jar holds enough soap nuts for about 65 loads.

In comparison, you can find low-toxin liquid laundry soap, scoring about 0-1 on the THINK DIRTY app, for around $6. These options are available at your local grocery store and boast around 96 loads. However, they leave behind a large plastic jug.

2. DIY Eco-Friendly Laundry Detergent

Eco-friendly laundry detergent ingredients on the table

Bulk soap nuts and low-toxin laundry soap from the store aren’t the only options for getting a good wash. You can always DIY your own eco-friendly laundry detergent, which is what I plan to try once my soap nuts are finished.

For liquid laundry soap, all you need is some washing soda, baking soda, liquid Castille soap, water, and essential oils. You can find an easy recipe at Dwelling in Happiness. This is the one I will try and then tweak with my own essential oil blends.

You can also make eco-friendly laundry soap cubes with grated bar Castille soap, vinegar, washing soda, and essential oils.

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3. Ditch Dryer Sheets for Wool Balls with Essential Oils

Laundry wool balls in a brown basket

This is one the best eco-friendly swaps I have ever done and I’m so happy it’s becoming more mainstream. Dryer sheets are not only wasteful, they’re typically filled with synthetic fragrances and toxic chemicals that seep into your family’s clothes. That ‘spring fresh’ or ‘rainforest’ smell isn’t real and it isn’t worth it. Those toxins double as air pollutants when released. Did I mention these sheets are a total waste of your hard-earned money, too?

I use three large wool balls in my dryer. I add about 10 drops of either lemon, lemongrass, lavender, patchouli, or orange essential oil to one or two of the balls (depending on how house-wifey I feel that day). The balls soften the laundry and remove static, while the essential oils infuse a natural aroma you can feel good about.

The wool balls have a long shelf-life as well. I’ve had mine for about a year now and they’re still doing working well. When I’m done with them, I’ll add them to the compost and try my hand at making my own.

4. Toss a Clean Towel in Your Dryer

Dryer door open showing dry towels inside

This is such a simple trick that can seriously cut down your drying time and energy expenditure.

Take a clean, dry towel and add it to your dryer with your wet clothes. The towel absorbs much of the moisture and disperses the water amongst a larger surface area, helping to speed up the overall drying time.

5. Maximize Your Dryer’s Efficiency with Back-to-Back Loads

A hand adjusting a dryer's dial options

Anyone who does laundry for a whole household knows very well the likelihood of having more than one load to do at a time. Use this to your advantage and cut down on your overall energy used.

How? By doing back-to-back loads when using your dryer. You see, the first load did the work of heating things up, so don’t leave lag time between loads whereby the dryer will cool down again. Instead, once you take the first load out, toss in the next while the dryer’s still warm.

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6. Hang Dry Your Clothes in the Summer Sunshine

Clips or pegs on a laundry line in the outdoor

Depending on where you live, this may or may not be an option. I know in Canada, we only get a few good months of warm weather to use to our advantage.

Weather permitting, save on energy costs by simply hanging your clothes outside. You can use a clothes line or a foldable drying rack. For most clothes, it only takes between 30 minutes to an hour. For towels, it can take a little longer.

Be sure to secure your clothes to the line and rack in case of any gusts of wind.

When the weather isn’t cooperating, you can still save energy by hang drying clothes on your shower or curtain rod.

7. Freshen Clothes with DIY Eco-Friendly Linen Spray

Two small brown essential oil bottles beside rolled up clean white towels

Forget Febreze and its many spin-offs. You can naturally and safely freshen clothes at home with the simple spritz of a DIY eco-friendly linen spray. I have a base recipe for a budget-friendly linen spray you can make in seconds with any essential oil blend you want.

My favourite essential oils for freshening clothes are lavender, lemon, and lemongrass. You can lightly spritz your clothes after they’ve been dried, right before wearing, or if they’ve been hanging in the closet or sitting in a drawer for the off-season.

8. Don’t Wash After Every Wear

Clothes hung on a hanger

As a teenager, I was a laundry monster. I’d take clean clothes out of my drawers, decide they were horrible, toss them on the floor, and then “clean my room” by bringing them to the laundry. I know. My poor mom. She got wise to my ways though and started asking, every time, “Is this really dirty?”

I ask myself this same thing now that I’m in charge of the laundry in my own home. Most of the time, we toss perfectly fine clothes into the wash instead of putting them away. This is wasteful in more ways than one—including the precious resource of time.

Ask yourself, your husband, your kids, etc. “Is this really dirty?” If it doesn’t smell or have stains, it’s fine for at least another round of wearing.

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These changes really aren’t revolutionary, but they make a major difference on the overall impact of one of the biggest household chores. You can make these simple swaps without much effort at all and reduce your waste, exposure to chemical toxins, energy, and time spent.

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