Sustainable Living

Plastic Free Laundry Routine

How did you develop your laundry routine? Is it something that you’ve thought about or do you maybe do what your family did growing up? Maybe you are drawn to certain scents and make your detergent and dryer sheet decisions around that? That was certainly me! I gave very little thought to what my laundry routine might be doing to the materials I wore right next to my skin or to the environment that we all live within.

That all changed after reading Slow Death By Rubber Duck about 10 years ago which caused me to start re-evaluating many of the products used in my home using the ThinkDirty app. More recently, looking at how and where I use plastic around the house I noted a large quantity of waste generated by some of my laundry choices. Below I’ll outline four areas of possible waste in our laundry routines and options at varying price points ($$$- most expensive to $ – least expensive) to address them! A plastic free laundry routine really can be possible!

Plastic in our laundry
Our laundry routines can be plastic free

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Plastic Free Laundry Detergent

I tried to find some statistics around how many laundry jugs are recycled or otherwise disposed of and came up with between 900 million and over 1 billion per year in the United States alone. I recently took a closer look at my jugs of laundry detergent and realized how much plastic is (needlessly) incorporated into them. This spurred me on to look at a variety of options – some I’ve tried and some I plan to try -see the list below!

  • ($$$) Laundry strips: I purchased and tried Tru Earth Laundry Strips and thought they were fantastic! The packaging is limited to a cardboard envelope that can be recycled and the strips do not contain many of the harsher ingredients found in many conventional laundry detergents. I have a front loading washer and it was simple to remove the detergent resevoir and add the strip instead.
  • ($$) Ecoegg: I purchased and tried the Ecoegg and it seemed to clean my clothes well! I read through comments of users online and it seems that hard water may cause the pellets in the Ecoegg to be used up too quickly. I also read that using cold water to wash is recommended as hot water may also cause the pellets to be used quicker than anticipated. Reviews also indicate that the Ecoegg is compatible with cloth diapers – so we’ll see!
  • ($$) Dropp Pods: I haven’t had a chance to try these but they come in a compostable box and seem to be a good low waste option.
  • ($) Homemade detergent: There are many recipes available that are generally made up of some combination of borax, bar soap and washing powder – all very affordable ingredients. I’m going to be trying out soap nuts – who knew there was such a thing!
  • ($$) Refillables: If you have a local refillery check out their offerings and see if you can simply refill containers that you already have.

Plastic Free Dryer Sheets

From volatile organic compounds to parabens and pthalates in ‘fragrance’, dryer sheets contain a cocktail of chemicals that have potentially ill effects. These polyester sheets are used once and then discarded, taking anywhere from 20 to 200 years to break down. The good news is that there are lots of very affordable and healthier alternatives!

  • ($$) Dryer balls: Can be purchased many places! Put a couple of drops of essential oils on the dryer balls if you like to have scented laundry. This is the method I’ve used for several years and I find that it works well.
  • ($) DIY dryer balls: this seems somewhat time consuming but might make a great homemade gift.
  • ($) DIY dryer sheets: I haven’t tried these yet though I’m planning to!

Microplastics in our Clothing

I’ll be doing a future post about microplastics but felt I should speak to it here because laundry is a large source of plastic microfibers. In fact “[a] new study from researchers at Northumbria University and Procter & Gamble estimates that European countries alone release almost 13,000 tons of microfibers to marine environments every year. This is equal to the mass of dumping two garbage trucks worth of waste every day.“** Scientists are attempting to understand how this introduction of tiny plastic fibers impacts the environment. These tiny fibers, once ingested, leach chemicals into the tissues of marine animals that then work their way up the food chain to us. The good news is that there are simple things we can do to reduce microplastics released into our environment!

  • ($) Cycle choice: shorter and cooler cycles reduce the amount of fibers shed
  • ($) Wash frequency: Consider if your clothes could be reworn rather than washed – there could be significant savings through less water, detergent, and electricity use besides reduction in microfibers. This certainly isn’t always going to be possible as I know from experience how grimy pets and children can make textiles!
  • ($$$) Purchase clothing made of natural fibers such as cotton, linen and wool where possible
  • ($$$) Other solutions: Guppyfriend washing bag, Cora Ball, and Microplastics LUV-R filter

Stain Remover

I used to use Shout but have since switched to a more natural option that also happens to be plastic free! This product has worked great for me on kid-related stains.

Drying Clothes

When we were considering solar panels we found that our dryer consumed a lot of energy so using a drying rack is a simple way to save money and resources. Also, sunshine is a very effective bleaching agent which then reduces the need to purchase a bleaching agent that would likely come in a plastic container!

Have you made any changes to your laundry routine this Plastic Free July? If so please share in the comments or on our social media accounts!

**https://oceanconservancy.org/blog/2020/06/15/reduce-microfiber-emissions/

16 Comments

  • Chloe Chats

    Great post! I love that there are so many different products to help with a plastic free laundry routine. I have definitely cut down how often I wash my clothes, we also have a zero waste shop near by so we can re-fill our washing detergent which is very handy! I know how much energy dryers consume as well so I don’t actually use one, just have a little drying rack for all the clothes – although I know it might be more difficult depending on how big your family is and how many clothes you need to wash and dry. These are all great products to try though, I’m always trying to improve on things to help the environment.

    Chloe xx

    • A Sustainably Simple Life

      That’s awesome that you have a zero waste shop so close to you! It certainly makes that an easy option! Air drying clothes has so many benefits to it. We referenced natural bleaching of the sun in the post, but it also helps make our clothes last so much longer. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and what’s been working for you! πŸ™‚

  • Boomer EcoCrusader

    I love this. Over the last couple of years, I have transformed my laundry routine to be zero waste. It has been one of the easiest areas to go zero waste. I buy bulk laundry soap using my own containers. I have an unwrapped stain remover bar that I bought 2 years ago for $2. It’s still going strong. I line dry most of my clothes. When I do use my dryer, I use dryer balls.

    • A Sustainably Simple Life

      So inspiring! That’s amazing that your laundry routine is zero waste! What an awesome find for that stain remover bar too πŸ˜€ Thanks so much for sharing what works for you and that it’s possible to be zero waste in a laundry routine πŸ™‚

  • glowsteady

    This is so interesting. I feel like laundry is one of those areas where it really creeps up on you and you can be using so much plastic without even realising it. I love that you’ve listed so many alternatives at different price points x

    Sophie

    • A Sustainably Simple Life

      Right?! Plastic really just hides and sneaks up on you! Let us know if you try any of the alternatives and find something that works for you πŸ™‚

    • Unwanted Life

      I have a few questions, are laundry jugs laundry bottles? I’ve never heard of laundry strips before, so I’m guessing they’re some sort of water soluble detergent product? Aren’t the eggs made of plastic, in which case wouldn’t they run the risk of shedding micro plastics into the water?

      • A Sustainably Simple Life

        Those are great questions! Jugs is another term we use for bottles πŸ™‚ The laundry strips are a relatively new product out on the market and you’re exactly right. They are a strip of soap/detergent that dissolves in the water of your washing load.

        That’s a good observation about the Ecoegg and it being made of plastic. I’m still learning about microplastics, but that does seem likely that there might be some from the egg into the water. The main benefit from the egg is that instead of a single use bottle of detergent, the egg is used for years and greatly reduces the amount of plastic out in the world.

        I hope that helps answer your questions, but let me know if you have more! Thanks for commenting and asking these questions! πŸ™‚

  • Lisa Alioto

    I am super impressed – this clearly took some work to make happen and what a good thing that you made happen

  • Clarissa

    Awesome post! I think the way you are addressing one room in the house at a time is really cool! This makes becoming sustainable far less overwhelming than trying to make all the changes all at once. Also those soap nuts look really cool! Thank you for the great tips!

    • A Sustainably Simple Life

      I’m a big fan of making small, consistent changes. It makes things so much more sustainable. The soap nuts were very cool to find! It’s amazing how much they can be used for πŸ™‚

  • CristinaR

    Laundry strips sound great! I never actually used them, but will have to give them a try! I found someone that does bio laundry detergent and comes in a cardboard recyclable box, but I am always up to see if there’s anything even more sustainable x

    • A Sustainably Simple Life

      It sounds like you’ve found a great option for detergent! I like how compact the strips are as they take up barely any room, but a recyclable box is a great option! πŸ™‚

What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments!