Which is the best laundry detergent for the environment and a green lifestyle and is also the best for your pocket?
A laundry ball! (Except that, of course it isn't really a detergent at all... but it does the same job.)
Here are some easy ways to slash your laundry bills, and be a bit greener. This page looks at some of the best eco laundry options for an inexpensive and effective home laundry day, starting with wash balls or laundry balls, as they are sometimes called.
Could this be the best laundry detergent?
Washballs, laundry balls or eco-balls are small plastic containers that you put in the drum of the washing machine. They are about the size of a tennis ball.
They wash your clothes by ionising the water.
Inside they are filled with small clay balls - which do gradually wear away and need replacing but...the good news is that they last for months before this happens, so you just use the same ball over and over again.
You save on detergent because the laundry ball simply replaces it. For most washes you can just use a washball, keeping your detergent for really stubborn stuff.
You don't really need so much fabric softener either because the resulting wash is far less harsh. The clothes are not heavily scented with artificial fragrances and there are no harmful effects upon skin as they contain no complex chemicals.
Clothes last longer, too and the colours don't fade so much.
Best of all, there's no need to worry about the environmental impact of your need for clean clothes. For my money, that makes washballs the best laundry detergent!
Colourful pegs - though perhaps not so eco-friendly!
Wooden ones generally last longer and are bio-degradable - though many may be imported from the other side of the world.
Yes, it may be necessary for items which are heavily soiled, especially with grease. I reckon that my spending on detergent is about 1/10th of what it was before I started using laundryballs.
There are many environmental costs to our detergent use. From an environmental standpoint the best laundry detergent is no laundry detergent.
Just one recent finding is that modern detergent formulations often include nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs). Many water treatment plants aren’t equipped to remove them and there is more than a whiff of suspicion that they are causing feminine characteristics in fish!
Many detergents also contain fragrances which are environmentally damaging.
Most detergents contain phosphates which cause algae to reproduce artificially fast in waterways. These "algal blooms" suffocate other living organisms. Phosphate-free detergents are not problem-free either, as other chemicals such as surfactants have to be increased to compensate - and these too need removing at the sewage plant.
While the best laundry detergent may well be none at all, we still need to wash our clothes effectively and washballs will not cover it all. So what are the best options?
A good quality, environmentally-friendly detergent such as Ecover or Earth Friendly's liquid detergent will deal with the stubborn stuff. The Magnolia and Lily detergent from Earth Friendly products has received rave reviews. I've not tried it.
You can also use washing soda as a pre-wash to cut through grease.
Washing soda is a fantastic natural mineral product which can be used to soak clothes and to make detergent go further. You can just add a tablespoonful to the wash along with the detergent. It softens the water and helps deal with grease and keeps the drum smelling fresh.
The British Co-op now sells a very effective and relatively inexpensive eco washing powder. Bio-D is also worth trying. Many of the big supermarkets have eco-friendly washing powders and liquids on sale. These can be of variable quality
Some of the best laundry detergents such as most of those mentioned above are actually very effective as well as being genuinely less of a strain on the environment.
Another alternative to conventional detergents that you might want to consider is soap nuts. Soap nuts are natural nuts which have a soapy effect when crushed. They come from trees which grow in India and Nepal. They have a pleasant, mild natural scent.
They are quite easy to use. You put a few into a small bag (usually provided) and put them into the washing machine drum. They can be re-used several times.
Soap nuts are quite an economical and environmentally friendly way of washing things. I have found them to be very effective and trouble-free so far - well at least until someone threw away the bag!
You do need a proper bag for them as they are rather bitty and could otherwise get into parts of the drum where they should not be.
Some people prefer them to washballs as there is a little visible lather to prove that something is going on. I'm still more of a fan of washballs as they are so hassle free!
If you aren't convinced by washballs, give soap nuts a try. You can even buy them as an extract which cuts out the trouble of the putting them in bags. This way they are just like using conventional liquid detergent - without the chemicals. NaturOli Soap Nuts, for example, do as many as 100 wash loads. This soap nuts liquid laundry detergent concentrate is suitable for HE or standard washers and it has won green awards.
Cut down your electricity bill by using the drier far less.
How? Here are a few ways to save.
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