Welcome to Green Boot Camp

Welcome to Green Boot Camp blog, a 52-week program to help you become a greener you in 2008. This is the companion blog to The Lean Green Family (formerly Suddenly Frugal).

Friday, March 28, 2008

Week Twelve--Green in the Laundry Room

A lot of the national brands with laundry detergents have begun greening their products, from offering concentrated version of the liquid detergent (smaller packaging, less water used) to using recycled plastic in the packaging. Of course, you can always go with the green standby of powder detergent in a cardboard box, especially if your trash hauler will recycle cardboard for you. Then you're using a product with no water and which will, for sure, be recycled.

There are many other ways that you can go green in the laundry room--with products that are marketed as green and others that are green by nature. Here are some to consider as you consider adopting greener habits when cleaning your clothes:

* Borax
For nearly any stain my kids can create these days, all I need to do to get out that stain is wet the article of clothing, sprinkle some borax on it, rub a little and toss in the laundry. There's no having to let it sit overnight or soak in a bucket. Just sprinkle, rub, wash and voila, stain is gone. (The borax people are not paying me to say this.) Blood, dirt and chocolate don't stand a chance now that I'm armed with borax. And what's best is it's a green laundry cleaner and cheap, too--I can get a 76-ounce box of 20 Mule Team Borax at my local ShopRite for only $2.99.

* Baking Soda and/or Vinegar
Together, baking soda and vinegar make an amazing cleaner and drain un-clogger. In the laundry room, you could use one or the other to get musty smells out of laundry that's sat in the washing machine for too long. Just sprinkle or pour some on your damp clothing, add a bit more laundry detergent, and run the clothes through on a short cycle. They should come out smelling fresh and clean. Like borax, baking soda and vinegar are both incredibly affordable--and green. You can get a one-pound (16 ounce) box of Arm & Hammer baking soda for about a buck, and 128 fluid ounce gigantic jug of generic white vinegar for just a little more than $1.50.

* Earth-friendly Laundry Detergent
There are plenty of companies making earth-friendly laundry detergent's these days. Just check out this Green Guide reader-generated rating system for the best green laundry detergents. At my house I've had first-hand experience with Shaklee's Get Clean Fresh Laundry, which is fragrance free and concentrated. Shaklee does not test its products on animals, and claims that its laundry detergent is biodegradable. I found that this laundry detergent was fine for average loads of laundry, but unless I pretreated items when they were heavily soiled, the natural ingredients couldn't quite get my clothes as clean as I would liked them to be. So now I keep this Get Clean Fresh Laundry bottle on hand when I have a delicates-only wash--I find it works as well, if not better, than Woolite.

* Biodegradable Dryer Sheets
While I try my darnedest not to use the dryer, there are times when I just have to. Such as with towels, sheets, underwear and socks. I just don't have enough room in my little laundry space to hang everything up and, besides, the dryer does make things come out softer than if they had air dried. So to avoid static and to help get the dog hair off of our clothes, I like to use dryer sheets, and thank goodness I came across the biodegradable ones from Sun & Earth. These fabric softener sheets, when used, can go right into my compost pile with the dryer lint I grab every time I clean out the trap. That makes me happy in lots of ways--no static, softer items and less garbage to throw out.

Let me know if these ideas seem doable to you as you spend 2008 greening your existence.


Daisy said...

I will look into those dryer sheets. If I could compost dryer sheets, that would be great.

Sara said...

Is all dryer lint compostable? I'm sure it is if it comes from 100% cotton clothing. But, what if it comes from synthetic materials?

Leah Ingram said...

Sara, yes you can compost dryer lint, regardless of the clothing/materials you have been drying. What COULD render dryer lint inappropriate for the compost pile is if you'd been using commercial dryer sheets. That's because these coat your laundry with chemicals. Or at least that was the only thing I could find upon researching the topic that even slightly hinted towards dryer lint not being compostable. So if you happen to run a load with a commercial fabric softener sheet in the dryer, why not use that batch of dryer lint as a fire starter instead? Hope that helps.

Debbie said...

I have had good results using vinegar in an old Downy softener ball (scrounged from my apartment laundry room -- I didn't steal it, everybody it could have belonged to moved away). I just put in vinegar up to the line on the ball and toss it in the wash.

I have in the past used a damp washcloth or rag dipped in a tiny bit of liquid fabric softener and used that instead of a dryer sheet.

Kristina said...

Trader Joe's sells lavendar in bags that resemble large tea bags and are used in place of dryer sheets - they're fabulous, reusable, and all natural.

My daughter had an allergic reaction to the Shaklee laundry detergent - yikes. We avoid it at our house now!

~M said...

Has anyone used those dryer balls? Reviews appreciated!

Bluebird said...

I just discovered this website through SimpleLiving.net - love it! I wanted to share that I have had wonderful experiences with several "no chemical" soap replacement contraptions for the washing machine. Both types were purchased from Gaiam.com. The previous type used magnets, the current one says it uses "frequency enhanced minerals" (whatever that means) to do the job of soap. Both types say you may use some or no laundry detergent - I don't use any, as it doesn't seem to need any. The point is that it does the job of soap, so why add soap unless you're superstitious?? I used the magnet type with great success for 3 years, and decided to get a new set when we recently moved. Gaiam is now selling the "WonderBall," and we've been using it for about 2 and a half months, again with great success. My husband, baby and I don't exactly play rugby or mine coal in our clothing, it gets mostly light use - office-type, hiking, biking or gardening use (or wiggling, giggling and pooping use, where baby is concerned), but these things have done a fine job for us - even on my daughter's cloth diapers. They are said to last for about 3 years (which was true for us with the magnet type) and they are only $40!!! I can't figure out why these things haven't totally replaced laundry detergent, unless it is a matter of their marketing budget. Laundry detergent is EXPENSIVE! Imagine all of the packaging, transportation, factory environmental burden that you are not generating in these 3 years!