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:
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.