There are many ways you can make doing laundry more affordable and more environmentally friendly. We’ve already gone through some tips for saving money on water and energy, but that doesn’t address what to do about chemicals and other additives that many people find troubling.
So—without reverting back to washboards and clotheslines—how can you do laundry in a natural way that actually works?
Easily, and pretty cheaply, it turns out. If you want to cut those weird-smelling dyes and harsh chemicals out of your life, try out these environmentally conscious products next time you go shopping.
Detergent is the most obvious place to start. Here in our labs, we’ve tried it all—from DIY detergent to soap nuts to gimmicks like Crystal Wash. And while there are some DIY options that come pretty close, nothing we’ve seen beats legit detergent. (Sorry soap nuts bandwagoners.)
Fortunately, there’s a ton of eco-friendly, dye-free, plant-based detergents to choose from. We’ve tested a bunch of the most popular options, and our pick is Mrs. Meyers Clean Day Laundry Detergent, hands down. For more options, check out our list of the best eco-friendly detergents.
And if the idea of eco-detergent just doesn’t appeal to you, there’s still a way you can help: Buy concentrated detergent. You use it up less quickly, which means fewer trips to the store for restocking and less plastic waste. Pro tip—if you have an HE washing machine, you should be using this anyway.
Chlorine bleach is still good for certain things—nothing’s going to make your tub gleam quite like it—but it’s best kept under the sink for extreme circumstances only. For laundry, check out chlorine-free bleach.
Also known as oxygen bleach, this slightly milder option is basically made up of hydrogen peroxide. It’ll still keep your whites whiter, but eventually breaks down into just oxygen and water—nothing harmful about that. Plus, you can even use chlorine-free bleach on certain colored garments. Make sure you check the tag to be sure.
If you want to cut bleach out altogether, here’s another option: Soak your whites in a basin with water and about a quarter cup of lemon juice overnight. Then wash normally. We haven’t tried it ourselves, but this method is a big hit on DIY laundry forums.
Plant-Based Fabric Softener
Essentially, fabric softeners work by covering your clothes in a thin layer of chemicals to make them feel softer. If that sounds too weird (and many people feel this way), you can simply cut out these products entirely.
Alternatively, you could try a plant-based fabric softener. Chemicals like the ones found in the Mrs. Meyers fabric softener are naturally biodegradable, and may not cause the same skin irritation some folks experience when dealing with conventional softeners.
We'd also like give a special shout-out to Ecover, which manufactures plant-based, renewable laundry products and uses recycled, partially plant-derived bottles.
All-Natural Dryer Sheets
Dryer sheets are used for three things: eliminating static cling, adding a scent, and diffusing fabric softeners. Like the other items on this list, there are many eco-friendly, plant-based, all-natural options available to you. So if you like how that lavender-scented wisp of a sheet makes your laundry feel and smell, you can keep doing it without fear of mystery chemicals.
Reusable Dryer Balls
Now, the one problem all-natural dryer sheets can’t fix: they're disposable. If you want a longer-term option that creates less waste, consider dryer balls. There are basically two kinds out there.
The plastic balls are great if you just want something to bang around with your clothes in the dryer and get rid of static cling. You can even get them in whimsical shapes, like hedgehogs, cacti, or—my personal favorite—puffer fish. Nellie’s, another eco-product manufacturer like Mrs. Meyer’s, even has a PVC-free option.
However, plastic balls don’t help with scent. If you want to keep that light lavender aroma, check out wool dryer balls. These can be infused with essential oils, so you can choose exactly how your laundry smells, and even switch it up between loads.