I think this week I’m going to talk about all natural and low waste laundry needs, because it’s something that I’ve been asked about a ton and also that I see as a struggle with a lot of zero-wasters.
I have found the laundering products that I absolutely love, and will stick by them for years and years to come. There will be brands I personally buy in this post, but I have been offered no money nor have any affiliate links. These are all my personal preference. The photos are also not my own.
HOW TO WASH
First, let’s talk about how I wash things. Going from place to place constantly, and being as low waste as I can possibly be, I do not separate my darks and whites. I also only wash my clothes in cold water. This not only prevents bleeding from other garments and no shrinking, but it also saves a ton of energy. And even if you do separate your darks from whites and are going all natural, your clothes should be washed on cold anyway. The laundering in hot water of yesteryear was mainly to get all the disgusting chemicals and bleach out of your fabrics.
When it comes to towels (bath towels, kitchen towels, reusable napkins), I generally wash on warm. I do this because my towels have taken a beating for the last two weeks, and if they’ve been caked with food from the kitchen, they need to be sterilized.
My sheets are always washed on cold. I know this may sound weird considering that we sleep on them every night and lots of gross stuff like dead skin and sweat can be on the sheets, but they really don’t need to be washed on hot. It fades the colors, it makes them pill, it shrinks them, and I have had to throw away sheets six months after getting them because the hot water breaks the fibers. Take it from me, wash your sheets on cold.
Lastly, I do laundry twice a month. Yup, you read that right. Twice a month. I have enough socks and knickers to last me two weeks, and I made Michael purchase the same amount because if it were up to him, he’d be doing laundry every other day. Also, a lot of my clothes are dry clean only, but I wear them many, many times before I get them cleaned. We’ll get into that later.
I never use bleach. Ever. Never, ever, ever! Want to know why you’re getting those rashes, or itching, or your clothes are becoming fast fashion even though they’re high quality? Want to know why your whites are becoming stiff and pilling, and hems are coming undone and they look raggedy? It’s because you’re using bleach. That shit is nasty. I don’t even use bleach on my kitchen towels which were stark white. I just let spices and herbs take over and tie-dye them.
However, if you’re a girl, then you probably know what it’s like to have an oopsie in the middle of the night during that time of the month. Picture this: Alexx spends years wanting to purchase a set of beautiful, soft linen sheets. She finally decides – after having had to donate so many sets of sheets that were cheap – that she is going to bite the bullet and spend the $500 for the matching linen sheets and duvet cover. She waits patiently as they come in the mail, and snuggles with them even when they’re still wrapped up in their bag. She waits the week before putting them on her bed because she doesn’t want to waste water and launder the sheets currently on there. The sheets are so luxurious; like slipping into a cloud when she gets into bed. She wakes up refreshed and excited for the night ahead of her when she’s back in her linen cocoon. And then the next morning she wakes up and sees blood spots on her damn sheets. She doesn’t know what to do but silently weep to herself. She makes a paste of baking soda and water and lets it sit on the stains. It fades them but definitely doesn’t remove them. She washes them and can still see the (now) brown spots staring back at her. Taunting her. Laughing at her. Telling her to smile. She puts them back on her bed and resigns to not owning nice sheets again until she’s hit menopause. But then Alexx remembers that in her Amazon wish list, there is a stain remover that is completely natural and got 4.5 stars by almost 3,000 people. She orders it and patiently waits the two days for it to be delivered, because at this point, what are the chances it’s going to remove days-old blood? It arrives and Alexx still doesn’t use it. She doesn’t use it until the whole set of sheets need to be washed, and at this time, Alexx sprays this stuff on the sheet and lets it sit for six hours. When she goes back into the laundry room to put them into the washing machine, she is amazed. The stains are gone! What the hell? What is this magical freaking spray!?
It’s called “Natural Laundry Stain Remover” by Puracy. It’s $10.50 on Amazon. It’s all natural. It’s hypoallergenic. It’s non-bleaching. It’s vegan and cruelty free. It’s safe for grey water systems, septic tanks, and the environment! It’s a freaking God-send, and I 100, 1000, and 1 million percent recommend it!
Up until about a year and a half ago, I actually made my own detergent. It was awesome, but it doesn’t work very well in places with hard water. It was fantastic in Los Angeles but didn’t work at all in Las Vegas (LV is in the top five places for hardest water in the States).
The laundry detergent I made was completely natural and anti-microbial, anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-fungal. I’m actually going to give you the recipe for it at the end of this post in case you’re interested in making your own, too!
When Michael and I spent two months driving across the country with all of our belongings in the back of the car, I knew I had to get some sort of detergent that wasn’t going to take up a lot of room and wasn’t going to leak or separate in temperature differences.
I had known about soap nuts for some time because…well, I’m a nerd and like to educate myself on all things natural. Soap nuts are a natural berry that grow on trees, and when they’re agitated in water they saponify and create lather. That’s where we got the word soap from. They smell like crap by themselves – like vinegar – but once you put them in the washing machine and they do their thing, they actually produce a beautiful, sort of perfume like scent. I have turned a lot of people onto these things, and if you’re a zero-water, these will solve all your problems! I get mine on (where else?) Amazon for $14. The brand is called NaturOli and you get a ½ pound bag of soap nuts (about 120 loads of laundry worth), and a little pouch to put the soap nuts in to use them (about 12 loads of laundry each).
Now, I love soap nuts and use them whenever I do laundry, but, I have stopped using them for sheets and towels because I don’t think the little guys can handle the bulk of them. For clothes, soap nuts are the way to go always and forever. But I picked up a bottle of Trader Joe’s “Liquid Laundry HE Detergent” and have been using that. Apparently, this detergent has gotten some of the worst reviews ever; people stating that it cleans only slightly better than plain water. But I’m used to not having crazy chemical smells of detergent on my stuff, so maybe that’s the difference? I quite like it, but it is fairly expensive ($10 for 64 loads), and I don’t like that I’m using a plastic detergent bottle again. So we’ll see what I do when I’m out of it, but for now, I recommend it.
The dryer is for sheets, towels, and clothes you don’t care about. NEVER put ANY sort of knit into the dryer! It will misshape your garment and also shrink the hell out of it. I have a drying rack from Target called “Compact Drying Rack” by Room Essentials that folds flat when it’s not in use. It’s pretty good – I have one in Salem and in my Vegas condo. And it’s only $15.
Besides laundry detergent, the dryer was my first forte into zero waste laundry. I’m sure you can guess – dryer balls. I’ve purchased two types:
The first is SnugPad “Wool Dryer Balls” (6-pack) for $8 on Amazon.
The second is Pure Homemaker “Wool Laundry Dryer Balls” (6-pack) for $11 on Amazon.
I haven’t really noticed a difference between the two except for price. But dryer balls are awesome. They reduce static, they help dry large items faster, and you can put essential oils on them to lightly scent your clothes. You never need to use all six at once unless your dryer is completely full, but generally if you use too many of them, they actually increase static. So these take a tiny bit of trial and error. Thumbs up to dryer balls!
Am I an awful person because I dry clean my clothes and it uses chemicals? Well honestly, I don’t care. I have clothes that I literally purchased in high school (that’s nineteen years ago!) that are still intact because I have dry cleaned them. I don’t know what could be more zero waste than still wearing clothing that you owned almost twenty years ago. And how I did it was from dry cleaning.
Now, if you dry clean the same garment multiple times in a month, yes, it won’t last you that long. But this is about how frequently I dry clean my clothes:
- Jackets: My leather jackets I dry clean about once every two years. If you find a good dry cleaner, they’ll actually send leather out to a leather cleaner to do the job. It should only cost about $40 per jacket.
- Coats: My faux fur coats I get done 1-2 times per year; generally at the beginning of Autumn and then again at the end of Winter. They do start to look tattered with too much dry cleaning because it can matte the fur, but I actually like that look – like a Rock n’ Roll singer who can’t be bothered to put on a shirt under his tattered, vintage faux fur coat.
- Bags: Oh, that’s right, you thought it was just for clothing? Sometimes your leather bags need some love too, and again, if your dry cleaner is good they’ll send your bags out to a leather cleaner. I only get my bags dry cleaned if they have physical dirt on them or if they’ve been in a gross situation where I no longer want to touch them. It’s very expensive to get leather bags cleaned and you don’t want to mess with any of the hardware on them or structure, so only do it when absolutely necessary.
- Pants: I don’t get my pants dry cleaned unless they’re dress pants (and I rarely wear those) so probably once every two years. Oh! I do get my waxed denim dry cleaned, actually, and I do that two-three times a year. Denim in general should only be washed every thirty wears (unless you played in dirt with them on), and with wax on the denim, they can live even longer without washing. I will tell you from experience, do not dry clean waxed anything at a natural dry cleaners. Natural products for some reason melt the wax and ruin your clothes. I have lost a dress and two pairs of pants because I didn’t know this. Now I do.
- Tops: Silk, collared shirts, linen, blazers, and any knit should be dry cleaned. I wear my tops about five to seven times before I get them dry cleaned. My sweaters I get dry cleaned the most because I wear them the most of all my clothes. I get my sweaters cleaned probably twice a season, so about eight times a year. It also really helps with getting pilling off the sweaters!
- Dresses/Jumpsuits: I dry clean all of these. I never wash them in the washing machine, ever. I get my dresses and jumpsuits dry cleaned maybe once a year: at the beginning of Summer. I don’t wear them at any other time, so I don’t need to get them cleaned that much.
Also, if I have something to dry clean, I will put it in a hamper I have and wait until I have a pile of dry cleaning to bring them to the cleaners. I want to limit my trips there to around once every two-three months, and I want to remember what I’ve just had dry cleaned instead of accidentally bringing the same thing multiple times.
So that’s it! I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and it’s given you some new ideas for natural laundry that’s more zero waste! Below is my recipe for the laundry detergent I was telling you about.
Until next time!
All my best,
ROSEMARY LAUNDRY DETERGENT
- 6 cups of boiling water
- 3 cups baking soda or washing soda
- 1 cup salt
- 3 cups castile soap
- 2 tablespoons rosemary essential oil
- A giant jar or carafe