Being green in the laundry

G Magazine

How clean and green is your laundry?

washing machine

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If clothes are a second skin rubbing against you all day long, how clean are they really?

If the smell of laundry powder permeates your clothes, you could be snuggling up with surfactants, scents and salts from laundry detergent residue.

Thankfully most Australian laundry detergents are not hazardous to your health (unless you suffer from eczema or skin allergies)...but they aren't as kind to our environment.

As Lanfax Laboratories - who regularly test Australian laundry detergents - say, "the use of the term 'environmentally friendly' should not be used for laundry detergents or other household cleaning agents. Every powder and liquid carries some environmental hazard."

Many laundry detergents contain phosphates, which can contribute to algal blooms in our waterways, and scores rely on petrochemical surfactants, which are not renewable.

What's more, garden-lovers who want to use the greywater from their laundry to water gardens need to take extra care with their choice of laundry cleaners. Those detergents with a high pH or salinity level could easily kill plants or damage the organic matter in the soil.

Here are some more top laundry tips:

1. Choose powder power

With most liquid laundry detergents containing more water than dirt-fighting cleaning agents, it makes sense to buy powders in concentrate form.

Why pay for packaging and transport emissions if a laundry liquid is only 40 per cent detergent?

More water means you also have to pay for more plastic to make the giant bottles that could end up in landfill once you've finished with them.

2. Wash only when you need to

Most of us are too lazy to hang up our clothes at the end of the day, throwing things in the laundry basket that might be clean enough to wear again.

Laundering clothes unnecessarily wastes not only time, but precious energy and water.

Do a whiff test of that blouse or jumper before throwing it in the wash - you might be able to wear it again!

3. Learn to love the cold

Up to 90 per cent of the energy used in the average washing machine is in water heating.

The best way to save the planet in the laundry, then, is to use detergents that wash well in cold water, as opposed to those that rely on a warm or hot wash to work.

4. Buy efficient equipment

Appliances that use less water and electricity are always a good thing!

Front-load washing machines use around a third less water than top-load machines, and the newer the machine, the more likely it is to be efficient.

If you're buying a new machine, look for high star ratings: a 7 kg washing machine with 1-star water efficiency uses about 210 litres of water per wash, compared to the 35 litres needed by a 6-star water rated machine.

5. DIY detergent

Laundry detergents can easily be made at home by blending washing soda with soap flakes in a food processor and storing in an airtight container.

A DIY detergent won't make the same suds or have the heady scent of a store-bought version, but will save plenty of money.

You can add a dash of borax or essential oils to your home-made laundry soap to add more power and scent to the clean.