Ditching Detergent, is it Possible?
The way you choose to wash your clothes often changes when taking steps towards a zero waste or plastic-free lifestyle. You will notice there is often a lot of packaging involved with laundry products. You may also ask do I really need all these chemicals to wash my clothes?
There’s a lot of ambiguity surrounding the chemical issue. Some brands have been accused of ‘green washing’ - painting themselves as a green alternative while still using some of the more questionable chemicals in their products. There are also other elements you may wish to consider when choosing brands, not just the chemical composition, such as their overall ethics and whether they are vegan/vegetarian. This ethical comparison by The Good Shopping Guide makes for interesting reading. Warning: it’s a minefield and remember to focus on what’s important to you!
The thing is that we wear clothes every single day and whether you’re concerned about your family’s skin, or the knock-on effect to the waterways, zero waste living tends to instill the mindset of, ‘if it’s not necessary, then I don't want it’.
The stereotype of the unwashed-environmental-activist-hippy is fortunately not at all accurate today. Thankfully there are ways to wash your clothes with fewer, more sustainable chemicals, or in some cases, totally natural ways, which still keep your clothes clean and smelling fresh.
This mail order system allows you to buy refills, which are delivered in pouches that you send back to Splosh to be reused. The detergents themselves are kinder on the environment than some commercial alternatives and are made from mainly plant-derived ingredients. They’re also vegan friendly and palm oil free.
The reusable plastic egg container is filled with natural cleaning pellets that foam on contact with water. You can buy Eco Eggs that have pellets to last three months, one year, or three years (around 710 washes). The big version is reported to work out at about 3p per wash too, so as well as eliminating chemicals and packaging waste, you can save a good deal of money too.
These miraculous little things are dried fruit shells of a plant related to the lychee (pictured in main image above). The soapnuts, or soapberries, contain a 100% natural soap that is released when tossed with water. You add 6-7 soapnuts into your wash, you can pop them in a cloth bag with essential oils dropped onto it, and they work for about 6 washes. One large bag of soapnuts can last around a year and there is no packaging, plastic or waste associated with them (be careful where you buy them from). The spent soapnuts can also be composted or used to keep bugs from the veggie patch.
Disclaimer: None of these have been tested by us and we have heard mixed reviews about whether Ecoegg and Soapnuts clean well.
There are many "eco-brands" now readily available in supermarkets, health food shops, bulk shops, from Ocado, Abel & Cole, etc, such as Bio-D, Ecoleaf, Ecozone, Faith in Nature, Greenscents, ECOS, Attitude and Ecover.
What works for one family might not necessarily work for another. If you are looking to take a step in the direction of reducing the packaging, and chemicals, used in your washing machine, we advise you research the alternatives thoroughly. Some brands offer refills that help you to cut down on packaging. Using washing powder in cardboard boxes or paper packaging can be better than liquid detergents in plastic bottles. Some "eco-brand's" products still come in some form of plastic or plastic-lined packaging that may not be recyclable using your kerbside scheme. For more on the difference types of plastic anyhow to recycle them, read our Not All Plastics Are Created Equally blog.
We'd love to hear of your solutions to ditching detergent and any lessons you learnt along the way. Keep it clean!