Zero Waste Laundry Products: My product reviews & DIY recipe
Conventional supermarket washing liquids and powder are a conscious consumer nightmare. Animal testing, palm oil, harsh chemicals that are common allergens (and sometimes even known carcinogens), and a whole ton of plastic packaging. Especially since 60% of regular commercial detergents are filler, because this increases the volume of the product to charge more.
Laundry isn't a sexy topic. It doesn't grab headlines, and I don't expect many to even make it as far as this sentence. But the scale at which we use laundry detergents and how unavoidably essential they are to modern life makes the topic an important one. Many of us, particularly any family with young kids or anybody that has to wear a uniform, will do laundry most days of the week. Even if you can get that number down to once per week, you're still running more than fifty loads of washing a year. This makes what we wash our clothes with an important talking point.
Recently my partner renovated his kitchen (By himself! By hand!) and Biome Eco Stores sent me a selection of home cleaning products to try. I was already mostly fully stocked with Biome cleaning products I'd purchased as a long-term diehard supporter. Below are reviews of their new products I tried for the first time, which were mainly laundry items.
Biome released a new range of bulk cleaning products packaged in glass. They're zero waste, organic, palm oil free, and completely safe, natural non-toxic ingredients. Everything referenced is vegan (as am I). If I'm recommending something on my blog or social media it can be taken on face value as being vegan-friendly because I'll do my best to fact check myself.
I was pretty stoked about this new cleaning products release because they've included previously hard to find ingredients. I searched for months to find plastic-free or bulk washing soda, and now my favourite store stocks it! By using these natural vegan cleaning ingredients, we gain back a little bit of control over our own health and environmental footprint. In a way, knowing what's in your own products is pretty damn empowering.
Whether you want to DIY a recipe to suit your specific needs, or you just want an easy product you can pick up and use immediately, I'll delve into some of the options below.
Washing soda is the key ingredient that's often hard to find for homemade laundry or dishwashing detergents. It acts as a solvent to absorb dirt and stains. 100% sodium carbonate, this is a core "green" cleaning ingredient that's completely biodegradable. Use it in your own laundry powder recipe or dilute with water as a surface cleaner.
Pros: This product is impossible to find elsewhere without plastic! This gives consumers the freedom to produce their own cleaning supplies to their own specifications, which is great if you have allergies or are just really conscious of your impact. It's also all-purpose so very useful in a variety of scenarios, and you can use the glass jar itself to concoct your own cleaning supplies.
Cons: This plastic-free option for washing soda costs five to six times the price of supermarkets, if you can find it stocked. It's also not designed to used on its own and is recommended you mix the washing soda with your existing laundry detergent to extend its use, or to make your own powder using a combination of soap, bicarb or other ingredients to your preference. (Recipe at the end of this post!)
What is oxygen bleach? It's the safe, eco-friendly alternative to chlorine and ammonia bleaches that certainly have no place in my home. When exposed to water the powder decomposes into oxygen, water and soda ash. It's pure sodium percarbonate and can be used to soak whites or mixed with washing soda or soapnuts for a brightening washing powder. While bleach is ultimately best for whites, it can be used for some coloured clothes - I'll leave that up to your own research and discretion over how colourfast your own clothing is. (I haven't tried with colour.) You never want to put it directly on your clothes, but if you dilute it into the water itself first you can leave clothes to soak to remove set stains.
Pros: It's a non-toxic, vegan alternative to harsh chemical bleaches! Amazing! You can mix it with any of the other products to lighten and brighten whatever it is you're washing. I find it pretty easy to use, too.
Cons: Of course, you pay for the privilege of such an eco alternative to caustic chemical bases found in cheap cleaning products. And if you don't find yourself particularly trying to remove stains from regularly already, you won't need to invest in this product for your own laundry until you do.
This is a soap that comes from 100% pure coconut oil. If you mix a fat like coconut oil with an alkali substance, it turns into a soap-like substance. This ground coconut soap is pure saponified coconut oil, ground into a powder suitable for laundry detergent. This product can generally be used in the home in the place of cleaning products (but not your body), and can be used directly on your laundry without washing soda.
Pros: Completely natural, vegan and easy to use. I found this totally adequate for a standard washing load. Just add a few tablespoons into any washing machine.
Cons: It can be a little "too" natural and isn't ideal for filthy work clothes. Great for colours and dark clothes that aren't heavily soiled.
Organic soap berries are exactly that, a dried berry, that when lathered produces a natural soap. To use, place five nuts in the small cotton bag provided, throw the bag in the laundry load, and you can use those nuts for roughly five loads. Once the nuts are too brittle to be reused, put them in the compost or toss them in your garden. The price works out about 10c a load. These berries support a Nepali NGO that battles Himalayan deforestation.Vegan, palm oil free, certified organic, Australian owned, biodegradable, packaged + shipped without plastic, and some profits go towards an environmental charity.
Pros: This is the most affordable option. One bag should last an entire year of daily washing for just $40. The soap nuts are also easy to use with no DIY required, and they are extremely sustainable. This is the only grey water safe option. You can also mix it with bleach or essential oils to add more punch to the product.
Cons: Works best in warm water to lather, and will require hot water for more heavily soiled loads which uses more energy. This just might not be ideal for people with heavily soiled clothes, or people that would typically never use a hot load. I haven't run the numbers to see what works out as the most eco choice.
Note: To get around the above con, some people add the berries to a cup of hot water first to extract the soap and then use it for washing as a detergent.
I have been trialling two oils: clove and eucalyptus. Eucalyptus oil is great for adding to heavily soiled or smelly laundry loads because its antifungal, antiviral and antibacterial. I like to add it to a load of towels and other items prone to moisture that may harbour bacteria, especially if I'll be wiping it on my face. I like to use eucalyptus oil no matter what natural washing powder or soap nuts for an extra antibacterial boost that leaves everything smelling fresh.
Clove oil is used to kill mould. While clove oil isn't ideal for washing laundry, it is ideal for cleaning the laundry - the room itself. You can add drops to your washing machine to run a cleaning cycle, or to add it to a regular cotton cloth and clean the floors or other areas that attract moisture and mould. It's great for cleaning bathroom ceilings and tiles because clove oil prevents mould from growing back.
Pros: These essential oils are so cheap compared to multi level marketing oils, made locally, vegan and cruelty-free and just 100% pure without any nasty additives or fillers. I've found these oils totally work.
Cons: While I find clove oil and water is an incredibly cost effective cleaner, these products are optional extras and are non-essential for a clean home.
Stainless Steel Pegs
Plastic pegs are something you may never even have thought about, because you probably never considered the potential for there to be alternatives. There are absolutely wooden pegs, and a lot of you reading probably are using them. But both the plastic and wood pegs are made by joining two pieces of wood or plastic with a wire coil in the middle. And these break. Constantly. Creating heaps of waste.
The alternative is a stainless steel peg made from one piece of wire. These stainless steel pegs come in a hemp bag so they're totally plastic-free, are built to last and withstand moisture. The pegs come in a variety of grades, but the pegs linked below are marine grade and designed to sustain salty ocean air (although it's still recommended you take them off the line while not in use).
Pros: They're very aesthetic, and don't leave the same crinkly marks as the plastic pegs. Cost-effective because they're built to last. Zero waste and plastic free to keep petroleum-based plastics out of the environment. Australian-made, can be used for packaging gifts, and just all round a great product I love.
Cons: The bigger upfront cost of course can be a difficult hurdle for many.
For this reason, with Biome Eco Stores, together we are offering 10% off your stainless steel pegs order off with the code JM-PEGS10 right now!
Washing & Drying
While I have you here, I thought I'd touch on the issue of sustainable washing machine and dryer use. Here are some hot and fast tips for optimising your machines to lower your use of non-renewable resources:
- If either your washer or dryer ranks below an A in energy efficiency, update it. Studies show that buying new efficient machines still uses less resources than trying to maximise use of a more wasteful machine.
- Always wash a full load and run on cold when possible.
- Twice a year, run a hot washing machine load with bicarb soda and white vinegar to clean your washing machine so it can run more efficiently. Alternatively, add ten drops of clove oil to the drum and run a wash on hot.
- The best drying option is an outdoors clothesline. The second best is an indoor clotheshorse. But some people have living situations where this is impractical and they require a dryer.
- If you do use your dryer, empty the lint trap after each use for optimum efficiency.
- Only run a full dryer load, the fuller the load the more efficient the drying.
- If you can, skip buying a dryer and use a commercial dryer at the laundromat when you need to as they're usually more energy efficient.
I prefer to use soap nuts for a normal load and find they work great with some added eucalyptus oil, and the below DIY recipe for more heavily soiled loads.
The above Biome products can be mixed a variety of ways:
- Washing soda and bleach
- Washing soda and coconut soap
- Washing soda, bleach and coconut soap
- Bleach and coconut soap
And each above combination can be mixed with eucalyptus oil or another essential oil of your choice. It's a total mix-and-match situation!
My DIY Recipe
While I like to use soap nuts with eucalyptus oil for regular dark loads, here is my preferred homemade washing powder recipe for light colours and soiled loads first posted on my blog in 2016. To brighten some whites, you'd simply add a small amount of oxygen bleach to the mix.
- 1/4 cup coconut soap
- 1 cup washing soda
- 1 1/2 cups baking soda
- Optional: Essential oil of choice
My recipe is a ratio of 1.5 cups baking soda to every 1 cup washing soda. Baking soda is less powerful than washing soda so more is required.
To make, simply mix the three ingredients together by hand in a large bowl before transferring to your preferred jar or container. Add a few drops of lavender or eucalyptus oil. Use one to two tablespoons of powder per wash.
I liked every product and think they're all pretty viable options, but I'll be taking the soap nuts and the stainless steel pegs with me on my international move this month.
Don't forget if you're purchasing your own stainless steel pegs, get 10% off with code JM-PEGS10.