Laundry time has become more earth friendly, taking stains out of your shorts and pain out of your pocketbook.
As a busy mom, Susan Donohoe has her children's dirty laundry to worry about. As co-founder of an organization that educates people about conscious consuming, she has the planet to worry about.
Faced with the dilemma of using stain-fighting detergents that are bad for the environment to combat a mountain of grimy clothes, Donohoe had a bright idea.
"One of the least-touted stain removers is the sun," says Donohoe, co-founder of Conscious Consuming, a Boston-based organization that aims to educate consumers on their buying decisions and options.
"If you hang your laundry out, which is better than using the dryer — in the summer anyway — a stain will naturally bleach out of most fabrics."
While clothesline drying has been around for more than a millennium, many earth-conscious Americans like Donohoe — who also uses Seventh Generation laundry products — are making it popular again, as well as spurring the growth of green-friendly laundry products.
"We've seen items such as dryer balls take off as well as more concentrated, affordable detergent options," says Valerie Reddemann, president of Chico, Calif.-headquartered Greenfeet, a supplier of eco-friendly products.
Among laundry products, Reddemann says the biggest sellers include Nellie's Laundry Nuggets, a biodegradable and nontoxic corn-based material that can clean up to 60 loads. For stains, there's Bac-Out Stain and Odor Remover, an enzyme-based formula that attacks proteins left behind by food stains and odors.
To starch those shirts, Earth Friendly Products All-Natural Spray Starch is a non-aerosol alternative with natural ingredients, complete with a pump spray. And Bi-O-Kleen Oxygen Based Bleach works for both colors and whites while softening the water.
"I'm also a fan of white vinegar and hydrogen peroxide as natural bleach alternatives," says Reddemann.
Going green in the laundry room can also ease some pain on your pocketbook during these tough times. Dryer sheets, Donohoe says, are full of chemicals and the residue from those chemicals can clog your dryer over time. By switching to dryer balls, Reddemann says, you can cut drying time by 25 percent. Lower your energy bills further by replacing your washer and dryer with Energy Star models.
"They use less water, less energy, and less detergent (for high efficiency washers) per load, so the extra cost is recouped in under a year," Donohoe says.
Consider wearing your clothes — from jeans to pajamas — more than once before washing. Not only does it save you time, it saves energy, water and money.
"Most families can cut their weekly laundry by 25 percent by simply wearing items a few times before washing," Reddemann says.