How to make your laundry care more eco-friendly
Fresh, clean laundry is a great feeling, especially as we head into the colder months and like to wrap up in snug layers. There are many things to consider when choosing products that make our clothes clean and fresh. We want to know we’ll get value for money from the laundry detergents we buy, as well as effective performance, but we also need to consider what they’re made from and the impact on our health and the environment.
If you know what to look for, you can choose laundry care products and options that minimise the impact you have on the planet.
There are some chemicals we choose not to add to our laundry care products because they aren’t so good for our oceans and eco-systems, nor for our own health
This chemical is used to make surfactants (cleansers) more soluble when they’re combined with water, but studies have shown it can irritate the skin and cause allergic reactions.
These are designed to make your clothes look whiter, but they actually reflect UV light to give the appearance that clothes are clean. Allergic reactions and skin irritations are the potential effects of optical brighteners and when they get into waterways they can build up in aquatic life.
Because these come from non-renewable resources, they’re not as friendly to the environment, so it’s a wise choice to opt for products that use plant or mineral based ingredients instead.
Phosphates fill out laundry products and act to make them perform better. However, they’re known to pollute the environment through waste water from washing machines. That’s because they cause excessive growth of aquatic plants (eutrophication) which makes species compete for nutrients and can cause eco-systems to die.
Synthetic perfumes and dyes
Synthetic perfumes and dyes are often used to enhance the perception of a scent or to mask the scent of the raw materials used. They’ve been identified as a potential irritant to the eyes, skin and lungs, and can cause allergic contact dermatitis. Synthetic perfumes can harm the environment because they’re not removed during wastewater treatment, but have high aquatic toxicity.
To look out for these ingredients, you’ll need to find out what’s in them by checking labels – but because product ingredients aren’t legally required on labels, you might have to ask the manufacturer. It can be a safer alternative to use products made by companies that disclose what’s in them, and use plant and mineral based ingredients wherever possible.
It also pays to check if the laundry detergent you buy to ensure it’s suitable for use with greywater systems.