Monday, April 14, 2008

Let's Talk About Laundry!

It doesn't seem like there would be a lot to discuss, but there must be because it is a universal activity. Wherever there are people, there is laundry. Wherever there is laundry, there are moms trying to get it done with as little fuss and energy as possible.

If you are looking to save time, this is the wrong post for you. This week, I decided to modify my laundry habits so they used the least amount of resources possible.

There are three key components to laundry's ecological impact. First, we use water, often hot water. While my mother (who has every nifty green gadget available) uses her gray water for laundry, we aren't set up for that. I did, however, decided to use cold water only instead of warm for pastels and hot for whites.

The second key expenditure is electricity. Using cold water cuts down this aspect, but I upped the ante by doing line-drying only. I usually depend on an electric dryer during cold, damp spring days.

The third component is laundry soap. Obviously we need some sort of cleanser for our clothing, but storebought laundry soap is full of fillers and noxious chemicals. There's also the packaging factor.

I hoped to find a great cold-water formula, but none surfaced. I made up a batch of my favorite homemade laundry soap. Here's the recipe:

1 cup grated bar soap (I used some we had saved from various hotels, but any soap would do)
½ cup washing soda. NOT baking soda, although it is also made by Arm and Hammer.
½ cup Borax. I already had a partial box.

Mix and use sparingly--keep in mind that unlike commercial detergents, there are no fillers. I've been told to use 1 Tbsp but I generally use two.

Here are a few general notes from my experiment:

  1. If you are using cold water, the homemade detergent may take a while to dissolve. I mixed it with a tiny amount of hot water before adding to my washer.
  2. A 1/4 cup of vinegar added to your rinse cycle makes your clothes softer and helps with stiffness. No, they won't smell like vinegar.
  3. I could only get two loads dried every day TOPS, so I fell behind on laundry. If I decide to line dry exclusively in cold weather, I will have to evaluate my home for a good indoor drying area.

Other than that, it was problem free. Because laundry is a major user of electric, I should see about a $10 difference when I get my electric bill. Wow! That's a decent bottle of wine, which I desperately need with all of these kids. Plus, I did one thing, however small, to minimize my effect on our very small and very struggling planet.

If we all do one small thing, it will make a BIG difference. I recommend trying this for a week to see how it works for your family.


Arienne Arnold said...

I just stumbled onto your blog. I'm a fellow Eastern Washington homeschooler trying to line-dry my clothes in this crazy spring weather. I've been using cold water, too, which makes for stuck laundry soap in the dispenser. I admire you for making your own stuff--I've been relying on Biokleen and hoping I'm not polluting the river any more than it already is!

By the way, can't find lemongrass in the lovely Tri-Cities, either.