While I was in Costa Rica recently for my zoology master’s degree program, our only option if we wanted to wash laundry was to use the facilities at La Selva Biological Research station. In order to do laundry there, we were asked to use biodegradable laundry soap.
I’ve been wanting to make my own laundry detergent instead of buying it from the store because it’s cheaper and better for the environment, but I hadn’t realized just how bad for the environment my current store-bought detergent could be.
Biodegradable detergent is a better option because there are fewer chemicals left over in the water after you’re done.
If you don’t have a biological research station store stocked with biodegradable detergent nearby — and I bet you don’t — there are a few other locally available options.
One option is commercially available biodegradable detergents. These can be found in specialty stores or ordered from online stores like Amazon.com.
Another option is to make laundry detergent yourself. There are easy-to-follow recipes available online that use everyday ingredients like bar soap, Borax and washing soda.
You should be able to find these ingredients in most grocery stores. The recipes I’ve seen recommend unscented or very lightly scented bar soap.
Here’s a recipe I have for homemade detergent that calls for Ivory soap:
1 quart water (boiling)
2 cups bar soap (grated)
2 cups Borax
and 2 cups washing soda
1. Add finely grated bar soap to the boiling water and stir until soap is melted. You can keep on low heat until melted.
2. Pour the soapy water mixture into a large, clean pail and add the Borax and Washing Soda. 3. Stir well until all is dissolved.
4. Add 2 gallons of water, stir until well mixed.
5. Cover pail and use 1/4 cup for each load of laundry. Stir the soap each time you use it (will gel).
You also can “make” your own fabric softener, which is actually much easier than making laundry detergent because there’s just one ingredient and one step: Simply put white vinegar in whenever or wherever you would normally add your laundry softener to your wash.
There also are ways to reduce your environmental impact when it’s time to dry your washed clothes.
Dryer sheets are not very biodegradable — the waxy sheets are not a friend of the environment. Instead of dryer sheets, one option is to dip a washcloth in vinegar or a hair conditioner/vinegar mix and then let it dry. Once it’s dry, you can use it as a dryer sheet for up to four loads of laundry.
You also could use essential oils to add smells to your dried clothes.
Another option is to skip the dryer entirely and hang up your clothes on a clothesline. This is very environmentally-friendly and doesn’t break down your clothes over time like dryers can. Using this option when time is not an issue is a great choice.
Using any or all of these laundry habits can help save you money, and over time, can make a positive impact on the environment.