Going Green with Chemical Free Detergents

Besides carbon footprint, energy usage, reducing/reusing/recycling, going green also means trying to move away from harsh and potentially harmful chemicals.  This is especially true when speaking about detergents, soaps, stain removers and other household chemicals.


“Big chemical”, like Monsanto and Proctor & Gamble have developed these extravagant and complex chemical cleaning agents for household use, making them extremely cheaply and selling them at exponential profit.  In reality most stain removal methods and soaps can be made from very basic and safe materials.  The British TV show “How Clean is Your House” makes a habit of using materials like lemon juice, vinegar and baking soda to clean extremely dirty kitchens, bathrooms, etc.  They could use “Mr. Clean” with its myriad of unpronounceable chemicals, but they don’t, and it works just fine… You will notice that any potent acid (like vinegar/lemon juice) and clean tough surface stains very well, baking soda handles odors and acts as an abrasive for getting out muck (think tiled counter tops, etc).


Making the decision to move away from harsh chemicals is not a difficult one, there are many ways to research and come up with options to avoid chemical detergents.  The stain-centric site StainDiva has several different options for removing stains from clothes without chemicals, include a corn-starch method for removing armpit stains that I actually used and it was quite useful, worked wonders actually.


After doing some research you will find that most of the homemade/chem-free methods share the same characteristics.  Acid helps to disinfect and dislodge stains off surfaces.  Powders like corn starch or baking powder can get into fabrics and absorb grease.  Oils act very much like soaps (in fact soaps are simply oils that attract other oils and dispels them).  I have a friend who uses olive oil to wash her hair sometimes, and reports that it works really well (although I’m not sure if she uses Extra Virgin or not :) )
So making the move over to chem-free agents isn’t that hard.  I think the easiest place to start is with surface cleaners.  These don’t usually need to be as harsh as they are, and you can get by with using some white vinegar in place of your bleach or Mr. Clean.  Keeping this in the cabinet under the sink is easy, takes only a few minutes of prep work and you won’t really notice a difference.


Making a change to your laundry habits may be more difficult.  We do laundry often and even if we don’t think about it we become accustomed to our very own methods, even if it’s just use Tide detergent or something like that.  Switching over to a more neutral and less harsh method might take some getting used to, but there are some options that have been popping up lately.  Once of my favorites is “Seven Generation”, a series of environmentally friendly cleaning products that cites an old American Indian proverb that one should think of how ones actions affect seven generations into the future.  Something I think is extremely pertinent to todays world, where we can’t seem to think even 10 years into the future.

Green Living – Choosing an Environmentally Friendly Washing Machine

One of the key aspects of living a green lifestyle is monitoring your carbon footprint as it pertains to your home appliances. It may surprise many of us just how much energy we use for our regular household tasks. That energy, in turn, is mostly gained by coal burning energy plants (or nuclear in many areas). In addition to the pure energy costs, many appliances use other resources as well. A perfect example of this is the washing machine and clothes dryers, which use water, gas and electric all at once.


Taking a stand against wasteful living starts at the home, as such it’s important to make sure you are doing the best you can to select a green washer/dryer for use in your home. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) recently issues a video about just how to get that accomplished. Watch and listen:

In addition to the points listed in the video, there are a few that we can provide:


Appropriate Size/Capacity


The load capacity of washer/dryer is important because it dictates the potential use of energy and water. You should choose one that is appropriate to your needs. If you have a family of 3, consider getting a small washer/dryer. Make sure to do only full loads (as they mentioned in the video).
Also the use of a stackable front load washer and dryer can help you achieve these goals. They are naturally smaller in size (most of them, anyway) so they use less water and they encourage the use of the machines in tandem, getting one load done each and then moving on. Front load models tend always use less water (needing to only fill partials for all clothes to become submerged as the washer spins) and often use less energy and require fewer repairs down the road. Many new models are EnergyStar rated so that they are at optimal energy consumption levels (although this can be said about most all washer/dryers nowadays) In addition, besides the green aspects of them, they take up less space and require less room in a laundry room (many can fit in a closet).


(Almost) Always Use Cold Water


Cold water, in most all cases, can get clothes just as clean as hot water.  Hot water also accounts for upwards or 90% of energy consumption when the heating is done by the washing machine.  Hence a simple adjustment like using hot water only when absolutely necessary can save you a ton of money on heating and electric bills, and save the environment some crucial carbon emissions.


You will notice that there is virtually no difference between using hot and cold, unless there is a nasty stain that needs to come out (and even then, the difference might not be noticable).  So pay more attention to the knobs on the washing machine, and keep them at cold and the water levels and medium to low for most all loads that you wash.


Only Large Loads


Only do large loads which fill the machine to near capacity.   Doing several smaller loads leads to more water being used (and often too much water for each load, leading to waste).  I know it may be tempting to do a small load when you get home from work, but if you stick to just 1 or 2 loads per week, you will see your energy bills go down, and you will feel better abut doing something for the environment.  It’s up to us to take care of our planet, and in turn our planet will take care of us!


We hope this has been helpful and you can go about saving some money on your water bill, electric bill and gas bill just by making these small adjustments.