Laundry time: advice for a natural approach

We all love the smell of freshly washed clothing, but the chemicals and energy usage involved mean that doing the laundry is not always eco-friendly. Here’s how to adopt a more natural approach to cleaning your clothes.

Laundry time: advice for a natural approach

Pre-wash stain removal

Treating dirt and stains before you wash makes the whole cleaning process much more effective.

  • Add 50 grams (1/4 cup) of borax to 500 millilitres (2 cups) of water. Pour the mixture into a spray bottle. Use it on stains before washing, but shake the bottle first.
  • For stubborn stains, mix together 45 millilitres (3 tablespoons) of mild, colour-free dish-washing liquid, 45 millilitres (3 tablespoons) of vegetable glycerine and 375 millilitres (1.5 cups) of water in a spray bottle. Spray onto the stain and leave for 15–30 minutes before washing.
  • Rub collars with a paste made from 15 millilitres (1 tablespoon) of vinegar and 5 grams (1 teaspoon) of baking soda.
  • Soak soiled diapers overnight in a bucket of hot water with 125–250 grams (0.5–1 cup) of borax. Wash as usual, adding 250 millilitres (1 cup) of vinegar to the rinse.

Drying and ironing

Whenever possible, use the elements to dry your clothes. The sun and wind are free and a clothesline is cheap, long-lasting and kinder to fabrics than a clothes dryer.

  • If you have to use the dryer, use the "cool down" cycle. This cycle is sometimes called the "permanent press" cycle because it dries with cool rather than warm air, which creases clothing less and so cuts down on the need for ironing.
  • When it's raining, use a fold-away drying rack indoors or install a rack that can be elevated near the ceiling in a utility or laundry room.
  • Most of your clothes won't need ironing if you smooth and neatly fold everything as you take it down from the washing line.
  • To avoid ironing some woolen clothes, such as tailored suits, hang them in the bathroom when you're having a shower. The creases will drop out in the steam.
  • To remove scorch marks after ironing at too high a temperature, soak the affected area in pure lemon juice for 30 minutes. Rinse in warm water, then dry in the sun. Both the lemon juice and the sunlight have a bleaching action.

Fabric softeners

Commercial fabric softeners make your clothes feel soft and smell fresh, but they may contain potentially harmful chemicals and synthetic fragrances. Try these natural fabric softeners instead.

  • Add 250 millilitres (1 cup) of white vinegar to your washing machine during the rinse cycle. If your washing machine is a front-loader, add 30 millilitres (2 tablespoons) of white vinegar to the fabric conditioner dispenser.
  • For a fresh fragrance, add a few drops of lavender, lemon, rose or eucalyptus essential oil to the vinegar.
  • Baking soda is an excellent fabric softener. Add 50 grams (1/4 cup) to the wash with a few drops of essential oil.

With a more natural approach to doing the laundry, you can have a positive impact on the environment while still enjoying the wonderful scent of freshly washed clothing!

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