How to Do Laundry Without Harming the Environment (or Irritating Your Skin)

January 22, 2019

How to Do Laundry Without Harming the Environment (or Irritating Your Skin)

You already know how to do laundry, but do you know how many loads you wash in a year? Probably not. And chances are you don't really want to—because then you'd know how many hours you'd spent sorting, spot treating, presoaking, washing, drying, folding, and putting them away.

*sigh*

The amount of laundry washed yearly varies based on the number of people living in a household as well as their individual preferences for changing clothes, sheets, and towels, but it's estimated that the average family washes approximately 80 pounds of laundry per week.

Most in-home washers can handle about 12–20 pounds of laundry in a single load. A child's daily apparel may weigh 1–3 pounds, while an adult's can weigh twice as much. Add up the daily weight for each person in your household, multiply it by seven, and you'll probably discover that a family of four dirties between 56 and 126 pounds of laundry a week (or more if you're washing infinite loads of baby clothes).

Even if your household comes in on the low end of the spectrum and has a large capacity washing machine, you're still likely washing at least three loads per week, and that doesn't account for bedding or towels. Given these numbers, it's important to understand what ingredients are in your laundry detergent, so you can avoid those that aren't optimal for your skin or the environment.

What to Watch Out For

One of the most common ingredients in laundry detergent is sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS). It makes products foam up and clean effectively. SLS has replaced the heavily scrutinized phosphates once used by manufacturers, but it can cause "skin irritation, dryness, and redness" if it isn't completely removed during your washer's rinse cycle.

Luckily, there are other surfactants, like cocamidopropyl betaine (derived from coconut oil), which are safer and more effective when combined with biodegradable enzymes, such as amylase (derived from barley). Unfortunately, many of our competitors continue to use SLS because it's cheap, strong, and foamy.

Laundry detergent often contains other elements that simply aren't necessary, like dyes, synthetic fragrances, optical brighteners, and other synthetic ingredients. You'll find fluorescent brighteners and fd&c blue #1 in popular detergents, but neither of them gets clothes clean, and they can both stimulate algae growth, which ultimately reduces the amount of oxygen in water and could harm aquatic life.

Non-biodegradable perfumes are also problematic because they're often made up of many different substances. Manufacturers aren't required to list these individual fragrance elements, which makes their environmental impact uncertain.

Finally, synthetic ingredients, like silicone, which prevents detergent from being too sudsy, don't break down during the wash cycle. That means they make their way into the water supply after exiting your drain. When they reach areas that are populated by fish and wildlife, they can have a negative impact on the environment.

How to Do Laundry and Help the Environment

Armed with the knowledge above, there are a few things you can do to ensure your laundry gets clean AND the environment doesn't suffer in the process.

  1. Read labels
  2. Use towels more than once
  3. Wash less frequently
  4. Wash only full loads
  5. Choose a biodegradable laundry detergent 
  6. Use a more concentrated laundry detergent

Every little thing we can do to help the environment makes a difference, and you'll save water, energy, and some personal time by implementing this approach. And if you choose an industry-leading 10X concentrated formula, like Puracy Natural Laundry Detergent, you'll also save money and use less product with each wash cycle. At the same time, you'll reduce the amount of packaging that is thrown away because one 24-ounce bottle cleans 96 loads of laundry.