The best biodegradable washing powders are made with ingredients that don’t harm marine creatures, when washed down the drain. If you wash polyester, nylon or recycled plastic bottle fibres, use a microfiber catch bag to catch microplastics that break off in the machine. Wash at higher temperatures for babies, pets, people with weak immune systems or health care workers (NHS has good tips).
QuietMark ranks good machines (on a budget, Furniture Reuse & Emmaus sell safety-tested donated ones) or use a Scrubba, Laundreez or Allurette. These are portable wash boards, to give a machine-quality wash in 3 minutes (for camping, pour the water away at 30ft (100m) from any water source).
You don’t usually need fabric conditioner and it reduces absorbency for cleaning cloths, cloth nappies or washable menstrual pads. Just replace with 1/2 cup of white vinegar to the final rinse (also use 2 cups on an empty hot cycle to clean your machine (add 1/2 cup of baking soda to drum to get rid of smells, then wipe inside with a damp cloth).
- Avoid essential oils for pregnancy/nursing and washing pet bedding. Bio-D offers unscented laundry (and cleaning) products.
- Friendly Soap’s Laundry Powder (Yorkshire) is made with washing soda and oils of lavender, tea tree, lemongrass, peppermint and rose geranium. In a paper bag.
- Bio-D is packed in recycled plastic bottles, also in bulk versions. Sold with a refill box, also makes natural bleach.
- Mangle & Wringer Laundry Soap is made with coconut oil, natural minerals and water softeners. Good for delicate fabrics, also makes oxygen bleach.
- Planet Detox Laundry Powder is handmade from biodegradable ingredients and lavender oil, sold in paper bags (25 washes).
- If you use soapnuts, never compost them, the natural insecticides will kill garden ladybirds.
How to Dry Your Clothes (naturally)
- Laundry Mac can dry clothes outside in ‘vertical rain’. It’s like an overcoat for rotary driers (always store away after use, for safety). Inside, don’t dry clothes or radiators nor in ‘dry rooms that could cause mould. You could use a Radiator Airer in wet rooms or airer (good ones are John Lewis dryer or Lakeland heated air-dryers (use with a dehumidifier).
- For tumble driers, Morus Zero dries at lower temperatures in less time, and Dryer Egg is better than toxic dryer sheets (choose fragrance-free option with less chemicals). Register tumble dryers, to be notified of faults. Check filter after each load, don’t overload sockets and call for help if it feels hotter, takes longer to dry or the flapper on vent hood remains closed. Never put rags used for flammable liquids in driers (soak linseed rags in water and safely dispose of). Never leave tumble driers unsupervised.
- Conventional dry cleaning uses toxic (Perc) chemicals. Try to avoid clothes that need dry-cleaning. Or use companies that use steam-cleaning like London’s Blanc.