Laundry: everyone does it… but not everyone does it right.
Yep–believe it or not, there is a wrong way to do laundry! While washing and drying your clothes makes your life cleaner, the impact of modern laundry methods is actually making the planet dirtier. By switching to more sustainable options, you can save yourself money, energy, time–and a whole lotta’ waste. Checkout our favorite zero waste laundry products below!
What you’ll learn:
- 5 swaps to clean up your laundry routine
- Why these alternatives top your typical laundry necessities- price-wise and for the planet!
The Cora Ball
Coming in at the top of the zero waste laundry list is a revolutionary new tool that can actually reduce the amount of microplastics leaving your washer!
Yep, you heard us. The truth is, each and every time you wash synthetic clothes, blankets, or sheets, you are unknowingly contributing to a serious pollution problem facing our planet right now: microfibers. These microfibers, made out of plastic and chemical-covered non-plastics, come off of our clothes in the washing machine, and then go out with the drain water. It’s estimated that one fleece jacket can shed up to 250,000 pieces per garment per wash–but you’d usually never see them! And even though the fibers are “micro”-sized, they’re making a massive impact.
Microfibers (and microplastics!) are so small that they are nearly invisible–which means that collecting and removing them from our waterways is pretty tough. They will never biodegrade, and usually bond with other chemical pollutants they bump into (think: pesticides and flame retardants). Once in the ocean, they’re easily ingested by plankton and other bottom feeders, which are then consumed by larger species, sending the toxins further up the food chain. And who is at the very end of the food chain? Us!
This is where biomagnification comes in. To put it simply, biomagnification means that the higher up the food chain these microplastics travel, the higher the concentration of toxins in the bodies of larger animals… with those larger animals being humans in this case.
Take a seafood dinner for instance. At some point, that Pacific Cod that you’re enjoying consumed a shrimp, that consumed plankton, that consumed some of the invisible microplastics floating about. Thanks to biomagnification, you now have the highest concentration of those microfibers (and all of the toxins that they’ve absorbed) inside you compared to any other species in the food chain. Simply put, we’re eating our clothes–and so is the rest of the ocean.
We all contribute to this problem, and we are all impacted by this problem. So where do we go from here?
That’s where Cora Ball comes in.
This little funky looking ball, made of 100% recycled plastic, catches these fibers while they’re still in your washing drum before they can do serious damage. To use it, all you have to do is toss it in with your clothes, and wait. It’s that easy. After a few washes, you’ll begin to see fibers collecting in the spindles. Periodically, you can just pull them from the ball and throw those fibers away, where they can be contained and be sent directly to a landfill, rather than into our oceans.
And it really works. Studies at the University of Toronto have shown that the Cora Ball can catch as much as 26% of fibers in your washing machine. While this may not seem like much, if 10% of households used a Cora Ball, it would keep the equivalent of 30 million plastic water bottles from washing into our waterways each year!
How much laundry detergent do you use per wash? For some, the amount of detergent used is based off how “dirty” the items are, or by squinting at the detergent cap trying to figure out where the line is. Either way, when it comes to detergent, it’s far too easy to use too much–creating excessive suds that can actually redeposit dirt onto our clothing.
The real issue here is that most laundry detergents aren’t very powerful, and people instead rely on quantity instead of quality, which in turn leaves chemicals in their clothes. Instead of pouring chemicals into the wash, or tossing in plastic-wrapped “pods” that contribute to microplastic pollution, we suggest you simply go nuts. Go Eco Nuts, that is!
Eco Nuts uses the power of soap berries (Sapindus Sapindoideae) that grow naturally in Nepal to create their ultra-concentrated liquid laundry detergent. These berry shells contain a cleaning agent called saponin, that works by breaking the surface tension of water to penetrate the fibers of your clothes–lifting stains from the fabric, and leaving the dirt suspended in the water (instead of going back into your clothes!)
As if getting cleaner clothes wasn’t awesome enough, this liquid detergent comes in a recyclable aluminum bottle, and contains no dyes, animal byproducts, fragrances, fillers, dioxane, phosphate, or nut-allergens, and is certified cruelty-free, aaand certified USDA organic–which means your clothes stay clean, and the planet does too.
Now that we’ve learned about the awesome powers of soap berries (also called soap nuts) when it comes to liquid detergents, lets see what they can do on their own! Another awesome zero waste way to do laundry is with just the berries themselves–they release the same saponin into the washer to penetrate through grit & grime, and can even be composted at the end of their life.
To use, all you have to do is put 4-5 soap berries into the provided cloth bag, and toss them in the washer. After up to 10 washes, just remove them from the bag, compost the used berries, and refill the bag with new Eco Nuts! Just like the liquid detergent, they contain none of the added chemicals as typical detergents that ruin your clothes, are nut-allergy safe, and leave clothes clean and soft. Plus, they are priced to cost from 8 to 10 cents a laundry load, which feels great on your wallet.
Trying to choose between Eco Nuts detergent and the berries? We recommend the detergent if you have hard water, an HE (frontloading) machine, or like to wash primarily on cold. Eco Nuts soap nuts will get the job done in these scenarios, but the liquid is specially formulated for HE machines!
Now that we’ve tackling washing your clothes… it’s time to dry them. Seems simple, right? Just throw your clothes in, maybe a dryer sheet or 4, and press the start button?
Chemical-laden dryer sheets are not only wasteful, but they can actually ruin your clothes, and waste a lotta’ money. Dryer sheets often contain artificial fragrances and chemicals like benzyl acetate, ethanol, chloroform (uhh…), and many others. While these chemicals do a great job at coating fabric to make it feel silky soft, it’s not so kind to our bodies, causing irritation, respiratory issues, and headaches. Plus, they’re not contained to your dryer–these chemicals can release into the air of your home through your dryer vent!
Health effects aside, dryer sheets aren’t even the most effective way to dry your clothes! They are single-use, so they have to be purchased over and over. Plus, they aren’t as good at drying clothes as say… dryer balls, which means that you may have to run your machine for longer, and spend more money on energy bills.
This is because dryer balls work by lifting, fluffing, and separating laundry in the drum so that your clothes dry faster, more evenly, and with less energy–with some studies reporting 15-25% shorter dryer times. They collect lint like a pro, unlike flimsy dryer sheets, and can be infused with natural essential oils for a fresh laundry scent.
As if you needed one last reason to permanently make the switch to reusable dryer balls… they also fight fires. Not like, hunky firefighter with his Dalmatian pup style firefighter, but they truly can keep your home safer. Each year, about 14,630 home fires are caused by clothes dryers, ⅓ of which come from having too much lint in your dryer vent. And remember those nasty chemicals that come off of dryer sheets? They can create an unseen chemical buildup on your lint screen and dryer vent, which furthers the risk of fire.
Dryer balls combat both of these issues by keeping your lint screen chemical-free, but also reducing the amount of lint that gets there to begin with! To use, just toss your dryer balls in the drum, throw your clothes in, and wah-lah! Enjoy dry, fluffy clothes without burning down the house.
Now that you’ve done all this research to learn how to make your usual laundry routine a little more sustainable, we’ve got one last swap for you. Trade that plastic stain stick out for a natural alternative!
We’ve all been there… white shirt, red soup, total mess. No time to change or do laundry, but the stain must go away. Instead of reaching for your plastic Tide Pen, go for package free, natural alternative from Bestowed Essentials! Made from vegan ingredients free from bleach, sulfates, and other additives, this concentrated stain stick gets the job done without damaging or wearing through your clothes. Using only natural ingredients, the only thing it’ll leave behind is fresh clothes and a lightweight scent.
To use, flip the piece of clothing inside out to better tackle the stain. Wet the laundry stick, rub it into the stain, and rinse. For tough spots, grab an old bamboo toothbrush and gently scrub the formula into the stain. It cleans clothes with ease and, of course, comes in zero waste packaging.
From tackling microplastics in the washing machine, to saving money & reducing waste with reusable dryer balls, we’re changing the way you look at laundry one product at a time. What are your plastic-free go-tos?