a view from the laundry pile…

…it's all about perspective.

In search of greener pastures

on May 16, 2012

Fred and I are always interested in finding healthier and, when possible, more economical choices to living in today’s world. Some things have their place but, overall, we can replace most things – especially those hazardous to our health – with better alternatives. Take chlorine bleach, for example. It whitens our clothes and keeps germs and other nasties at bay but at what cost? I’ve read that researchers have linked chlorinated water to increased cancer levels for at least 4 different types of cancer – and I believe this (especially the breast cancer-bleach connection). But, enough of that cheery topic…

This will always be an ongoing project for us but, I feel, we’ve made some real progress. Over the last 5 years, we’ve started getting ‘more serious’ about this and have, among other things, stopped using paper plates, towels, and napkins. For the towels and napkins, we use cloth alternatives.  After using a few different materials, I’ve found that (unbleached) “bird’s eye cotton” cloth seems to work best.

I started with a baker’s dozen (appx. 10″ square each) of the paper towel/napkin ‘replacements’ that I purchased from a gal on Etsy.com. At the time I purchased them, last year, they were $15.00 US (including shipping). A single roll of paper towels is, maybe, $2.50-3.00? I was so pleased with them, I went back for more and now have an ‘arsenal’ of about 25 or so. Of course if you’re able to, make your own. I don’t have a surger to finish them — though, I suppose I could ‘roll’ the edges. Hmm. (Another project…yes, just what I need…). 

Laundry seemed to be another place where I felt I could “do better” than the commercially available detergents. (Have you ever taken a few minutes to look up the ingredients in the products you’re using?). The problem I was facing was getting things clean enough. Especially Fred’s things…you know what “things” I’m referring to here. Yes, those things. So, it was important that, whatever I chose to use, it had to work effectively. The first thing I looked into was a homemade laundry soap. Most were made with Borax (not to be confused with ‘boric acid’) but, once I looked into the “possible side effects” (ie: toxicity) of Borax, I decided it wasn’t much better than bleach and kept looking until I found one that I liked. It uses Castille Soap (I use Dr. Bronner’s), baking soda, salt, and water. Easy enough, eh? You use 1/3 cup per load and it costs appx. 4 cents per load. (Here’s the link with all the instructions; www.apartmenttherapy.com/make-your-own-dr-bronners-laun-138151). Not bad!

I made 1/4 of a batch to start and I used the ‘new soap’ for about 2 weeks. It worked okay. (But, in all fairness to the recipe, we wash everything in cold water. If you use hot, you may have better results). It just wasn’t working well on the ‘stinkier’ stuff but was fine for the towels, sheets, etc. Rather than changing over to hot water, just for part of the laundry, it made more sense to find something else that I could use.

I kept reading and searching and found something that totally intrigued me. A “laundry ball.”  Really? I read the description;

“This green ball contains ceramic pellets which change the Ph balance of the water and washes your clothes without detergent! Help your clothes stay new longer and watch as they don’t break down as fast from the harsh detergents!” Furthermore, it claims to clean up to 1000 loads of laundry, per ball, you can save money by skipping the rinse cycle, and has great reviews. Well, for $10 (on Amazon.com), I was going to find out how accurate this was.

As soon as the laundry balls came in (I ordered 2, one as a replacement or, in case, I needed 2 for an extra large load), and I “charged it” (you have to let them sit in the sunlight to recharge them…another tidbit that piqued my curiosity about these), I gave them a try. I tried one, by itself, on a regular cycle with whatever was in the hamper. I wanted to be thrilled…but I ended up luke warm. The clothes were definitely cleaner but not as clean as they were with regular detergent (again, this could be a cold water issue). BUT, when I started using the Bronner’s laundry soap with the laundry ball, I got great results — and I only use about 2 Tbs. of the laundry soap for each full load!  

Feeling pretty confident about this discovery, I decided to tackle the dryer.  I’d heard about dryer balls and this is what one ad had to say about them: “Dryer Balls tumble in the dryer to lift & separate laundry allowing hot air to flow more efficiently. The soft nodules (tips) massage fabrics to naturally fluff up and soften without the use of chemicals.”  (And, they’re supposed to cut your drying time by 25% and eliminate the need for fabric softener sheets. Hmm…).

You know how they say “you get what you pay for?‘ Just remember they also say “good things happen when you least expect them.” After using them for 2 weeks, I’m hooked (and will go back for more!). There is no static cling (!?) and, while they don’t get your clothes as soft as commercial fabric softeners (which, by the way, use animal lard to get that “soft feeling” Can I insert a *gak* here?) they do a good job — and certainly better than the ‘stiff’ feeling you get with a clothes line — though, when the weather is nice, this is what I use…which is nearly never since I live in the Pacific Northwest.

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