My laundry room is ‘zero waste’ and essentially ‘plastic free’ because I use resources wisely. I seek out second-hand items, support local businesses and products, use objects till the end of their life, repurpose materials I already have to fulfil needs, use natural materials, avoid packaging, recycle or compost unsalvageable items, and am mindful about how often I wash my laundry. I’ve outlined all the details below but I’ve also put together a short video (3mins 45sec) to show you what my choices look like in real life. Warning: this isn’t an overproduced video designed for entertainment. This is just me on any given day, talking you through the items in my laundry. It’s authentic, and I hope it helps in some way.
Washing / laundry baskets
I use second-hand cane baskets, one of them is lined with linen. These natural materials can be composted at the end of their life.
I bought the most energy and water efficient washing machine I could afford. I only ever wash when I have a full load and with cold water, to ensure we are not using more energy and water than we need. The machine will be repaired until it needs to be recycled.
I only wash clothes when they need to be washed, which can be less than people think. I remember my year eleven chemistry teacher opening my mind to the idea that most people wash their clothing too often. Of course, items like jocks and undies are changed and washed every day but other garments like jeans and jackets can be worn several times before they need to be washed. I might also wear something like a t-shirt for an extra day if I’m not leaving the house and I let the kids know it’s okay not to wear fresh clothes if they are playing outside all day at home. It’s all about using your judgement based on what activities were undertaken when the clothing was worn and what you plan on doing for the day ahead. The benefit of all this is that you save energy and water, you save time and effort, you prolong the lifespan of your clothing (it’s a rough process being washed in the machine), and you limit the amount of fibres shed from the garments – especially important if your clothing is made from plastic fibres like polyester, acrylic, and nylon, because these microfibers are a significant source of plastic pollution like microbeads. If you’re feeling nervous about washing your clothing less, try reading this: Exactly How Often Should You Wash Your Clothes – According To A Stink Scientist, and this Here’s How Often You Should Wash And Dry Clean Everything In Your Closet.
Washing machine powder
I bought my laundry powder in bulk. There are brands in the supermarket that are completely plastic free if you don’t have bulk supplies near you. Or, you could make your own laundry powder to reduce waste and save money. Packaging can be reused or recycled.
I use sunlight, eucalyptus oil, soap, bicarb soda, or washing soda for stains on clothing, carpet, and other fabrics. I buy bicarb soda package free in bulk or buy it in a box. I’ve only ever seen washing soda in plastic bags so I started making it myself. I aim to buy Australian, organic essential oils with as little packaging as possible. I’m hoping I’ll be able to get essential oil refills somewhere by the time I’ve emptied these bottles, if not, the glass will be recycled and a solution sort for the plastic tops.
Our entire household water supply is harvested rain water which is stored in above ground tanks beside the house and sheds. We are also not connected to the sewerage system, so the grey water from the washing machine is fed into our home sewage treatment plant to eventually be irrigated into the gardens and lawn.
We do not have hot water connected to the laundry.
We line dry using bamboo pegs (stainless steel pegs exist too). In Winter we finish off the clothes drying beside the wood heater on a wooden rack.
– saving the clothesline and all the resources that went into making it
– not buying anything new
– connecting with my community to make it happen
– caring for our property, and…
– doing it myself!
Moral of the story: if you need anything, look for it second hand and just ask. Someone is bound to have something you can use. And if you have unwanted things lying around your house, it doesn’t matter what it is, someone somewhere is bound to be looking for it.
I only iron clothing for special occasions or if an item desperately needs it. I don’t use any additional sprays or products, just the settings on the iron, like steam. The pad for the ironing board and the cover are made from our old flannel and cotton bed sheets. These materials are compostable at the end of their life.
My laundry also contains a few items I use for cleaning around the house. Two of these are my plastic bucket and plastic mop which I have used for many years and will continue to use until they need replacing, the same with the plastic scrubbing brushes which I use for tough jobs like cleaning the grout between tiles. It is wasteful to throw out items you already have if they are still useful. I reduce the plastic and waste associated with my mop by making my own sponges from repurposed materials like old socks, t-shirt yarn, and scrap yarn. I use our old towelling nappies and rags for cleaning and drying surfaces. I usually don’t use any gloves but on the odd occasion that I do, I use a pair made from natural rubber and cotton.
There are a two things I have been thinking about doing but I need to investigate further.
The first is that for my next batch of laundry powder, I am thinking about making it myself to save money as well as packaging. I’d love for you to share recipes that work well for you.
The second is that even though we have a heavy focus on natural fibres in our home, I am wondering if I should get a microfiber catcher for the washing machine to lower my guilt about the few non-natural fibre items in our home (e.g. blanket, polar-fleece jacket). I need to do more research to find out the impacts of microfibers in home sewage treatment plants and septic tanks. Also, there are soooo many second-hand goods, like clothing made from synthetic material, that I think should be reused rather than dumped. What are your thoughts? Has anyone used a microfiber catcher before?
I’m looking forward to reading your eco-friendly laundry tips and tricks too, please share them in the comments below.