Doing the laundry is a necessary household chore and part of life, unless of course you're going for that dirty, smelly, unkempt look. Modern laundry methods can use a lot of water, power and phosphate/bleach containing cleaning products which are not very grey water safe. So, without going back to a washboard and homemade soap how can we "green" doing the laundry?
Clearly a good starting point is an energy efficient front loading washing machine, this will act to significantly reduce both the electricity and water used to do a load of washing.
But how to clean the clothes without chemicals that we really shouldn't be putting down the drain willy-nilly?
Luckily for you, we have been experimenting. Here are our results (with thanks to Char for writing the report of our laundry results):
"For lightly soiled laundry items (clothes, sheets, towels) I wash using an Enviro Washball ($49.95, available online here). Enviro Washballs are recyclable plastic balls containing small ceramic stones (no detergents/chemicals/bleaching agents) and last for ~1000 washes).
The stones raise the pH level of the water, which softens the water and opens the weave of the fabric. Water moves through more easily and effectively, removing dirt naturally.
Washing with the Enviro Washball cleans lightly soiled items very effectively however you don’t get that ‘fresh laundry smell’ that is due to fragrances in laundry detergent, so I add a teaspoon of Bosito’s Eucalyptus Oil to the wash. (Although we haven't tested it, it is claimed eucalyptus oil can also be used for a number of other purposes including as an antiseptic, a massage oil, a stain remover and a cleaner).
For medium soiled laundry (dirty clothes, exercise clothes) I use the Enviro Washball and one tablespoon of Earth Choice Front Loader Laundry Powder (phosphorous/petrochemical/bleach free, grey water safe, from Coles).
While for heavily soiled items I first soak them with the Enviro Washball then spot treat any stains with the Enviro Stainstick ($3.95 available online here). I then wash with the Enviro Washball and 1T laundry powder."
So although we haven't been able to completely stop using detergent, we have been able to reduce it significantly using the Enviro Washball (which we supplement with small amounts of grey water safe detergent when necessary). All in all we have found it remarkably easy to make doing the laundry more environmentally friendly and would encourage everyone else to consider how they could do the same.