greening up the laundry routine

I’ve been looking for a cheaper, greener alternative to my traditional laundry soap/routine before the baby arrives. I started out with Purex, but Scott seems to have a sensitivity to it so I switched to All. Once I got pregnant I looked at Dreft (too expensive) and ended up purchasing All free-and-clear. It seems to clean well and although it doesn’t smell like much of anything in the bottle, the clothes come out of the dryer with a fresh clean scent.  It’s still a little more expensive than I’d like to pay for a laundry detergent though – and is packaged in huge plastic bottles which I’d like to avoid.

A few days ago I ran across something called soapnuts while doing some research online. Soapnuts aren’t a nut at all, they are actually the fruit of a tree (Sapindus Mukorossi), found primarily in the Himalayas. The outer shell of the soapnut contains saponin, a natural substance known for its ability to cleanse and wash. They have been used for centuries in India. You can use them to wash your laundry, clean your kitchen, wash your hair, and even brush your teeth!  

And, they are an eco friendly alternative to traditional laundry detergents and cleaners. They’re chemical-free, biodegradable, compostable, and antimicrobial. They don’t really have much of a scent on their own, but you can add essential oil to make them smell like whatever you wish for cleaning purposes. I was a bit leery but, my test load of laundry was a huge success. The clothes came out of the dryer feeling much softer than with regular detergent and smelled surprisingly clean – without the need for a dryer sheet or fabric softener. As an added bonus you can also boil the soapnuts in water to make a concentrated cleaner for windows, countertops, jewelry polish (often by adding one or two other natural ingrediants like vinegar or baking soda). I haven’t tried this yet but I definitely will give it a try in the next few weeks.

I bought mine from Green Virgin Products, for about half the cost of traditional detergents in the store (8 cents per load vs 20). I have since found cheaper alternatives available in bulk which I will purchase in the future now that I know I like them.

As for the laundry routine, it could use some improvement. Right now I do 4 loads of laundry a week (darks, lights, whites, & towels/sheets). We typically wear outer layers and pants a few times before they get washed (unless they are soiled). And, I air dry most of our delicates & sweaters. I plan on putting up a clothes line this summer for our towels and sheets to give the dryer a break(although, I still need to check the local ordinances to see if this is even legal in my subdivision), and we can turn the settings down on the water heater to conserve some energy.  The soapnuts don’t require a rinse cycle so that should save some water too. So, we’re getting there in baby steps.


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