Washing your clothes should be simple. But as many clothes are made from synthetic fibres (nylon, polyester, recycled plastic bottles), this means microplastics break off in the machine and travel to the sea (where they harm marine creatures). Unless you wear cotton, linen or hemp clothing, it’s likely that synthetic fibres will break off microplastics in the machine. PlanetCare fits to any washing machine in 10 minutes to catch 90% of microplastics. Use a new cartridge after 20 washes.
use a biodegradable laundry detergent
Use a biodegradable laundry detergent, no more than 5% non-ionic surfactant (needed to remove grease and stains). You won’t presently find them in supermarkets so look in health stores and farm shops (the most popular and affordable is Bio-D which is sold with refills and in bulk versions).
Choose unscented detergents for babies, pregnancy/nursing, pets and allergies (for everyone else, use brands scented with essential oils that biodegrade). For babies and weak immune systems, wash at 60 degrees (NHS has tips on laundering clothes for medical conditions. If you use ‘soap nuts’, bin after use (the natural insecticide can harm compost bin creatures).
Other good biodegradable laundry detergents are:
- Bide, Friendly Soap and Mangle & Wringer (laundry powders)
- Homethings (biodegradable laundry pods, choose unscented)
- Simple Living Eco laundry sheets (pop in the drum or tear half a sheet and swirl in hot water for hand-wash)
- Use biodegradable oxygen bleach for stains and whitening clothes. Never mix any bleach with anything, it produces lethal gas. Wear rubber gloves and keep natural bleach away from children and pets (could still irritate and bleach fur). Wrap old bleach bottles securely and bin.
you don’t need fabric conditioner
Fabric conditioner is used to avoid static and coat clothes in oil (which creates a fire hazard if you use a tumble drier). It also reduces absorbency of cleaning cloths, washable nappies and sanitary towels. If you feel you need it, just add 1/4 of white vinegar to the rinse cycle to do the same job.
wash by hand or machine?
If you live alone or in a small household, you can get away washing clothes by hand. Alternatively, Scrubba is an ‘updated washboard’ that gives a machine-quality wash in a few minutes with no electricity (it also double as a dry bag). Ideal for travel or camping, pour used water at least 30ft away from any water source and use with biodegradable detergents. Or use your local launderette!
All modern washing machines are now energy-efficient (donate used ones to furniture reuse charities who safety-test them and sell at low-cost to people on low incomes). To clean your washing machine, run a hot wash on empty, clean the rubber seal and drawer and add 1/2 cup of baking soda to the drum, then wipe inside with a damp cloth. Put removed lint in bins (not in garden as it has mould and is a choking hazard for birds and other garden wildlife).