September 19th, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
We’ve talked about different ways to soften fabrics when you wash and dry your clothes (plant-derived dryer sheets), as well as products to avoid (toxic, beef fat-infused dryer sheets and laundry balls).
I’ve also reported on ways to green your washing machine, the importance of ENERGY STAR-rated washers and eco-friendly dryers.
Today, I’ll conclude this series with a look at two of the most low-tech, yet effective, ways to soften fabrics:
- Organic distilled white vinegar
- Baking soda
According to Deirdre Imus (yes, she’s Don’s wife), author of Green This! Volume One: Greening Your Cleaning:
Distilled white vinegar, preferably organic, is the best and healthiest softener. Just put a tablespoon in the rinse cycle, as you would any of the toxic fabric softeners. (Don’t overdo it—you don’t want your clothes to smell like vinegar!) Your clothes will come out soft every time.
In lieu of vinegar, add 1/4 cup of baking soda to the wash cycle, she says.
If you want your clothes to smell nice, add a few drops of your favorite organic essential oil to your washer’s rinse cycle, notes Imus, founder and president of the Deirdre Imus Environmental Center for Pediatric Oncology at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. As an alternative, place a few drops on a washcloth, and toss it into the dryer with your clothes.
Also by Deirdre Imus
Read More:Drying with Deirdre
September 17th, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
While researching Monday’s piece on laundry balls, I came across another interesting bit of information on dryer sheets.
According to Eric Ryan and Adam Lowry, authors of Squeaky Green: The Method Guide to Detoxing Your Home:
Beef fat (aka tallow) is the secret ingredient that makes your clothes so soft. The very stuff you cut off your steak so you won’t gain weight or clog your arteries is coating your sheets, towels, shirts, jeans, even your underwear.
Ryan and Lowry, who founded the Method brand of nontoxic cleaners, recommend eco-friendly vegan dryer sheets that are made from plant-derived substances like canola oil. You can even reuse the sheets as dust cloths after you’ve finished your laundry, they say.
Method makes Squeaky Green Dryer Cloths. Another option is Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Dryer Sheets. Both products are available at natural and organic food stores.
Read More:Beef Fat in Your Laundry?
September 15th, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
We want our laundry to feel soft and smell fresh, but traditional dryer sheets are not the answer. As noted in A Partner in Grime:
Dryer sheets contain artificial fragrances and carcinogenic chemicals ranging from ethanol to formaldehyde, so avoid using them. In addition to posing health hazards, they can leave a film on your dryer’s filter that reduces air flow. Over time, this can impair the motor’s performance.
You may have seen laundry balls and discs at your local natural and organic food store, which are promoted as long-lasting, eco-friendly solutions. But there’s a catch, according to Jill Potvin Schoff, author of Green Up Your Cleanup.
“Dryer balls used as fabric softeners do work,” she writes, “but they are made out of PVC, a plastic you want to avoid.”
Click here for more information on the perils of polyvinyl chloride (PVC).
Read More:Laundry Balls
September 11th, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
Environmental lifestyle expert Danny Seo knows a few things about washing dishes.
Seo has written several books, including Conscious Style Home: Eco-Friendly Living for the 21st Century and Simply Green Parties: Simple and Resourceful Ideas for Throwing the Perfect Celebration, Event or Get-Together.
In a recent Better Homes and Gardens column, he discusses eco-friendly dishwashing:
A full dishwasher uses half the energy and one-sixth the water of washing by hand. Go greener by choosing a phosphate-free detergent.
Seo likes Method’s Smarty Dish cubes, which are naturally derived, nontoxic, bleach-free and biodegradable. The cubes are available in several scents, including pink grapefruit, lavender and cucumber-lemon.
Ingredients include natural mineral cleaning salts, fragrance oil blends, nontoxic anti-spotting agents, a seaweed-derived dispersing agent and cleaning enzymes.
You can find Method products in supermarkets, superstores like Target, and natural and organic food stores.
From Our Organic Blog
Read More:Dishing with Danny
August 25th, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
Meet Charlie, my new dog-niece.
She’s a Labradoodle puppy who’s amazingly cute, with a wonderful temperament.
Charlie is already housebroken, but she’s had a few accidents when overexcited. Toxic chemicals are definitely not a cleaning option, so my sister takes the natural route.
Enzyme products “do a superb job destroying stains and odors,” according to Mary Findley and Linda Formichelli, authors of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Green Cleaning. They write:
Enzymes eat away at bacteria and solid waste matter. They are unmatched in their ability to destroy urine, feces, vomit, odors and stains.
Findley and Formichelli recommend three products:
- Kleen-Free Naturally (organic), which also helps control pests
- PetGuest 100% Enzyme Concentrate Stain & Odor Remover (nonpolluting, environmentally friendly, biodegradable)
- Nature’s Miracle Stain & Odor Remover (natural)
I’ll provide Charlie updates as she continues to settle in!
Read More:Leaky Puppies
July 30th, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) estimates that the average American family washes close to 400 loads of laundry each year.
But unlike clothes washers, dryers do not carry ENERGY STAR ratings. Each model uses a similar amount of energy, “which means there is little difference in energy use between models,” the DOE notes.
You can, however, do your part to conserve energy when drying clothes:
- Dry only full loads.
- Dry towels and heavier cottons in a separate load from lighter-weight clothes.
- Don’t over-dry your clothes. If your machine has a moisture sensor, use it.
- Clean the dryer’s lint filter after every load to improve air circulation.
- Use the cool-down cycle to allow clothes to finish drying with the machine’s residual heat.
- Periodically inspect your dryer vent to ensure it’s not blocked. Not only will this save energy, but it may prevent a fire. Manufacturers recommend using rigid venting material—not plastic vents that may collapse and cause blockages.
- Consider air-drying clothes on clothes lines or drying racks. Clothes will last longer.
- When shopping for a new clothes dryer, look for one with a moisture sensor that automatically shuts off the machine when your clothes are dry. This saves energy and helps minimize wear and tear on your clothes caused by over-drying.
- Dryer sheets contain artificial fragrances and carcinogenic chemicals ranging from ethanol to formaldehyde, so avoid using them. In addition to posing health hazards, they can leave a film on your dryer’s filter that reduces air flow. Over time, this can impair the motor’s performance.
- Some dryers have eco-conscious settings, such as the Whirlpool Duet WGD9450WL (pictured above). They offer faster drying times.
For Your Organic Bookshelf: Naturally Clean: The Seventh Generation Guide to Safe & Healthy, Non-Toxic Cleaning
Photo courtesy of Whirlpool
Read More:A Partner in Grime
July 28th, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
How much water does an ENERGY STAR-rated clothes washer save?
It can literally cut your water usage in half.
A standard washer uses 32.5 gallons of water per load, while an ENERGY STAR-rated machine uses only 15 gallons, according to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).
ENERGY STAR-rated washers also allow you to adjust water levels for smaller loads, and they spin-dry your clothes more effectively, which reduces dryer time.
While the average clothes washer lasts about 11 years, those manufactured before 1999 use 400% more energy than ENERGY STAR-rated models.
As of July 1, ENERGY STAR machines were required to be at least 43% more energy-efficient than the minimum federal standard, and they must meet stringent water-efficiency criteria.
Check out the DOE’s Make a Clean Change—Recycle Your Old Washer program, which promotes rebates on energy-efficient models. Recycling also saves about $145 per year in utility bills.
For Your Organic Bookshelf: Laundry: The Spirit of Keeping Home
Photo courtesy of GE
Read More:Is Your Clothes Washer an ENERGY STAR?
July 27th, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), heating the water in your clothes washer accounts for 90% of the energy used when doing laundry.
As the DOE explains:
There are two ways to reduce the amount of energy used for washing clothes: Use less water and use cooler water. Unless you’re dealing with oily stains, the warm- or cold-water setting on your machine will generally do a good job of cleaning your clothes. Switching your temperature setting from hot to warm can cut a load’s energy use in half.
Here are some additional tips:
- Wait until you have a full load before doing laundry.
- Avoid the super-hot Sanitary Cycle, which significantly increases energy use.
- Activate the high-spin/extended-spin option to reduce any remaining water, which will decrease dryer time.
- Front-loading washers use airtight seals to prevent water from leaking while the machine is in use. When the machine is not in use, this seal can trap moisture in the machine and lead to mold formation. Leave the door ajar for an hour or two after use to allow moisture to evaporate. Safety alert: Make sure children do not climb into the machine while the door is open.
- Buy an ENERGY STAR-rated machine. (More on this tomorrow…)
For Your Organic Bookshelf: Laundry: The Home Comforts Book of Caring for Clothes and Linens
Read More:Green Your Washing Machine
July 23rd, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
I can’t think of too many people who look forward to cleaning their homes.
Sure, we’ll dust, do laundry and avenge the gods of clutter, but scrubbing floors, tubs and toilets seldom makes anyone’s Top 10 list of enjoyable pastimes. Even my 20-year-old nephew, a college sophomore, has a cleaning woman who sanitizes his studio apartment.
If you employ a housekeeper, maid or professional cleaning service, you can ensure your green-cleaning standards will be met if you supply all cleaning products. Other services bring their own cleaning supplies, which ups the convenience factor and saves clients the expense of buying products. In many cases, however, these crews will use industrial-strength, toxic cleaning agents that you don’t want in your home.
Hire an eco-friendly cleaning service that brings natural, nontoxic, organic and other chemical-free cleansers to your home.
For example, EcoMaids, which serves communities in Iowa, New Jersey and New York, will handle spring/seasonal cleaning, laundry, standard housekeeping tasks, kitchens, bathrooms and the like. The company’s cleaning products “represent the very latest in 21st-century bio-based green cleaning chemistry.”
Here in Los Angeles, Green Clean LA “offers an alternative to regular cleaning services. We are passionate about helping to educate and inform our clients so that the choices they make are conscious choices.” In additional to residential cleaning, the company offers professional janitorial services, education and consulting.
The International Janitorial Cleaning Services Association offers a directory of U.S. and international green cleaning services. You can also check your local Yellow Pages for green cleaning services in your area.
Read More:Eco-Conscious Housekeeping Services
June 8th, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
When the experts at Natural Home Magazine named their favorite eco-friendly cleaning product lines, nine companies made the list:
- Earth Friendly Products
- Howard Naturals
- Laundry Dropps
- Lucky Earth
- Mother Natural
- Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day
- Planet Inc.
- Seventh Generation
Each company’s products are free of toxic chemicals, so look for them at your local natural and organic food store.
You can also create your own economical, eco-friendly household cleaners, using natural ingredients like vinegar, baking soda, liquid detergent and tea tree oil. Here is a basic recipes for do-it-yourself scouring scrub.
Read More:Green Household Cleaners