Dirty little secrets

Before anyone gets in a tizzy, this is all about laundry.
Laundry? Really? I hear from a few of you. Soli, I thought this was supposed to be a FOOD blog. Well, it is. But the traditional foods movement is about a lot more than simply eating a lot of butter, grass fed meat, and fats. It’s also about an overall environmentally conscious movement to take in good stuff, and keep out the unnecessary bad stuff. One of those places should indeed be the stuff that keeps you covered daily: clothing.

Last week, that bastion of environmental publishing, the Wall Street Journal, ran an article about laundry, and specifically how “we’re doing it all wrong.”
It starts with talking about how our habits with actually performing the chore of laundry are set in our youth and not likely to change. So what’s the problem? You put clothes in bin, put in soap, turn dial, and an hour later, you have clean clothes. Well, for one, maybe we don’t need all that soap.
One detergent-maker’s survey found that 53% of people don’t use the recommended amount of detergent per washload, preferring instead to guess or, worse, to simply fill the cap up to the top—a practice that wastes more than half the loads a detergent bottle could wash.
The article is continued here. (and if the link expires, please let me know.) There are suggestions as to what could make your laundry not come out as sparking as you might want it to be. And to combat that issue of overuse of soap, the manufacturers have that covered!
To clean the buildup from overpouring, Ms. Zeitler recommends cleaning washers monthly using an empty hot-water cycle and either bleach or Affresh, a cleaning product it introduced just as concentrated detergents hit.
(pardon me, I think I showed a little of my sarcasm there)

I’m a fan of doing laundry, it’s actually one of the easier household chores to me. Maybe it’s because I only have my own laundry and take good care of my clothes in general. Therefore I don’t have to do loads daily and possibly worry about running out of clean knickers. Somehow I imagine all of you with kids have a bit more to content with on this front too. Maybe you would benefit from the real dirty little secret at the end of the article…

Seventh Generation’s co-founder, Jeffrey Hollender, wonders why more people haven’t stumbled upon laundry’s big, dirty secret: “You don’t even need soap to wash most loads,” he says. The agitation of washing machines often does the job on its own.

I might have to try this sometime.

This post is a part of Real Food Wednesday.


13 responses to “Dirty little secrets

  1. another thing as well…

    clothes that have seen light duty don’t necessarily need to be washed after each wearing. I often hang up my shirts, dresses, pants and skirts after wearing them – I can get 2 or 3 wears at least doing it this way.

    Now unmentionables – they’re a one time deal, in case you were curious. 😀

    • Exactly the process I apply to my own laundry. My clothes hold out very well unless they turn out to be made poorly, and unless they have a big stain or have a Pigpen-type cloud around them, I don’t wash.

    • I was just going to say the same thing! I share my washer and dryer with my downstairs neighbors and am frequently appalled at the amount of laundry they do. They must be washing every single thing after every single use, and that’s just not necessary. Not only wastes water and electricity and detergent, but also wastes time and wears out clothes quicker.

  2. Yes, they are right. Most folks DO use way too much of all cleaning products. But let me air one of my own pet peeves, here…
    I am sure you share my frustration with the use of the work “butter” generically (when folks really mean margarine or worse)…

    Well, the same goes with “soap” for me. Soap is a specific thing… made from lye and fats in the proper proportion. The stuff we use, almost universally, for cleaning now (from dishes, to clothes to our bodies) is no more “soap” than most of what is spread on bread is “butter.” It is detergent — a chemical soup that includes surfactants, optical brighteners, perfumes, and often enzymes and other things. They used to contain large amounts of phosphate which played serious havoc with lakes and rivers, but a furor that started in the 70s (of which I was a part) brought that to light and resulted in formula changes.

    Even when I was a mom of 5 we did not do laundry daily. I refused to let the kids change clothes multiple times during the day, most days.. and play clothes on the farm we often worn multiple days. We had “good” clothes (for town) and “grubbies” for the farm and changed only if we needed to. I still do this… I wear my clothes until they are actually soiled. Underwear and sox get changed daily, and sometimes I rotate “job clothes” on a two- or three day cycle, hanging the “worn, not yet dirty” outfits on pegs to be re-worn.

    But then, I am also one who eschews the clothes dryer in favor of hanging (outdoors in season, on an indoor rack this time of year), so we all know I am strange!

    • And in my case, I can’t hang outside (silly condo rules), but I do have a metal rack and hang INSIDE. Now that there is a good dryer in the house I do indulge the air fluff to get the hair and lint out of clothes when they are dry but that is it.

  3. Most of my clothes get multiple wearings (the exclusions being shirts, underpants, and socks), so I don’t need to do laundry that often. I had a roommate in college who did three loads a week, which I always thought was completely ridiculous. Just dumping a cup of detergent though- why? Yeash. I might lower my detergent usage after reading that- thanks for sharing!

  4. … You mean my laziness is actually *right*?

    Heh, good to know!


  5. I had to find a detergent alternative last year when I realized that we were allergic to corn. I use soap nuts now for washing clothes and they are fantastic. Once I did research on the ingredients of the typical laundry detergent (and every other household product), I was determined to get some as many toxic ingredients out of our lives as was humanly possible. By the way, there is not one major brand name detergent that doesn’t contain GMO corn. You don’t even want to know what is in deodorant and toothpaste!

    • syncreticmystic

      I got some soap nuts the last time I ordered meat and do like them. but GAH, I didn’t consider GMO corn in detergent. Would this apply with 7th generation? (the detergent in my house for several years.)

  6. I just purchased soap nuts, and can’t wait to try them after my last bottle of detergent is gone. The detergent lasts a while, because unlike most people, I do not use much at all in a load of laundry.

  7. Also another note about detergents… they never needed to suds to work. When they were first invented, chemists added “sudsing agents” to the formula because folks were used to using soap, for which suds is part of how it works. Old time housewives just kept dumping more and more detergent into the wash trying to make it suds.

    Now, the low-suds detergents have less added sudsing agents.

    “No hang” rules are just EVIL!

  8. My clothes get multiple wearings, too, whenever possible; it makes them last longer, is better for the environment, and suits my inclination to avoid housework whenever I can. 😉

  9. I think it’s sort of funny that my own rules for laundry are kind of right! I wear my jeans 5-10 times between washes because really, there’s not much appreciable difference between clean jeans and not-perfectly-clean jeans. When they start to smell, I wash.

    I also don’t wash my PJs every day either. The only things I wash regularly are my undergarments and my socks (though since my favorite socks are handknit, those are handwash in baby shampoo and roll dry).

    I will continue to use detergent, though I only use maybe 2T for a whole load because I like the way it smells.

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