Friday, May 18, 2012

Laundry Line

I love doing laundry.  I know it sounds crazy--and I even have to use the laundromat because my apartment is so tiny.  OK, I don't like the laundromat part, but I love hanging my laundry to dry:  in the winter, on my drying rack in my apartment; in the three warmer seasons, in the sun on the laundry line.  I'm not sure what it is about it, but it makes me feel content to know my laundry is drying on the line--even while I'm at work.

When I hang my damp laundry out in the sun and fresh air, it smells so delicious when I bring them in--especially the sheets.

I could just bring in my dish rag and throw it over the faucet to dry, but there are some bacteria-fighting properties in the sun's ultra-violet rays, as well as bleaching properties for mild stains or yellowing on white clothing.  If you don't have a backyard like I do to hang out your clothes, have a look at the Urban Clothlines for options.  If you are having trouble being allowed to hang out your laundry, have a look at the Project Laundry List site for ideas.  They also have a calculator to see how much money you would save by not using your dryer.

For washing my laundry, I am currently using Seventh Generation Natural Laundry Detergent.  It is biodegradable, hypo-allergencic, and free of perfumes and dyes.  My kind of cleaner.  But the truth is that I've never really noticed the difference in any of the laundry cleaners that I've used--regular or natural--except I don't like a perfume smell on my clothes.  I've even used Soap Nuts, and they worked just fine for me.  I guess soap nuts are actually berries grown in Nepal and India, but you throw those babies into the wash and they clean your clothes.  Go figure.

For stains, I simply wet the stained area and rub it with soap as soon as I can after the stain is made, and then toss the article into the laundry bag.  It works for me.  I think the variety of fabrics, the types of stains, and the different minerals and chemicals in our water make it difficult to know what would work best for a particular stain, but there are a lot of recipes out there.  Here is one recipe from a busy mom's blog that works for her.

I don't use a softener, but if I did, I'd just use white vinegar--my friends swear by it!  Sometimes I add a bit of Borax or Washing Soda to my wash if I remember to take it to the laundromat.  It's supposed to boost the detergent, but like I said--I'm not that fussy.

Consumer Report is fussier than I am.  In a study they found that the only "green" cleaner that worked well enough for them is Seventh Generation.  Maybe I don't notice much difference because I don't get that dirty--I don't know....

But there are many reasons to use a natural laundry detergent instead of the many petroleum-based ones in the store.  And I will leave you here, as this gets a little too technical--and I need to check my laundry line.

The US Environmental Protection Agency lists the key characteristics of laundry detergent by materials in laundry detergents, and it ain't pretty:

Surfactants:  Toxicity to aquatic organisms, like fish (vertebrates), daphnids (invertebrates) and algae; persistence in the environment; toxicity of biodegradation byproducts.

Builders:  Potential to cause eutrophication in fresh water (eutrophication is the process by which a body of water becomes rich in dissolved nutrients, diminishing oxygen levels and a water body's ability to support various forms of aquatic life).

Bleach:  Inherent toxicity and toxic byproducts.   Examples:   Sodium hypochlorite, which can form hazardous gases and chlorinated organic byproducts; may also damage fibers in clothing and fabrics, which can lead to the generation of excess lint, a potential fire hazard during drying; Sodium perborate, which can present both human health and ecological concerns; and Dichloro-isocyanurate may form toxic gas, nitrogen-trichloride, a threat to human health.

Colorants:  Toxicity. Studies indicate that certain colorants may cause cancer or other adverse health effects in humans (e..g., Rhodamine B). Metalized dyes present health and environmental concerns.

Optical Brighteners:  Potential toxicity to humans.  Examples: Aminotriazine- or stilbene-based whiteners. Toxicity data indicate that these compounds may cause developmental and reproductive effects, but additional testing is needed to confirm these concerns.

Solvents:  Toxicity to humans and aquatic organisms.  Examples: For human health concerns, ethylene glycol monobutyl ether; for environmental concerns, d-limonene.

Wash Water:  Highly caustic or acidic wash environments; may cause severe irritation or burns to living tissue in humans or aquatic organisms.  Example: High alkaline breaks, low pH sours. Highly alkaline ingredients can lead to alkaline hydrolysis on polyester fibers, shortening linen life. Extreme pH effluents may also damage pipes and sewer lines.

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