Cleaner Laundry – Part 3 – Stains

Stains are big business in the laundry world, especially if you ever wear white, own a carpet or live within 5 miles of a child. Most washing detergents advertising is based around how good they are at removing stains, but there are also a plethora of stain removers on the market, suggesting that even the most chemical leaden commercial brands need an extra boost from time to time.

So it stands to reason that even the best of the eco alternatives will also come across a stain that requires a little more oomph. But do not fear it is perfectly possible to tackle those stains using earth/waterway/skin friendly methods.

Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • The first piece of sage advice is, no matter what method of stain removal you are using, treat the stain asap (if not even sooner than that!) The longer you wait the cosier that pesky stain gets, and the harder it is to evict.
  • Any stain treatment you are using should be pretested on an inconspicuous area of the fabric first
  • Do not rub at the stain before you treat it, this just works the stain further into the cloth fibres
  • Stains have a type, and therefore will be suited to different types/methods of stain removals. Is the stain oil based, protein based, fruit based?
  • Avoid heat, apply heat to the stain can set it further and make it almost impossible to remove.

As with our previous laundry blogs, we will start with some suggestions that are more conventional for a first step outside the comfort zone.

Ecostain

From Ecozone this is an ‘Out of the tube’ spot on treatment. It is free from toxic chemicals, it is biodegradable, certified vegan and cruelty free, doesn’t contain phosphates or nasty fragrances. Just apply to the stain, work in, leave for 10 mins and wash as usual.

For those of you willing to explore a little further then take a trip back in time with us as many of these are actually traditional solutions that would have been widely used a couple of generations back.

Laundry Bleach,

I know this has the word bleach in its name but it is not the same as the very toxic chlorine bleach that people are generally most familiar with. It is made from Soda crystals and hydrogen peroxide. It is usually found in a powder form and when mixed with water it produces… oxygen! The oxygen then gets busy being bubbles and lifting the stain out of the fabric as it passes through. Great for treating inks, dyes, fruits, drinks. Not generally recommended for use on delicate fabrics.

 

White vinegar

We mentioned this in the Fabric Conditioners section, but it is a laundry hero as it is also great for many stains too. Super for removing plant based stains so fruit juices, teas, coffee, wine, also great for mould and mildew stains but also useful for the more icky stains, blood, sick, sweat, urine…

 

Soda Crystals

Soda Crystals. A scoop of these added to your wash will boost the stain removal power of your detergent of choice. They are also great for tea and coffee stains, mud, cooking fat, blood. For spot on treatment make the soda crystals into a paste with equal parts water and spread over the stain. Leave for a while, up to 30 mins bad then wash as usual.

Bicarbonate of soda

 Especially good for deodorising and cleaning large stains on things like carpets or upholstery. Simply shake on dry to mop up liquids before vacuuming up or make into a paste, and rinse out.

 

 

 

Lemons

What about keeping your whites white and not fading to grey? This can be helped by adding some lemon juice to your wash about 120ml to a load of washing should be ok. And for this – and fading out any stains, drying in the sun (when available!) also helps.

Some other interesting tips we have come across include –

Candle wax – Pop some brown paper over the wax and iron the paper with a warm iron.

To remove lipstick from fabric, cut off the crusts from a slice of white bread, roll bread into a ball and then blot the lipstick stain, this should lift the lipstick stain from the fabric. (Havent tried this one personally…maybe my husband has?? 😉 )

If you have chewing gum on your favourite trousers, pop them in the freezer! After a few hours the gum should be brittle enough to scrape off quite easily with a knife, carefully of course!

Milk is great for ink stains, just soak the item in milk – it may take a while – but the stain should then wash out.

 

So there you have it! Your washing from start to finish, in an more eco friendly and in most cases a more pocket friendly, clothes friendly and health friendly way.

Whats not to love? I really hope that you will give some of these a fair go. Not everything is going to be a great fit for everyone (or else there wouldn’t be powder, liquids, tabs etc available from the commercial brands), so have a play with it, experiment and see what works for you. And whilst they might not help with making doing the laundry less of a chore, at least you can feel good about doing it, knowing you are helping your home environment as well as the environment at large.

If there is anything you think we have missed out of this series or a tip or product you would like to share with us, we would live to hear from you, just get in touch with us via the contact page. Thanks for reading!

Cleaner Laundry – Part 2 – Fabric Conditioners

Originally I was going to include fabric conditioners in with the detergents in part 1, but it was getting very long! And really fabric conditioners need a space to themselves because, well, you’ll see!

Considering how long people have been washing clothes, fabric conditioners as we know them today have not been around all that long. They rose to popularity with the tumble dryer, and the rise of synthetic fabrics use in clothing, both produce static and smell pretty bad when heated.

The solution? Along came fabric conditioners, their job is to ‘coat’ the clothes in, well, basically a soup of chemicals to make them feel soft, and prevent the build up of static. Great! Except for the tiny problem that these chemicals also smell pretty bad, the solution to this? The heady perfume fabric conditioners are known for is added, using… a few more chemicals.

I will admit that I have a fairly sensitive sense of smell but sometimes peoples fabric conditioner on their clothes is so strong that it will make my eyes water and make it a little harder for me to breathe just standing next to them. But the chemicals made to make this fragrance could actually be doing us some real harm.

They release VOC’s or Volatile organic compounds many of these are actually classified as toxic or hazardous air pollutants, they contribute massively to air pollution in the home (which is often actually many times higher than air pollution outside the home) and can cause or exacerbate respiratory disorders such as asthma (VOCs can be and are released from many sources inside the home not just fabric conditioner, but this is a major contributor). Some of them are also suspected hormone disruptors.

But the regulations state that product manufacturers do not have to declare what makes up the fragrance of their product because it would leave them open to being copied by competitors. This means that in some cases no-one outside the manufacturer actually knows what chemicals they are using to give the fragrance.

The softness provided to your clothes is largely provided by a group of chemicals whose name is shortened to quarts. The Association of Occupational and Environmental Clinics, a leading international authority on asthma, calls these chemicals “asthmagens,” substances that can cause asthma to develop in otherwise healthy people. With Instances of asthma on the rise (especially in children) is this something we should or can afford to ignore?

By their very nature the chemicals are designed to stay on the clothes that you have on your skin, so some of them will be absorbed into your skin. For some people they can even cause contact dermatitis, eczema and body acne.

It’s quite amusing, and at the same time horrifying that the adverts for these products often focus on the natural, their imaging is of hillside, mountains, festivals (!) people taking deep deep breaths of their wonderful clean and fresh fragrances….

I hadn’t realised before we started our eco journey but Fabric softener is actually bad for quite a few materials;

Firstly because it makes them less absorbent, so at the very least you should stop using them on your towels! But also sports wear, which is designed to wick moisture away from your skin and allow your skin to breathe,(and is probably a large part of the reason you bought it in the first place!) is prevented from doing this by the film that is put on them by the fabric conditioner.

Also anything that contains spandex aka elastane – leggings, some jeans and ‘control shape wear’, swimming costumes anything that has ‘stretch’ are all likely to be weakened by the use of fabric conditioner and have a shorter lifespan.

Secondly because it makes them more flammable. Even if you buy fabrics that have been treated or made to be flame retardant (usually children’s clothes/costumes) then adding fabric conditioner to them will reduce their effectiveness by up to 7 times according to the Department of Chemistry at McGill University.

So in a lot of cases, fabric conditioner is actually completely unnecessary and a big fat waste of money!

So that’s the bad news! What of the good? What if you love your fabric conditioner? What if you are old friends going back years and you love smelling like spring mountain dew on the delicate petal of an alpine flower damn it!

Well the good news is: You can still have lovely soft clothes, you can even get them to smell pretty good (perhaps a more subtle fragrance, which is probably, upon reflection, what spring mountain dew on the delicate petal of an alpine flower was going for anyway….) 😉 without the chemicals!

The original fabric conditioners were made with olive oil but you do not even need to go that far.

If you are really not ready to kick the fabric conditioner habit then we have 2 great choices of fabric conditioners that are far more eco friendly and use natural fragrances.

Bio D

This comes as unscented or with a lavender fragrance (so your clothes can be a source of calm in your day!) As mentioned in Part 1, 100% of their range is hypoallergenic, they are also 100% natural, plant based products, they are committed to sustainable practices and are credited with the 14001 standard and are vegan.

If you do not wish to use fabric conditioners at all, then the easiest way to keep your clothes soft and nice smelling is to line dry them when possible. (I appreciate that in the UK this equates to roughly 5 days a year! But on those days go for it!)

At the very least keep synthetic fabrics out of the tumble dryer as they are the main culprits for static production.

But fear not for the other 360 days a year there are still options;

Ecoegg Dryer Egg.

They soften clothes and reduce drying time (by up to 28%) but also impart a subtle, natural fragrance to your clothes. The eggs should last…well for ages, you just need to change the scent sticks when they become less… scenty.

 

 

White Vinegar

You can also try adding some white vinegar to your washing machine during the rinse cycle. – The smell will not last, but it will make your clothes feel soft soft soft.

 

Essential Oils

You can use essential oil to give a lovely subtle fragrance, and its super easy to change the scent when ever you want! You can either add it to your fabric conditioner draw of your washing machine or make up a spray bottle of distilled white vinegar and essential oil and spray on your clothes before adding them to the dryer.  –
To 250ml of White Vinegar add 1.5 tsp of Eucalyptus essential oil (Lavender, lemongrass also work well or experiment with your own favourite scent!) and spray!

It is highly recommended that you swap out your detergent (see part 1) for one of the more natural alternatives if you are going to swap or stop altogether your fabric conditioner. Because the detergents and the fabric conditioners you have been using will be on your clothes still, and it may take a few washes for them to come out. This may lead to them feeling a bit stiffer and starchier than usual for a little while. It is also worth giving your washing machine a bit of a detox to get any residue out of it.
(THESE handy little tabs can help with that)

Phew, so there you have it, and now you know why fabric softeners needed their own post! In the 3rd and final part of this laundry series we will have a look at what we can do to tackle any particularly stubborn stains in an more eco way.

One step at a time

I am the world’s worst at beating myself up over small things. It’s a habit I am trying to let go of, but I do seem to rather delight in self critique.
Even little things like going out to get some groceries and forgetting the shopping bags – never mind that we had a day bordering on insanely busy, or that my usually delightful girls had decided to have some fun with Mummy and so leaving the house had been like trying to herd cats, (seriously how can such little people remove shoes so fast?!) or that the bag I had to use has already been put to use many times over, and will continue to be used until it finds its way to being recycled – I wasn’t about to cut myself any slack for neglecting the most basic of eco practices.

However, when an acquaintance asked me if I really felt I could advise on eco matters if I still did things/bought things/used things that were not eco friendly it got me to thinking. Thinking that led me to the conclusion that actually, it is not about beating myself up for the things that I or my family don’t do, guilt is rarely a good motivator, but rather about celebrating and giving ourselves the odd high five for the things that we do do (I would also like to add at this juncture that I do not feel like it is my place to give advice! Merely to share, experiences, knowledge, mistakes, finds etc.if any of that ends up helping anyone then, yay!)

We have come a long way in our efforts to live in a more sustainable way, but I am under no illusions that we still have a long way to go. It takes a very special person to decide that they are going the whole hog approach when it comes to changing lifestyle and if you are one of those people, then I wholeheartedly take my hat off to you. But a lot of people are adverse to change, myself included and so the only way this was going to work was for us was to take it slowly, one step at a time.

We started really simply, by changing the kinds of bags we used, from bin bags to shopping bags (before we were charged for using plastic shopping bags). Out went the usual off the shelf bags and in came some lovely degradable ones for the rubbish and cotton string bags for the shopping.

Then a month or so later we started swapping our toiletries, shampoos, soaps, moiturisers etc, as the brands we had used for years ran out so they were replaced. A little while after that we swapped out our laundry products, then cleaning and so on.

With some products it took some trial and error before we found the ones that worked for us, (I will do some quick comparison posts later on to try and help you if you are having trouble deciding what to switch to. For example, switching your Persil for soap nuts ((which literally grow on trees)) might seem a bit of a stretch for you, maybe not, but if so then perhaps a laundry powder or liquid without chemicals will be a better fit…) but we were amazed by the options out there, that we had just never known about because they are not stocked in the supermarkets (generally speaking) or advertised on TV.

Sometimes it can be hard knowing where to start. What is the first step to take? So it can be surprising how once you do start, the way opens up in front of you and it can take you much further and in more directions than you ever imagined. It’s one of the things that gets me really excited about what we do and about helping people when they are just starting out. Even if you only change one thing a month, that will make a huge difference after a year. Pick something that speaks to you the most, and go from there.

One of the areas that we are still working on changing, but is also a great example of how your horizons and point of view can change as you go, is our diet. When we first started this I would have sworn that I would never be vegan, you could not have induced me to go down that road for love nor money and my husband even more so…but now… well, we are not there yet, but we do not eat much meat at all now, our diets are certainly much healthier. We are more aware and make more conscious choices about where any meat, diary products etc come from, and I can see it being a distinct possibility that we will be slipping more and more into that lifestyle choice, it just seems to be a natural progression

Another great example is re-usable menstrual products. When we first started stocking them I was horrified! I couldn’t think of many things worse! However a few years on and I cant imagine what I was making such a fuss about, I wouldn’t be without them now!

So now, as a family we do quite a bit to lessen our footprint upon this world, we’ve done it slowly, nothing has been a shock to the system. Is it all we can do? No. But next week we will be doing a little more than today. Our next personal project is to cut down on waste as it has started creeping up a bit lately. Sometimes I think we all need to cut ourselves some slack and celebrate the things that we do that are great. Whether they be big small, green, kind, thoughtful, or just ordinary and every-day. So wherever you are now, take a moment to celebrate and congratulate yourself for the effort you are already making, then think of the next thing you are going to change and when, and go tackle that goal with a spring in your step.

Action Steps – Make it Happen! 

  • Choose some first products to start swapping. It can be overwhelming to swap everything over straight away, so pick an area you would like to start with, Cleaning? Laundry? Personal care? And get some more eco choices in to try.
  • Have a look around your home for the amount of products you use that could be swapped out. It can be quite surprsing!
  • Have a look into the options avaliable to you. A great place to start could be with ECO EGGBIODFAITH IN NATURE ,  D2W BAGS, Or more generally with CLEANING or LAUNDRY to see the wide range of options available to you
  • If you have any questions or are unsure about where to start, please get in touch with us or your local Wikaniko consultant for a no obligation chat. We are always excited to talk eco and we would be happy to help you.