How to avoid harsh chemicals when washing clothes

How to avoid harsh chemicals when washing clothes

Looking after your clothes properly will give them a longer life. Whether you wash by hand or machine, select appropriate washing methods and cycles and use non-toxic products. You can avoid the expense of dry-cleaning, and the chemicals associated with it, by washing most items carefully at home.

How to avoid harsh chemicals when washing clothes
How to avoid harsh chemicals when washing clothes

Assessing the wash

  • Consider whether you need to wash an item of clothing after wearing it only once. Freshen it by hanging it outside to air for a day.
  • Many clothes that are labelled ‘dry-clean only’ can in fact be hand-washed with care.
  • Silks and woollens, including furnishings, can often be washed safely by hand in lukewarm or cold water.
  • To give you more wearings between cleans, spot-clean clothes that should only be dry-cleaned.
  • Use pure soap flakes for washing as they’re kind to your hands as well as to fabrics.
  • Machine washing, even on a gentle cycle, may be rough on clothes, so hand wash special items.

Machine washing

  • By sorting your washing (whites/coloureds, lightly/heavily soiled, fabric types) you can choose the optimum cycle for your load and get better results.
  • Reduce wear and tear by emptying pockets, tying tapes, turning denim and corduroy inside out, and doing up buttons and zips.
  • Be sure to treat grime and stains before you wash. Either soak the soiled garments overnight or use a pre-wash stain remover.
  • Most laundry loads can be done in cold water, which saves energy and saves you money.
  • Put small or delicate items in an old pillowcase, or special washing bag, before laundering.
  • Wipe out the drum of the washing machine (and around the door seal of a front-loader) after the final load. If the machine tends to smell musty, run a full cycle with 500 millilitres (two cups) of vinegar, but no soap.
  • Rub underarm sweat stains with a paste of vegetable glycerine and cream of tartar. Leave for 24 hours before washing.

All-purpose laundry ‘powder’

  • 125 g (1/2 c) washing soda
  • 250 g (1 c) finely grated pure soap
  • 125 g (1/2 c) salt
  • 125 g (1/2 c) borax
  • 125 g (1/2 c) bicarbonate of soda
  1. Put the washing soda crystals in a clean plastic bag and crush them finely with a rolling pin. Mix the crushed washing soda with the rest of the ingredients and store in an airtight box or jar.
  2. Use 15 grams (one tablespoon) for a small load, 22.5 grams (1 1/2 tablespoons) for a medium load and 30 grams (two tablespoons) for a large load. Dissolve in a jug of hot water before adding to a top-loading machine. For a front-loader, dissolve the ‘powder’ in a small amount of hot water and add to the dispenser.
  3. If using it for hand washing, be sure to wear rubber gloves.

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