Is it Easy Being Green?

My daily adventures in attempting an environmentally-friendly lifestyle

Attack of the Clinging Laundry: The Sequel May 4, 2009

laundry2Spring seems to finally be peeking through the clouds here, and I’d like to forget the relentless winter we just made our way through. But before I go into my winter amnesia, I must revisit my post written in the dead of winter about wanting to get off the dryer sheet habit. I promised to report back my results from my tests with dryer sheet options, and after experimenting for three months, I think I’m ready to share my findings, even if they’re not that conclusive.

First of all, here are the combinations of things I tried (these are in addition to detergent):

  • baking soda in the wash cycle/reusable dryer sheets in the dryer
  • baking soda in the wash cycle/nothing added to dryer
  • vinegar in the wash cycle/reusable dryer sheets in the dryer
  • baking soda and vinegar in the wash cycle/reusable dryer sheets in the dryer
  • vinegar in the wash cycle/nothing added to dryer
  • nothing added to wash cycle/nothing added to dryer
  • nothing added to wash cycle/reusable dryer sheets in the dryer
  • nothing added to wash cycle/old school dryer sheet in the dryer (just to compare!)

Yes, this was confusing. But I felt that I needed to try every combination I could think of (several times each) to really tell the difference. The thing is, overall there wasn’t a ton of difference in any of these, except for maybe the time I tried using nothing in the wash or dry cycles. None of the things I tried were completely as cling-free as when using dryer sheets, but they also weren’t that bad. When clothes were initially clingy, I just shook them out and rubbed them a bit and then they were fine (or as fine as anything is in the super dry winter environment).

The combo I found that just edged out the others was using 1/4 cup of baking soda in the wash cycle and the reusable dryer sheets in the dryer. I’ve been happy with the results from these items enough to make them part of my laundry habit. Using these helps with the static, and the baking soda provides some softness that I thought the other options didn’t achieve. (Even though I’m continuing to use them, I’m still kind of on the fence about the reusable dryer sheets so I don’t know if I can recommend buying them. I would suggest first trying just baking soda and see what you think.) I found out that vinegar is good to use in the rinse cycle to help get rid of any residue, so I’m doing that monthly.

Thus ends my dryer sheet replacement laundry experiment. I’m glad to be rid of the sheets and have that many less chemicals in my life. I do need to go to Costco and buy a giant container of baking soda; I’ve been going through those tiny boxes really quickly!


Attack of the clinging laundry January 12, 2009

Filed under: cleaning — isgreeneasy @ 9:39 pm
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laundryWhen it comes to cleaning, I think I’m in pretty decent eco-shape. The general rule is minimal toxics and waste. For laundry, I use unscented, concentrated detergent (always an environmentally-friendly brand), wash mostly in cold, only wash full loads and run shorter cycles.

But, somehow my lifelong attachment to the dryer sheet slipped by me. I just felt that a little dryer sheet didn’t create that much waste and offered the important benefits of soft and cling-free clothes. I actually thought it seemed like a better thing to do than use fabric softener. Recently my husband for some reason brought up the fact that dryer sheets (and fabric softener) contain chemicals, and that hit me like a ton of recycled bricks. How did I not think about this before? How have I been carelessly poisoning us for all this time?
Once I got over the drama, I reminded myself that sometimes we have to be forgiving and go easy on ourselves; there are a lot of things to balance and prioritize in life and the fact that I had put my attention to other things did not make me The Anti-Environmentalist. So, on to figuring out how to replace the dryer sheets!

Great balls of dryer
I first thought of those plastic dryer balls I had seen promoted here and there. They claim to be eco-friendly because they replace fabric softener and dryer sheets. They’re even sold on the Gaiam website, which is supposed to be a leader in eco-conscious products. Sounded good at first, but I noticed that these are made out of plastic–possibly the same kind of plastic that we’re not supposed to put in the microwave because it releases nasty chemicals when heated. Hmmm. After a little investigating, I found out that they’re made from PVC, a highly toxic plastic. That is not something I want more of in my life. Here’s why. This is a common situation we’re faced with when trying to make environmentally-conscious choices: what is the trade-off on benefits vs. impacts? In this case, I didn’t feel that dryer balls at all offer a better solution than good ol’ dryer sheets.

It’s not just for baking
After reading up more, I found out that what seem to be the solutions to every cleaning problem you’ll ever have, baking soda and vinegar, can be used in the wash to soften clothes and prevent static cling. Adding 1/4 cup of baking soda or white vinegar to the wash cycle is supposed to do the trick. Adding the vinegar or baking soda to the rinse cycle is also recommended, but I don’t know if I can count on myself to remember to do that. I’ll try the wash cycle first and see how it works. The cool thing about this option is that baking soda and vinegar are super cheap!

One sheet is worth 500 loads
When I came upon the reusable non-toxic dryer sheet, I thought I might have my answer. These are made from cloth, have no chemicals and are supposed to soften clothes and remove static cling. One cloth lasts up to 500 loads, which if they work, is awesome. They don’t provide a scent, but I used unscented dryer sheets and don’t care about fragrance anyway. (If you do want fragrance, a good tip I found is to make a little sachet of lavender and throw it in the dryer.) I read the positive reviews on Amazon and found recommendations on environmental websites, so I figured I’d give it a try. I orderered a pair and they should be on the way. I’ll report the results!

Another option to try is using eco-friendly fabric softener (brands like Seventh Generation and Ecover make this) but if I can get away with using one less product in a bottle, the better, so I’ll hold off on this one.

I could of course also try air-drying everything, but in my little apartment, that just sounds overwhelming, time-consuming and annoying; plus it gives clothes that crunchy feeling. I know this would be the best choice environmentally though, so maybe I’ll look into air-drying some things that crunchiness doesn’t matter as much with.


My top five December 4, 2008

Having finally just read High Fidelity, I thought I would start with a top five list. This will be the kind you check things off of–the good kind. My list consists of some greenish things I’ve had on my mind lately. Some have gone no further than my mind, while others I’ve done a little something about, but not enough. Here we go (in alphabetical order):

1. Composting — I want to compost! Having lived in CA for three years and worked at an environmental education center, I had three, count ’em three, composting options at my fingertips. My workplace had a compost bin, a worm bin and a “green bin” for the municipal organics recycling program. Now in Chicago in a high-rise apartment building with no municipal program, no yard for a compost bin and a husband adamantly opposed to having a worm bin in our home, the options are more limited. I’m going to see what I can do…

2. Dryer Sheets — These are just one of those things that I’ve somehow overlooked. I grew up using them and have just never stopped. I thought I was doing a good thing by not using any of that liquid stuff, and I use the unscented kind. But then I read something about the chemicals in dryer sheets and I suddenly felt like an eco-dummy. What can I replace my beloved dryer sheets, and do I in fact need to make the switch?

3. Food — I do love my food. As Liz Lemon on 30 Rock says in response to the question “Are you hungry?” she replies, “Always!” I’ve been getting more into organics, farmer’s markets, cooking healthy, etc. over the past few years. I recently attended a “locavore” class and an event focused on local farming, and both of those have really motivated me to go local. I want to see how feasible and practical it is to get more local stuff into my shopping repertoire.

4. Plastics — Just when I think I’ve rid my life of the majority of plastics, another plastic container will pop out in front of me. Oh, how they taunt me! Let’s face it, it’s impossible to be completely rid of plastic, but what else is there that I can get rid of or replace that I haven’t yet? I will investigate.

5. Home Air Quality — Just what are those candles that I (used to) enjoy burning putting out into the atmosphere? And even though I’ve been known to kill a few plants, what kind of difference can plants make for air quality in my apartment? Indoor air quality is supposed to sometimes be way worse than outdoor, so what else might be going on at home that affects the air we breathe? And will sniffing the breeze from the chocolate factory a few blocks away make me gain weight?

There’s more where these came from, but that’ll do it for now.