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Shopping Tips for Laundry

The issues

For a relatively small area, the laundry room makes a significant contribution to a household’s overall environmental impact. Key issues include:

  • Energy consumed by heating the water used for washing clothes (as well as drying them), and associated energy conservation opportunities
  • Material waste and additional transportation-related energy use associated with inefficient packaging (such as detergent bottles containing mostly water)
  • Human health and ecological concerns about exposures to some laundry detergent ingredients

Phosphates, once a source of water quality problems in laundry waste water, have been largely eliminated in the US for major brands.

What to look for

Eco-friendly laundry detergents that have been certified by the Environmental Protection Agency’s Design for the Environment program.

Concentrated detergents generally have better environmental performance — 2X concentration is the minimum standard, but the more concentrated the better.

Cold water detergent reduces the amount of energy required per wash.

Clearly measurable dispensers such as a pump help minimize risk of overuse.

Plant based ingredients and enzymes over petroleum based solvents. Natural laundry detergent ingredients generate lower environmental impacts during manufacturing.

GoodGuide recommendations

Avoid laundry detergents that contain chemicals of high or medium health concern listed below.

For an eco-friendly laundry, tune your washing machine to your detergent:

  • Use a cold water cycle when possible, and definitely a cold water rinse, which will remove soap just as well as warm/hot water.
  • Use the correct quantity of concentrated detergent. Most people use far more than they need, which can increase the likelihood of detergent residue on the clothing and waste money.
  • Full, but not overfilled, loads are more efficient than partially full loads.
  • Remember that high efficiency (HE) detergents should only be used with high efficiency machines, which can be either front- or top-loading.

Use GoodGuide’s Not Tested on Animals filter if you want to ensure your product choice does not harm animal welfare.

Use GoodGuide’s Fragrance-Free filter if you want to avoid potentially hazardous ingredients (like phthalates) that are a common component of fragrances.

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