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How do you choose the right laundry detergent?

Laundry detergent that does its job well, doesn’t smell of lavender and is eco-friendly… A real headache! Here’s all our advice for taking the plunge and opting for a laundry detergent that’s eco-friendly, clean for the planet and very gentle for our clothes and our skin. With our expert, Caroline Vivant, co-founder of the site, the guide to environmentally-responsible consumer behaviour.

So that’s it, you’re taking the plunge. You’re going to drop the family laundry detergent which, for three generations, has smelled wonderfully clean and fresh thanks to ingredients that are not very nice for our skin and our planet. Maybe so, but that’s the thing. It’s not so easy to choose a soulmate for your machine. “True enough, confirm our expert Caroline Vivant, it’s quite hard to switch laundry detergent brands because using it is such an ingrained habit. But let’s bear in mind that standard laundry detergent poses two sizeable problems. First of all its plastic packaging, and then its makeup…” Not forgetting, of course, the impact of freight transport, wastewater disposal and the use of lots of water. Plus active ingredients that have had the finger pointed at them (allergens, endocrine disruptors, etc.). Here in France, according to the site planetoscope, we do an average of five laundry loads per week per household, and use 40 kilos of laundry detergent per year.

Switching laundry detergents

If you decide to change your modus operandi completely, just make a point of opting for a less polluting laundry detergent. In the words of Caroline Vivant, co-founder of the site, the guide to environmentally-responsible consumer behaviour, “As a minimum, you have to opt for a laundry detergent certified by Ecocert.”

What does it vouch for? The use of mainly natural ingredients and biodegradable surfactants. Some brands, the number of which is increasing, also make an effort on the packaging front, for example by using recycled materials. To help you make your choice there are some laundry detergent comparison pages on Le Kaba, and also La Famille Tortue and Futura Sciences. Other than that, just go ahead and try them out.

Worth noting: You can find eco-friendly laundry detergents in both specialist shops and mass retail. Here at the We Are Clean editorial desk, we have our favourites too: L’Arbre Vert, refillable liquid laundry detergent; Frais washing powder; and 3abeilles organic laundry flakes (unperfumed, for delicate fabrics and sensitive skin).
Other brands are coming up with very worthwhile, fun initiatives. It’s the case of La Marque en moins, which has gone with super-compact pastilles of active ingredients in super-clean packaging.

Making your own laundry detergent

The idea of making your own laundry detergent is not lost on the environmentally-responsible homecrafts community. “Sure, you might think that making it is a long and drawn-out process… But far from it – it takes barely ten minutes” says our green expert Caroline Vivant. Furthermore, she has even shared her recipe on the Lekaba site.

What is homemade laundry detergent made from? Soap flakes (you can find them here on the La droguerie éco site for example, or on the Marius Fabre blog), plus water and bicarbonate of soda! It’s child’s play. You can also add a few drops of essential oil as fragrance, but this is optional.

A word of caution: if your little one’s clothes are heavily stained (after playing in the park on a Saturday for example), go right ahead and remove the stains by rubbing with Marseille soap before laundering the clothes. Ultimately, you’re doing something good for the environment and making a big saving for the household! Because shop-bought laundry detergent is expensive. By making your own, you’re saving money for sure. The clever trick to top it off: always keep back a little bit of standard laundry detergent, for those days when you just can’t be bothered, if you have run out of the homemade stuff.

Embrace the right habits

Whether you’re switching laundry detergents or not, when putting your washing machine on don’t forget that several of your habits have a big impact on the environment. The length of the cycle, the temperature set and… The amount of laundry detergent used. Because we all tend to use rather too much, whereas most laundry detergents are “concentrated”, so you need very little. Bear it in mind next time, and you’ll see that you get through a bottle or box more slowly too. All the more since laundry detergent manufacturers are intentionally increasing the volume of laundry detergent packs whilst keeping the amount of packaging the same. If you use excessive amounts of laundry detergent, you cancel that out!

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