6.8 billion. The average number of washing machine loads per year in the UK is around 6.8 billion and in France, 6.2 billion per year. That’s somewhere between 17 and 19 million washes a day, and ditto for the number of cups of washing powder, which is harmful to the environment and an irritant for your skin. But there are gentler solutions.

The first good habit you should adopt is reading the labels. Ingredients like isothiazolinone, linalool, geraniol, citronellol and limonene should be avoided if you want a washing product that’s friendly to your skin and to the environment.

What you should do before putting on a wash 

Choose an eco-friendlier laundry detergent that does not contain ingredients that are likely to pollute rivers in the long term. Although the water passes through a waste treatment plant, this is not enough to eliminate all the surfactants that alter the surface tension of the water and disrupt the ecosystem. Some of the best eco-friendly brands include Ecover, Method and Rainett.

Sort your laundry to save time and energy

Sorting your laundry (whites, colours, darks and delicates) means that you can choose the best washing programme for efficiency and low-energy consumption. Good news for you and for the planet!

Simplify the process by using different washing baskets to separate your clothes. If your laundry is stained (blood, grass, oil, etc.), use a stain remover before washing.

You can make a home-made one by mixing a small glass of water with a large spoon of washing up liquid and a large spoon of glycerine. Mix vigorously, pour a small quantity on the stain and rub before putting in the washing machine.

Choose the most suitable washing programme

For your clothes to last longer and stay like new, select the right programme for the laundry that you are washing. Nowadays, many models of washing machine have an energy-saving eco-or low-temperature biological programme.

If your washing machine does not have this, a programme at 30°C will suffice for laundry without any particular problems and help you save energy as well as keeping colours brighter and avoiding excessive creasing.

Maybe you already do all this but you’d like to do more.  In that case, you’re ready to use a secret recipe that has been passed down from generation to generation.

Make your own cheap eco-laundry detergent using a vegetable oil-based soap like Marseille soap 

There are many different ways of making it but most feature these three main ingredients:

  • Handmade soap: cleans, purifies and perfumes                                   
  • Bicarbonate of soda: antibacterial and stops colours fading                 
  • White vinegar: odourless softener.

This is one of the most widely used recipes with good reason because Marseille soap is eco-friendly and doesn’t irritate the skin. It’s ideal for sensitive skins. Other handmade vegetable-oil based soaps would also work equally well.

Ingredients for 3 litres of laundry detergent:

  • 100 to 150 g of soap: preferably go for soap without glycerine, which would solidify your detergent. The ideal soap contains no preservatives, colourants or perfume, and at least 75% vegetable oils. 
  • 3 tablespoons of bicarbonate of soda                                                   
  • 3 tablespoons of white vinegar                                                               
  • 3 litres of water                                                                                          
  • 20 drops of essential oil of your choice (lavender, eucalyptus, tea tree, verbena etc.)

First, grate the soap if you have bought a bar.

Pour the water into a large saucepan.  Bring to the boil and add the grated soap. Stir until it melts.

Leave the water to cool, and when lukewarm, add the bicarbonate of soda and white vinegar. Stir well. 

Once the liquid is smooth, leave to cool for a quarter of an hour then pour through a funnel into a container.

If you want to add essential oils, do so once the detergent has cooled. Over the next few days, regularly shake your container to stop the detergent solidifying.

Finally, shake the container before each use to mix your detergent. Use the same dosage as standard detergent. Keep your home-made detergent at room temperature.

Quick recipe for home-made fabric softener

No need for commercial fabric softener once you know that natural softener is simple and economical:

  • Pour a capful of white vinegar in the softener tray 

  • Perfume with several drops of essential oil of your choice 

And that’s it! Your laundry is soft, smells wonderful and your washing machine is protected from limescale thanks to the white vinegar.