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natural cleaning

Home and Garden, Natural Cleaning

Make Your Own Fabric Conditioner In Seconds

I’ve got a really simple recipe for you today on how to make your own fabric conditioner.

You might be wondering why you need to make your own fabric conditioner, when it’s widely available in the shops.  And you might think you’re doing a good thing for your clothes when you reach for the fabric conditioner.  I don’t blame you.  Decades upon decades of marketing have convinced millions of us that fabric conditioner is a vital element of the laundry process, and there’s a whopping $12 billion global market for the product.

But, I’ve got a little secret for you: you really don’t need to use conventional fabric conditioner.  The eco friendly alternative to fabric conditioner I’m going to share at the end of this post costs just pennies per load and is much more effective load per load at softening your clothes.

make your own fabric conditioner

Why You Should Ditch The Shop Bought Stuff

First, here are four reasons to ditch fabric conditioner in favor of an effective eco-friendly alternative.

1. Fabric conditioner is terrible for some of your clothes and towels.

Fabric conditioner essentially applies a thin, waxy coating to your laundry, which has to be water-resistant in order to survive the washing process.  This waterproof coating makes your clothes feel softer but lessens their ability to properly absorb water and laundry detergent.  This means your clothes won’t respond as well to washing and will be more likely to lock in bad odors.

The chemical coating can also make your towels less absorbent over time and reduce the performance of sweat-resistant sportswear.  Fabric conditioner is also harsh on cotton or bamboo clothing, which normally absorbs light perspiration on its own.  As soon as fabric conditioner is introduced, that absorption is lost.

When used on clothing containing elastane and nylon (such as leggings, skinny jeans, and bras), fabric conditioner can leave a residue that dulls the item’s finish and attracts odor-causing bacteria.

2. Some conventional brands aren’t vegetarian or vegan.

Rather alarmingly, some fabric conditioners aren’t vegetarian- or vegan-friendly.  One ingredient found in certain brands is dihydrogenated tallow dimethyl ammonium chloride.  In simpler terms: animal fat.  This fat is extracted from suet — the fatty tissues around the kidneys of cattle and sheep.  Suddenly that bottle sitting in your laundry room doesn’t look quite as innocuous as it did at first.

3. It’s not great for us or the environment.

Fabric softeners often contain a cocktail of non-renewable petroleum-based chemicals, which are not easily biodegradable.

A study by the University of Washington found that certain chemicals found in fabric conditioner are likely human carcinogens, developmental toxins, and allergens that can contribute to eczema.  These chemicals included likely human carcinogens acetaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane, developmental toxicants methyl ethyl ketone and chloromethane, and allergens like linalool.

Once these chemicals are washed down the drain they can become highly toxic to aquatic life too.

4. It’s bad for your washing machine and plumbing.

As many brands of fabric conditioner are petroleum-based and full of animal fat, they can clog up your washing machine (especially if it’s a front-loading one) and pipes.

Fabric conditioner can also encourage the growth of mold in your machine.  Due to its fat content, when fabric conditioner is exposed to air and moisture, it becomes a breeding ground for bacteria and mould.  And because of the design of most machines, it means that the water-resistant softener is never quite washed out properly, leaving a residue that only encourages the growth of bacteria and black mould throughout your whole washing machine.  Which does not make for pleasant reading.

If you have been using conventional fabric conditioner, then it’s really easy to clean the bacteria and mould from your washing machine.  Check out my guide on how to clean a washing machine to banish bacteria and mould for good.

How to Make Your Own Fabric Conditioner

I’m a big fan of natural cleaning products to DIY.  Therefore, this homemade eco-friendly alternative to fabric conditioner is much better for you, your clothes, your washing machine and your environment. It’s perfect for people with sensitive skin, and it contains just two simple and inexpensive ingredients:

You will need:

500ml Glass bottle/jar
500ml White vinegar – here’s where to buy white vinegar in bulk for cleaning
30 drops Essential Oil of your choice

Directions:

Fill your bottle/jar with vinegar, and add around 30 drops of essential oil to your vinegar

To Use:

Shake well before use.

At the stage when you are adding your laundry detergent to your machine, fill the fabric conditioner compartment of the drawer up to the line with the scented vinegar.  For a half load of washing, decrease the amount by half.

Using this mixture in place of fabric conditioner will give your laundry a delicate and clean aroma without a hint of vinegar — I promise!  If there is still a trace of vinegar on your wet clothes, be assured this will dissipate as the clothes dry.

My favorite oils to use for fabric conditioner are lemon and sweet orange for a zingy citrus aroma.  However, feel free to substitute depending on your preferences.  Alternatively, you can skip the oil for a scent-free conditioner.

Vinegar makes for a great natural fabric conditioner because it cuts through soapy residue and it won’t interfere with the absorbency of your laundry, making your clothes and towels last longer and smell better. Nor will it leave deposits in your washing machine or plumbing.  In fact, vinegar also cuts through grease so you’ll actually clean your machine every time you do a load of laundry.  Double win!

I also have a ton of other laundry tips that you might find useful.  Firstly, how to dry clean at home.  Secondly, this is a good one to legitimise laziness – how often should you wash your clothes.  I also have a guide on how to wash wool, and how to wash striped clothing.  And lastly, my guide to natural stain removal.

This article originally appeared on mindbodygreen

Home and Garden, Natural Cleaning

The Best Eco-Friendly Cleaning Products

green cleaning products
green cleaning products

I’ve got a great guest post today for you from Georgina at Ethical Consumer, on the best eco-friendly cleaning products. Georgina offers some eco-friendly shop-bought and natural alternatives to try to make your home fresher and cleaner.  

An English person’s home is their castle.  And when it comes to our ‘castles’ we like to keep them clean.  The average Brit spends around 4 hours a week scrubbing and scouring to keep their home in tip-top condition.  Modern cleaning products claim to make this cleaning a doddle with the promise of a no-effort clean.  However, are these claims as squeaky clean as our houses?

Convenience at a cost

Enter any large supermarket and you’ll see a large array of cleaning products. Each claims to make your life easier, clean your home better and save you time.  We’re used to modern convenience with our cleaning gadgets and we want short-cuts to save us time on our mundane chores.  However, how much thought do we give to the chemicals that we spray and squirt around our homes?

It can be alarming when we see the hazard labels on products we use every day or week. Irritant, corrosive, oxidising, and toxic, are commons sights.  But if we use the chemicals correctly then they are safe, right?

Not according to recent research from Natural Resources Defense Council in California.  Their research discovered 45 different toxic chemicals present in household dust.  Chemicals such as phthalates and hormone disrupters affect reproductive systems and are linked to developmental problems in babies.  The source of these toxic compounds?  Household chemicals and personal care products.

Exposing the dirty truth

At Ethical Consumer, we’ve produced reports on over 40,000 companies, brands, and products on all aspects of ethical behaviour.  For our household cleaning analysis, we ranked 41 popular household cleaners against 23 different criteria, one of those being toxic chemicals.

Unlike personal care or food and drink products, manufacturers are under no obligation to provide a detailed list of the ingredients in their cleaning products.  This lack of transparency makes it difficult for consumers to make informed decisions on avoiding toxic chemicals.  Although EU legislation stipulates that companies do need to list the full ingredients on their website.

Across our analysis, three main toxic chemicals emerged as the most concerning and ubiquitous.  Therefore our rankings focused on those.

The toxic trio

Parabens

This additive is used for its antifungal and preservative properties, extending the shelf-life of cosmetics and cleaning products.
As an indication of its toxic potential, five parabens have been already banned from cosmetics by the EU.  However, they are still found in many cleaning products.

Absorbed through the skin and through inhalation and ingestion, parabens have strong links to hormone disruption, reproductive toxicity, neurotoxicity, and skin irritation.  Breast cancer charities have highlighted their presence in breast tumours. Here they thought to increase the growth of cancer cells.

Triclosan

This pesticide is an antimicrobial agent used in many cleaning products.  It is known to affect thyroid hormone function by disrupting the regulation of metabolism and normal breast development.  It is also an irritant to the skin and eyes and may have a possible link to bacterial resistance.  Its use is already banned in soaps in the US.  Its use is restricted in many toiletries in the UK, yet its use is not prohibited in cleaning products.

Phthalates

A common chemical used in synthetic fragrances, phthalate toxicity is linked to developmental problems in babies.  A recent study cited a correlation between pregnant women with high levels of phthalates and children with markedly lower IQ levels.  And again, as an endocrine-disrupting chemical, phthalate is linked to an increased risk of breast cancer.

The good, the bad, and the toxic

Despite the mounting evidence of the harmful effects of these and other synthetic additives, the use of toxic, persistent compounds is widespread in our cleaning products.  Our ethical ranking table exposes the brands that continue to use these harmful chemicals.  It also provides ethical ‘best buys’ for those companies who ban their use and make the best eco-friendly cleaning products.

how toxic are household cleaners

The toxic

Sadly, some of the most popular cleaning brands performed very badly. UK manufacturer Reckitt Benckiser who manufactures Vanish, Dettol, Windowlene, and Cillit Bang had no policy on removing triclosan, parabens or phthalates from their formulations.  Even more shocking is that this lack of corporate responsibility comes after their disinfectant humidifier chemicals were found to have led to the death of nearly 100 people in South Korea.

Proctor and Gamble also performed badly.  In part, due to having no policy to remove parabens or phthalates from cleaning products such as Viakal, Flash, and Comet.

Unilever, which produces brands such as Domestos and Cif, does not use phthalates and had a clear plan for the removal of triclosan.  However, they had no clear strategy to remove parabens from their formulas.

Colgate-Palmolive performed best in the big brand cleaning products categories. Here they had no parabens, triclosan or phthalates used in their cleaning products. However, they ranked low down in our scoring due to their poor policies in other areas.

The good – the best eco-friendly cleaning products

A number of smaller brands performed well in our ranking.  For the best eco-friendly cleaning products, Greenscents*, and Bentley Organic*, all offer organic and vegan products that also achieved our best rating for animal testing.  Bio-D*, Faith in Nature*, and Earth Friendly Products* are all vegan and cruelty-free.

All of these products had clear policies that confirmed that their products did not contain the toxic trio of parabens, triclosan, and phthalates.  This is as well as their focus on natural and organic ingredients, making them the best eco-friendly cleaning products.

Reducing toxic dust for a cleaner home

There are a number of things that you can do to reduce toxicity levels in your home:

  1. Use fewer cleaning products.  Switching to microfibre cloths can reduce the cleaning products needed whilst providing a thorough clean.  What’s more, they’re washable and reusable too.
  2. Check ingredients and make the switch to one of our best eco-friendly cleaning products.  Know what you are using by checking the ingredients on cleaning products and ditching brands that don’t make the grade.
  3. Make your own natural cleaners.  With just a few simple ingredients such as lemon juice, vinegar, and bicarbonate of soda you can make a whole host of natural cleaning products.  Check out this post on natural cleaning products to DIY for a plethora of inspiration.  You can also read more about Wendy’s book – Fresh Clean Home.