Headed to some white sand beaches, or snow-capped mountains sometime soon? Maybe it's just a quick business trip. No matter what, flying is almost inevitable these days. While air travel in general has been proven to be pretty safe, we have a few tips to make jetting off for that weekend vacay a little healthier. And nope, it's not about staying hydrated (okay, one of them is) or putting on a face mask, although both of those might make you feel better when you arrive, too.
The surprising benefits of a professional wash
As much as we'd like to be the type of person who wakes up early, grabs some buckets and a sponge at home, and spends a few hours giving their car a DIY wash, we often find ourselves pulling into a car wash business instead. It's easy to feel guilty about taking the "convenient" route but in this case you don't have to! It's actually better for the environment to get a professional car wash rather than DIY! We break down the benefits of an automatic car wash below.
Whether you have a brand new car or your car has been with you for a decade and a few hundred thousand miles, chances are you want to take care of it. In addition to regular oil changes and tune ups, you need to give it a good cleaning. Washing your car isn't just for looks. Over time your car accumulates dirt, oil, salt, and other grime. As well as being an eyesore, this debris can damage the performance of your car. Since we want to drive our car for as long as possible, washing it should be part of your normal car maintenance routine! But before you run to grab your hose and bucket- you might want to consider heading to your local car wash.
It's common to think that going to the car wash is worse for the environment and too water intensive, when actually, the opposite is true. Car wash businesses use high powered nozzles to use as little water as efficiently as possible, and many businesses also have a system in place to catch and reuse old water (1). When you wash your car yourself, you probably just use a bucket filled with water and a hose. While your water usage may not seem that bad while you're washing, it adds up fast. Individuals can use between 80 to 140 gallons of water to wash their car, but a car wash business only uses about 30 to 45 gallons of water (2)! Many car washes also recycle the water used, so the water can be used many times. Some states even require car washes to use recycled water; in California, car washes must use at least 60% recycled water (4). During one particularly tough drought season, a city in California went so far as to ban using potable water for at-home car washes and required car owners to go to a car wash to clean their car (5). If you are concerned about wasting water, ask your local car wash if they recycle water and try to go to one that does!
Another reason to consider using a professional car wash business is wastewater. When we wash our cars at home, we're usually in a concrete driveway or on the side of the road and let the water run down to the sidewalk drains. But that water contains dirt, oil, heavy metals, and other harmful chemicals that accumulate during normal driving, and those sidewalk drains don't go to a water treatment plant. Instead, that runoff is usually diverted directly into our watershed, which might to a lake, stream, or ocean and negatively impact aquatic wildlife and water quality (3). Professional car wash businesses are required by the Environmental Protection Agency to capture all wastewater and divert it into a sewage system. That means the water is safely processed through a water treatment facility and can be used for future car washes!
If you really want to wash your car at home, there are more eco-friendly options.
1. Look for cleaners that are biodegradable and phosphate-free, to minimize the potential for water contamination (3).
2. Make sure to dispose of any dirty water leftover in the buckets by dumping it down your sink, toilet, or bathtub instead of pouring it down your driveway.
3. Washing your car on an overcast, mild day can help save water, since it won't evaporate as quickly.
4. Use reusable cloths to wash and dry your car.
'What are some qualities of a good body wash? Smells goods, lathers really well, and makes you feel clean? Those sound about right, but we're missing one very important quality… body wash should be free of toxic chemicals! A lot of body washes are filled with unnecessary preservatives and synthetic fragrances and dyes that can irritate your skin. Since body wash is such a staple product and we use it on some of the most sensitive parts of our bodies, it's best to get one that is free of these harsh chemicals. Instead of picking up any old body wash at the store, check out one of the non-toxic body washes we recommend!
a) The Seaweed Bath co. hydrating soothing body wash (citrus vanilla, lavender, unscented)
b) Alaffia Everyday Shea moisturizing body wash
c) Cerave Hydrating body wash
d) Avalon Organics Bath and Shower gel lavender
e) Puracy Natural Body Wash
f) Everyone soaps 3 in 1
g) Shea Moisture Raw Shea Butter Body Wash
h) Billie Sudsy Body Wash
i) Native body wash lavender and rose
By now, you've probably heard of laundry stripping. With a viral TikTok video and lots of articles and videos showing the dirty water that gets left behind, we were ready to give it a try! But, most of the laundry stripping recipes call for ingredients that have synthetic fragrances, dyes, preservatives, and fluorescent brighteners. Not only are these chemicals unnecessary, but they can be irritating to the skin and disrupt your hormones. That's why we decided to come up with a non-toxic and natural laundry stripping recipe that doesn't negatively affect our health and will still give us that satisfaction of seeing all of the dirt coming off our clothes and towels!
What is Laundry Stripping?
So why do we need to strip our laundry? Over time our clothes and linens can get buildup from things like hard water, detergents, fabric softeners, body oils, and sweat that don't wash out completely in a normal washing cycle. So the process of laundry stripping aims at removing all of those built up residues and reviving your laundry so that it's softer and actually clean. Have towels that feel crunchy and not as absorbent as they used to be? That build up that is potentially the reason why! If you have had your towels for a while, you may not even realize how much crispier they have gotten!
In order for laundry stripping to be effective there are key ingredients you need to have. The first is washing soda, which is not baking soda, but it is a popular cleaning additive that is great for removing stains, dissolving grease, softening water, and getting rid of unpleasant smells (1). The next ingredient, hydrogen peroxide (in liquid or powdered form), is a great disinfectant, brightener, and deodorizer that gets rid of all of the bacteria that might be stuck in between the fibers of your clothes (2). And if you have hard water, sodium citrate should definitely be added to your recipe because it is great at dissolving minerals and other build up from hard water (3). Finally you need powdered laundry detergent which contains surfactants and other enzymes that help break down most residue that is left on your clothes (4).
Based on our laundry stripping tests, we highly recommend you try it out! Doing this didn't get rid of the slight pink tinge on one of the towels from when I washed it with something red, so it's magical abilities are limited. But the water was completely filthy, just like in that viral video, our towels and sheets were softer and more absorbent, almost like they were new again! It definitely gave them a refresh and extended their life. So try out these different recipes to see which one works best for your laundry. We promise seeing the dirty water in your tub is totally worth it!
Keep reading to check out some of the recipes we tested for non-toxic laundry stripping!
Laundry Stripping recipes
For all of these recipes you want to fill your bathtub or top loading washing machine with the hottest water possible, just enough to cover your clothes or whatever else you may be stripping. Once the clothes are covered with water, mix in all of the ingredients until they are fully dissolved. The next step is to wait! After adding the ingredients, come and check on your clothes every hour and give them a little stir. Most people leave their clothes in the water until it gets completely cold, but if you have really dirty clothes you may want to leave them in the water for about 5 to 6 hours. Finally once you take your clothes out, the last step is to give them a wash in the washing machine!
Laundry Stripping with Borax
¼ cup borax
¼ cup washing soda
¼ cup sodium citrate (optional for hard water)
1 scoop non-toxic laundry detergent powder
There are a lot of conflicting opinions on whether or not Borax is a non-toxic ingredient. Check out this article on Borax to judge for yourself if you want to use it!
Laundry Stripping with Brightening Boost
1 cup hydrogen peroxide or ¼ cup Branch Basics Oxygen Boost or Molly's Suds Oxygen Whitener (both contain sodium percarbonate, which is like powdered hydrogen peroxide)
¼ cup washing soda
1 scoop non-toxic laundry detergent powder
Some powdered laundry detergents we recommend
Since the regular powdered laundry detergent that gets recommended for stripping is full of harsh chemicals, we wanted to recommend some cleaner options that you could use instead!
a) Molly's Suds Laundry Powder b) Grab Green 3-in-1 laundry detergent powder c) Charlie's soap laundry powder d) Seventh Generation Natural Laundry detergent powder e) Meliora Cleaning Products Laundry Powder f) Biokleen free and clear laundry powder
So fresh and so clean
Laundry isn't our favorite thing to do, but unless you're super fancy and have someone else do your washing, it's just a part of life. The one good thing about doing laundry is that fresh laundry straight out of the dryer. The smell, the softness, the warmth… it's basically happiness in fabric form! The many different types of laundry detergent scents like spring meadow and mountain breeze seem like an added bonus too. But, have you ever wondered how companies actually make these scents? It turns out laundry detergent scents can have hidden health hazards. Read on to learn more about laundry fragrance and our non-toxic alternatives!
Reasons to Avoid Fragrance
One of the best parts of laundry detergent is it's smell. That clean, fresh scent is so popular that people try to recreate it in candle form! As much as we love scented laundry, traditional products can be pretty harmful. Companies can use dozens (or hundreds!) of different chemicals to create their fragrances. According to the International Fragrance Association's Transparency List, there are approximately 3,000 fragrance ingredients that can be used in consumer goods worldwide. And since the FDA does not require approval before a chemical goes onto the market, it's impossible to say that all of these fragrance ingredients are safe to use. Oftentimes some of those chemicals are phthalates. Phthalates can help fragrance last longer but they're also known endocrine disruptors with harmful health effects.
Companies also don't have to tell you exactly what goes into their fragrance formulations. Since fragrance is considered a trade secret, companies can hide the exact chemicals they use. You'll only see "fragrance" listed on the ingredient list, despite there being tons of chemicals that go into it. Luckily, some states are taking steps to undo the mystery around fragrance ingredients. In California, manufacturers will soon have to disclose all fragrance and flavor ingredients in their products and any known health hazards associated with those ingredients.
On top of everything else, some fragrance ingredients can trigger migraines or skin irritation in people with sensitivities or allergies. They may not even know which specific ingredient they're sensitive to because of the trade secret rules! Babies and children are especially susceptible to fragrance sensitivities.
Non toxic Ways to Get Clothes Smelling Fresh
First off, we really need to redefine what "clean" smells like. All our lives we've been trained to believe that clean = really strong fragrance. Who else has been overwhelmed by scent when they walked down the laundry aisle?! Clean clothes can be clean and just smell like warm clothes without the super flowery scent. And all those synthetic fragrances are often there to just cover up odors. They don't actually remove funky smells and grime on your clothes.If you're looking for a way to really deep clean clothes, check out our laundry stripping article.
That's a good place to start to get really clean clothes without funky odors.
If laundry stripping seems like too much work, there are also a ton of easy ways to help your clothes smell fresh without added chemicals. Below are some of our favorite ways to add scent to your laundry that are natural but also smell amazing!
- Create a mixture of 2 cup of salt with 20 drops of essential oil in a jar. Scoop 2 tbsp directly into your washing machine with your laundry and run the cycle like normal.
- Add a drop or two of essential oil to a wool dryer ball. This will help keep clothes soft and smelling fresh! If you don't have a dryer ball you can also use a damp washcloth.
- Vinegar is a great way to neutralize odors! Just put some vinegar into your fabric softener tray and it'll work to remove any funky scents.
- Switch to non toxic laundry detergent, dryer sheets, and fabric softeners that use safe scents. Our roundups offer a ton of product recommendations!
Machine washing your clothes is an unexpected culprit of microplastic pollution
Each year, around 8 million tons of plastic finds its way into the ocean from coastal countries. That amount of plastic is the equivalent of about 40,000 blue whales (1)! Microplastics (plastic particles smaller than 5mm in length) are a big part of the plastic pollution problem (2). It's estimated that approximately 50 trillion pieces of microplastics are currently polluting the ocean (3). These tiny particles also make up roughly 94% of the Great Pacific Trash vortex, which is the largest collection of floating trash in the world (4). And surprisingly, laundry is a significant contributor to ocean microplastics.
How is washing your clothes polluting the ocean and what can you do to stop it? Keep reading for everything you need to know about microplastics and how doing your laundry may impact the planet.
What Are Microplastics?
Microplastics are either manufactured for primary use as exfoliating beads used in skincare or small machinery parts, or can be a result of the breakdown of other materials like large plastic water bottles or synthetic textiles (2). Microfibers, the microplastics that are in synthetic materials, are a big part of the problem. They make up roughly 35% of the microplastic found in marine ecosystems (5). Machine washing synthetic materials is one of the biggest ways microfibers get into the water supply (6). Washing machines and synthetic materials are a bad combination because friction from the spinning laundry drum causes synthetic materials to shed microfibers into the water, which are eventually drained back into the pipes. Since the fibers are so small, up to 40% pass through sewage treatment plants unfiltered and end up draining into the rivers, lakes, streams, and oceans that are connected to our water supply (7).
Even though synthetic materials are a big problem, they're almost impossible to avoid. Today, about two-thirds of textiles used in clothing are synthetic because it makes clothing cheaper to manufacture. If you check the tag on your shirt right now, you'd probably see a popular synthetic materials like polyester, acrylic, or nylon. A study in the UK found that nearly half a million microfibers are released in just one load of polyester clothing (8).
Environmental Impact of Microplastics
One of the biggest problems with plastic pollution is that it basically never goes away. Rather than chemically degrading, plastic tends to physically break up into smaller and smaller pieces. These microplastics continuously accumulate in the environments all over the world, from the peaks of the Pyrenees to the intestines of fish caught in the Great Lakes (9, 10). These materials are not only extremely harmful to the wildlife and ecosystems they are invading, but have potentially dangerous consequences for human health as well. Microplastics can get into drinking water, and are also often accidentally ingested by fish which pollutes our food supply. When ingested, microplastics can cause inflammation, gut blockages, growth and hormone disruption (11). Additionally, microplastics absorb other toxic chemicals and assist in their distribution.
What You Can Do
The impacts microplastics are having on marine and human health seem to grow by the day. Luckily, there are easy ways to limit microfiber shedding from your laundry!
- Adjust your laundry settings - avoiding delicate cycles that use high water volumes and washing with colder water are not only more water and cost efficient but help release fewer microfibers per wash!
- Use less detergent, and do not use bleach! The soapy liquid causes more fibers to be leached out.
- Fill up your machine and avoid washing things bulky items like shoes with synthetic fabrics - anything that increases friction will increase microfiber release
- If you have the option, use a front loading washing machine! They require less water and less vigorous washing for the same cleanliness.
- Consider getting a laundry bag. These bags are designed to catch microfibers so they cannot get into the water supply.
- Purchase clothing made of natural materials like cotton or linen - these materials don't shed any microfibers and are often softer, more breathable, and last longer!
Sorry, it's not wear them right away
Ready for it? It's super easy. WASH THE CLOTHES! It can be tough to restrain yourself and not just wear that new thing right away, but trust us, washing first is worth it! And, it doesn't take too long. If you are like me, part of the motivation for buying new clothes was because everything you like to wear was dirty, so you probably have to do a wash anyway.