Laundry supplies are an important offensive tool in your arsenal against dirty laundry. Choosing the most appropriate products for your needs will make the process of how to do laundry much easier.
The choice of best laundry detergent will vary from community to community and from person to person. Here are some considerations:
1. Water hardness - hard water 'uses up' detergent by binding the detergent molecules to the minerals in the water, instead of the dirt on the clothes. You have a few choices: choose a laundry detergent designed for hard water, or add 1/2 to 1 cup of baking soda to each load (the amount will vary depending on how hardy our water is, but don't use more than you need), or use more of your existing detergent.
2. Environmental impact - as a result of consumer demand, many companies are marketing green laundry products. Low phosphate or phosphate free detergents can commonly be found on most grocery store shelves. Many of the other non eco-friendly components of laundry detergent are increasingly being replaced with natural source products for reduced environmental impact. Because the chemicals used to produce these products are more expensive than traditional chemicals the costs may be a bit higher.
3. Health impact - even green laundry products can have negative health impact. Plants are not necessarily non-toxic to humans, and borax, which is a natural mineral has some risks associated with it as well. This just means that you need to be aware of potential health concerns even with products marketed as friendly to the environment. Laundry supplies that are both environmentally friendly and non-toxic to people often need to be purchased from specialty retailers or direct sales representatives.
4. Cost - obviously, cost is a factor. The more expensive detergents may not do a better job that then less expensive varieties. Just watch if you find yourself having to use more of a cheaper brand - depending on how much more you use, you may not actually be saving any money. Cheaper brands are often less expensive because they use more fillers - which may cost you more in the long run. It may be more economical to add 1/2 cup of baking soda to each load to help enhance the effectiveness of the detergent instead of increasing the amount of detergent.
5. Smell - OK, I know that smell is an important issue for some people. Personally, I am dead against perfumed laundry detergent. I believe that we have enough evidence about the dangers of exposure to multiple chemicals that we should be avoiding inhaling or contact with any chemical that is not absolutely necessary. That being said - if you love the smell of lavender fields or meadow breeze - try to choose the least toxic product.
6. Front-loading or Top-loading machine - In the laundry aisle of your grocery store you will see some containers of detergent marked with an 'HE' symbol. HE stands for 'high energy', and it is specifically designed for front loading machines that use very little water. It has fewer foaming agents than regular detergent so that you won't end up with a machine and laundry room floor full of bubbles! You also use less of it, since there is less water in the machine to dissolve the cleaners.
You can use regular detergent in a front loading machine, but only if you use much less than the amount recommended for a top-loader. Start with 1/4 of the amount, but definitely use no more than 1/2 the amount. If foam builds up in a front-loading machine it can cause damage.
You can also use HE detergent in a top-loading machine, but you generally have to use twice as much, since there is more water to dissolve it.
Fabric Softener & Static Reducer
Whether you use a liquid fabric softener in the wash machine, or dryer sheets, fabric softener works by coating the fibers of your clothes with a waxy perfumed substance that makes the fibers feel soft and smell nice. However, it can also reduce the absorbency of towels, irritate the skin of sensitive individuals, and the perfumes may be made with toxic phthalates or phenoxyethanols.
Generally people choose their commercial fabric softener from the laundry supplies available in the grocery store, based on what they can afford and what 'smell' they prefer.
An environmentally friendly and chemical reducing alternative is to fill the fabric softener dispenser with white household vinegar. It leaves no smell, removes any detergent residues that can leave fibers 'hard', it's super-cheap (less that $2.50 per gallon), environmentally friendly, and safe for humans and animals. To take care of static, purchase a pair of good quality dryer balls (they should be a little soft). Just throw them in the dryer with every load. This combination works as well as most fabric softeners without the addition of unnecessary chemicals.
Drying your clothes outside eliminates the need for chemical fabric softeners and any find of static reduction. I would still use the vinegar though, to eliminate unnecessary soap residues from my fabrics.
Essential on your shelf of laundry supplies are the items needed to eliminate stains. Purchase a good quality non-toxic enzyme stain remover, and other than that, take a look at the advice under
Stain Removal for more detailed information. For the most part, I have suggested simple laundry supplies for stain removal that are available in most parts of the world.
You may have good commercial products in your local area that work well on these specific stains. Try to stick with those that are environmentally and health safe.