Greener detergents

Normally found in specialist organic shops, there are detergents, softeners, whiteners etc. which can be used as alternatives to those containing synthetic fragrances, phthalates etc. Instead of certain harmful compounds, these ecological alternatives may use cultivated enzymes or vegetable oils.

You should be able to understand what the different eco-labels mean e.g. Eco-garantie, Eco-control and Eco-label (which is recommended by the Vida Sana association), which mostly guarantee that the products with this seal do not contain certain compounds. We cannot just presume a product is organic; it needs to be organic. Sometimes a product claims to be free of phosphates, but that doesn’t mean that it won’t contain other harmful substances.

To reduce the effects of toxic fabric contaminants following the use of certain conventional products (detergents, fabric softeners etc.), it is a good idea to leave them to soak in water and bicarbonate of soda.

Homemade remedies

Until various companies started marketing synthetic detergents and convincing the public through advertising that they needed to use them, other safer things were used e.g. natural soap.

To increase the cleaning power, you can add some borax to the soap, or put half a lemon in a small bag in the drum.

People who are particularly sensitive to toxic chemicals (such as those affected by Multiple Chemical Sensitivity) often revert to using bicarbonate of soda, cider vinegar and some tough, fragrance-free eco detergents, sometimes with soap nuts.

For a homemade fabric softener, you can use a mixture of bicarbonate of soda, vinegar and essential oils. Using natural fabrics means you are less likely to need fabric softeners in the first place.

If you have to take something to the dry cleaners, choose one that uses authentically organic cleaning methods e.g. natural soap and vapour.

For stain removers, there are old remedies you can bring back. Nothing gets out ink stains, for example, better than milk, but you can also use lemon, vinegar and borax. Rubbing with eucalyptus oil before washing helps remove grass stains, and there are many other remedies which can get rid of different types of stains. It’s just a case of finding out what works.