The Laundry Edition:
Landry is an area where I've made alot of changes in the past five years, I started changing how I did laundry when the girls were born & I used cloth diapers (another wonderful way to save money, save your baby's health, and save the earth, but that's another post for another day) washing cloth diapers isn't difficult but it requires a person to begin to understand a little better what the various things they sell on the laundry aisle (and elsewhere LOL) really do & don't do to our clothes and to our skin. . .
So, in a nutshell, conventional laundry detergent isn't good for our skin (it's an irritant, some people are more sensitive than others, but even if you don't break out in a rash from it, it's not GOOD for your skin), or our clothes (the clothes will wear out faster (so it's costing you money on two levels, the cost of the detergent AND the cost of replacing your clothes more often) or the environment (we're adding toxic chemicals to our water supply. So what's the solution?
First, stain remover: Know your stains, one of the things that frustrates me the most about laundry is when the girls come back from Grandmom's and dh can't tell me WHAT they got all over their clothes. When you know what the stain is, it's easier to treat it. Fruit juice washes out effortlessly if you run boiling water through it (do this carefully though). Blood stains come right out with a little hydrogen peroxide, vinegar is a great stain remover for many things but will "set" other stains . . . the book Clean House, Clean Planet gives a great list of what vinegar works for and also a "recipe" for another stain remover that uses dish soap & glycerin, and what types of stains it works for. Unfortunately I loaned my copy out awhile back & haven't gotten back, and have been lazy lately & just been purchasing an environmentally friendly, "natural" stain remover through the co-ops I run. (I use Ecover brand & have been happy with it, but it is more expensive than conventional stain removers).
Next, laundry soap. My advice, is to make your own. Here is the recipe I use for powdered soap. If you prefer liquid, there's a recipe here, I've made a similar one, and it worked well, I just find the powder easier to make & store. In the picture above, my laundry soap is in the canning jar. The big yellow bag is baking soda, I'll add a little of that as well if the load needs some extra whitening, but mostly use it for my towels/wipes/rag load which is another post for another day. I do have some Ecover laundry detergent there as well, that I use for the towels/wipes/rags load.
Now, fabric softener. I used to use the dryer sheets in every load except towels, then I started cloth diapering & you do NOT want to use fabric softener on diapers, same as towels, because it will coat them and they won't be absorbent (and not absorbent diapers are rather counter productive), so the recommendation to keep diapers soft (because soft is nice against sensitive baby skin) was to put plain white vinegar in the rinse water. So I figured hey, if it works for diapers, why not use it for all the laundry, it's cheaper than dryer sheets & I didn't want the chemical fragrances on the babies' skin, and didn't want to bother w/keeping their laundry separate from ours. And now, you could not PAY ME to go back to fabric softener. I hate it when the girls get hand-me-downs that have been washed w/ fabric softener (don't get me wrong, I love, and appreciate the hand-me-downs, I just hate the sticky feel of the fabric softener on the clothes)! So, simple as can be, if your washer has a built in fabric softener dispenser, just fill that with vinegar instead of fabric softener (if I'm washing a load that's got anything stinky in it, like rags that got left sitting in a wet pile or something) I'll also add a drop or two of tea tree oil to the fabric softener dispenser, as well as a few drops in with the clothes. If you don't have a fabric softener dispenser, you can use a "downey ball". No, your clothes will NOT smell like vinegar! Though your laundry room might LOL. They might smell like TTO (if you use it) when you pull them out of the washer, but if you run them through the dryer, it gets hot enough to get rid of that scent as well.
So, that's taken care of all the chemicals.
Now the dryer. This doesn't affect your health much, but it costs money to run (electricity or gas) I wasn't paying the bills, dh was, when I switched from using the dryer to hanging our clothes, so I don't know how dramatically it affected our electric bill, but I've heard lots of other people say they saw a noticeable drop in their electric bill when they stopped using their dryer, or used it less. Additionally, running clothes through the dryer will wear them out faster than hanging them dry, so again, you're saving money on 2 levels (and of course, reducing electric/gas use is helpful to the environment). Our HOA won't allow us to have a clothes line, and honestly the way our house/yard is designed, unless we had a deck, which we've never gotten around to building, it would be less than convenient to take the clothes outside to hang anyway, so, I hang my clothes inside. It took a little getting used to, but once I got into the habit, it's just part of the routine. It kind of "forces" me to keep up with laundry since I only have room to hang one load at a time, AND when I used the dryer, I always had laundry baskets of clean clothes waiting to be folded and put away, now we hang all our clothes (except socks & underwear, and the girls' pjs) and we have to put the dry clothes away in order to have a place to hang the wet clothes. In the picture at the beginning of the post you can see how we hang the socks & uw, I have a second, smaller, one of those that hangs over the washer, for whatever reason it hangs higher, so I generally use it for bigger things (like grown-up uw & the girls' tights). Then all the clothes are hung on their hangers (I have a plastic bin on the floor of the laundry room (along w/ my big bottle of vinegar) where the girls toss their empty hangers when they get dressed, and when I hang up dh's & my clothes I collect any empty hangers from either of our closets). I put the clothes on the hangers & the girls hang them up. Our laundry room is right at the top of our stairs, so we use the baby gate, that we never bothered to take down, to hang the girls' clothes on & I have a folding rack for dh's & my clothes (and the girls' dresses).
If you can hang your clothes outside, the sun will help to bleach most organic (food & such) stains as well. I use the dryer for sheets (because I don't have anywhere to hang something that big inside) and about once a week I do a load of towels, wipes & rags, I use the dryer for that load because I want the heat to kill off any germs that might live through the soap & vinegar, if I could hang outside I'd rely on the sun to kill off those last few germs, but since I can't, I use the highest temp in the dryer, I hang everything else.