The Dirty Glove: Laundry Edition

Cleaning thoroughly, efficiently, and greenly is the name of the game here at the Purple Fig, but we all have those areas of the house that- let’s face it -nobody likes to tackle. What better way to honor those dastardly, dirty crevices then to dedicate a post about how to scrub them until they shine?

Every other month, we’ll walk you through guidelines tailored for each unique mess (greasy stovetop? Moldy tub? Sticky sink?) and lend some valuable tips along the way. So strap on your gloves, because we’re about to dig into the hamper that’s always brimming with filthy fabric: your laundry basket.

Tools you’ll need

White distilled vinegar


3% Hydrogen Peroxide

Baking soda

Optional: large pot & toothbrush

How to Climb Laundry Mountain

Be it bath towels, stinky shirts, your kiddo’s play clothes, or simply a back-up of underwear, everybody has their own unique mountain of laundry to conquer! According to Energy Star,

The average household does almost 400 loads of laundry each year, consuming about 13,500 gallons of water.

With such a staggeringly large annual statistic, imagine how many gallons of water are sacrificed during the winter season — with all of the bulky clothing and visiting family putting extra strain on your machines! But, thankfully, just because your washer and dryer are overworked doesn’t mean you’ll have to succumb to chemically-laden laundry products.

For the laundry load of average filthiness, a whole bag of eco-friendly methods, products, and recipes are at your fingertips- many of which have been around for decades -tailored around a few simple ingredients and miraculously easy steps!

A Day in the Life of a Green W/D

Unlike previous editions of The Dirty Glove, where the appliance(s) in mind are generally identical, giving step-by-step instructions for eco-friendly washer/dryer use varies by machine, by laundry type, and by personal laundry habit. Keeping that in mind, we at the Purple Fig have written our greenest, most energy-efficient tips in the form of step-by-step instructions! Follow as many (or as few) steps as desired, adjusting for your own unique routine:

1. Gather your laundry load, filling the washer up to maximum capacity. Front-loading washers/horizontal axis washers with the Energy Star logo use 18-25 gallons per load, while old machines use around 40 gallons…so don’t waste a drop of that precious water!

2. Grab a bottle of concentrated, chem free, and/or biodegradable detergent. Not only does natural detergent eliminate potentially toxic ingredients from your fabrics, it also requires you to use less portions than its un-concentrated counterpart for an equally clean wash.

3. Ditch the chemical bleach! Bleach is not a necessary addition to your washer (there are certainly eco-friendlier, less toxic ways to brighten whites)…however, if you’re a staunch advocate, reach for a bottle of non-chorine and/or oxygenated bleach, which basically behaves like hydrogen peroxide. According to Wash Laundry:

If every U.S. household replaced just one 64–ounce bottle of chlorine bleach with non-chlorine bleach, we could prevent 11.6 million pounds of chlorine from entering our environment.

4. Turn that washer dial to cold. Washing machines use up to 90% of their energy simply heating up the water, and despite modern myths, cold water washing is equally as efficient at cleaning dirty clothes compared to hotter temperatures. 

5. If fabric scent is important to you, buy eco-friendly dryer sheets (or make your own!) without the the artificial chemicals that may agitate skin or sinuses. 

6. To greatly reduce your carbon footprint, hang dry your wet laundry. Not only does this extend the life of your clothing (reducing wear and tear from dryer use), line-drying cuts energy costs and- if placed in the sun -naturally brightens fabric!

DIY Laundry Recipes

For those stubborn articles of clothing that need a little more special attention, try these homemade DIY recipes on for size:

  • Whiten loads with freshly squeezed lemon juice: Either bring a pot of water to high heat, turn off the burner, and soak clothes in hot water with a sliced lemon…or add 1/4 – 1/2 cup of lemon juice to washer during rinse cycle.
  • Freshen, fluff, & remove stains: Add either 1/2 – 1 cup of vinegar (or 1/2 cup of 3% hydrogen peroxide) along with your regular detergent.
  • Freshen & fluff: Add 1/2 cup of baking soda along with your regular detergent to the washer.
  • Remove stains: Saturate set-in stains with  vinegar for 10 minutes before washing. For fresh stains, sprinkle with baking soda and let it sit for a few minutes before adding the vinegar. Another option is making a baking soda/vinegar paste prior to application, rubbing it in with a toothbrush.

For an extensive list of eco-friendly laundry tips, products, and information, visit Tree Hugger’s page here!