Lunch at Oliveto with my friend Simone last Saturday was great fun. Too much fun. I laughed so hard, I spilled coffee all over the table and all over my sleeve. Normally, I’d just take it home and “Shout it Out.” But not this time. This past week, I ran out of the plastic bottle of Shout I’d been using for the last two years and was determined to find a plastic-free alternative.
But the plastic bottle was not my only concern. Do you know what chemicals are in Shout? Terrible nasty ones or perfectly benign? Unless you work for S.C. Johnson, you’re as clueless as I am because the company doesn’t reveal it’s ingredients. Here’s the FAQ from the Shout web site:
Q. What are the ingredients in Shout®?
A. We can’t give away our “trade secrets,” but we can say that Shout® Laundry Stain Removers are detergent based with powerful cleaning agents. Shout® does not contain any phosphates or bleach.
Can’t? Or won’t? This is the problem with so many chemicals that we use on a daily basis. Not only are they not tested for safety before entering the market, but manufacturers don’t even have to tell us what they are in the first place! No thanks.
Here are the plastic-free, less toxic laundry products I’m currently using:
1) Ecover laundry powder comes in a recycled cardboard box and contains a recycled cardboard scoop, unlike most powder detergents that come with a plastic scoop. And the company lists its ingredients on the box as well as the web site: Sodium carbonate, Zeolite, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Fatty Acid Methyl Esters Ethoxylates, Sodium Bicarbonate, Sodium Sulfate, Sodium Carbonate Peroxide, Sodium Poly Asparaginate, Sodium Disilicate, Sodium Citrate, Cellulose Gum, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Subtilisin. Now, I’m not a chemist and this does seem like a lot of ingredients, regardless of the fact that they are plant based and not tested on animals. So we have been alternating with the next item.
2) Soapnuts contain one natural ingredient: soap nuts. The only reason we don’t use them exclusively is that we stocked up on Ecover a while back and are still using it up. Also, I think the Ecover does a better job on seriously dirty gym clothes.
3) Borax turns out to be a great stain remover! I like that it comes in a cardboard box and also that it also contains only one ingredient: borax. Of course, it’s not without its environmental impact, as it’s a mineral that has to be mined from the earth. That’s why we use it sparingly only for tough stains.
To clean my jacket sleeve, I used the instructions from The Naturally Clean Home, a little book I picked up a while back from our local bookstore (If you purchase via the link on this blog, My Plastic-Free Life receives a small percentage.) While I do a lot of research on the Internet, sometimes it’s nice to have a book handy to grab for solutions, and this is a good one. Here’s what the author says to do for coffee and tea stains: Immediately flush with cool water. Then soak in a borax and water solution before laundering.
Not having soaked my jacket immediately, I thought maybe something a little more intense was in order. So I actually made a paste of borax and water (stored now in a glass jar for future stain-removal needs) and and rubbed it into the stains with an old toothbrush. Several hours later, I rinsed off the borax, and the stains were gone!
Of course, there are other ways to get rid of stains, depending on what kind they are. Carbonated water (free of plastic bottle waste with my Soda Club soda maker) is another alternative. And The Naturally Clean Home lists more.
But lest you think our laundry room is completely plastic-free, think again. We still have a few more plastic bottles, acquired before I gave up buying new plastic, that we are very, very slowly working our way through:
WIN detergent for athletic wear, Seventh Generation oxygen bleach, and a can of spray starch with a plastic cap. At some point, these too will end up in the plastic tally, unless I finally just decide to give them away on Freecycle. (I’m not even sure if we use the spray starch. Maybe Michael uses it on his collars. Hmmm…)
What are your favorite non-toxic and plastic-free ways to clean clothes?