Have you paid attention if your household supplies are good for your skin or eco safe? I talk a lot about skincare on my blog and today I’d like to expand the chat to products that also affect our skin wellbeing. When I lived in Japan I didn’t only suffer from adult acne, but I got a nasty skin reaction probably related to my laundry routine. Since then I’ve tried to be conscious about my household cleaners and laundry detergents, creating an eco friendly home at the same time. Enjoy!
*Products marked with asterisk (*) have been gifted for consideration.
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My Background and Itchy Skin
About 5 years ago when I lived in Japan I didn’t have my own washing machine. I used a local coin laundry (very common in Japan) to wash my clothes, sheets and towels. The washing machines were set to wash everything in 40° and they did gather dust which nobody else seemed wipe off. I used local, pretty general laundry detergents and after a while I started to get very itchy skin. I doubt this was a reaction to water or any personal cosmetic product (such as body lotion) that I used. There was no visible reactions such as rash, but I felt very uncomfortable. After returning to Finland my skin calmed, but I wanted to avoid getting the same odd reaction. I was already a vegetarian and wanted to live an environment friendly life, so started to investigate eco detergents and soaps.
While “normal” laundry detergents are effective, they are often heavy on fragrance, cleaning agents and chemicals that prevent dirt from settling back or work well in harder water. I’m not going to list any “harmful” ingredients here as I couldn’t find too many reliable sources and this article is not about green washing. I want to share some options you can try, if you wish.
Skin Safe & Eco Friendly Way to Wash Clothes: Soap Nuts
Soap nuts are my favorite way to wash laundry, I’ve used them for about 5 years now. This may sound “too hippie” to some of you, but hear me out! Soap nuts are very simple, easy and wallet-friendly way to wash clothes efficiently. You take about 4 soap nut halves for one medium amount of laundry (check the instructions from your packaging), place them in a sock or a small cotton/muslin bag, close it, crush the soap nuts (I step on them) and put the soap nut bag with the laundry. You’re done. You may even reuse the nuts if your laundry isn’t very dirty.
Soap nuts contain an ingredient called saponin which is a powerful natural surfactant with foaming and cleaning properties. This works very well for clothes that are washed between 40°-60° celsius, removing dirt, oil and stains. Once the soap nuts soften or you’ve washed a couple of laundries with them you can compost the nuts! I know it’s possible to even make your own liquid soaps from soap nuts by cooking them, but I personally I’m lazy and reach for readily available products.
Liquid Laundry Detergent and Laundry Vinegar
Since soap nuts work best in warm to hot water, I do have a regular laundry detergent for silk/wool. Lately I’ve washed sensitive materials such as linen and underwear with an eco safe laundry detergent called Mummi ja Minä*. These detergents are made in Finland and have a light fragrance, which has proven to be useful when washing workout clothes. They are rather expensive (~€12 for 500ml), one bottle equals about 16 washes. I only do laundry for 1 person, so these have lasted me a while – especially when I reserve the liquid for workout clothes and hand washes. My favorite is the laundry vinegar that makes my sheets soft and smell pleasant. I’m using it in the place of fabric softner.
The ingredients of the Peppermint Detergent* are only: Plant oil compound (Anionic surfactants) 5–10 %, alcohol <5 %, sea salt <5 %, peppermint essential oil 5 %. pH ~6. If you’re very sensitive to essential oils I might do a test wash first, but I don’t find the fragrance any way overpowering. The Laundy Vinegar (Peppermint)* has: vinegar >5%, essential oil < 5%, Natrium Benzoate (preservative), < 5% with pH ~3.
Other Cleaning Supplies
I do like to use Mummi ja Minä dishwashing liquid* as well thanks to the lovely bottle and nice, natural scent, but when I have very dirty dishes or perhaps grimy coffee pots I do reach for “regular” dishwashing liquid as it cuts oil better. With other eco cleaners I haven’t noticed much difference in efficacy vs regular ones.
I’ve purchased some eco conscious home cleaners by brands Lilly’s, Method and Ecover. Especially the Ecover Toilet Cleaner is very efficient and available at my super market. Otherwise I think I’ll dilute liquid home soaps myself in the future with Dr. Bronner’s.
Dr. Bronner's castile soaps* are very versatile and rather affordable, they can be diluted as hand soap, cleansing liquid, mopping, dishes, toilet cleaner, plant spray for bugs, even shampoo and brushing your teeth! Yup, lovely Mia told me she has tried.. and it tastes like soap. Dr. Bronner’s products are also biodegradable. The unscented castile soap* is one of the best for washing beauty sponges and puffs as it’s gentler than rubbing your sponges against a soap bar.
Dr. Bronner’s Tea Tree soap* is nice for mopping when diluted in water, I got stains off my floors very efficiently. My new kitty, Haku, likes to carry his food around.. so it can get pretty messy, you know. The tea tree scent is fairly prominent while mopping, but does fade pretty quickly. I think I’ll purchase the eucalyptus scent for creating my own hand soap and kitchen spray.
What are the ways you’ve made your home more eco conscious and skin friendly? Have you heard about soap nuts before or gotten a skin reaction to a cleansing product? Let me know! x