Laundry basics

There are lots of so-called “non-toxic” detergents in the stores these days, but the bottom line is that none of them are completely neutral in their impact. A study last year by the L’Institut national de la consommation (INC) showed that major brands of detergents and washing powders, including the green ones, were all toxic in varying degrees. Even the European ban on phosphates in washing powders which comes into force on July 1 is not likely to have any effect as most manufacturers have already anticipated the ban. The only product that emerged as a genuinely eco-friendly option from the study was soap nuts.
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Soap nuts, which are very popular in Germany, contain saponin, a natural detergent. Put a handful of nuts in a cotton drawstring bag and throw in into your washer. They are available at Naturalia outlets or directly from ecoidees.com. The only catch is that they are made in India, with no fair trade guarantee.

Other washing tips via Le Nouvel Observateur’s guide to sustainable shopping out this week in the newstands.

1. The Ecowasher, available for purchase by correspondence at fonctionformes@wanadoo.fr (100 euros) is a tiny ultrasound device that you plug in and plunge into a tub of clothes with a tiny amount of detergent. It consumes just 5 watts of electricity and absolves you of scrubbing. Leave overnight, rinse and hang out to dry. Handy for travel and small loads.

2. France’s first comparative shopping search engine rates products like cars, freezers, fridges and dishwashers in terms of their impact on the environment.

3. Instead of putting harmful anti-scale products into the washing machine, take a tip from our grandmothers and pour a cup of vinegar into your wash load.
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Would it be so terrible if we started going back to the public wash houses with our weekly laundry load? In France many of these abandoned places are incredibly beautiful.

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