Plastic Free Laundry: Brighten your Whites Naturally

This plastic free laundry tip is one you can easily try at home today! Most households will already have all the supplies needed to make your whites brighter—naturally. The only thing may not have year-round is sunshine!

We all love our load of fresh whites to be bright and white, and for many achieving those results means reaching for a container of bleach. While beach is effective at making your whites brighter, it's not natural, chemical free, nor is it a plastic free laundry detergent. Bleach is known to worsen the symptoms of asthma and can also cause skin irritations.

Not only is bleach toxic, when too much of the chemical is used it may have the adverse effects on your whites, turning natural fibres like cotton and linen, yellow.

What are the plastic free, zero waste alternatives to chemical based whiteners? As always the best alternative is to turn to nature.

Let's take a look at three ways to brighten your whites naturally.

1. Using fresh lemons

The only additive you need to brighten your whites is a fresh lemon! Not only are lemons are a natural whitener for your laundry, they also add a fresh clean lemon scent to your load.

Fresh Lemon Whitening Method:

There are several methods to brightening your laundry load with lemons, try them all and use the method that best fits your laundry routine.

  1. Add lemon juice to your load: Add one quarter to one cup of lemon juice to your your regular load of laundry. Your regular non-toxic laundry detergent should still be used for cleaning the load. If you have a front load washing machine, add your lemon juice to the pre-soak liquid compartment. Run the load with hot water.
  2. Lemon pre-soak method: For best results you may want to try the pre-soak method. This is created by filling a large pot with water, then adding one or two lemons cut in half, and bringing the water to a boil. Add your whites: linens, towels, shirts and non-delicate items to your laundry tub and fill with hot water until the laundry is just covered in water.

The lemon solution is ready after about 1/2 hour of boiling the lemons. Set aside to cool for a few minutes and remove the cut lemons with a slotted spoon. Prior to removing push the now soft lemons down with the slotted spoon to remove as much just from the lemons as possible.

After removing the lemons use a metal strainer to catch any lemon flesh and seeds from the liquid and pour the lemon liquid into your tub of soaking water. At this point you can also add a sprinkle of bi-carb soda to the mixture, allowing it to sizzle when activated with the lemon juice.
The laundry can be left to soak for up to 24 hours before removing and adding to your washing machine as normal.

3. For clothes with stains:  Take a lemon wedge and saturate the stained material with lemon juice. Add salt to the stained, lemon soaked area to give it an extra stain removal boost! Allow the lemon/salt mixture to stand overnight, then rinse out the natural solution with cool water before adding to your load.

It's recommended that you wash your laundry in cold water when using this method, this will allow the stain to be removed and not further set into the material. If the stain is not removed after the first load, repeat until the stain is reduced.

You may also want to allow the suns rays to further reduce the stain. This method is listed below. Lemons not only help to reduce stains from your clothes, they'll also leave a beautiful fresh lemon aroma in your laundry room.

2. Add baking soda to your load

Brighten your laundry with Baking Soda

Baking soda, it's a must have item in every zero waste home, not only is it an effective laundry cleaning solution, it's incredibly versatile and can be used for cleaning almost any area in your home! Just like using lemons there are several ways to use baking soda for cleaning your laundry.

  1. For stained materials: Use approximately 4 tablespoons of baking soda and add a few drops of water to make a paste. Apply the paste to the stained area, rubbing it gently into the material and allow it to rest for up to 10 minutes. Wash the stained garments with non-toxic laundry detergent as usual.
  2. Red wine stains: Add salt to the stained area of the garment Immediately, this salt mixture will absorb the moisture from the material. Once the salt has drawn out the moisture remove the salt and add a baking soda paste as per directions above.
  3. Regular washing: To enhance your whites, simply add half a cup of baking soda to your eco-friendly, non-toxic laundry detergent.

Tip: If the laundry you are washing is intended to be soft when dry (such as towels or clothing), baking soda is the perfect addition to your load, as it will naturally soften your fabrics. If you're wanting your fresh load of laundry to be crisp and sturdy (such as fresh sheets) baking soda my not be the best whitening solution—stick with a lemon solution or try the sunshine method listed below.

3. Let the sunshine in

The suns rays are the most cost effective way to naturally bleach your laundry. When hanging your clothes out in the natural elements your laundry will dry faster (provided it's not winter), and smell fresher—even more so when wind is added to the sunshine!

Not only do the suns rays dry your clothes naturally, direct sunshine will also aid in stain removal and make your whites even brighter.

If you're wanting a nice soft towel it's best to use the baking soda method mentioned above, and hang your clothes in a shaded area until dry.

Leaving your laundry in direct sunlight for lengthy periods of time will stiffen the material. This may be suitable for fresh sheets, but not everyone loves the feel of a rough towel after a refreshing shower!

Hanging your clothes out to dry? You may also want to read our article on Saying Goodbye to Plastic Pegs.


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2 years ago

Thanks for sharing these quicks tips. A combination of hydrogen peroxide and baking soda is another quick home-made remedy to clean white clothes and linen. Just soak clothes in it and rinse thoroughly. It really helps remove stains.

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