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Let’s Talk Trash: Clean house without polluting the earth

Even with the upcoming wastewater treatment plant in our region, we will still need to be mindful of what we put down the drain
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Cleaning products that don’t dirty the planet: felted dryer balls, laundry soap nuts, laundry detergent sheets, dish soap bar, goat milk soap and essential oil blend (Thieve’s Oil)

Fluffy white stuff falling from the sky may have found you tucked into home getting a few more chores done this week.

In the bright light of this winter wonderland, perhaps you’ve started wiping down newly noticed dirt and grime on window sills and floors, and zapping stains on tablecloths you previously thought immaculate. If so, are you sure you’re keeping the earth as clean as your home?

Even eco-friendly cleaning products can contain dubious (and hard to pronounce) ingredients.

Laundry is a necessary task we all need to tick off our lists regularly. Surprisingly, grey water from our washing machines does not get dramatically filtered before entering our oceans.

Even with the upcoming wastewater treatment plant in our region, we will still need to be mindful of what we put down the drain. Many detergents are needlessly infused with a chemical soup that may leave clothes clean, but which do so at the cost of clean waters.

The truth is that the effects on marine life, food chains and human health from all we flush are largely unknown. When liquid fertilizers, petrochemical runoff from roads and pharmaceuticals meet household cleaning products, all kinds of chemical events can occur.

Water quality experts have identified potentially harmful materials in water bodies under the catch-all term “contaminants of emerging concern” (CEC). Regulations for CECs are near non-existent, and so are worrisome.

Rather than avoiding this “dirty laundry” altogether, we can choose alternative clean agents that are gentle.

Soap nuts are a unique option. Many lightly soiled loads are easily cleaned using tree nuts that contain a natural soap called saponin, which is released on contact with water.

A small mesh bag holding a few nuts can be used for up to 10 loads before being discarded safely in your compost. A bonus feature of such a choice is its minimal packaging.

Speaking of which, another laundry soap alternative on the market these days looks a lot like a dryer sheet. Packaged in a slim envelope the soap-infused “sheets” are lightweight and easy for those with mobility challenges to manage.

Toss one into a load and it dissolves amidst a soapy party of bubbles. Keep your eye out for paraben, dye, chlorine and phosphate-free brands.

Drying options

Green solutions to laundry can continue on to your dryer. Even though you may not be up for hanging sheets outside – although you can on sunny days to surprising success – adding a few felted laundry balls to your load is the next best energy saver. Reducing drying time by up to 25 per cent, these balls are simply made of felted wool and can be infused with essential oils such as lavender and lemon balm for those who want a chemical-free freshen up.

Much like tennis balls, these also bounce around your load, fluffing it up and absorbing static. It really doesn’t get much better when it comes to a low-waste, waste-reducing product. These are locally available, or you can get felting and make your own.

Beyond earth-friendly laundry, you can also look into dish soap options that have a light footprint. All natural soap bars with zero packaging are now available in many stores for those who are still standing at the sink, washing dishes while contemplating life.

Those committed to their machine can search for detergent pods made from plant-based, biodegradable (or better yet, no) plastics that are free from sulfates, dyes, perfume, petroleum and other harsh chemicals.

Cleaning sprees don’t have to come at the cost of the earth. Let’s clean up our cleaning habits this winter.

Let’s Talk Trash is qathet Regional District’s waste reduction education team. Check out their Holiday Green Guide at

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