Natural deodorant wearers and gym lovers can attest: When doing the laundry, yellow armpit rings and persistently stinky workout clothes aren’t easy combat without simply throwing some bleach into the laundry load and calling it a day. But if you’re looking for DIY solutions to some of the most annoying issues your clothes face, breathe easy.
To better understand how to handle laundry issues typically remedied by an array of chemicals, I spoke to Alexandra Zissou, an author of numerous books on green living. She walked me through the earth-friendly solutions to three common laundry complaints. Even better, her fixes are all under $5.
Keep reading for three earth-friendly solutions to common laundry struggles.
The issue: Your workout clothes smell, no matter how many times they’re washed
There are few things more mojo-killing than getting dressed to *slay* a workout class and then realizing something smells…off. While your first inclination may be to add some essential oils to your next load of workout wear, Zissou advises against it—particularly if you have sensitive skin or prefer to go au naturel under your leggings.
“I’m not big on putting essential oils in laundry, especially if anyone in your household has sensitive skin. I especially don’t like the idea of essential oil residue on underwear. That’s a recipe for a rash,” she says. To avoid feeling the burn—and not in a good way—leave the essential oils for your diffuser.
Instead, Zissou recommends reaching for the trusty baking soda and vinegar combo you may have heard of a time or two before. “Essential oils are just a topical fix. The baking soda etc. will actually get the root of the stench out, potentially killing the germs that are making the stink.” She advises adding 1/2 cup of baking soda and vinegar during the rinse cycle. You can also add a teaspoon of lemon juice to the wash cycle for a fresh, pleasant scent.
The issue: Your load of whites isn’t looking so bright anymore
Like the workout clothes situation, slipping into a comfy white tee that’s now more of a gray hue or has yellow armpit stains is a less-than-ideal way to start the day. But while it may be tempting to buy into “eco-friendly” bleach options, chances are you’re paying way more than you need to.
“One of the biggest open secrets in the laundry industry is that ‘ecological bleach’, which is sold by a whole host of natural product companies, is actually just hydrogen peroxide,” says Zissou. “It’s a lot cheaper to just buy and use hydrogen peroxide,” says Zissou.
For a cleaner alternative to chlorine bleach, Zissou typically adds 1 cup of 3-percent hydrogen peroxide to full load of laundry. It both sanitizes the load *and* whitens. If you don’t have hydrogen peroxide on hand, Zissou also recommends adding a 1/2 cup of lemon juice to the rinse cycle—just remember, hydrogen peroxide and lemon juice don’t mix.
The issue: Your load of colors is looking a little faded
Sometimes you’re going for the faded and worn-in look. But when it’s your favorite dark-wash jeans or a richly colored sweater looking a little washed out, it can be really frustrating.
The fix for this laundry woe has more to do with your wash settings than anything else.
“Cold water and line drying really helps with this,” says Zissou. “Cold water truly washes clothing well. Today’s products are formulated to clean in cold water, which saves money and energy. The only time you might want hot water is if someone in your household has allergies and you want to kill dust mites.”
Plus, line-drying has the added benefit of humidifying the air, according to Zissou. TBH, that’s a welcome plus after enduring months of radiator-parched indoor air.
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