A better way to clean

These laundry solutions are better for your clothes, the planet, and you

Laundry room detox

  • Laundry room detox

    Take it a step further with an eco-friendly laundry basket and sumptuous organic cotton towels 18; both available at Spring, 415/673-2065).

Grease: Rub a new spot with a drop of dishwashing liquid, and launder as usual. On set grease stains, generously sprinkle baby powder on the dry spot, let sit, shake, and launder as usual.

Fruit juice: With sturdy fabrics like cotton, stretch the material over a bowl and use a teakettle to rapidly but carefully pour boiling water on the stain.


The ingredient responsible for that just-dry-cleaned scent ― a solvent called perchloroethylene, or perc ― is nasty stuff. "Perc is a harsh chemical that's not only bad for your health but will eventually start to break down fabric," says Bill Alber of SF Green Clean, a nontoxic wet-cleaning service in San Francisco.

An alternative is water-based technology, which Alber says gets clothes just as clean and leaves no harmful residue. "It's better for your clothing, the environment, and your health," he says.

The price tag? A blouse costs $8.75. Other eco-amenities offered by many green cleaners include reuseable bags, wooden hangers, and paperless receipt systems. Visit nodryclean.comnodryclean.com to search for a green cleaner near you.


Our staff washed what felt like a million towels stained with red wine and coffee in 11 eco-friendly laundry detergents and 1 grocery-store standard. We were surprised to find no significant difference in stain removal.


Ingredients: Words you might see: all-natural, plant-derived, biodegradable, concentrated, essential-oil fragrance

Of note: We loved the light lavender scent of Trader Joe's liquid laundry detergent (traderjoes.com for locations), and we were thrilled that its price debunks the assumption that eco-friendly products cost more. Our favorite splurge was Caldrea's Sweet Pea laundry detergent.

Cost: Trader Joe's: 9¢ per load, Caldrea: 50¢ per load


Ingredients: Conventional detergents are not required to list their ingredients, so it's hard to know what you're getting.

Of note: If you're committed to your grocery-store standard, many conventional brands are now offering ultra-concentrated detergents for high-efficiency machines. (Concentrated cleaners mean less packaging and transportation energy.)

Cost: 2X Ultra Tide: 28¢ per load


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