You’re in the right place if you are asking: “How to be zero waste in the laundry in New Zealand” or “how to do laundry sustainably in New Zealand”
This information was last updated in March 2020. If you haven’t checked it out already I highly recommend joining Zero Waste in NZ! Facebook group for up to date and in depth Q&A on laundry and everything else. Just USE THE SEARCH BAR. 🙂
- Soap nuts and other ecofriendly laundry products at EcoWarehouse – online eco retailer: https://ecowarehouse.nz/all-products/home-and-garden/eco-laundry
- Grow your own soap nut tree (if you live up north or in a glass house): grow your own tree!
- Green Goddess, online retailer, great laundry category. And fun Laundry Powder DIY Kit:
- Ecostore, this link is to the laundry page of the online store, also widely available in supermarkets.
- My local Bin Inn (Warkworth) has a great range of packaging-free eco-friendly laundry products, but they also sell ‘standard’ which are harmful. I suggest you learn what’s good by looking at the ingredient lists at somewhere like
- Green Goddess
- or ecostore’s ingredients index (by far the best guide I’ve seen but frustratingly not searchable! You have to wade through the pages alphabetically)
- or even Go Native (which is for beauty care products but if you are stuck there is actually a lot of ingredient cross over, their site is easy to search and they have 100+ ingredients listed).
- MICROFIBRE filters
Most ecofriendly bleaches contain Sodium Percarbonate, because its way better for the environment than regular bleach. However I still have reservations and live without it just fine.
Here is the Safety Data Sheet for Sodium Percarbonate which mentions harm to aquatic life. The two things people usually want bleach for is to whiten whites and remove stains – info that follows.
- BLUING POWDER
Whitens whites! Takes the yellowing out of sheets etc. Consists of baking soda and eco-safe “Prussian Blue” (if you are clicking on this link to research for yourself, skip to the “Uses” category at the bottom). I love it. Buy from Green Goddess or ask for it at Bin Inn and organic retailers. The second half of the chemical reaction requires sunlight. (It really does, I tried it with and without and really noticed the difference).
- STAIN REMOVAL
HOW TO OUT SMART GREEN-WASHING
Green-washing is when companies try and make their products look eco-friendly and it can be really hard to tell the difference. The three main things that make laundry products eco-safe versus eco-stressing are the chemical-qualities of the ingredients, how those ingredients came into being and the packaging. (There are other considerations too like the carbon footprint…another good reason to buy bulk and why I started this page with grow your own soap nut tree).
- Some tips on how to know if the ingredients are safe:
- Words like Natural or Biodegradable don’t mean they are good for the environment
- I take it as a warning sign if companies haven’t listed, (or plainly listed) their ingredients.
- Watch out for SLS’s: Sodium Lauryl Sulphate, Sodium Lauryl Ether Sulphate. These are super common nasties because they are cheap and they work.
- If the product says something like ‘phosphate free!’ or ‘cruelty free’ consider what they are silent on, what else could possibly still be in there?
- While I think of it… ‘cruelty free’ only applies to the testing of animals on a product. You can still have ‘cruelty free’ and be displacing thousands of orangutangs through palm oil; poisoning bees with pesticides and suffocating fish slowly when the residual is released into our waterways after use.
- As noted above you can also wade through ecostore’s ingredients index. It’s the best I’ve seen for summarising health and safety information on common household chemicals. Its alphabetical, nonsearchable (!) but thorough, and based on independent industry findings.
- Green Goddess and Go Native ( 100+ ingredients listed but for beauty care products – this is cross over) are two other brands I trust, either buy from them or use their ingredient lists to learn what’s good and what works.
- Google the product you would like to check + Safety Data Sheet (SDS) to find the low down. If you can’t find an SDS (assuming you are a competent googler) it probably means the product doesn’t need one, which is good – only hazardous substances (a lot/most of the cleaners in the supermarket) need them.
- Spare a thought for how the ingredients came into being (I’ve included links to my podcast on each of these)
- Palm Oil isn’t toxic at all, its a 100% natural ingredient that will safely return to the earth when its washed down the drain. BUT! Where did it come from? Palm Oil is a great example because many people have heard of how the Palm Oil Plantations drive destruction of virgin rainforest. Palm Oil is one of the big players in the mass extinction crisis we now find ourselves in. (For more info on palm oil in NZ context, check out the Palm Oil episode of How to Save the World podcast).
- How was it farmed? Anything that we have grown, for example apples to make vinegar, has been farmed. And farming is one of the most powerfully restorative or powerfully degrading mechanisms we have depending on how it was farmed. As consumers we need to know if it was pesticide, herbicide and synthetic chemical free (deep dive here: Soil) The best way of knowing is to look for organic certification. The NZ laundry products I know of don’t have organic certification, partly because base ingredients can be made in a lab, which I don’t think can be certified organic.
- My rule of thumb is to keep my purchases as simple as possible and use baking soda where ever I can.
- Packaging – our old favourite topic at RubbishFree.
- Buy bulk. Reduce packaging as much as possible whatever it is. We buy 20L drums of ecostore detergent and return the drum for reuse. (Reuse beats recycling any day)
- Recycle plastic containers 1 and 2.
- Watch out for cardboard on the outside – you need to work out what’s in the inside. Is there a liner melded to the cardboard? What is it? How do you know if its safe to compost? If it is melded you can’t recycle it. Recycling is only for pure materials.
- Watch out for plastic 3,4,6,7 – its best put these items in the rubbish sadly – the recycling markets have collapsed. (check out my podcast on this topic: Is Recycling Legit?)